The Never Ending Marvel V DC Debate

I never read comics much growing up. In fact, most of my comic book knowledge comes from online research of different characters, with some of my favourites being Batman and Spider-Man. I bought my first comic, Watchmen, just a few years ago and I have followed that one up with titles like House of M and Civil War.

My comic interests have always intersected DC and Marvel, and I am sure many other fans can say the same. Although competition is unavoidable since they are two different companies involved, I do not think that the same level of close-mindedness among fans existed prior to the comic book film renaissance we are now witnessing. Did older comic book readers only read Marvel comics, and refuse to read DC or give DC any balanced criticism? Or vice versa? Hopefully not. Either way I think online arguments, whether they are on IMDB, YouTube, Empire etc. make it clear that close-mindedness abounds when it comes to comic book film discussion.

Some disclaimers:
1) Yes I know many people see comment as the cesspool of the Internet, and may wonder why I bother paying them any attention. For me, I felt the need to write this post since I can no longer go to forums like IMDB and have reasoned arguments with posters. My YouTube videos are drowned out by videos where other people echo the same views that I detest. So the simple reason for me doing this post: I need to vent.
2) Close-mindedness is a pretty big part of the human condition, so of course it extends far beyond people’s discussions of comic books.
3) I am not a Marvel OR DC fan, I am a fan of both worlds.

There is no arguing that Marvel or Disney/Marvel has built a dynasty. It seems that slapping the Marvel logo across any property can guarantee profit and good reviews from critics and audiences alike. Not only has Marvel released more films, but the shared universe they have created is a dream come true for long time comic book fans and an exciting prospect for a newer audience who are increasingly drawn to the characters.

Aside from Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, DC has not had any critically revered films over the past ten years. Some have been panned for good reason imo, such as Green Lantern. Meanwhile. others were unfairly scathed. V for Vendetta (Vertigo) is technically a DC property, since DC purchased Vertigo comics. However, the average moviegoer probably does not know this. This brings up an important issue that I believe affects DC films far more than Marvel. Marvel’s status as the earlier franchise allows it to set a benchmark for fans who have a simple conception of certain characters. Marvel’s films generally have a reputation as more light-hearted, entertaining and fun, while DC’s are often seen as poor attempts to be “dark and gritty” or “copying Nolan”. In general I believe people have a tendency to become attached to what comes first. With the exception of The Dark Knight trilogy, most DC films were released after Iron Man.

Man of Steel, currently 58% on Rotten Tomatoes was critically divisive from what I have seen. Many people either loved it or hated it. I don’t have cited sources to examine all the reasons but the recent release of the Batman v Superman trailer has brought up more online criticism of Man of Steel. One of the biggest critiques from this past month and 2013, was that Man of Steel changed the character of Superman too much: Made him too brooding, too dark etc.

Since Marvel studios don’t own the X-Men or Spiderman until earlier this year, Marvel’s stable of characters weren’t as iconic as DC’s. Obviously the characters are firmly entrenched now, but I don’t think Iron Man or Captain America were AS popular to the general audience in 2008, as Batman or Superman were. Marvel has done a great job with their characters and their stable also gave them an advantage.

They did not have to worry as much about a misinformed general audience thinking that they ruined the characters. This advantage is especially clear when it comes to Man of Steel. Contrary to popular belief, Man of Steel did not actually change the character of Superman that much. A lot of the things people hated or thought were rip-offs of Batman Begins e.g. the depiction of his dad and his dad’s death, Clark travelling across the world, were elements borrowed from newer comics. Birthright and the New 52 comics were the biggest influences. In terms of

SPOILER ALERT FOR MAN OF STEEL

…..Superman killing Zod, writer David Goyer also explained that. In the comics, Superman does not kill because it is an arbitrary decision by the writers. In the world of Man of Steel, he had no choice and was forced to kill the last member of his race. After doing that, he will never want to do it again and this can also set up Batman’s mistrust of him in Batman v Superman. Some people say Superman should have dragged Zod to the moon, but this Superman cannot breathe in space. Superman’s powers fluctuate writer to writer in the comics, and his ability to breathe in space is one of the ones that changes often. Others say Superman should have dragged Zod somewhere else in the city and keep fighting. Yet some of these people are the same ones that complain about the fighting causing too much damage in the city.

However, much of the general audience is not bothered to look up facts like this. You may think it is not their responsibility to. However, these same people have the time to write reviews or do video reviews of Man of Steel and spread bad word of mouth.

While Marvel can get a pass on terrible love stories (Thor), forgettable villains (Malekith from Thor, Ronan from GOTG), I believe that some fans tear DC properties apart either because they have decided they will only support Marvel, or because they have a narrow view of how the character should be portrayed. I have had conversations with people who disliked Man of Steel because, and I quote, “His brow was too furrowed” in some scenes. This person specifically referenced the scene where Superman flies for the first time: The same scene where Superman is smiling and laughing as he sails through the air. Basically this person thought Superman should never be allowed to look serious, he should be grinning from ear to ear the entire movie. This is just one example of the relentless nitpicking bestowed on Man of Steel.

Another example:

Two super powered beings fight in a city and the city gets trashed (like many comics and tv shows) = worst movie ever and worst depiction of Superman ever. Even though the same thing happened to some extent in Superman II, with Christopher Reeves. This also happened in The Avengers, but very few people say The Avengers were portrayed horribly.

Marvel’s humour has also won it many fans, even if that humour consists of Kat Dennings making terrible quips for two hours (Yeah I really don’t like the Thor movies that much, Loki’s a highlight). I remember when the Man of Steel trailers were released and everyone thought they were “too dark”. I do not believe they were. The trailers were dramatic, serious, but not dark. They had the same tone as the trailers for The Winter Soldier, Thor: The Dark World, and Avengers: Age of Ultron. However, Man of Steel was quick to be interpreted as an attempt to make Superman “dark and gritty”. It now seems that any DC trailer with a hint of seriousness will be interpreted as “joyless” or “too dark”.

As Marvel continues to strengthen its brand, we will have to see how DC progresses from this point onward. While I am excited at a shared DC universe, I do worry that they are rushing it. Aside from Batman and Superman, the next film features three other superheroes and some questionable casting: Gal Gadot looks horrible as Wonder Woman. My heart tells me yes, my brain tells me no. If the film is panned or met with polarizing reactions like Man of Steel was I hope it is not because people resort to the same tired arguments I have already discussed.