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DC and Marvel: who’s better? I don’t think that’s a great question to ask. They’re not the same thing, their characters represent two different approaches to mythology. DC deals in archetypes, Marvel in characters with relatable issues. Besides, Image might be doing better than both of them right now anyway.
However, there is a question we can ask. Which one is doing better right now?
I’ll break it down as best as I can, using the different mediums to compare DC and Marvel’s CURRENT STATE. Of course, this is a subjective aspect to it. Man of Steel might be your favorite Superman movie and Hawk and Dove your favorite comic. That’s fine, I’m not saying you can’t. Admittedly, I’d have a bias for Marvel, but I’ll try to make this as objective as I can. Let’s begin.
The big showdown right out of the gate. Hmmm. This one is tough. DC’s work has been pretty strong since Nu52, but Marvel isn’t a slouch lately either.
If we’re talking quality, DC has Snyder’s Batman and… Swamp Thing and Animal Man (which they’ve canceled), maybe a couple of the Green Lantern books, and Earth 2 based on who you talk to. Marvel has Thor: God of Thunder, Hickman’s Avengers, the new Deadpool, and two out of the million X-Men books. But even they are hit-and-miss, not to mention the difficulty breaking into Hickman’s stuff as a new reader.
Do I take the sales of the books? I took a look at March 2014’s sales:
Hmmmm. Well Batman is really cleaning up, as is to be expected, and the new Sandman being on there doesn’t surprise me either. However there are more Marvel titles up there, although two of them are the same title.
This is going to be tough.
I know, I know, let me explain myself. At first it was simply that I’m reading more Marvel books, but I understand that’s too subjective. So instead this decision was made in two parts.
First, let’s take away the obvious leads. Take away the Batman titles and Sandman from DC and from Marvel take away Spider-Man, the books people who’ve seen The Avengers would be familiar with, and, hell, take away the X-Men books. I think Marvel still has more quality comics left over than DC.
DC has Swamp Thing, maybe a handful of Green Lantern books, and what? Constantine? Geoff Johns’ Aquaman? Dial H was their freshest title and it has been canceled for a while.
Marvel has Matt Fraction’s Silver Surfer, the new Ghost Rider with awesome art by Tradd, most of the MAX titles, and, oh man, almost all of the Ultimate universe to pull from. There are a ton of quality reads without depending on age-old stables.
Secondly, the current state of Marvel’s comics make me far more excited for the future. I need to know how Hickman’s Secret Avengers turns out. I’m always left wanting more with Thor: God of Thunder. Indeed, Snyder’s Batman has the same effect, but not really much beyond that.
I realize this is a bit subjective too, but here is my objective reasoning. I was not interested in a Ghost Rider comic really at all. Didn’t think I would ever be. But this new Ghost Rider comic changed some core things about the character — having him drive a car, stylized chrome skull, no more charred biker look — and I became excited. I never was really interested in reading Nightwing’s book either, and the new comic has changed things as well. Now he’s a gun-toting secret agent. But the difference is, I’m not excited to read it, these changes do nothing for me.
Comic book properties have always had a tough time with this. From the tragedy of Superman 64 to the litany of terrible Spider-Man games.
I’ll include movie tie-ins in this because, while they’re more in line with the movie than the comic book, they often pull in more comic book references than the movie itself. This makes it a bit harder.
Surprised? You shouldn’t be if you really think about it. Oh because of the Arkham games, I hear you say. Well yes and no.
While the Arkham games are (mostly) fantastic, they represent another, bigger point. They’re based on the comics and have reached success without appealing to the basest public knowledge. Instead they’re packed full of obscure-ish characters that you’re more-or-less expected to know. Marvel has done that with what? Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions? An X-Men game or two. Nothing that has hit the immense popularity of the Arkham games, what with their own comics, spin-offs, and animated movies.
Not only this, but Marvel doesn’t even seem to be trying in this department anymore. What games they do put out nowadays are simple tie-ins and shoddy ones at that (despite Spider-Man 2 being the king of comic book movie tie-in video games). With all their new-found popularity and fans, there is a ton of opportunity to make their own standalone game, but they seem disinterested.
Oh man, where to begin? Smallville drug on for 10 seasons, but still made the CW enough money that they thought they needed another DC property to fill the void. What they got was Arrow.
To be fair, I’ve only seen the first part of the first season of Arrow, so I may be a little outdated. What I understand is that a scarred (read: metaphor) billionaire playboy-turned-archer returns to his hometown to wander around his expansive mansion dealing with his three major problems: his sister, his mom, and his girlfriend (read: women, ugh) all while trying to grittily fit the recycled footage of a single exercise in between murdering people for murdering people because murdering people (who Arrow deems innocent) is wrong.
