I had occasion to talk to Ethan van Sciver yesterday on Dan’s Million Dollar Mailbox about all kinds of stuff and one of the things we touched on was that old chestnut, Why Can’t DC Duplicate Marvel’s Success? The conversation on that subject didn’t last too long, because if you understand that question at all, you already know the answer is “They don’t have a Kevin Feige.” Every studio wants their own interconnected universe without doing the work that Feige and Jon Favreau and RDJ and everybody else did in the beginning, building that tower one brick at a time as they did. DC tried to do it backwards but panicked and cut it off at the knees of the changed horse at midstream. I don’t know what happened to Dark Universe, but it’s common knowledge, I bet. And that common knowledge is “Nobody has a Kevin Feige.”
But these guys don’t take a second to consider what that means besides maybe Feige has blackmail pics of somebody with a goat or some crazy divine pact with the Afterlife or something because it can’t possibly be just the dude understands his job.
All these other guys are worried about the narrative and the building of a built-in audience and what that means for the shareholders and Feige is just over there in his palatial Winnebago on his iPad just laughing because he doesn’t get why everybody doesn’t feel it like he does, in his bones, that the job isn’t just making the movie. It’s not getting the awards, not selling the popcorn, although that is all part of it. Feige is selling the experience. The theme parks, the conventions, the whole thing.
You probably remember when my kid’s Filthy Bunny got stolen with his homework in his backpack by crackheads out of our car late one night at the Safeway. He was a big enough boy to handle it as gracefully as he could, and we got a New Bunny to join Dirty Bunny and Clean Bunny, so everyone moved up in rank like in the one where Spock has a beard.
As parents, we all know about the special toy or lovey or whatever you call it in your family, and what it means. I still have Bim and I’ll be 54 in two weeks; Mimi still has her childhood blanket but it looks like an old fisherman’s net.
Today as I was getting groceries I was parking the car and I saw a young mom wrestling her food and her kid out of the cart to go home and from fifty feet and 15 miles an hour away I could see she had left a stuffed zebra in the front of her cart and walked away.
I parked in the first spot I could find, ran over to the stuffie, while keeping my eye on the young mom, ran over the thirty yards to her car as she was strapping in her three year old.
“Ma’am,” I said, lifting up the well-loved and, dare I say it, Filthy Zebra. “Your stuffie almost went on an adventure.”
She immediately burst into tears. It’s OK, I said; I have a kid, too, I know what this means. She leans into the car and says to her kid, Look, honey! And the kid leans out and looks me in the eye, clutching his zebra and yells THANK YOU, FLASH
…because I’m wearing my Flash logo T-shirt.
Now I know why Grant Gustin always has a smile on his face, and everybody has something to say about Ezra Miller’s public meltdowns. These fictional superheroes aren’t just movie stars; they’re beyond celebrity. They are the new mythology, the new religion, and consuming the media is just a sacrament you do when going to church. So you pray to Marvel, to Lucas, to Buzz Lightyear? That’s just United Disney.
All you other studios don’t need a Feige; you just need to know what he knows. He’s not selling tickets, he’s selling souls.