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Walter Hudson

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May 12, 2014 - 2:00 pm
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Will the Justice League film be able to compete with The Avengers? That was the tagline for this post, inviting readers and contributors to debate whether DC or Marvel has created the more compelling fictional universe. The formally proposed question was:

Who will ultimately triumph in the superhero battles to define the genre? Does Marvel with Spider-Man, the Avengers, and the X-Men set the standard? Or does DC with Batman and Superman provide a better model for aspiring comic and superhero creators?

As a lifelong rabid fan of both Superman and Batman, I want those properties to succeed. However, if I am going to be objective about it, I have to concede that Marvel not only will win the battle to define the comic book film genre – they already have.

Some say imitation is the highest form of flattery. If we make our assessment based upon who imitates who, then Marvel leads the day. DC seeks desperately to clone the achievements of Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe. It can be seen in the rush to cram as many characters as possible into the forthcoming Batman vs. Superman, ramping up quickly toward the debut of the Justice League. Would DC be so eager were it not for the massive success of The Avengers? In a business where there’s one Deep Impact for every Armageddon, probably not.

This modern relationship is ironic considering that DC predates Marvel and retains the oldest characters with some of the most tried and true narrative conventions. Spider-Man creator Stan Lee has confessed that he was inspired by Superman. But today, the Man of Steel seems to follow where Lee’s creations lead.

A decent popcorn flick, Man of Steel was certainly the most entertaining Superman film in decades. But that’s not saying much. Once the comic book king of the silver screen, Superman graces scant few films on any “best of” list. Batman has fared much better, but has remained largely sequestered from other heroes. Particularly in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, Batman works because he could be anybody.

All Comments   (10)
All Comments   (10)
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Can't wait for Guardians of the Galaxy.
6 weeks ago
6 weeks ago Link To Comment
You're overlooking DC's major advantage over Marvel.
Villains.
Marvel simply does not have anything to compare with The Joker or Lex Luthor. Heck, look at the Iron Man movies. For all the acting ability of Mickey Rourke and Ben Kingsley, the villains fell pretty flat and had little or nothing to do with their comic book counterparts.

Of course, I'm 95% certain the Superman/Batman movie is going to suck. It could work if they went camp, it could work if they went dark, but they're not going to take chances with their two biggest money-making franchises. So they're going to play it straight. The clashing themes and tones of the two character franchises make that very hard to pull off.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
> Marvel simply does not have anything to compare with The Joker or Lex Luthor.

Dr. Doom. Loki. The Green Goblin. The Red Skull. Dr. Octopus. Magneto.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
You do a wonderful job of illustrating my point.
Sadly, I don't think you meant to.

Of those you listed, the only very interesting one is Magneto--who spends half his time as a hero.

Here's the key. Every villain is the hero of his own story. They have motivations or goals beyond "be evil" and "take over the world".
Lex Luthor knows that the alien is dangerous, and that mankind is becoming dependent upon his good graces. Sinestro wants an orderly universe in which the innocent are protected. The Joker knows that life is fundamentally absurd, and wants to share his insight. Harvest wants to protect humanity from metahuman tyranny. There's a lot to work with here, and better, the villain often actually has a point.
On the flipside, Dr. Doom (wrongly) wants revenge on Reed Richards. Norman Osborne (wrongly) wants revenge on Spiderman. Loki (wrongly) wants to embarrass his brother. Those storylines are somewhat less than compelling. (Plus, they've all been defeated by Squirrel Girl.)

In the DCU, the villains are generally driving the plot, and the heroes are trying to stop them.
In the Marvel universe the villains are normally just present to present a contrast to the heroes. (A fact Deadpool has had a great deal of fun noting over the years.)
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm a long time comic fan. When I discovered Marvel Comics I never looked back. The characters seemed real and actually had personality. While I still like Batman, the rest of the DC universe isn't very interesting.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
"That Thor can occupy the same space as Iron Man, and moviegoers buy both, speaks volumes to Marvel’s accomplishment. "

With respect, sir, but Thor and Iron Man are not too terribly different characterwise. (1) They're both princes. (2) They both have huge egos (possiby justifiable). (3) They both depend on a gadget. (4) They can both fly using said a gadget. (5) They both have acted independently (like loose canons) of their national leaders. (6) They both have "worthiness issues: When Thor is unworthy he loses Mjolner; when Iron Man is unworthy, he loses control of his company. Therefore, it seems to me that if the audience buys one, they'll buy the other.

Gee, if only Tony Stark had an evil half brother...
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
> Gee, if only Tony Stark had an evil half brother...

Gary Shandling?
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
The reason DC can't compete in either comics or film is that this all goes back to the '60s when this was more or less set in a stone of innovation or lack of it neither can throw off - happily for Marvel.

DC didn't have human relationships - end of story. DC concentrated on clever ways to implement various super powers, puns (both did that) and set plot devices that began and ended in that single comic issue.

Usually the only recurring theme that jumped issues at DC had to do with a secret identity or co-workers/girl friends, and they were cardboard.

The DC movies have trouble because they have no identity to chew into other than a general aura each hero has. The Justice League will have no history of relationships to refer to. In the comics, the Justice League got together, fought like a team like helpful circus acrobats, and then went on their way.

The screenwriters are going to have to be extremely clever in combining these heroes or they'll end up with set pieces of great and clever special effects no one cares about like the Green Lantern movie. The day of being dazzled by special effects is over. People yawn when Green Lantern convincingly and realistically throws a submarine at a monster.

DC was so stiff that when Marvel would have Peter Parker wear the same yellow sweater-vest in two different issues or the Human Torch wore only half his uniform with a normal jacket, it was considered the height of realism.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
Superman and Thor are both god like aliens. Batman and Ironman are both rich vigilantes. Spiderman and the Flash are both nerds who became super heroes due to a lab accident. And Wonder Woman and Capitan America are both war heroes with distinctive hardware. The difference, as you observe, has been that Marvel has writers who know how to make their characters live. That said, I will always be a fan of Batman.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
Warner Brothers animation dept. has done the best job of translating DC from comic to film.

Marvel's attempts only started succeding after they created their own studio and put people in charge who actually cared about the properties.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
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