This has strangely been successful, so now we’re getting a much warned against Batman-less Batman show and a primetime, safe, fun for the whole family Hellblazer (Heckwalker, Fridays on NBC!). Unfortunately, none of these exist yet so I can’t factor them into DC’s current state.
Marvel isn’t batting a thousand either. Marvel’s Joss Whedon’s ABC’s Disney’s Agents of SHIELD is a solid enough Whedon-y show, but it seems like Disney’s fingers are all over their pies. They can’t seem to use anything that’s not from Asgard, Chitauri, or involving Extremis. Or all three combined. Most likely out of fear of losing people who have only seen the movies. What actual, original from-the-comics villains we do get are given some weird episode-long origin story that teases us about seeing their powers some other time.
Not to mention it’s very very Disney-fied. For one, Skye is an anti-authoritarian radical hacktivist WHO LIVED OUT OF HER VAN, yet has perfect hair and make up and dresses in designer clothing despite the fact she should look like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Plus, the show is really white. Like the whitest whitey white. I don’t think they did it on purpose and I’m not trying to ram political correctness down anyone’s throat, but after a while it got weird. The first black character on their show was an inattentive father who got blown up and resurrected as a brainwashed cyborg (who is still a lousy father). But it looks like Triplet might be replacing Ward, so they’ll have an Asian and a black! They’re a latino away from Planeteers level of adversity. Yay!
There was basically one simple fact that lead me to this. I’ve heard more non-comic fans talk about Arrow than Agents of SHIELD. Which is a major feat considering the MCU’s unstoppable march towards having all of the money in the world. My fellow comic fans are always talking about Arrow, but mostly because of the references to the comic books. Which is all you really need to capture them, so they’re an unreliable source in the first place.
No, I’ve heard everybpdy from 2o-something Bros to 30-something Moms gush about Arrow for different reasons (super murder and shirtlessness respectively). However everyone agrees it’s a “cool” and “awesome” show.
Marvel, with its struggling ratings and less nerd-catching comic book references, seems to have lagged behind.
Also, taking animated shows into account, Marvel still falls short. Both seem to have trouble getting their best shows canceled, but DC has had more success than Marvel. It seems, in animation at least, DC aims to take the material more seriously than Marvel, who opts to target kids (again, I think this fault lies with Disney).
With the entire multiple-series-spanning DCAU, Young Justice, Teen Titans, and Batman: the Brave and the Bold DC has outpaced Marvel with Spectacular Spider-Man, Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Wolverine and the X-Men, and, arguably, the 90s X-Men and Spider-Man shows.
Nolan’s Batman trilogy, with all its problems, is still a cornerstone of comic book movie history. Hell, The Dark Knight is almost a perfect movie. Not to mention DC’s animated movies, which are a collection of awesome comics turned into awesome features. How could they not be the best at this?
Oh, of course. Was it the financial success? A little. The popularity? A little. I know, some people might consider this a close draw, so let me list my biggest reasons:
1) Marvel has created their own kind of micro-genre. People now say “I like Marvel movies”. Guardians of the Galaxy looks weird to non-comic fans, but they’ll go see it because of the Marvel logo on it. They’ll go see almost anything now with a Marvel intro in front of it. That’s some real sway in movies today, especially since they have to compete with so many other sources of entertainment.
2) DC is scrambling to catch up to their model. They attempted a Justice League movie in the 00s only to have it fall through, but when Avengers made a billion in 19 days, they suddenly jumped into action. They seem to be slapping together a shared universe as fast and sturdily as they can, but the cracks are starting to show. Superman vs. Batman opens on the same day as Captain America 3. DC has so much riding on it, it would be smart to move the date, but it would appear as though they were backing down to Marvel so they might not. This could prove as a final nail in the coffin when Cap 3 beats it out at the box office.
3) Marvel’s success is coming, in part, from resonating with people. They make fun, exciting movies that stick to the source material. To the true meaning of the character.
Some have said that DC is ashamed of their superhero movies and so they make them as gritty and “realistic” as possible. I don’t think so. I think that when The Dark Knight made a ton of money Warner Bros. and DC learned the wrong lesson. They believed Gritty and Realistic = Cash, and ignored the fact that TDK connected with audiences because it was true to the character that had lasted for nearly a century. That’s why we got a frowny, gray-and-cold-blue-filtered Superman that seemed to send mixed themes. It wasn’t true to what the character was about. I mean, Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a better Superman movie than Man of Steel. That was about doing what’s right, even when that puts you at odds with the powers that be and the so called “good guys”. That’s what a Superman movie should be.
Marvel movies are fun and flashy and sometimes a little silly, yes. But that’s comic books for you. You package deep themes in bright colors and power fantasies. No other comic book movies exemplify this better than Marvel’s.
Let me just tally the winners here. Oh. It’s a tie. Hmmm… well. Man. This went different than I had planned.
WELP, I guess you have to draw your own conclusions. Let me know what you think in the comments below.