How DC/WB Can Win the Super Hero Wars Against Marvel/Disney

- 01-30-14Comics, Featured, Film, TV Posted by Jason McAnelly

nb-OPINION_DC-vs-Marvel

With the proliferation of Marvel movies making their way to the theaters these last few years, there is a common opinion that the Disney/Marvel money machine is firmly entrenched as the dominant studio where it comes to all-things-super hero in nature. And while the number of movies they produce on a regular basis certainly seems to confirm that, I have to wonder at the validity of the argument when it comes to making quality films. Not just films either, but also quality television series that will engage people and create solid fandoms. So here I go, attempting to explain why DC may have the upper hand in the so-called super hero movie wars and what they can do to increase their lead. Hit the jump for the full treatment.

First and foremost, I will not try to argue that DC is making more money. If you look at the numbers and average them out, both camps are about the same level over their lifetimes. While that looks good on paper, the fact that Marvel has produced more films means that they are raking in more profit, getting more exposure and picking up the momentum to do pretty much anything they please. You know, kind of like Michael Bay with Transformers, Jerry Bruckheimer with the Pirates series and Universal with their Fast & Furious franchise. In other words, they’re getting away with making movies that people will consistently pay to watch.

Which leads me to my first point…

the dark knight

Point #1: DC makes better films.

I’m not going to bring up tragedies such as Daredevil to make my point. The old abortions of yesteryear don’t really count when it comes to the new market battle (except for people to point fingers at and make fun of). What I’m referring to are almost every Marvel film put out as part of their new Avengers universe. Aside from The Avengers, the majority films produced by the Marvel camp have been B- in quality. Some may hate on what DC has done thus far, but the new Batman trilogy was nominated for many, many awards, including those coveted trophies such as Best Actor, Best Film, Best Director, Best Writing. No, these weren’t the Academy Awards (except the Best [Supporting] Actor one), but keep in mind that the Academy does not generally condone action or fantasy movies where it concerns their precious statues. Luckily, the rest of the world is not so narrow-minded.

The point is, Marvel has had to rely on Robert Downey, Jr. to put on an outstanding Iron Man performance to even get their ship out of port. They then proceeded to turn out shrug-worthy movies with big enough budgets that the special effects would entice people into seeing them. Personally, aside from Iron Man and Avengers, I could have gone without seeing any of them and not felt any loss. If I had missed Nolan’s trilogy or Man of Steel, I would have felt robbed.

And yes, I know Man of steel is contentious. Superman killed someone and Metropolis got leveled so therefore the entire movie was crap. I understand the narrow-minded opinions with regards to this film. I do challenge people to go back and watch it without the judgments and see how well the film was put together. Get past your fanboy-ness and you may see a different picture.

And on to my second point…

arrow

Point #2: DC is dominating the television market.

So you may be saying “But hey! There are only two shows on TV right now, Arrow and S.H.I.E.L.D. How can they be winning there?” And I say to you – a better fanbase. While Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. fell victim to its own hype, Arrow managed to crawl up from mediocre to outstanding over the course of one season. People still watch S.H.I.E.L.D., of course. If the ratings are accurate, a LOT more people watch S.H.I.E.L.D. than Arrow. But those S.H.I.E.L.D. fans are not quite the same as those Arrow fans. Any Arrowhead who does the circuit will tell you how devoted the fans are. I’ve yet to hear anything of the sort from S.H.I.E.L.D. fans. This is, to me, ironic, because normally this sort of devotion is relegated to Joss Whedon projects. But the Firefly levels of passion and involvement are emanating from the Arrow fans.

Why is this? Because DC has created a much better product, period. It doesn’t boil down to which character(s) you prefer – I hadn’t read a damn thing about Green Arrow before I started watching the series – it relies on the excellence and consistency of production. If DC continues this trend (as I firmly believe they will), then The Flash and Gotham will also become beloved to audiences everywhere.

So what was that third point again…?

dc heroes

Point #3: Marvel’s Universe is split.

While DC/WB has the luxury of tapping into whatever characters and comic story arcs they want, Marvel has to fight it out with rival studios. They’ve been forced to rely on The Avengers line-up, and they can’t even bring in many of the major Avengers members that readers of today know and love. No sir, Spider-Man will sit this one out. Wolverine? Still running around with the X-Men.

