EP 54: "Arrow-verse" creator Marc Guggenheim on superhero movies, state of TV and more.


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Marc Guggenheim is a TV legend and creator of one of my favorite TV shows – the Arrow. We got to nerd out on comic books, super hero movies and a lot more in this episode. Enjoy!

00:22 – Intro
1:51 – Who is Marc Guggenheim
7:20 – Marc’s first comic book
11:53 – Marc’s process on writing comic books
15:00 – How did the TV series Arrow happen?
21:59 – Arrow auditioning and the Tinder problem
23:50 Stephen Amell’s training sequence
27:46 The genius of J.J. Abrams
29:54 The pressure of delivering a TV show
31:19 Managing movies within a universe
38:04 Marc’s Ironman premiere experience
39:13 Comic book movie fatigue
42:40 How would Marc handle a Superman movie
45:54 Adjusting to a new superhero casting
47:53 The weaponization of nostalgia
53:03 Managing fans’ expectations, themes
57:00 Establishing a theme in storytelling
1:00:00 Marc’s information diet
1:02:56 The writers & actors striking
1:11:12 Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase Four
1:15:31 What should TV explore next from comic books

Notable Quotes

  • “I don’t know how I ended up in this situation – in this body. It’s weird. I’m lucky because I get the chance to work for 10-year old me. Anything that I loved at 10 years old I have been fortunate enough to work on.”  

  • “It’s actually harder to break into comics as a writer than it is to break into Hollywood.”

  • “I put my hands to the keyboard and nothing happens. And I realized, oh my God, I’ve just assumed I’m a writer, and I’ve been reading comics my whole life. This should be easy. And I suddenly realized I had no idea what the hell I was doing.”

  • “Green Lantern taught us – not that we don’t know how to do these characters – we actually do. I always tell people a simple Google search will surface our first draft. So you can read what we originally had in mind. But it taught us that if we’re going to do these characters, we need total control. We need to be able to see our vision through to completion.” 

  • “Steven so blew me away that I saved his audition on my computer. I still have his original audition,because I was like, even if we don’t end up casting him for whatever reason, we can’t make a deal, the network doesn’t like him, whatever – I’m like, this guy – this guy is a star.”

  • “At a minimum, there’s directing, writing, and casting. You need a minimum of two of the three in order for it to work.” 

  • “I don’t know what line of bullshit I gave. Truth be told, looking back, I don’t think we really had a plan for how we are going to square the circle.” 

  • “David Barrett, this amazing director who has done millions of hours of television and movies – he came in and he directed episode two – and he really raised the bar.”   

  • “Peter Roth, the head of Warner Brothers Television, took us out to lunch and explained to us in painstaking detail, how if this show doesn’t work, there is no CW.”   

  • “It’s very simple. If you try to run before you can walk, you’re going to end up on your face. Focusing on the future keeps you from paying attention to the present.” 

  • “Ironman is the reason Green Lantern got made. That movie was kind of like proof of concept. If Ironman had come out and bombed, there would have been no Green Lantern.”

  • “I think superhero movies are going to become like what westerns are. It’s a genre that you revisit every now and again.”

  • “I think what the audience is basically telling us with their dollars is, if you build it, “it” being a really great superhero movie – we will go. (…) The audience is basically saying to us, you’ve got to justify the experience of going out to the theater and seeing this as a movie, as opposed to waiting a couple of months to watch it on Disney Plus.”

  • “I honestly feel like the reason we haven’t gotten a good Superman movie is because we haven’t embraced what Superman is.”

  • “I would do a very back to the basics kind of Superman movie. To me, the back to the basics version of Superman is he’s a mild-mannered reporter for The Daily Planet. (Give me brainiac…). Tell me the wonderful Superman story. I know that they exist because I’ve read them in the comics.”

  • “We never got the pure version of Henry Cavill as Superman that I was craving. And I think because of that, it probably opens up more of an opportunity for another actor to come in and embody that role.”

  • “I think you left out the most important thing Picard stood for: that boldness can be cool.”

  • “It’s about something. There’s a reason for that story to exist beyond just what the fans want or beyond giving the crew the send off that they deserve. It’s about what we pass on to our children. It’s a very clear, universal, visceral theme that runs through the entire piece.”

  • “One thing I’ve really been struggling with, as we’re now in the third month of this writer’s strike, is inspiration. I realized that part of the reason I’ve been struggling with it is I haven’t been watching as many TV shows and movies as I normally try to.”

  • “We’re the AV squad – the chess club of Hollywood. But now you’ve got the cheerleading squad and the football team, and they’re pissed off.”

  • “I have what may be a minority opinion. What we’re striking for is actually not why we’re striking. The reason, fundamentally, why we’re striking and why the actors are striking, is the business got disrupted. It got broken. And people are just fundamentally unhappy. They’re angry. (…) The foundation is what we really have to talk about.”

  • “Obviously technology starts off with the voice but likeness, as you point out, is not that far behind. (…) And you know, we can argue about it in 20 years.”

  • “The difference between phase four and phases one through three is fundamentally something very simple. Which is, you could even watch infinity war without having seen the prior x number of movies.”

  • “I think what the Marvel Cinematic Universe is going through right now is the same discovery that the Marvel Print Universe and the DC Print Universe also went through. I think of these universes like ships, and the longer a ship sails, the more barnacles get attached to its hole. The more that weighs down the ship, and the more it affects how fast the ship can move through the water. And every now and again, you need to do some sort of reboots that scrape off the barnacle.”

Production and Writing