Comic books are about world-building. The marketing for film adaptations of comics follows the same format: It cultivates an ever-expanding universe, one even populated with fictional advertising for key players.
But now that Hollywood is making more and more comic-book sequels, every movie's universe is increasingly related and intertwined. This is a big deal. As Wired put it in its last issue, "The shared universe represents something rare in Hollywood: a new idea."
As a result, the fictional corporate worlds that accompany them—and their commercial interests—have also grown larger and more inclusive.
Case in point: a recent advertising "editorial" in which Wired interviewed Lex Luthor, the evil tech-corporation overlord we all deserve. Occupying two pages in its December edition, the interview—a creative punt for Warner Bros. Entertainment's upcoming Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice movie—comes complete with graphs about the influence of Lexcorp, a snazzy photoshoot and more dork bait than you can stuff into a chum bucket.
These are just the ones I caught as a Batman fan, but there's surely plenty I missed:
- It's written by fictional Daily Planet journalist Ron Troupe.
- "You sound like someone running for political office" is a wink to Lex Luthor becoming president in the comic series.
- "Because he was cowardly and superstitious" comes from Detective Comics Vol. 1 when, in his first-ever appearance, Batman said, "Criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot. So my disguise must be able to strike terror into their hearts."
- "Not unless they have access to vast amounts of untold riches" is an obvious Bruce Wayne reference.
- Kord Industries is owned by Blue Beetle.
- Stagg is run by supervillain Simon Stagg.
- Queen Industries is exiting military contracts because owner Green Arrow is now a good guy, à la Tony Stark.
- Wayne Enterprises making a prototype plane and exoskeleton suit, with no proof of concept, foreshadows Batman's suit, worn in the movies.
- The exoskeleton, and idea of Batman being obsolete, references The Dark Knight Returns, by which the movie is largely inspired.
- A subtle Superman reference: "able to level tall buildings in a single bout" instead of "able to leap tall buildings in a single bound."
- ARGUS is the secret government agency run by Amanda Waller, who created the Suicide Squad.
- "Let's just say I ran into a Wall" also refers to Waller (whose nickname is The Wall).
- "He used to say that offense wins games. But he's dead and I say you're only as good as your defense" refers to Lex Luthor's father, whom Luthor murdered.
The depiction of Lex, played by Jesse Eisenberg, adds an extra dollop of criminal insanity to what could easily be an elaboration of Eisenberg's portrayal in The Social Network of our (actual) beloved tech overlord, Mark Zuckerberg. So this ad play makes sense—a fictional interview in a magazine known for interviewing tech moguls who loftily plan to change the world—even if it's hardly an original idea (consider the Peter Weyland TED Talk for Ridley Scott's Prometheus.)
No doubt this is just the first volley in a marketing blitz so enormous and deeply intertwined with the fandom that it will make the 2008 fictional electoral campaign "I Believe in Harvey Dent" look like a dwarf planet before Galactus.
Wait—sorry, wrong universe.