It’s hard to believe that once, not that long ago, movies about superheroes were so few and far between that any attempt to do the genre justice, no matter how lame, was heralded by fans as the best thing to happen to things in the history of things. And, as I noted before, those movies got co-opted by major studios, watered down, and turned into the movie franchises we know and love today. So far so good. I guess. At least the groundwork was laid for superhero movies to start tackling some real world issues. Wonder Woman managed to address, and then move past, the genocide of Native Americans in a single scene, but Black Panther hit the issues of racism and human trafficking head on and never flinched. To be fair to Wonder Woman it had a lot on its plate before the first scene was shot. Many were quick to dismiss a film directed by a woman, starring a woman, about a woman who is famously bisexual. That last part the film dealt with tastefully and with humor.
But now, thanks to the internet and proliferation of choices, an ugly subset of humans have reared their heads and seem determined to force issues that don’t exist. Mostly they want people to choose between Marvel and DC.
The theme runs like this; Marvel makes great movies for the whole family that tend to preserve traditional family values. You can also note that Marvel was the main bastion of white male heroes as an underlying theme there. DC, on the other hand, is a dark place filled with death and sexuality that should be forever shunned. DC’s whiteness is ignored in these cases for reasons I can’t fathom. It isn’t like Batman or Superman are minorities unless you want to stretch the illegal alien motif to its breaking point.
And this silliness isn’t happening in a vacuum. It’s out in the open on Rotten Tomatoes website and many others that allow fan interaction. Most have, to some degree or another, downplayed fan input to keep it from spilling over on their main pages. RT, for example, has no fan scores on its front page. You have to click the movie title to see those rankings.
Now, like all cliches, there is some truth there. Marvel espouses a lighter tone than DC. Marvel also uses the exact same color palette for every film. DC does not. Marvel marketed their films better than any other company, even before they tied up with Disney. And their marketing is consistent from film to film. Except for Black Panther, which caught a bunch of middle aged white guys with their knickers twisted. But they turned that to their advantage, so good for them.
However, there is one major difference between Marvel and DC that does not get addressed since doing so would add some much needed perspective.
Marvel released almost a dozen movies to introduce its universe. DC has, for all intents and purposes, released its universe and will now backfill in with character driven movies. Batman V Superman and Justice League were essentially one long movie to get all your favorites on screen. Marvel has done nothing with their villains but DC released Suicide Squad. While not an amazing movie by any measure, it did get the backstories and introductions out of the way for a slate of characters who will populate smaller films for years to come.
And, this must be noted, fans of DC have bought into this. You wouldn’t know it by the message boards but it’s true. The last five DC releases have earned well over two billion dollars. No matter how you cut that pie there’s plenty for everyone.
Marvel has earned more but, after Infinity War finishes, they only have two or three more possible tent pole films; Black Panther Two (assuming he survives Infinity War), Spiderman II (same caveat as Black Panther) and Captain Marvel. Antman & Wasp is not a major film, although I bet it’ll be a lot of fun. There’s nothing seriously planned for X-Men or Fantastic Four, Deadpool is slated to conclude its run after this movie, and Venom is going to be a hard “R” celebration of violence porn, which I will also enjoy. DC, on the other hand, has numerous films coming out that could each stand as a tent pole; Aquaman, Wonder Woman 2, Shazam, Batman, Cyborg, The Flash, Black Adam with Duane Johnson, the all female crime film featuring Harley Quinn, and, at least, four or five more.
In other words, the playing field is changing.
Okay, that’s a brief look at the business involved, let’s look at the franchises. It is entirely possible to like both of them. I do. My girlfriend, who is late to the superhero game as she never read comics, loves them all. Despite what you see online more people fall into this category than not.
Simply put, there’s no need to hate. The plan for each franchise is wildly different, and the execution of each, while occasionally flawed (I’m looking at you Iron Man III & Man of Two Million Killed), have given fans something they’ve been hoping for all along. a chance to see their heroes come to life.
Both franchises need to do more, much more, to embrace diversity and representation. And fans need to hold them to that. The good news is that fans are. They are doing so the only way Hollywood understands. With their pocketbooks. Little girls, and people of color of all ages, didn’t walk out of Wonder Woman and Black Panther, respectively, crying and hugging each other because there was a funny smell in the ventilation system. Those movies touched them, moved them, and promised more to come.
Hopefully much more.
And there’s another part of this that gets overlooked. DC has been building its television universe to the point that it’s now overflowing off of the CW and developing its own channel. Marvel’s attempts at television have yielded Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Defenders universe on Netflix. All great shows, but they need the cinematic universe to survive, at least by reference. The DC shows work as stand-alone properties. They even have their own Superman and no one blinked. Essentially they have a firmer foundation to build from. Thus they can bring Teen Titans to the screen, currently entitled Titans, and still have those characters appear in films with different actors.
DC, it should be noted, also has the best superhero cartoons out there. Marvel doesn’t even try anymore instead limiting its animation licenses to stuff for Disney’s kids’ channel. Fortunately there is no plan for Spider Babies or anything like that, but the shows do skew young and are brightly colored.
Whoo, that’s a lot of shit to parse. So what does it mean for fans?
Well, for one, it means there will be a hell of lot of superhero stuff they can enjoy if they can get off their high hobby horses and quit sniping. A boy can dream, can’t he? As for me, it means I’m going to be buying a lot of popcorn, continuing to ignore the trolls, and parking my fat ass in a comfy seat right next to my girlfriend to cheer on the capes and cowls as they appear.
The rest of you should try it too. It’s far less stressful and a lot more fun.
But you have to do it without my girlfriend. Get your own.
Listen to Bill McCormick on WBIG (FOX! Sports) every Friday around 9:10 AM.
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