Admittedly, Marvel has done a damn fine job with a stock of characters that many have never even head of. But they’ll be forced to work twice as hard for the same results that DC can achieve just by grabbing up some second-string writers and directors and pressing the “go” button. Which is why, in my opinion, DC works to make excellent films that break the mold as opposed to following the Marvel example of cycling out fan-safe and audience-safe productions that tend to fall into the “meh” range rather than stand out (for better or for worse). Now, if Marvel could get a decent Hulk film going, that might be a different story…

In the end, Marvel has the upper hand and the longer DC delays the harder it will be for them to achieve their rightful place in the universe. With Batman vs. Superman being delayed until 2016, this makes things even worse. Marvel now has another 4-5 films that will drop before DC is able to punch back, including Avengers: Age of Ultron. This will solidify Marvel as the go-to for super hero films in the minds of the casual audience and DC may lose its chance. With their TV series blossoming, however, they may be able to hold on long enough to get that second gasp of air.

If DC wants to dominate, they’re going to need to do things right. I’ve got a few ideas of my own on how they could do this (geez, don’t we all?).

wonder woman

Tactic #1: Plan out more movies.

Whether DC is doing this already behind closed doors or not is an unknown. They could have the Wonder Woman solo script already penned out for all we know. Not to mention a new Green Lantern, maybe some Teen Titans in there somewhere, who the hell knows? But they’ll have to start in with at least one production a year if they hope to keep people’s attention. Alternatively, they can ride the wave and make a few extra bucks before the super hero film market crashes, playing it safe so they don’t have to have all their money gambled on one particular trend.

arrow and superman

Tactic #2: Integrate!

With the success of Arrow comes a huge pile of fans that think Steve Amell is God’s gift to planet Earth. Grant Gustin will likely produce the same response for ladies (and dudes) that prefer their men geeky. And with Gotham, I’m sure we’re going to get a James Gordon that is noir-sexy for those that prefer their men dark and dreamy (Gordon as a sex symbol… we truly live in a different era). And that’s just the tingly-crotch appeal. Regardless of what you think of them, the actors on Arrow are doing a good job – perhaps even a movie-worthy job.

Thus, DC, though they have said their TV and movie universes won’t collide, needs desperately to use their TV momentum to fuel future movie projects. And if they can afford to do it, bring whatever incarnation of Batman or Superman they have going to the small screen for a while. How much would ratings skyrocket if Henry Cavill showed up in his Superman outfit to hang with Arrow? In short, DC needs to use all the power at their disposal in this fight. Setting their properties into two different corners removes one of their greatest advantages.

snyder and nolan

Tactic #3: Keep up quality.

While many may disagree on whether Zack Snyder or Christopher Nolan are indeed quality directors, they are still popular and produce work that is unique when compared to the usual train of Marvel flicks. Marvel has… Jon Favreau? Oh yeah, he’s the guy that directed Cowboys and Aliens. And let’s not forget Kenneth Branagh who did… um, Thor and some other movies I’ve never heard of. The point being, Marvel is, aside from picking up Joss Whedon, still throwing second-string directors at their movies.

Yes, Snyder is getting a face full of shit for what he’s done to Superman. People are going to be upset when you mess with canon, that’s just a rule of the game. But people will also look back at your movies and see something that stands out in a sea of mediocrity. People will sit down with their kids and watch Nolan’s trilogy with a much different purpose than when they sit down to waste some time watching Thor or Iron Man 2. DC’s movies are the stories that make you think. Marvel is letting people sit back and not think. Both have their purpose in the world of entertainment, but the former ideal is the one that traditionally stands the test of time.

So you may agree with me or you may not (I’m guessing most are going to fall into the latter category), but I see great things on the horizon for DC if they play their cards right. Of course, with the X-Men franchise going hyperactive over at 20th Century Fox, we might see another contender entering the race. Personally, I hope X-Men: Days of Future Past breaks records. More players means more competition which means a greater push to achieve something above and beyond the mediocre in an effort to attract audiences. But until then – Make Mine DC.

If you feel like telling me what a douche I am, place your angry words in the comments below. Or say something nice, that’s always good too.

