The Week in Spandex – Batman vs. Superman, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Fantastic Four, The Flash, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and more

Our weekly round up of the latest stories from the world of screen superheroes, including Batman vs. Superman, Justice League, Arrow, The Flash, Constantine, Son of Batman, Superman: Flyby, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Marvel’s Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (and 3), X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Fantastic Four and more….

Well, Batman vs. Superman might have been pushed back ten months to May 2016, but if talk is to be believed production is still set to get underway as planned in February (as opposed to the rumoured May start date), with a report late last night suggesting Ben Affleck has been forced to pull out of directing Fox’s TV pilot The Middle Man as the “main players” on the Man of Steel sequel have been called up to start work right away. Of course, while we wait for official confirmation, there’s been plenty of rumours / speculation to chew over this week in the form of a new batch of “plot details” (which in all honesty are probably only slightly more credible than the reports that Affleck is injured / threatening to quit), seeing that they emerged from a message board poster claiming to have a source in the art department. Among the claims are word that Lex Luthor and Metallo are the villains, Metallo will “kill” Clark (Henry Cavill), Aquaman will make an appearance, Robin has betrayed Batman leading to a falling out between the Dynamic Duo, and by the end of the film the Justice League will be a government-approved superhero team. Most likely just fan-fiction with a few potential Educated Guesses, but you can check the rest of them out here

…This week has also seen some talk about the new Batsuit, with Ben Affleck’s missus Jennifer Garner stating that “the suit is unbelievably cool [and] a total reinvention”, while Kevin Smith went into some detail about the time Zack Snyder showed him an image of the new costume following a Man of Steel fan event he hosted last year: “when the show was all done, Zack was all like ‘Kev come here, come here’, and he takes me over to the corner and whips out his phone, and he shows me a picture of Batman. Live action version of Batman. A very familiar Batman, I might add. It didn’t look like any of the cinematic Batmans that have ever gone before. He shows me that picture and behind Batman…Superman in the suit looming in the distance. Both on a roof top kind of thing. It was on a set, a little set they put together for this photo shoot. So I was like ‘Oh my god! Is that the suit?! The suit looks amazing! Did you get people to model it?’ And he goes, ‘That’s your boy.’ And I look closely and it’s Ben Affleck wearing the suit. The suit, it is not mine to spill, in terms of what it looks like, you’ll see it. They’ll tell you when they want you to know, but any Batman fan is going to be f*cking pleased. I’m going to tell you that right now. They gave you the suit you all wanted to see…”

…In other Batman vs. Superman / DC Cinematic Universe news, Jason Momoa (Game of Thrones) has once again denied that he’s set to join the cast of the Man of Steel sequel, telling an MTV reporter he could “punch him in the face” if the rumours were true, while Gal Gadot has revealed that she’s signed a three-film deal to portray Wonder Woman, which will apparently include Justice League alongside a solo movie for the Amazon Princess…

…Fans of the Man of Steel may also be interested in a couple of pieces of concept art by illustrator Jim Martin produced for the aborted Superman: Flyby, which was written by J.J. Abrams (Star Wars: Episode VII) with both McG (Charlie’s Angels) and Brett Ratner (X-Men: The Last Stand) attached to direct at various points. You can view the concept art over on our Facebook page

Arrow star Stephen Amell issues strongly-worded denial over reports of Justice League discussions

