ScreenCrush’s Comic Strip is a weekly roundup of the hottest superhero movie/TV news items. From Marvel to DC and points in between, if it pertains to costumed comic book heroes, we’re covering it here, bringing you our expert analysis. This week, Spider-Man has a really hard time, a fascinating ‘Batman vs Superman’ spoiler is revealed, and Marvel looks to cast the mentor of ‘Doctor Strange.’

It’s a Rough Week to be Spider-Man

The Sony hacking scandal has been a nightmarish ordeal for everyone involved and it feels crass and mean-spirited to dwell on the stolen information that’s been circulating around the internet for the past week or so. A lot of movies, movie ideas and personal exchanges are now public knowledge and some of it has been pretty gross.

However, one story became so widely reported that it feels necessary to at least touch on it here: Marvel Studios tried to “borrow” Spider-Man from Sony for a role in ‘Captain America: Civil War’ but negotiations ultimately broke down.

In fact, a great deal of the leaked information dealt with Sony struggling to find something, anything, to do with their one and only superhero. It’s no secret that the failure of ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ threw the studio for a loop (although it shouldn’t have, because it’s terrible) and dashed most of their future plans for the franchise, leading to a mad scramble to figure out how to rescue this sinking ship. It was this desperation that led to them talking to Marvel and considering a very interesting pitch: Marvel Studios would develop and make a new series of Spider-Man movies that have ties to the Marvel cinematic universe and Sony would have a hand in distributing. Since Spidey plays such a big role in the comic book version of ‘Civil War,’ that movie would mark his debut.

This was already a sticky situation and a plan that Sony was not sold on, but it fell apart because Marvel had one other condition: if they got control of Spidey, they would have recast the role. Sony, who feel like they have a lot invested in Garfield, balked at this idea. And then everyone was back to the square one, with Marvel shrugging and moving onto their next bajillion films and Sony still desperately trying to figure out what to do. Maybe an animated Spider-Man comedy from Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the geniuses behind ‘The LEGO Movie’? It was discussed.

Anyway, Sony has to do something drastic to save Spidey. When composer James Horner is going around saying that he refused to return for ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ because it was awful and the studios treated director Marc Webb like crap on the first film, you have a serious (and public) problem.

Just like in the comics, Peter Parker just can’t catch a break.

Lots of Big DC Movie News

It was a fairly big week for DC movie news, but let’s get this started with ‘Batman vs. Superman’ and a minor spoiler that’s genuinely intriguing. The next two paragraphs will contain some spoilers, but they deal with events that take place before the film begins, not actual plot developments.

It seems that Ben Affleck’s Dark Knight has been active for 17 years when the film begins, which means that he has had a ton of previous adventures and hardships. That makes sense, since the goal of this film was always to team up a young Superman with a grizzled Batman. Anyway, the film will apparently imply all kinds of events that we don’t get to see. Chief among them: Commissioner James Gordon, Batman’s number one ally in Gotham City, is dead when the film begins. How and why is a mystery.

Some fans may not like the idea of this fan-favorite character not being present in these new films, but we like the idea. First, we’ve already seen a lot of Gordon in other Batman movies. Do we need more? But more importantly: this builds an instant backstory for the new Batman and gives texture to his world. This is the best possible way to sell the audience on the idea that this guy has been around for a long time. Plus, there’s our personal fan theory that the Joker killed him and that Ben Affleck will come face-to-face with Jared Leto in a future film on a mission of vengeance.

Okay, spoilers over. How about some Alfred news?

The great Jeremy Irons briefly spoke about playing the new Alfred Pennyworth and it sounds like we’re in for a slightly different kind of super-butler. This quote in particular stands out:

He is quite a different Alfred than we have seen so far. Zack Snyder had very clear views about what he wanted. I would just say he’s more hands-on perhaps than just a butler.

On screen, Alfred has generally been depicted as a father figure, mentor, and dispenser of useful life advise. In the comics, he is often deeply involved in Batman’s crime-fighting, supplying tactical details and vital information from the safety of the Batcave. We have no idea exactly what Irons means when he says “more hands-on,” but we imagine that his Alfred could be more of a direct, active ally than the others have been.

Before we leave the subject of Batman: Michael Keaton has totally made his peace with not being Batman anymore. Take a look and learn a lesson, Christian Bale!

Elsewhere in the DC universe, Dwayne Johnson talked about playing Black Adam in ‘Shazam’ as part of a Twitter Q&A:

We still think that Johnson is a better fit for Shazam/Captain Marvel himself, but it’s hard to argue with that enthusiasm. Take note that he keeps on referring to Black Adam as an anti-hero, which is a very modern development. The character began as a straightforward villain before evolving into something more complex. That may give us an idea of what the movie will be going for.

And that brings us to the Crazy Rumor of the Week. This comes out of the Sony hacks, so it’s sticky and weird and very possibly untrue, but here goes: Warner Bros. has apparently tapped Jeff Nichols to direct the ‘Aquaman’ movie. Yes, the arthouse genius behind ‘Shotgun Stories’ and ‘Take Shelter’ may be making a superhero movie. We’ll withhold further commentary until we know more for sure, but that’s ... Well, it’s crazy.