Category: Comics, Featured, Film, TV

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  • Guest

    1 – DC makes better films – Really? Marvel leans on RDJ and DC leans on Batman. (Man of Steel was NOT a good Superman no matter what you tell me to disregard.) And the Academy nominated the LOR films for 30 awards and gave them 17 (thats Fantasy isn’t it?)

    2 – DC dominates TV – REALLY? Arrow draws 2.5 to 4.0 million viewers, that show would be canceled if it were on a real network. (and I much perfer Arrow over Shield) Shield is against the highest rated show on TV, NCIS. and has delivered 6 to 12 million viewers over its first season

    3 – Marvels universe is split. – I would argue this is a good thing as it allows for more diverse movies. You have hits with Spiderman, and X-men, and if some of those characters can’t be Avengers they seem to be doing really well on their own.

    • Jason McAnelly

      1 – LotR was a huge exception. Forgive me for dismissing it, but it’s not the norm.
      2 – My argument already states – Arrow is producing a stronger fanbase rather than a group of casual viewers. Reality TV draws in huge ratings as well, but we wouldn’t call that quality TV.
      3 – I like the fact that the Marvel universe is split for the same reason you mention. But the major players right now are the DC/WB camp and the Marvel/Disney camp. In that regards, DC has stronger properties to market. If only they would…

  • Jeff Collins

    shhh the OP is clearly a DC fanboy and has a biased opinion. I love both the DC and Marvel movies but lets be real, the only good DC movie thus far was batman, he is their Alpha Hero. Marvel has the Avengers/Spidey and X-men as their top dogs. They have more to work with, DC might have had a better/closer chance if green lantern didn’t flop as he is probably the 2nd most popular DC hero among the nerd community.

    • Jason McAnelly

      Contrary to what may be implied from the article, I’m actually more of a Marvel fanboy. Unfortunately, my two favorites are X-Men and Spider-Man, which don’t fall into the Marvel/Disney camp. So I really don’t have a horse in this race. I’ve just found my enjoyment of the DC/WB properties to be much more than what Marvel/Disney has produced. They feel like serious, quality storytelling as opposed to just popcorn movies.

  • Silly

    OK.. I am strongly biased towards DC when it comes to the comic books… but I still think Marvel is making better movies. (DC dominates in the animated world tho, and don’t let anyone tell you different.)

  • Andy Brown

    I’ve only got one issue. Kenneth Branagh is anything but second string. You may not have watched a ton of what he’s done, but that doesn’t make him second string.

    • Adam

      Agree completely with this. He is a director with many, many Shakespearean films under his belt, which was perfect for Thor’s plot.

    • A Jason Tabrys

      Didn’t see this before I wrote my reply, but here-here.

  • A Jason Tabrys

    Though there are many points that I disagree with, I only feel like going to the mattresses with the writer on one: the inferred slam on directors like Joe Johnston and Edgar Wright is laughable, and I am embarrassed for you when you dismiss Kenneth Branagh as someone who did Thor and a bunch of films that you have never heard of.

    Within that “bunch” are some of the finest Shakespearean adaptations of the last 50 years. Films that Branagh received two Oscar nominations for — one for the adapted Hamlet screenplay and one for directing Henry V. He also directed the underrated Frankenstein film.

    Favreau, for what it is worth, also wrote Swingers, and directed Elf. I think the idea of this “war” between labels is worthless, but when you unjustifiably dismiss universally well regarded talents and work to make a frivolous point, it feels cheap.

    • Jason McAnelly

      I’ve seen a handful of Branagh’s films and was unimpressed. The Frankenstein adaptation was eye-rolling. Joe Johnston does not impress me as being much of a talent and Edgar Wright was, unfortunately, overlooked when I wrote this (being as how he’s still working on his movie). So Marvel is bringing on new talent.
      And Favreau… let’s just say I feel about Favreau the way many feel about Zack Snyder.
      The main point I was trying to make is that the directors DC is looking to right now are those that will be remembered for bringing innovation rather than following the usual routine. Wright and Whedon excluded.

      • A Jason Tabrys

        First you say that you had never heard of Branagh, now his films are unimpressive to you… to each his own, I suppose.

