A debate that fires people up like politics or religion, DC vs. Marvel is a battle I see quite often. Typically it’s 50% joking around and 50% defending your position as though your soul is being attacked. It’s a strange combination of serious and not, but I am here today to settle the debate: DC is greater than Marvel.

With the upcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (yes that’s the official title), the DC cinematic universe is off to an official start. Technically 2013’s Man of Steel would have been the start, but at the time they didn’t know what future plans would be. Of course Marvel has been “world-building” since Iron Man in 2008.

But my case will not be based on the cinematic universe. Directors and studios can take movies however they want, and the quality of the film Howarddoes not necessarily reflect the quality of the brand or the character itself. Marvel has had screw-ups like Howard the Duck, The Punisher (1989 and 2004), Daredevil, Spiderman 3, Iron Man 3, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, etc. And DC has tossed out some bombs like Catwoman, Steel, Batman and Robin, Green Lantern, Superman IV, Jonah Hex, etc.

GL

Another reason I don’t want to factor in the movie universe is because it isn’t a level playing field, for better or for worse. Marvel has a studio that is involved in its movies directly. DC characters on film or television are produced by Warner Brothers. The dynamics are different and ever-changing. I want to get to the characters themselves. Specifically, I want to look at what they stand for, the philosophy behind them, and their potential for story.

The comic book world is vast and I have no interest in reaching to every superhero ever created. I’d like to choose several major characters from each side to explain why I feel DC is superior to Marvel.

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Image Source

Full disclosure, I have never read a single comic book in my life. I was a child in the 90’s and devoured superhero television. Batman: The Animated Series and Spiderman. Superman: The Animated Series and The X-Men. I liked them all!

 

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I’m sure everyone will have their personal opinion on this and possibly differ, but from my perspective Spiderman represents the ultimate of what Marvel is about. Spiderman is the Marvel character that embodies why I don’t care for the Marvel-ethos. What he represents in these fictional stories is the juxtaposition of commonality with the fantastical. Peter Parker is always trying to balance the everyday-pressures of high school with the amazing world of being a hero with super powers.

My frustration with him is two-fold. First, why on earth would I want to be brought back to the frustrations and drama of high school? Those are emotions and experiences that as an adult I try to avoid. And you want to use this fantasy to bring me back into that? Second, what Spiderman does is take the fantastical and lowers it. Most people see this as a way of grounding the character and making him more relatable. But I’m well aware that I don’t live in a fantasy world, why bring it down to the normal? Why not let it expand and grow?

The allure of Spiderman is that you spidermancould be him. That immediately destroys the idea of an intellectual discussion and permanently imprints
him into a childish-realm. At his core, Spiderman must remain a child’s story because he asks you to believe something every adult knows is fiction. All other story-lines that bring out more sophisticated ideas are peripheral to the character and not essential.

So perhaps my point shouldn’t be that DC is greater than Marvel. Maybe my point is that Marvel will remain for children while DC leaves itself open to adults.

Now let’s look at arguably the most popular character for DC and maybe even the most strangepopular superhero ever- Superman!  Call me crazy, but when little kids tie a blanket around their neck and fly around, I doubt they are pretending to be Thor or Dr. Strange.

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I’ve always been a Batman fan, but I can’t deny that Superman is the king of superheroes. As far as well-known heroes go, Superman was the first. Premiering in 1938, Superman was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Right away what I find interesting is that these men were both Jewish, and created a character very much in line with the Moses narrative in the bible.

  • Biological parents sending the child away to save his life.
  • Found and raised by another family.
  • Reconnecting with where he came from.
  • Eventually becoming a kind of savior.

It comes as no surprise that Siegel and Shuster weren’t too pleased with how much the 1978 Richard Donner film Superman gave a much more Christ-like spin on the hero. Since then Superman has always been dabbling with the Jesus metaphors. Of course anyone familiar with New Testament theology will know that this makes complete sense. Many of the great Old Testament stories were meant as a picture of what Jesus of Nazareth would come and do. However I can certainly understand why two men of the Jewish faith may not see things my way.

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Superman is often accused of being boring because he is too powerful. Too invincible! Allow me to give you another angle on this. Superman’s abilities are impressive, but the struggle is what to do with them. I think the Zach Snyder/Christopher Nolan Man of Steel showed how great this struggle can be. With all of that power, what does morality look like? You can do whatever you want, so why be virtuous? hulkAnd why help people who are a different species than you; who sometimes hate and work against you? These are the interesting questions I find lacking in the Hulk. Or Iron Man.

“With great power comes great responsibility” is somewhat of an understatement when you are a god among men. How Superman interacts with human beings and why is a fascinating question.

And I can’t leave the DC side alone without touching on Batman. I said my thoughts on these characters wouldn’t rely on the cinematic universe, but let’s divert for a moment…

Iron Man was a fun movie! Captain America: Winter Soldier was an even better movie! The Dark Knight was a great film. Get what I mean? The Dark Knight transcended the comic book world and was undeniably the best of that world and a great film period.

