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Tuesday, August 19, 2014 

What makes Marvel and DC's movie production different

Wall Street Cheat Sheet wrote about Marvel and DC's movie business and the differences between them. At the beginning, however, they start off with:
Since the 1930s, Marvel and DC Comics have had a friendly rivalry, stemming from the comic book pages and now transcending onto the big screen.
A friendly one? As any expert can tell you, their relations over the years have been anything but. In fact, Marvel may have begun it in their Timely days back in the Golden Age, after management let Jack Kirby and Joe Simon go because they wanted to make a shift over to DC. It got worse over time, as DC's management reciprocated with some of their own dislike. Later on, they did reconcile in the late 70s-early 80s, leading to some joint projects like a special co-starring Superman and Spider-Man, and in 1984, Warner Brothers almost did license DC for Marvel to manage. But come this century, Bill Jemas knocked any warm relations back decades when he got the big, bright idea to launch nasty, one dimensional attacks on DC, insulting them as "AOL Comics", as though being owned by a conglomerate in itself is wrong, when even before the buyout by Disney, Marvel was under consideration for a purchase by Sony Corp. Yet DC's own staffers like Paul Levitz did little to prove they were better than Jemas and Quesada, as they fully approved of their own publicity stunts, done with very much the same MO as Marvel used for theirs. So once again, we have a situation where the two companies fell apart and are now competing to see who can produce the worst denigration of their own properties, and don't give a damn if they're alienating their audiences with stunts, or even their leftist politics.

But, they do note the curious differences in the movie adaptations:
In DC Universe films, superheroes such as Batman and Superman seem to carry all the weight of humanity on their shoulders — and they broodingly act out that way. Christopher Nolan’s version of Batman is the darkest superhero adaptation on screen. Batman goes through whatever dubious means to catch a villain such as the Joker; audiences have also noted the political undertones in the reboot trilogy.

Marvel films tend to take on a lighter note. The heroes are ultimately virtuous and shining rays of hope — even with wild playboy-types like Iron Man and Star-Lord. Both characters often lighten the mood, joking around in the midst of action. Even Captain America, who isn’t exactly a Marvel class-clown, is never ruthless in his quest for justice. Batman or Superman? Not so much.
As surprising as it is the Marvel movies don't take the bleak vision their current comics output does, it does show how DC is blowing it by contrast with Superman, if they can't portray him with a more optimistic vision. This dark approach looks like it's going to be the setup for Batman vs. Superman too, and with the Man of Steel's second billing in the title, it probably isn't so surprising. No wonder some people aren't upbeat about the film's chances.

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In a way, I don't blame DC and Marvel for publishing grimdark comics, since that seems to be what their core audience wants. But Marvel seems to understand something that DC doesn't: movies have to appeal to a much broader audience.

You can't make a profit with a big-budget movie that only appeals to a few thousand fanboys. It has to appeal to people who are not into comics.

And, mature adults can't take costumed super-heroes (and talking raccoons) seriously, so a superhero or space fantasy movie has to have at least some comedy relief. It does not necessarily have to be as silly and campy as the 1966 Batman TV series, but it probably needs to be at least as tongue-in-cheek as the early James Bond movies.

If DC keeps trying to make their movies as grim and bleak as their comics, they will please a few fanboys, but will lose the mass audience needed for box office success.

There's also something to be said for the fact that Batman actually works as a grim character. He can have and certainly has had lighthearted adventures, but he's a character who lends himself to darker stories far more easily than, say, the rest of the Big 7. Batman patrols the most crime-ridden city in the DC universe and fights all sorts of depraved villains. (Additionally, Nolan and company really had no choice but to go dark after the "Batman & Robin" fiasco.)

But other heroes in DC don't lend themselves to dark stories the same way Batman does. Trying to make them seem more serious always fall flat, a desperate cry of "Look how mature we are!" Remember when they tried to shake off Aquaman's "Superfriends" characterization? I didn't read the comics at the time, but in the DCAU, they portrayed Aquaman as a Namor expy--always so serious, always so grim, always looking ready to have a stroke. It reeked of desperation to make Aquaman seem cool. But years later, "Batman: The Brave and the Bold" made Aquaman a fun ham with a love of adventure. That version was the show's breakout character. 'Nuff said.

Agree. Some characters, like Batman, are well suited to a grim style. Others, like Captain (Shazam) Marvel, are not.

In fact, I've complained before that DC has plenty of characters (Batman, Spectre, Deadman, Etrigan) who are well suited to grimdark, so there was no need to ruin Captain Marvel with "Curse of Shazam."

And the idea that every comic published by a given company has to exist in the same inter-related universe, and has to be written and drawn in the same style, is one reason why comics have such a small audience now. The medium is dominated by one genre (super heroes) and one style (grimdark).

With TV, if you don't like the horror movie or the crime drama, you can change the channel and watch a comedy or a game show instead. With comics, if you don't like grim super-heroes, you will have to look for your entertainment in some other medium.

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