Warner Bros. Television and DC Entertainment Comic-Con Presentation Recap

DC Entertainment Comic-Con presentation recap

Much of the story of the last several years has been about the titanic rise of Marvel as an entertainment force, overreaching the movie-going world the way it has the US comics industry since the ’60s. While DC Entertainment has struggled to catch up on the big screen, there can be no question that they have taken the lessons of Marvel’s success to heart on television where they have slowly but steadily built up a shared universe of heartfelt adaptations, which have been met by a surge in fan popularity which the House of Ideas has only recently managed to replicate in Netflix’s “Daredevil.” Nothing is so representative of that trend, or how much parent studio Warner Bros. Television (or affiliated network The CW) is coming to rely on that growth, as the now annual Warner Bros. late night television panel at San Diego Comic-Con. Three plus hours of the cast and crew of all of the various DC-flavored shows and sneak peaks at new pilots which last into the dead of night and still managed to draw a packed room of 6,500 people.

Though it might as well be called the Berlanti/Kreisberg showcase as, with the notable exception of “Gotham,” the producing team of Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg (along with Marc Guggenheim and DC Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns) is responsible for all of the superhero content the studio is putting out at the moment, and certainly for the most successful versions of it.

A reality headlined by the fact that one of the two new shows DC will be premiering this year, “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow,” will be a team-up series featuring favored guest characters from current mainstays “Arrow” and “The Flash.” Set for a mid-season replacement, little exists of the actual show at the moment except for the sizzle reel/trailer which has been making the rounds.

Instead, much of the set-up for the series, both its plot and the interaction of its characters, will be wound into episodes of its parent series throughout the beginning of the upcoming seasons, culminating in the plot of the now annual “Arrow”/”Flash” cross-over episodes which – according to Berlanti – will lead directly into “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.”

Though no one on the panel would speak directly to how or when that will likely include the introduction of Ciara Renee as Hawkgirl, and potentially her other half – Hawkman – who Berlanti did reveal would be on the series though he has not yet been cast. Expect Hawkgirl’s various past lives to play some element in the plots as they may give her familiarity with the various eras the team will be traveling to as episodes will span both time and space.

“All the ideas we decided were too crazy for ‘Flash’ or ‘Arrow,’ we put in this,” Berlanti said.

The other big new series from the team, and the only one not part of the ongoing DC Televised Universe is the upcoming “Supergirl” on CBS.

With Berlanti and Kreisberg’s time becoming increasingly sparse (in addition to all the superhero work they both have other non-superhero shows they are producing on other networks), they brought on writer Ali Adler to run the series and it was important to them to have a superhero show for women be run by women as well. In fact, the series is noticeable, among everything DC is producing at the moment, for having the most diverse casting.

But the undisputed leader is Melissa Benoist’s Kara Zor-El, particularly when in costume which she called ‘indescribable’ when she saw herself in it for the first time. Adler and Berlanti noted that, as with Stephen Amell for Arrow and Grant Gustin for The Flash, though they saw thousands of individuals for the part, Benoist was the first and ultimately the best. The panel also introduced The Twilight Saga‘s Peter Facinelli as classic character Maxwell Lord, but they would not reveal if he would be help or hinderance to Kara during the season.

While “Legends” and “Supergirl” were the two big showcases of the night for new shows, there was one other intro series which Berlanti and Johns showed some early material for – the animated web series Vixen, which will introduce the character into the DC Televised Universe. The producers noted that the series will be part of the continuity of the “Arrow”/”Flash” universe and will include the voice talent of the actors from its live action brethen in the series [Amell and Gustin’s tones appear in the first episode alongside Carlos Valdes].

That’s also a good transition to the rest of the evening, which was all about returning successful series.

The biggest panel and the funniest cast was the one for “Arrow” which began with the Arrow himself, Stephen Amell, appearing on stage in his new costume (sleaveless with new shoulder and armguards) and in character to introduce the evening and let all of the fans of the series know that they had not failed.

The new costume, much closer to the classic comic appearance of the Green Arrow, was the beginning of a trend of comments noting that the show, and Oliver, was intentionally moving towards eventually becoming the classic incarnation of the Green Arrow [though I’m assuming without the Arrow-light or the Arrow-car – yes, those were real things once] and as such would become much more light-hearted than in past years. Producer Sarah Schecter noted that Oliver would actually joke in the Arrow-cave [which will return] this season.