Batman gives us the ability to explore ideas of revenge and justice. Where is that line? And batmando the means justify the ends? Batman stands out as a character who has no superpowers and yet stands shoulder to shoulder in the Justice League with beings who do. Batman is the smartest and possibly the only being (aside from Doomsday) who has the potential to kill Superman. I think the upcoming (and terribly named) Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice will show why Batman is technically the weakest member of the Justice League and somehow the best. bvs

And let’s get this straight, he takes on all villains with a no guns and no killing policy. Wow!

I do want to touch on some honorable mentions in the Marvel Universe. If I can give any credit to Marvel characters, it has to go to the X-Men. Individually they fall into the same category I put Spiderman into, but as a whole they embody the civil rights movement. I applaud their clear message of embracing “the other.”

I also think there is potential for Captain America, but only because of the times we live in. Never before has America had such a problem with its own government. We live in a time where there is a stark line between what America was and what it is. Captain America can really explore that concept in an interesting way. But in his inception he reflected more of a “Ra-Ra America” propaganda story. As I said before, Marvel characters do touch on interesting ideas sometimes, but they are peripheral.

Inherent in what the character is and where they came from, DC characters allow you to explore large philosophical concepts, if you so choose. No doubt fodder for endless college papers and insightful comic book fans. With DC you can choose to remain in the world of a Saturday morning cartoon, or dive into real conversations about religion, ethics and metaphysics, without straying from who the characters are. Marvel offers you fun and excitement at often times a juvenile level. They are enjoyable, and that’s the best I can say.

Right now my son enjoys The Avengers. When he grows up, we can start talking DC

J

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @World_Re_Views, where we do mini-reviews and talk about worldview trends in movies and literature.

If you have questions about this post or would like to mercilessly battle it out over why I’m wrong and you’re right, leave a comment or email me at worldviewreviews@gmail.com.

This post was written by and reflects the views of Ryan. Tim is a Marvel guy, but I don’t hold it against him.

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6 thoughts on “DC > Marvel

  1. *shrugs* I am like you. I have never read a comic book in my live. And in the old question of “what is better, Marvel or DC” my answer is: It depends. If you look at animated series, DC is better. They have a string of great animated shows which work for every age while Marvel has perhaps one good show every decade or so. Especially currently the animated shows are so kiddiefied that they are unwatchable for adults.

    When it comes to TV shows, that was a game DC dominated for a long time, but mostly because Marvel didn’t come out to play. Before they expanded the MCU to TV, there were perhaps eight shows or so based on Marvel properties (though to their credit, most of them were pretty good). DC on the other hand was producing regularly TV shows with mixed result, but people tend to remember the successes and not the failures. As a result, DC was far ahead when Marvel decided to move into the market – and it was such a breath of fresh air when they did! The majority of the DC shows are basically CW shows. I have yet failed to watch any of them past the second season because I just can’t the fake melodrama, the love-triangles and all the other elements which are typical for CW and I simply can’t stand. Marvel on the other hand offers a number of shows which are very different at their core. I like the discussion of morality in Daredevil just as much as I like Jessica Jones addressing power imbalances and abuse, I dig Agent Carter making a smart statement about feminism and after a wonky first season, Agent of Shield offers now some of the best character development on TV. And in none of them I have to deal with too much of the soap-opera nonsense audience apparently love and CW is therefore thriving on.

    And finally there are the movies. I will be frank: Somehow DC has managed to convince the audience that a lack of colour and some heavy but ultimately nonsensical dialogue is adult. I don’t think so. I have waited a long time for a Superhero movie which really worked for me. Batman didn’t. It was a nice visual experience for the first two movies, but it lacked substance. X-men didn’t (and to this day the Franchise frustrates me with their unwillingness to actually use what makes the X-men compelling, the diverse characters), some great action, no substance. Spider-man didn’t. The movies were a giant let-down for me. Nolan’s Batman didn’t. I give Heath Ledger a lot of credit, he delivered one of the best perhaps THE best villain performance ever, but he is the sole reason to watch The Dark Knight at all. Once you start to think about the plot and what is actually said in it, it is a collection of Nolan’s worst habits. Iron Man…still didn’t, but it made me pay attention. I actually liked the movie, but I wasn’t over the moon for it. I kept thinking that if the second half of the movie had been as good at the first, it could have finally be the Superhero I have been waiting for. But from this point onward, the MCU developed more and more, until it gave us The Winter Soldier. This is what I call a comic book movie which discussed serious themes in a meaningful manner. And the MCU as a whole just works for me. It doesn’t act ashamed that it is based on Comic books, nor does it fall into the “this is just for children” mind-set. Unlike most of the other Superhero movies, it focusses on the characters, and there is nothing peripheral about it. It keeps examining their point of views, with all the upsides and downsides. Cap is the best example of this. He started out as someone who really wanted to fight for what he thought was a just government. He wakes up after 70 years and realizes that a war won didn’t equal his ideals becoming a reality. He then has to deal with the organisation he was working for not being what he believed it to be. And now he has made a 180 and does trust nobody but his own judgement anymore. And by contrasting his ideals with the reality of the political landscape, every movie with him gives the audience a lot to think about.

