I’m a creative writer and a visual artist. I’m a fan of both Marvel Comics and DC Comics. I enjoy books, videos games, television and movies from both companies, but I don’t blindly follow either without objectivity and constructive criticism. There has been a lot written about the brilliant strategic planning behind the implementation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. For the most part, I have to completely agree with the praise. It’s well deserved. Almost equal amounts have been written about how DC is making “major mistakes”, while trying to “catch up” with Marvel. Those people, I believe, may be looking at the situation from the wrong perspective.
Marvel had presented itself with the task of creating a shared cinematic universe. Their best known and highest grossing comic book properties, Spider-Man and the X-Men, were unavailable for “home grown” films, due to licensing obligations to Sony and Fox respectively. These are the most popular among the regular comic book audience and the most recognizable to the public at large, consistently selling the most merchandise. I may belabor this point, but there is a reason. They had to present characters that were less well known to the general public and, in fact, didn’t even sell as many books among regular comic buyers.
Now, if you and I could actually live in the Marvel Universe, we would see Captain America, Iron Man and especially Thor as the most powerful, most iconic heroes in the world. They are the “Trinity” of the Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. For you and me, there would be no one more popular and no one more awe inspiring. Spider-Man would be a popular second-stringer and the X-Men, if we even knew of their existence, would mostly be . . . scary. However, in the real world, Spider-Man and Wolverine were added to the Avengers roster several years prior to the movie. This was no doubt both a response to the popularity of those two characters and an admission that their addition would boost the sales of the often struggling Avengers franchise.
Therefore, when Marvel presented Iron Man in theaters, they were starting to build their Cinematic Universe with what was essentially a lesser known property. And they were, in my opinion, taking a chance. In the comics, Tony Stark is an egotistical, womanizing, alcoholic, genius, who cares about very little outside of his own perceptions. It was Robert Downey, Jr., playing Stark/ Iron Man to perfection, who injected a likeable, basically good hearted person into the main character. I seriously doubt that most people would have found Tony Stark a sympathetic character in his original state. But Marvel had to start somewhere.
The Hulk has been on television and remains popular today, but his movie incarnation is more akin to his comic book roots and far removed from what the general public would recall or recognize. Likewise, because Daredevil is my favorite Marvel character, I’m a major fan of the prowess and capabilities of the Black Widow outside of The Avengers comics. And, consequently, Black Widow and Hulk alone would have been more than enough to entice me to a theater seat. However, I fully understand how that might not have been the case for others, especially among the general public. No. Marvel had to start with films that introduced their characters with origin stories and build the universe slowly over time; one character at a time. Iron Man. The Hulk. Captain America. Thor. The ultimate payoff, they always knew, would be the culmination of these characters meeting as a group in The Avengers. It would be the first time a comic book crossover was depicted on a movie screen. The buildup was well coordinated and the anticipation would be massive. Of course, they killed it on every level.
DC Comics had a completely different set of parameters. Their most iconic characters were also the stars of their best-selling comics. In fact Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are among the best known characters in the world. Even people who haven’t actually read a comic in years readily recognize the various Batman symbols, Superman’s “S” symbol and Wonder Woman’s stylized eagle and starred tiara. Conceived in 1938, 1939 and 1941 respectively, this “Trinity” has been consistently published, been the subjects of various TV shows and movies, and appeared on numerous types of merchandise for decades. They have grown to be as much a part of the global consciousness as Mickey Mouse or Apple Computers.
Further, I don’t recall a period when the Justice League comics ever sold as inconsistently or lagged as much in sales as The Avengers comics have at some points. In fact, I’m sure it’s not lost on very many readers that, even after the massive success of the movie, Marvel had to set about merging the Avengers books with the X-Men books to boost sales. But fond memories of the Super Friends animated show; the Justice League animation; and Justice League Unlimited, coupled with the usual sales of Justice League related comics should produce some sincere anticipation for that movie on their own.
Therefore, contrary to popular belief, DC Comics had no real need to follow Marvel’s cinematic example. If they so desired, DC could move directly into establishing their shared universe with a fraction of the build-up; as long as their “Big Three” were involved. And that’s just what they did. No, I don’t feel that Batman V. Superman was rushed or crowded. I do feel that it was a well done movie that had a different tone and different pacing than the average Marvel movie. And that’s okay. DC has to be DC, not Marvel Chasers. It seemed that there was a smear campaign before Batman V. Superman was even released; a hive-minded attempt to get people not to like it or even go to the theater. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s later discovered that money changed hands in some cases. It was surreal to behold. Some of the negative things I’ve read since its release have bordered on farcical. I won’t go into them here. It just makes me wonder, because the entire theater broke into applause at the movie’s conclusion, when my son and I went to see it on opening night. No one had complained about a single scene throughout the movie. And, no, I’m not saying that it was perfect. But, neither was Captain America: Civil War, which I also loved. The critics and fan boys were just much, much kinder.
At any rate, I can agree that Marvel has been ingenious in its machinations, but DC is most definitely not wrong. Be blessed . . .