One quick point of clarification: This has absolutely nothing to do with our recent series of posts by Adam Douglas. I don’t really have a dog in the fight when it comes to fictional matchups between comic book characters.
I do, however, have some problems with the real matchups that come up between their fans.
Marvel and DC (with Warner Bros.) made headlines again when the news broke that Captain America 3 releases directly opposite Batman vs. Superman in Summer 2016. Now, such things are in flux; there’s no way of guaranteeing this schedule stays the same. This whole post may already be out of date, actually.
But that doesn’t change the fact that right now, Marvel and DC are literally going helmet-to-cowl soon.
Nor does it change the fact that fostering a rivalry between these two companies as they expand their cinematic horizons is… kinda silly.
I totally, totally get that these two companies are to some degree in competition with each other. Film is a competitive business, even by business standards. That’s fine. What I don’t get is the fans feeling like they have to join in.
It’s sorta like that Star Wars/Star Trek thing that flares up (does it still?) from time to time. I get the similarities, but the two properties are so different that it’s not really so much about “which is better” as it is about “which of these am I looking for?”
It’s not even like I don’t have a preference. All it takes is one look at my bookshelf to see that DC titles outnumber Marvel ones by, like, ten to one. Admittedly, most of the reason for that is that Grant Morrison and Alan Moore are among DC’s regularly employed writers.
(By the way, Moore and Morrison have a rivalry going, too. This is why I don’t like picking sides.)
I get that a lot of people prefer the clay-footed heroes of Marvel. They identify with figures like Peter Parker and Tony Stark who look an awful lot like us, if we were way funnier than we are and had badass superpowers/lots of money. Marvel heroes don’t live in Metropolis or Gotham or Coast City, they live in New York and California. They’re, y’know, people. Marvel is about us.
Conversely, DC is about them. Characters like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman possess a deep sense of myth and scope. Ditto Sandman. Ditto Aquaman, even. I know Marvel has its cosmic thing going on, and while their universe seems expansive, DC’s often seems infinite. Especially when you bring in the gonzo stylings of Morrison or the deep literature of Moore or the iconography of Gaiman, DC has a greater tendency* to publish works that feel very nearly superhuman in and of themselves.
Or at least that’s my guess as to why I keep buying DC books over Marvel like I do. This is a retroactive diagnosis. Honestly, I’m hardly ever think about the books I pick up in terms of their publisher. I’m usually thinking about the writer, or in certain cases the artist. Something that indicates the book will most likely meet my criteria; namely, that it’s good.
Funnily enough, that’s the most important criterion for their movies, too.
Marvel, admittedly, has been doing some ballsy, cool stuff with their cinematic universe. It’s interesting at the very least, especially since Kevin Feige and his team appear to understand that the best way to keep an audience interested is to hire talented filmmakers and let them do something interesting. In the times they’ve follow through with that approach, the results have been impressive.
Of course, when they let the larger universe and/or other constraints get in the way of just telling a good story, then we get embarrassments like the first sequels to Iron Man and Thor.
DC’s situation is a little more difficult to parse, mainly because they don’t own a Marvel-equivalent film studio. Man of Steel was an admirable attempt to do something new with the Superman myth… it just kinda didn’t work. Even if you liked it, the results were polarizing at absolute best. Before it, Superman Returns’ brilliance couldn’t guarantee it audience support. Green Lantern, by all accounts, sucked.
Then again, The Dark Knight is probably still the high-water mark for superhero movies, period.
And now we’re coming up on Batman vs. Superman. It’s a bold statement. Bringing the two most iconic superheroes of all time is as big as assembling the Avengers, in its own way.*** Casting figures like Jesse Eisenberg in roles like Lex Luthor is another bold statement. Whatever Batman vs. Superman winds up being, I doubt it will be familiar.
It might be a little morose, of course. If DC/Warner Bros. has an Achilles heel, its their tendency to overdraw from the well of Batman-style grim-and-grittiness. The New 52 is lousy with that stuff, and one of the problems with Man of Steel was its fear of going to that place of slightly corny goodness Superman usually calls home.
But, then again, overly dark does at least balance out Marvel’s overly goofy approach. And yes, after the most recent Thor movie I think it’s safe to say that Marvel has dipped a toe into some sort of weird dimension where the perceived answer to any production woe is adding more Loki and/or jokes.
Then again, they have Joss Whedon on their side.
What I’m trying to say in all this, is that I don’t really care who the hell wins the weekend between Captain America 3 and Batman vs. Superman.**** Nor do I understand why anybody really, really would. It seems like a bit of a waste of energy.
You know what would make ME feel like I won? Getting to see two great movies in the same week.
*In the long run, at least.
**There are a bajillion exceptions to this rule, probably, but bear with me as I try to make a point instead of catalogue every boring detail of my tastes.
***Though the Avengers thing was probably a little harder, ultimately.
****Again, assuming the weekend stays the same.