Oh, and Aquaman himself Jason Momoa opened up about the details of his role and mentioned that he would love to see Zack Snyder direct. Oops.

Lots of Little Marvel News

Nothing broke the world in the Marvel Universe today, but stuff did happen. Technically, we’re in the calm before the ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ storm, but we imagine a bunch of big stuff will start breaking shortly after the holidays. Anyway, let’s run down what we do know.

Marvel released a new synopsis for ‘Ant-Man’ that sounds a lot like the old synopsis for ‘Ant-Man.’ They also included characters names for the supporting cast, but no one stands out as being major Marvel characters.

Meanwhile, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ director James Gunn made it clear that fans shouldn’t expect his team to meet the Avengers anytime soon:

We really are separate from the Avengers, and I don’t think people should assume too many things about the Guardians play in all these. We have our own galaxy to take care of. We have our own galaxy to save. Earth is the Avengers’ province. Thinking that everything is going to come together in a perfect way is not necessarily the way it’s going to happen.

But don’t worry, this ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ blooper reel will make you feel better.

While doing press rounds for ‘Inherent Vice,’ Josh Brolin chatted about Thanos and confirmed what we already knew: the two-part ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ movie will see his take on the Mad Titan battling the entire Marvel universe:

I love the idea of Thanos ... Ultimately, it’s Thanos against everyone. Why wouldn’t you do that?

And finally, Al Pacino met with Marvel Studios. About what? Who knows! The iconic actor has spoken about loving ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,’ so maybe he got bit by the superhero bug. Considering that the MCU now contains the likes of Robert Redford and Glenn Close, Pacino definitely doesn’t seem unobtainable. Baron Mordo in ‘Doctor Strange,’ anyone?

‘Strange’ Days, Indeed

The most interesting Marvel news of the week deserves its own sub-section. It seems that Marvel Studios and director Scott Derrickson are currently seeking out their Ancient One, the powerful wizard who trains Dr. Stephen Strange before passing him the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme. It the latest buzz is to be believed, they are currently eyeing three actors and all of them make us very, very happy:

The white, British Bill Nighy (who is just great in everything).

The black, American Morgan Freeman (who is just great in everything).

The Japanese Ken Watanabe (who is just great in everything).

Quality of actors aside (and those are some ridiculously great actors), the coolest thing about this is how they’re seemingly not treating race or nation as a factor when they cast this part. After all, a great sorcerer can be black or white, he can be from Asia or Europe. He can be anyone! As much as we love Nighy, it may be much cooler to watch a Brit like Benedict Cumberbatch learn the mystical arts from someone completely different than him, like Freeman or Watanabe. Still, it’s hard to argue with any of those actors if one of them ends up snagging the part.

And, of course, the early 2015 reshoots for ‘The Avengers: Age of Ultron’ will reportedly feature a cameo by Cumberbatch, introducing his Doctor Strange to the biggest possible audience. As always, Marvel plays their hand well.

The Latest and Greatest in Superhero TV

Let’s lead with the weird: SyFy is officially moving forward with David Goyer’s ‘Krypton’ TV series. No, we have no idea what this will look like or if it will be compelling. After all, the show will take place on a planet that will be completely destroyed in the not-so-distant future. Then again, we’d be lying if we said the wacky sci-fi fantasy of the ‘Man of Steel’ opening wasn’t pretty cool. Is that what they’re going for here?

Across universes and networks, it should come as no surprise that the back half of ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ season two will tie directly into the events of ‘The Avengers: Age of Ultron.’ After all, last season was cleverly interwoven into ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ and everyone thought that worked out fairly well. Since that was part of a much weaker season of TV, this should hopefully be even better.

Speaking of Marvel and ABC, the synopsis for the first two episodes of ‘Agent Carter’ (which will premiere together) is here. Nothing too spoilery, but proceed with caution all the same:

In the episode “Now is Not the End,” Peggy is contacted by old acquaintance Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper, Marvel’s “Captain America: The First Avenger“) when he is framed for unleashing his deadliest weapons and can trust no one else. To help Peggy clear Stark’s name, he insists his butler, Edwin Jarvis, be at her beck and call–whether she likes it or not. But the risk is great: If caught, Agent Carter could be targeted as a traitor and spend the rest of her days in prison…or worse.

In the episode “Bridge and Tunnel,” Howard Stark’s deadliest weapon has fallen into enemy hands, and only Agent Carter can recover it. But can she do so before her undercover mission is discovered by SSR Chief Dooley and Agent Thompson?

If you want to know even more, there’s also this new clip. The scene itself is cute and innocuous, but you know, caution, etc:

Oh, and there’s also this poster, just in case you need a quick reference for when this thing gets started:


And finally, you’ve probably already seen the midseason finale of ‘Arrow,’ but this quick featurette will take you behind the scenes:

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