What’s better: Marvel Comics or DC Comics?
Follow-up question: Does it matter?
Follow-up follow-up question: Does liking one more than the other mean that the other is automatically bad?
That last question has bothered me ever since I was in high school. Back then, it was embarrassingly uncool to be into comic books, and I knew few people who were — and fewer who would openly admit to it. Apparently it was okay for Batman to make hundreds of millions of dollars, but if you were reading his adventures in a monthly comic, that was grounds for scorn and derision.
Since before I was born, the debate’s been raging, and it shows no signs of stopping: which multimedia company generating revenue on licensable properties is better than the other one?
Are you as sick of it as I am?
Why are we so interested in choosing sides in a non-battle, when we can have everything we like with relatively minimal fuss? I’m not talking about money here, because your limited amount of disposable income is a genuine concern in making decisions about what you buy. I’m just talking about in terms of personal preference. Why do we want to identify as primarily a Marvel fan or a DC fan? Why does choosing Star Wars over Star Trek have to say something deep about your character? What’s the problem with being both a Kirk and a Picard fan when you have outlets to watch any damn episode of any damn Star Trek at any damn time? And why is there always the implication that, when choosing between two things you like, the one that you don’t choose is somehow inferior or lessened? Hey, maybe I just felt like listening to the Stones right now because that’s the kind of mood I’m in today; I can listen to the Beatles tomorrow or next week or right after Let It Bleed is over.
It just seems so needlessly divisive. We’re so desperate for identities that instead of questioning who we are or how we came into our beliefs, we cling to this idea that favoring one era of Doctor Who over the other says something incredibly deep about you and gives you some imagined personality traits.
Is loving the Muppets really a shorthand that tells you something specific about my personality? Am I supposed to be proud of that? Defensive? I don’t really get it.
Or, as a parole officer of mine once said, “Really liking Ninja Turtles really only means that you really like Ninja Turtles.”
I’m bringing this up because the Marvel or DC thing is all over the entertainment websites again. It was announced a little while ago that two as-yet-unmade movies — the third Captain America movie and the Batman/Superman movie — will both be released on May 6, 2016.
There’s been a lot of finger-pointing here — and only some of it actually coming from people who have a genuine stake in either of these movies being successful — about who’s being the bigger dick in this situation. Well, keep in mind the following: Marvel did have the date first; they just weren’t sure which movie it was going to be. It was after DC announced they were opening Batman/Superman that Marvel confirmed the movie they were going to release there was Captain America 3.
Everyone has their theories about which movie is going to win on that weekend, and what that will mean for their respective/prospective movie series. I don’t want to get into it too much, except to say that Captain America 3 is part of an established and very popular franchise of interconnecting movies that have gone out of their way to appeal to non-comics-fans as much as (maybe even more) than diehard fans, and that Batman/Superman is an attempt to start something similar and maybe needs a less crowded weekend to really give people a chance to find it. That’s a massive difference no one is pointing out here. It’s one thing to make a movie that’s a hit with an audience that will go see a Batman movie even if they spent more time complaining about Man of Steel than actually enjoying it or if it has Ben Affleck playing Batman in it. There are people who will go see that just so they can rip it apart in one of ten hundred thousand Internet postings as soon as possible. But are they going to be able to capture the much larger potential audience of people who think movies are too damn expensive now and just wants to be entertained?
I tend to use my Mom as a gauge in these kinds of situations. My Mom was never a fan of comic books, but she loves science fiction and adventure movies. She absolutely loves the Marvel Cinematic Universe, even though her only real familiarity with any of the characters in it was limited to a TV series 40 years ago with Lou Ferrigno and the fact that Captain America in an icon. She just thought Iron Man looked like a fun movie, and now she’s hooked.
But on the DC side? She thought the Dark Knight trilogy was ponderous, dull, overlong and obsessed with its own self-importance. She didn’t bother to see The Dark Knight Rises. She saw part of Green Lantern on TV and changed the channel. She liked Henry Cavill in Man of Steel but mainly thought the movie was unrelentingly dark an long. Which movie do you think she’s more likely to go see in the theaters?
If DC isn’t going to blink and just move their release date, they really need to deliver something spectacular that connects with a broad range rather than following the same route they do in their comic books: chasing 40 year-olds who have been fans their whole lives and who apparently love getting outraged by how much the characters don’t live up to their potential. Especially when they’ve pulled back over and over on the idea of creating a big, shared movie universe the way Marvel has managed to. They need it to be a giant success in their search for mega-blockbuster franchises. Waiting for Marvel to blink first is just poor decision-making. Anyone who tells you “but it’s the most iconic superheroes of all time finally meeting in live action! Everyone and their grandmother will want to see it!” is fooling themselves. Everyone and their grandmother is going to shrug off a live action Superfriends if the choice is between that and something they know will deliver because it already has.
I’m not buying that Batman/Superman has automatic success built in. DC has been rebooting Batman over and over again. Batman and Robin was not that long ago. The Dark Knight movies were alienating to a lot of fans and non-fans alike. I know more people who hated Man of Steel than liked it.
DC’s going to have to make something really, really good.
Not that anyone has to heed it, but my suggestion is that DC just move the goddamn movie into July. It gives them more space. Because my original point was this: why do we have to choose between DC and Marvel? There are enough superhero and superhero movie fans in this world for both. Move the release date so we can just go and see both movies instead of trying to split the weekend so that you can swing your dicks around. Why damage both movies just to win a pissing contest? Is the point here to make money, or to just inflate egos?
Because the real question in this economy is: what’s the one thing you’re going to spend your money on?
Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org