...in a Marvel wo-o-rld. *grooves to Aqua*
Anyway, all kidding and filking of techno earworms aside, that's a fact. Generally, I'm not one to pick sides when it comes to geek wars. Star Wars and Star Trek are awesome. Pixar and Dreamworks both have killer flicks that I'll dig on. But when it comes to this one--Marvel vs DC--I cannot remain neutral. I am a Marvel Girl. When it comes to my comics and movies, I rarely give a damn about DC heroes or stories.
Bearing that in mind, I'd like to share with you some things my husband and I discussed recently. We were talking about the new Supes vs Batman movie DC is pimping, and how they've announced they want to go with an older Bruce Wayne for that flick. This decision in and of itself isn't all that bad, but when we got into the meat of things, Sean and I came to the consensus that DC is bad at business. Here are some of our points.
Timing; Or, Getting a Megaton of Bang For Your Buck
So, unless you are Amish, a recently thawed caveman or someone with memory problems worse than that dude in Momento, you've probably heard of this thing called San Diego Comic Con. Not only is this a place for fans to get their collective geeks on, but it's a place where vendors and studios can pimp their wares. Considering it's gotten to be such a huge media event, this is a time when most producers will make big announcements or shill exclusive content to generate more buzz for their books. (Captive audience in Hall H? They're salivating for awesomeness, may as well tease them, right?)
And we saw Marvel do just that with spectacular flare. Bringing out Tom Hiddleston as Loki for no other reason than to introduce exclusive/extended trailers of their coming movies...? That's brilliant. (Take away my love of Hiddleston for like 2 seconds. Seriously, that's an amazingly inspired bit of showmanship right there.) The minute Hiddleston took the stage, the cameras and phones were out en masse. The Internet nearly died from that level of kickassitude in motion. To say it went viral would be an understatement. So, mission: accomplished. Marvel reached people who couldn't be at the Con and got THEM psyched for product as well.
Not only did Marvel pimp its sequels to Thor, Captain America and the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy film, the studio also confirmed the plotline of the 2015 Avengers sequel (Age of Ultron. WOOT!) Also, they paid much service to their print factions by teasing upcoming content in the comic books, and continued to play up the upcoming S.H.I.E.L.D television series. (The Son of Coul lives, bitches!)
Okay, so let's check out what they did on the other side of the Comic spectrum. DC? What do you have? There's some talk about getting artists for the Harley Quinn series coming out in comics this November. Okay. And there's some follow-up to the Man of Steel release. Oh, and there's the announcement of a Batman/Superman movie.
Hubba wah?! Seriously? Both... dude! My geek heart palpitates at this. And (AND!) this serves as a segue for a Justice League movie.
But they didn't do much else. There were mentions of the CW television series Arrow, and a trailer for Batman: Arkham Origins (debuting this fall), but really the big egg in DC's basket was the Supes/Batman flick. And that announcement got buried beneath Marvel's blitzkrieg of content.
Now, here it is 2 weeks later and DC is leaking info about a Flash television series to go along with Arrow. Rumors are also swirling that they want an older Batman for the team-up flick. With Frank Miller on staff as a consultant, this screams that they're doing some adaptation of Miller's The Dark Knight Returns. (Which I loved, btw.) But again, this information came after the Con with very little fanfare behind it.
All in all, Marvel captured the flag that is San Diego Comic Con. DC had an opportunity to do so much to tease and entice its audience, but they did nothing to exploit that opportunity.
But that's all flash and spectacle, right? I mean, what about the content?
Marvel is winning there, too. And here are just a few reasons why:
Since the 1960s, DC has poured its capital largely into two particular franchises: Batman and Superman. We saw it with the 60s television series of both. Then we had the Christopher Reeve films in the 80s. (The first two of those were golden. Do not try to sully them because my 3-year-old self with a crush on that beautiful man will cut a bitch.) The Batman films of the 90s (Tim Burton and otherwise) took another crack at the Caped Crusader's mythos. Batman had a strong showing in animation--and still does--while Smallville carved out a niche on the WB network. Then both series got reboots in the new millennium. (And, as stated above, the CW network--formerly the WB--carries on the tradition with Arrow, and now a possible Flash show.)
But, really, DC hasn't diverted from these two major franchises. The Halle Berry Catwoman movie was abysmal. We saw a feeble attempt at a Green Lantern flick a few years ago. The budget went towards the visual effects rather than creating a stable story that could survive outside of a computer. And the Wonder Woman movies/television shows have been in developmental hell for at least a decade now. The studio--such as it is--has not taken the risks to push beyond Batman or Superman. Now, throwing both of them together--while geekishly delicious--also seems like the hackneyed Freddy vs. Jason or Alien vs. Predator. Fun on paper but lousy in execution.