Costumes in fact were the name of the game for the “Arrow” panel as David Ramsey revealed he would be getting his costume – a set of black padded leather and a visored helmet – this season [but would have to shave off the beard] while co-stars Katie Cassidy and Willa Holland jointly cheered at being able to join their masked co-stars.

“I had tears of joy when I tried on the [Speedy] costume for the first time,” Holland said, while Cassidy noted that she had been waiting three years, ever since she was cast, to put on the Black Canary leathers.

Though the person who seemed most concerned about costuming was John Barrowman, who just wanted to make sure he could keep the Ra’s al Guhl ring, no matter what.

Along with new costumes and a new status quo (though expect Oliver Queen’s retirement to not last very long), the series will continue to introduce new characters. While the season’s villain will be Neal McDonough’s Damien Darhk and HIVE, Queen and his team will also deal with classic Batman character Anarky, and Felicity will have to deal with classic Justice Society character Mr. Terrific, who she will have to learn to work with. The producers also revealed that they had long wanted to add an LGBT character to the cast and Mr. Terrific fit the bill for that character to a tee.

There was a visible sense of relief from the panel at not having to deal with secret identities among the major characters, a fact of superhero life which no one who makes the series likes particularly as it reduces ways in which different characters can relate and undoing it opens up new pairings such as Rickards bossing Barrowman’s Merlyn around.

It was a sentiment which was also noted on “The Flash” panel, particularly by actress Candice Patton, who had been very frustrated at being left out of the weekly adventures and didn’t get to go to the S.T.A.R. Labs set or have scenes with Danielle Panabaker or Valdes very often.

That is set to change in Season 2, which will deal with the fallout from the season finale as the blackhole which ended Season 1 will open up the pathway to other worlds, such as the classic Earth-2, which the series will explore. That will allow the introduction of original Flash Jay Garrick, to be portrayed by “Masters of Sex’s” Teddy Sears, and Wally West, which all will lay some of the foundation for “Legends of Tomorrow.”

A brief sizzle reel revealed that Gustin’s Barry Allen will be questioning his place as a hero and whether he should continue and that Tom Cavanagh’s Reverse-Flash will continue to be a regular on the show and continue to evil-mentor Barry against his new seasonal villain – Professor Zoom.

Despite a commitment to “Legends,” producer Johns said fans can look forward to more Captain Cold episodes as well as introductions of more rogues, though he would not comment on who those would be. They would also not comment on whether Valdes or Panabaker would transform into their comic alter-egos Vibe and Killer Frost this season despite Panaker pleading for it.

“We put a lot of time into the Killer Frost look for that one shot at the end of Season 1, with the wig and the contacts and the costume, and I really want to wear it for real,” she said.

Berlanti did note that Cisco’s ability with vibrations would play a part in the building alternate universe storylines.

The final returning show of the evening ushered out the Berlanti/Kreisberg team and brought on Bruno Heller’s “Gotham.”

A brief sizzle reel showing off the first episode of Season 2 announced the stakes for the next season as a group of hitman Zasz’s accomplices break into Arkham Asylum, kill the guards and seemed set on releasing the various psychopaths locked up within.

“The first season was about the end of the old Gotham, the end of the Mafia running the show. The second season will be about the rise of the crazed villains the city is known for.”

That will include the return of Erin Richards’ Barbara Keene, who will be no less crazy but will “come into her own as a woman … a very crazy woman.”

That reality will likely play havoc with Robin Lord Taylor’s plans for Gotham, as he will take over as kingpin just in time to see everything he thought he was getting get burned away.

It will also force Sean Pertwee and David Mazouz — who have the best relationship of all the actors, mainly because almost all of their scenes are only with each other — to up the speed of Bruce Wayne’s vigilante education, particularly when they discover what is hidden behind Wayne Manor’s fireplace (which no one would reveal), in what Pertwee has dubbed “operation kickass.”

“It will also force Alfred to come out of his traps a bit, and thank God for that, because I was getting a bit tired of just serving tea,” Pertwee said.

The night ended with a question round though before the last question could be asked, actor Cameron Monaghan (who portrayed carny killer Jerome, a character many fans have assumed will become the Joker and who appeared prominently in the Season 2 sizzle real) stole the mic away to declare that Gotham has not seen the last of him before being dragged away by security.

Real or fake, good or bad, we will find out this fall.