…For a brief moment this week, it seemed that fans hoping for cohesion between DC’s movie and TV universes may have been about to get their wish, with Arrow star Stephen Amell quoted as revealing that he’d had “studio level discussion” about his Oliver Queen donning the domino mask for the inevitable Justice League movie. However, Amell quickly took to Facebook to issue a stern denial, stating that: “Something I need to get off of my chest. When I do press, I try and be open, honest and thoughtful. That being said..I find it incredibly discouraging to see a headline like the ones I’ve been seeing this morning. Headlines that aren’t just a stretch, they’re totally fabricated. At no point, have I had “studio level” discussions about any feature films at Warner Bros. In this particular instance, when I read articles that take a pretty straightforward answer and slap a title on it that has little to no correlation to what I’ve actually said, it makes it seem as though I’m disrespecting my current position. Which is bullshit. And why would I do that? I mean… I’m not the smartest dude in the world. (After all… I picked a career in acting.) But would I really just casually subvert a process cloaked in secrecy? A process – by the way – being run by the company who currently employs me. C’MON! We’re making a kick ass show. We will continue to make a kick ass show. And I will continue to interact and provide interesting content for our fans. Because I love our fans. If every once and a while, some dickweed wants to pull a headline out of thin air to generate page views, then that’s the price we pay…”

…As for Arrow, we’ve got a couple of promos for this coming Wednesday’s episode ‘Tremors’ [see here and here], as well as a full shot of Slade Wilson (Manu Bennet) in his new Deathstroke costume [see here]. The official episode description for ‘Tremors’ is as follows: “Arrow (Stephen Amell) offers to train Roy (Colton Haynes) so he can learn to control his newfound super-strength. However, Roy is a rebellious student and refuses to listen unless Arrow reveals his true identity, which Oliver refuses to do. Meanwhile, the Bronze Tiger (guest star Michael Jai White) escapes from prison and steals Malcolm’s earthquake machine to sell to the highest bidder. Oliver, Diggle (David Ramsey) and Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) attempt to stop the transfer, but Roy gets in the way, putting everyone in danger. Laurel (Katie Cassidy) is disbarred and spirals out of control. Moira (Susanna Thompson) is thrilled when Walter (guest star Colin Salmon) asks her to dinner, but his reason surprises her. Thea (Willa Holland) encourages her mother to ask Walter to reconcile…”

…In other DC small screen news, Jesse L. Martin (Law & Order) became the first name to join Grant Gustin in The CW’s upcoming Arrow spin-off pilot The Flash, where he’s set to play Iris’ father Detective West, who is described as “”an honest, blue-collar cop who is a surrogate father to Barry. A soulful, funny and caring father to Iris — Barry’s potential love interest — West came up through the foster care system and took Barry in after his mother’s slaying and father’s imprisonment. He believes in Barry and supports his efforts to prove his father’s innocence.” Martin’s casting was soon followed by the announcement that Rick Gosnett (The Vampire Diaries) and Danielle Panabaker (Friday the 13th) had also signed on to the pilot, with Gosnett playing Eddie Thawne (rumoured to actually be Eobard Thawne, a.k.a. Professor Zoom, a.k.a. Reverse-Flash) and Panabaker to appear as Caitlin Snow, who is also New 52 alter-ego of Killer Snow…

…Meanwhile, over at NBC, chairman Robert Greenblatt has briefly spoken about the tone of the network’s Constantine pilot from Daniel Cerone (The Mentalist) and David S. Goyer (Batman vs. Superman), stating that “I don’t know the DC comic very well, but there is dark, interesting stuff in it, but it’s also got some witty banter. It’s a fun tone, although the supernatural stuff is scary.” However, with the pilot only having just been given the production greenlight, he then went on to play down talk of a crossover with any of the various other DC shows in developmenbt: “Cross-network is really hard. It’s hard enough to do it within your network. I think let us see how the pilot goes before we answer that question…”

…With Justice League: War receiving its world premiere this past week, Warner Bros. took the opportunity to give us our first look at the next DC Universe Animated Original Movie, releasing the first trailer and cover art for Son of Batman, which is based upon ‘Batman and Son’ by Grant Morrison and will see Damian Wayne making his first screen appearance. The movie is set for release on May 6th and features a voice cast that includes Jason O’Mara (Justice League: War) as Bruce Wayne / Batman, Stuart Allan (Rise of the Guardians) as Damian Wayne / Robin, Morena Baccarin (Homeland) as Talia, Giancarlo Esposito (Once Upon a Time) as Ra’s Al Ghul, David McCallum (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) as Alfred Pennyworth, Xander Berkeley (24) as Kirk Langstrom / Man-Bat and Thomas Gibson (Criminal Minds) as Deathstroke / Slade Wilson…