        Same applies to your assessment of Johnston’s work, but I’ll throw in that his visual effects work on the SW films and with Indy makes him an icon and the look of the Cap action scenes is unlike anything that we have seen in modern comic book movies. So if you want to talk about innovation and avoiding the usual routine, he’s somebody that stands out. And really, so did Branagh. That’s my view.

        It also seems like you forgot all about Green Lantern, and how vapid and paint-by-numbers that movie was.

        • Jason McAnelly

          Heard of Branagh, never heard of most of what he’s done.
          As far as Green Lantern… I’ve tried to base my judgment on my own perceived “starting point” of where the universes have become consistant. Thus, not really considering Lantern, Ghost Rider, Daredevil, Electra, Superman Returns, etc. The tone of what each camp is trying to produce seems like they’ve settled past the experimental phase, so that’s where I picked up.

          • A Jason Tabrys

            It seems terribly convenient for you to not count both Jonah Hex and Green Lantern since they were made well after your “perceived starting point”.

            It seems outright bizarre that you would write about the “battle” between these two supposedly warring movie universes when you haven’t yet seen Thor 2. What else haven’t you seen? Did you omit Johnston because you didn’t see Captain America as well? What about Iron Man 3? Shane Black brought a unique sensibility to that film as well.

            It’s hard to not consider your words biased when you haven’t given the other side of the debate a fair shake and if you haven’t seen films that are in the group that you are discussing, I’d say that that qualifies as not giving something a fair shake.

          • Jason McAnelly

            Thor 2 – haven’t seen it. One movie among many, however.
            Captain America, wouldn’t bother watching it again. As I stated, another B- film. Iron Man 3 I’m a bit biased about, as Ellis’ original Extremis storyline was brilliantly written and the movie that resulted was not impressive to me.
            So, to answer your question, I’ve seen them all excepting the newest. I don’t feel any compelling urge to see Marvel movies these days, so I wait til DVD.
            And it’s questionable whether Green Lantern and Jonah Hex will fall into the universe that DC/WB is building right now.

          • A Jason Tabrys

            But the Nolanverse Batman films that are the crux of your argument aren’t likely a part of the universe that DC/WB is building either.

          • Jason McAnelly

            I would argue that they are in that they set the tone and quality mark of what DC will be producing in the future. Though likely not consistant within the storyline, they define what we can expect in terms of well-written, well-produced films with quality actors performing to the best of their abilities. I don’t think we’ll be seeing anymore popcorn-esque Green Lanterns.

          • A Jason Tabrys

            I think that is speculative, considering the fact that we have only seen one DC film post-Nolan (as opposed to the Marvelverse, where there are 7 films), and that film is Man of Steel.

            Though you may dismiss the criticisms that come off of that movie as narrow-minded (such a troll-bait line, by the way), I’d contend that it lacked the depth of the Nolan Bat-films. It felt more like a popcorn film, especially when you consider the third act, though I guess that is off-limits as a conversational topic because because because…

            Man of Steel owes a debt to the Nolan films, but I feel like Snyder hedged a little and embraced some of the cotton candy side of the aisle, which is where the corpse of the Green Lantern film resides.

            Sharing a muted color palette and the BWAAAAAAAAAAM sound doesn’t mean that these films occupy the same universe.

          • Jason McAnelly

            True, it may be speculative. Again, the main point of this article is what DC needs to do to get in the running and take the lead. If they drop what advantage they have, there’s not much that can be done for them.
            Most criticisms I’ve heard about MoS are things like “It was joyless” or “that’s not the Superman I wanted”. Basically, things that do not belong in a proper movie review. And I would have to disagree on a lack of depth.
            I am upset about the filter… it would have been much better if he’d lightened it up a bit.
            And again, I do feel the tone was similar – i.e.: presenting characters that are relatable. I’ve no desire to care about most of Marvel’s characters. The closest I got to caring was during The Avengers, and that gave like 15 mins of screen time to each person. I walked into Man of Steel with a dislike of the Superman character and walked out wanting to know more. To me that equals great storytelling.

          • Lars Von Panzerbjørn

            If you haven’t even bothered to watch all the movies you are basing your article on, are you expecting to be taken seriously?