On the other hand, Marvel has gone all-in. Even when Fox/Sony ran the show, the X-Men movies upped the game of the superhero genre. In fact, I'd say that the Raimi Spider-man heralded this new era of comic book film. While I definitely have my beefs with X-Men: The Last Stand (that's a whole new rant), the movies of the early 2000's hold up. (I think X-2 is one of the top 5 comic movies of all time. Yeah, I said it.) When Spider-man and X-men proved that super hero movies have a place and following in the market, Marvel ran with it. While they may have been commercial flops, the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Ghostrider, Elektra, films and the first couple of Incredible Hulk movies helped Marvel to dial in not just what their audience wanted, but also refined their talent pool of writers, directors and producers. This has propelled Marvel toward the inevitable awesomeness that came out of their own studio with Phase 1.
While Spider-man, Wolverine and X-Men: First Class films continue to play with those characters, Marvel reached further into its lists with Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor to herald The Avengers, an unprecedented ensemble film that built up over multiple movies. And now, they're not stopping. With Phase 2 we'll see a less-popular franchise brought to the screen: The Guardians of the Galaxy. There are talks of Hawkeye and Black Widow getting a film, as well as on-screen adaptations of Doctor Strange and Ant-Man.
Marvel hasn't played it safe or pushed the reset button. When one thing doesn't work (Fantastic Four), they've moved forward to try something else and dial it in until they hit the target.
DC seems to be afraid of pushing outside of the known. Green Lantern didn't work. So what? Try again. Go in and listen to your audience. For instance, when they're clamoring for a Wonder Woman, give her a shot. Which reminds me...
Oh, DC.... we need to talk. It's about your take on women. Don't get me wrong, you have some solid ideas when it comes to power sets and backstories, but your execution needs a little work. (Especially after your recent across-the-board revamp.)
Let's start with Wonder Woman. You've got this dominatrix/Greek Goddess saving the world. When you let her kick ass, she does. She's amazeballs and has all this potential. And yet, you throw her in a metal corset and bikini briefs time and time again. Speaking of dominatrix fantasies, Catwoman? Really? Showing her in the skintight vinyl is one thing but you've turned her into nothing but sexual temptation. She is underused and exploited for her boobs and sex appeal. Starfire? Harley? Poison Ivy? Your heroines and villains have turned into the "Slutty ___" section of a Halloween costume shop.
Not that Marvel is totally off the hook on this. Look at Golden Age Sue Storm for some disgustingly misogynistic shit. Tygra? Don't get me started. However, Marvel has (as stated above) rolled with its audience. As times change, more women pick up the books and attitudes shift, the women in Marvel comics and films have taken on stronger roles.
Black Widow. Elektra. Maria Hill. Take your pick of the X-Men (including the current run where the whole team is made of up of female mutants). Sure, they don't have a stand-alone movie with a female protagonist (why is that, Marvel?) the studio has done a lot with their recent films to ensure that girls have a representative role-model that is not over-sexualized. *edited to add: Yes, I realize there was an Elektra movie, but Marvel Studios proper hasn't put out a movie with a woman at the helm...yet.
While The Avengers might fail the Bechdel Test, it's mostly because Maria Hill, Pepper Potts and Black Widow are too busy saving the world to have conversations with one another.
Access and Adaptability
Along the lines of DC not listening to its fans, the backstories in their universe haven't changed over time. Jonathan and Martha Kent are still simple farmers in Smallville. Bruce Wayne's Gotham still has a mid-20th century feel to it. Nothing has changed for these characters--much--even though there have been massive shifts in the world.
One of the things I thought was truly inspired in the first Iron Man film was the studio's decision to update Tony Stark's origin story. They moved up the timeline so that rather than being captured in the Vietnam War, Stark was kidnapped in Afghanistan. Much like Vietnam, the US's wars in the Middle East have defined this generation. There's a cultural well of fear, pride and visceral emotion there. What did Marvel do? Like any good storyteller, you sink your hook THERE. Those strong emotions we all carry about 9/11 and Afghanistan then pull us into the story just that much further. Marvel did so many things right with Iron Man. And part of that came from bringing these iconic stories into the modern version of our world.
Furthermore, it does something when you see aliens destroy Grand Central Station that you just don't get watching Bane blow up a fictional football stadium. Gotham and Metropolis--while we all know they are supposed to be certain American cities--lack that emotional connection. We aren't invested in them in the same real way we are to Chicago, New York or San Francisco. For me, at least, watching Marvel films carries with it that extra sense of reality while DC's movies are like watching events happening in a snow globe. They're pretty, but we're ultimately disconnected from them.
I think the truest difference between Marvel and DC is audience participation. While Marvel reaches out, draws in and listens to its audience, DC seems to carry on in a vacuum allowing the us the privilege of watching it work. And so, while DC churns on and continuously tries to redefine these two aspects of itself, Marvel brings out one of its most beloved characters to surprise the Comic Con audience into submission.
This is why I'm a Marvel girl. Because they, like their mutants, evolve and adapt to the market, to the audience and to the world around them. They don't give up when something flops. They push on and do better the next time. Which means by 2015, DC is going to have a problem on their hands. The Avengers was amazeballs. The sequel? Well, if Marvel delivers, Batman and Supes might need to team up. And even then... well, you saw what happened to Loki. And he had an army.
*I've credited art where I can. A lot of these were things I downloaded without tagging or crediting, so I apologize. If you know who the artist is, please let me know so I can offer proper credit.*