The Godfather Part II is Joss Whedon's "guiding star" for The Avengers: Age of Ultron

…Moving on to the Marvel Cinematic Universe now and Joss Whedon has offered up a few words about The Avengers: Age of Ultron, discussing how The Godfather Part II is influencing how he plans to deal with the events of the Phase Two solo movies when it comes to the plot of the 2015 sequel: “The events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier will definitely affect the world of Avengers 2. But at the end of the day, I have to make my movie assuming that people will only have seen the first one, or possibly not even seen the first one. I can’t assume that everybody went to see Thor: The Dark World, Captain America, and Iron Man 3 in-between. I have to go from one movie to the next and be true to what’s happened [in the previous movies], but not be slavish to it… The model I’m always trying to build from, or my guiding star, is The Godfather Part II where a ton has happened in-between and it’s a very different movie [from The Godfather], but you don’t need any information. It’s there in the film about what’s happened since, what’s different, and why is this a different film; why is it a different kind of structure, and why is it darker. It’s all there, you’re in the vernacular of the first movie and you’re just ready to pick up in this new place, and hopefully that’s what will happen with my movie. Obviously I’m talking about one of the greatest films ever made… I hope mine will be good, but that is my guiding star…”

…Sticking with The Avengers sequel and Cobie Smulders has confirmed her expected return as Agent Maria Hill, while Mark Ruffalo has spoken about Whedon’s script, as well as expressing his desire to explore The Incredible Hulk further in a solo movie: “[Age of Ultron] is a little bit darker, but also really has Joss Whedon’s incredibly, witty and sly sense of humor. [Bruce Banner] gets to do such great stuff… I’m in The Avengers, but if you took my screentime it would come to about ten minutes, along with the 12 other people I’m sharing the screen with, so my input’s kind of limited on that. But if we get to a standalone Hulk movie, I’ll have a much better chance to do that. I’m just learning now how to find my voice and bring it into the studio world…”

…Elsewhere in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man has taken advantage of Warner’s decision to push back Batman vs. Superman by moving the release of the studio’s first Phase Three offering forward to and nabbing the Man of Steel sequel’s original date of July 17th 2015; Stan Lee has revealed that he won’t make his customary cameo appearance in August’s Guardians of the Galaxy, meaning that the James Gunn-helmed cosmic superhero ensemble will be the first MCU movie not to feature the Marvel legend; and Samuel L. Jackson has spoken about his ongoing role as Nick Fury, suggesting that he’d be happy to sign another nine-film deal when his current contract expires (after Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Jackson will be seven films in to his original nine-picture commitment)…

…ABC president Paul Lee has spoken about the ratings slide for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., revealing that there are high hopes for the second half of the season: “”It was obviously disappointing that we started with a very high number and it came down. It took a little bit of time to find our sea legs, but now the show is really doing well. Creatively, we are loving what we’re seeing for the back nine. We’re doing a lot of work, and I’m really enjoying doing this with Marvel. We can announce that Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander) is coming in, in Episode 15. We’re shooting it now, and that’s going to be absolutely integral to that hour of television. And then, there’s going to be this really cool arc to the end of the season. You’re going to find out who the Clairvoyant is, and it’s going to be very, very cool.” As for Sif’s appearance, it’s been revealed that she’ll head to Midgard in search of another Asgardian, with Elena Satine (Smallville) set to guest star as Lorelei, the sister of The Enchantress, while executive producer Jeffrey Bell has confirmed the speculation surrounding J. August Richards’ Mike Peterson, revealing that he’ll be transformed into the cyborg Deathlok for the character’s first live-action appearance on the February 4th episode