    In the end, the answer is easy: Better is whatever hits your personal taste to any given time.

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    1. Like you said, there are a lot of ups and downs when you look at the history of both sides in media. That’s why I tried to avoid that in coming to a conclusion. Depending on the decade and who is behind the camera, your results will vary.

      You are spot on with the CW frustration. I like Flash and Arrow but it can be tough sometimes. And that feeling was intensified with Smallville. I REALLY loved/hated moments in that show.

      You are the first person I’ve heard who wasn’t able to connect with the Nolan stuff. It should be noted that 6 comic book inspired movies have won Oscars. 3 were DC and 1 was Marvel. Two of the DC awards went to Nicholson for Joker and Ledger for Joker. I guess we will see if Leto can keep the streak up.

      The thing that gives me hope for DC movies more than Marvel is that there is no Kevin Fiege behind the scenes lining everything up. DC brings in unique people with unique visions. David Ayer behind Suicide Squad has me extremely interested. Of course that can be their downfall. I’m not a fan of Zach Snyder and I think he is someone they should give the boot to and let Afflect take his spot. Ben’s acting is hit or miss but his directing and writing is awesome!

      I had no bias towards either side. As I said, I grew up watching whatever. But as I get older (I’m 29) DC seems to offer more interesting characters and stories. I’ll go see any superhero movie, but DC is where things go beyond popcorn filler and seem to add more intellectual opportunies.

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      1. Well, it is not like I think that The Dark Knight trilogy are bad movies (though the third is a tacked on mess), but what they offer is not what I need to see. For me a good movie needs three things:
        1. Good characters
        That is definitely Marvel’s strength and DC’s big weakness. And, btw, also Nolan’s weakness. As impressive as the two performances for the Joker were, in both cases the performances elevated a one-dimensional character…which is totally okay. A villain doesn’t need to be layered, he only needs to be threatening and memorable. But None of the big-screen Batman’s so far worked for me. And the current depiction of Superman…the biggest weakness of Man of Steel was that the movie never bothered to actually delve into the character.
        2. A sound story
        Both studios are fibbing a little bit in this regard, but then, I don’t need real world logic, I need a logic which works within the established parameters. One of the reasons why The Winter Soldier works so well for me is because the team behind it tried to make the movie honest trailer proof. My big problem with The Dark Knight is that Batman Begins more or less established that this is a “real” world…but with every instalment it required from the audience more and more suspension of disbelief. The worst offender is the whole “man the city needs” line…the whole situation is just so contrived. Is there ANY reason why they can’t pretend that the Joker killed Harvey Dent? Why should this move make the city suddenly better? (Well, obviously it doesn’t, considering what happens one movie later….).
        3. Something to think about
        It doesn’t have to be a big thing. The Marvel movies currently impress me with their underlying narrative of fear-based responses vs. tackling a danger once it rears its ugly head instead of taking overblown actions in order to prevent something from happening which might have never come surpass. How much freedom are we ready to give up for a feeling of safety? Through the whole Phase 2 the Marvel movies have been full of commentaries which are now more important than ever. Calling them just popcorn filler is in my eyes overlooking the careful construct laid out in them. Now I am not saying that DC can’t do something along the line too…god knows, they really tried with Man of Steel. But having a good idea and actually pulling it off are two different things. I have hope for Batman vs. Superman, because they changed the script writers. But this time around I want the movie to actually go there instead of just pretending to have something meaningful to say. Just because something sounds meaningful it doesn’t mean that there is any substance behind it. That’s why I tend to like DC’s animated series better than their TV series.

        And concerning there not being a Kevin Feige in the DC verse…I don’t think that “creative freedom” is the right way to go with an overreaching universe. I also don’t think that the need to work within a specific frame prevents directors to do something meaningful with their movies.

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  2. I can agree with your critiques of the Dark Knight Trilogy and with Nolan. The Dark Knight Rises is highly problematic and seems to have a lot of great elements that don’t fit together at all.

    The common assessment for Nolan is that he is a bit too cold. I agree a lot. I wanted to love Interstellar but I just couldn’t latch on.

    I don’t disagree with your thoughts on Marvel movies. I enjoy them very much. But I can usually watch them once and be done. Winter Soldier was excellent but as I said in my post, that movie is unique to our times. When Captain America was first created, the could have never written a story like that because America was in a different place.

    I’ve gone back and forth on BvS. I suspect Snyder will mess it up a bit. I am very excited that Afleck and his crew came in a re-wrote a bunch. David Goyer is the writer for a lot of DC and Marvel stuff and he originally was a main writer for this film. Afleck through his stuff OUT! Which is what Warner Brothers needs to do with him.

    The thing that changed me from hesitant to extremely excited was this article. Especially the EW comment:
    http://www.comicbookmovie.com/batman_vs_superman/entertainment-weekly-reviews-batman-v-superman-nobody-in-a131650#.VthwiajqHdo.facebook

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