…This week saw Marvel releasing the first trailer and cover art for Marvel’s Avengers Confidential: Black Widow and Punisher; while it sounds like it should be directed by Alex Braun, it’s actually a feature-length animated movie from anime studio Madhouse, the company behind last year’s Iron Man: Rise of Technovore, and will feature Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter) as Black Widow and Brian Bloom (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3) as The Punisher. Here’s the official synopsis: “After interfering with a top secret mission, The Punisher is taken into custody by S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and Avenger Black Widow. At the orders of Director Nick Fury, Punisher and Black Widow are sent on a mission to stop Leviathan, a global terrorist organization that plans to sell stolen S.H.I.E.L.D. technology to the highest bidder. Now, the vigilante and spy must work together to prevent this technology from falling into the wrong hands. The fate of the world, and of the Avengers, hangs in the balance…”

…Shifting to Sony’s Spider-Man universe and with around three months to go before its release, director Marc Webb and stars Andrew Garfield (Peter Parker) and Emma Stone (Gwen Stacy) have been taking part in some additional shooting at an abandoned railroad in Brooklyn [check out some set photos here]; Hans Zimmer has spoken about scoring the Spidey sequel and how he’s approaching the character compared to his previous superhero work on The Dark Knight Trilogy and Man of Steel: “I felt nobody ever addressed the idea that Peter Parker is young, and that the music he would listen to, that would move him, would be different from the music Batman would listen to. And I thought there should be a playfulness about it” [see more from Zimmer in a video interview here]; and Shailene Woodley has revealed that she’s uncertain about the future of her Mary Jane Watson, and whether she’ll be asked to return to the role for 2016′s The Amazing Spider-Man 3: “I don’t know anything, but seeing how they picked up the next two Divergent films, I don’t know how I’d keep my sanity with two big action films in one year. Anything can happen, so…”

…On Monday Empire Magazine is set for an “exclusive reveal” from 20th Century Fox’s upcoming X-Men sequel X-Men: Days of Future Past, which we can only presume will be a new trailer, given that director Bryan Singer has dropped a brief teaser, which features blink-and-you’ll-miss-em shots of  the likes of Hugh Jackman (Wolverine), James McAvoy (Professor X), Michael Fassbender (Magento), Jennifer Lawrence (Mystique), Ian McKellen (Magneto), Shawn Ashmore (Iceman), Adam Canto (Sunspot), Booboo Stewart (Warpath) and Fan Bingbing (Blink)…

…With Fox gearing up to go into production on The Fantastic Four at the back end of March, it’s been revealed that director Josh Trank (Chronicle) will be testing actors this coming week to join Michael B. Jordan’s Human Torch as part of Marvel’s First Family now that Simon Kinberg (X-Men: Days of Future past) has finished up his rewrite of the script. Apparently Game of Thrones stars Kit Harington and Richard Madden will test for Mister Fantastic alongside Miles Teller (The Spectacular Now), while Kate Mara (American Horror Story) and Saoirse Ronan (Hanna) will try out for the part of The Invisible Woman. Meanwhile, a potential synopsis has been revealed suggesting drastic changes to the traditional original of the Fantastic Four, and while Trank has taken to Twitter to debunk this, his previous denial about Miles Teller being up for Reed Richards leaves question marks hanging over its validity. Update: sorry, we can’t write about the potential synopsis here, as Fox has demanded its removal. Take from that what you will…

…And finally, something for the little ‘uns as DreamWorks Animation has revealed the voice cast for director Rob Letterman’s (Shark Tale, Monsters vs. Aliens) adaptation of the Scholastic superhero Captain Underpants, with Ed Helms voicing the eponymous hero, Kevin Hart (Grudge Match) as George Beard, Thomas Middleditch (The Campaign) as Harold Hutchins, Nick Kroll (Kroll Show) as Professor Poopypants, and Jordan Peele (Key and Peele) as Melvin. 

Holy Franchise, Batman! Bringing the Caped Crusader to the Screen – Available now via Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

Gary Collinson