  • Slayer_Solo

    So we are being asked to ignore the horrible abomination that was the Green Lantern movie? So I can assume we are also being asked to ignore the Batman nips phase of DC movies? Maybe the Superman Returns debacle that almost destroyed the possibility of even getting Man of Steel? Your hope that we will ignore the ACTUAL history of DCs horrible forays into movies only shows that you only want us to look at the quality of work from one source and that reality is that DC is only leaning on one thing as well, Christopher Nolan. Anything DC has produced that hasn’t been spun out from him has been garbage. And the fact that DC can’t get it’s act together enough to properly present one of the strongest feminine roles of all time (Wonder Woman) in her own feature film tells me everything I need to know about DC movie productions and their lack of ability.

    • Jason McAnelly

      I tried to take this discussion up at a certain point, namely the production of the first Iron Man flick and the subsequent rise of the super hero genre into the dominate movie trend. While Green Lantern does fall into that bracket, the older Superman doesn’t. Nor does Ghost Rider, Daredevil, Electra or any of those atrocities.

      • Spellcheck Is Your Friend

        Elektra you mean?

        • Copyediting is Your Friend

          Also, your intro should read “firmly entrenched as the dominant studio”

          • A Jason Tabrys

            Since we’re picking at the small bits, Heath Ledger won a best SUPPORTING actor Oscar.

          • Jason McAnelly

            Yeah, sorry. We don’t have an on-staff editor here at NB.

          • A Jason Tabrys

            Quality control is your job.

          • Copyediting Is Your Friend

            Then take care of these issues yourself. Show some pride in your work. Is this a career you want to have or are you merely a hobbyist. I paraphrase Pulp when I say everybody hates a tourist.

          • Copyediting Is Your Friend

            I should have a question mark after the word hobbyist. See how easy fixing mistakes can be?

          • Jason McAnelly

            I edit repeatedly. Sometimes things slip through the cracks. The consequences of putting out up to 4k words a day between this site and my regular job.
            I apologize for any inconvenience that this has caused people and the mistakes have been cleansed.

    • Roger Hansson

      Don’t forget Catwomen

  • HowardTheDeck

    Good points. The only thing I’d argue is that all Marvel movies besides Avengers are B-. I’d take either of the Thor movies over Man of Steel any day.

    • Jason McAnelly

      While I still am yet to see the newest Thor (waiting for DVD), the first one I like until it hit the 75% mark. Then I was rolling my eyes as everything fell into an all-too-familiar storytelling pattern. I’m hoping that Dark World will better, though the reviews I’ve seen haven’t made me wish too hard for that.

  • Average Joe

    To be honest with you, the more movies the better IMO. DC or Marvel!

    Bat VS Supes comes out on the same day as a Marvel Project? Looks like a eventful evening for me, Ill just make sure to get the free refills on the popcorn for the kids and I as we pass through from one movie to the next.

    Some of DC’s movies released like RED and V for Vendetta I didn’t even know were based on comics until after I saw them. I don’t consider Red, Red 2, Swamp Thing, Jonah Hex or V for Vendetta Superhero Movies! (if they were counted)

    And are you counting as being better than Marvel Superman III with Richard Pryor and the villain being a giant super computer? Swamp Thing? Return of the Swamp Thing? Jonah Hex? Steel? oh gosh STEEL! That cancels out Daredevil for sure!

    I think Nolan’s Batman movies were true to Batman. Brought him down to earth so to speak and make you think this could happen as you watched it. They are the best of all superhero movies, Superman (Christopher Reeves) being second.

    Oh and as far as the small screen… Yeah DC Owns, The Hulk being the exception (Have you ever tried to watch that awful Spiderman TV show now? I was excited to show it to my kids and they laughed at me! Bellbottoms and he donkey kicked people! But to its defense, it was the 70s! animated movies too!

    Marvel to its credit embraces that they are a making a COMICBOOK movie, not a movie. Hence the B Movie feel! Hell I love B movies! but I think its intentional rather than a result of the source material.

    Face Front, True Believers! Excelsior!

  • swearingrobot

    A better title for this article would be “My personal bias makes me believe DC can win the superhero movie war and here’s why”

    I need to stop visiting this site.

    How DC/WB Can Win the Super Hero Wars Against Marvel/Disney
    Read more at http://nerdbastards.com/2014/01/30/how-dcwb-can-win-the-super-hero-wars-against-marveldisney/#mMyWF4Z3thf4tQ09.99
    How DC/WB Can Win the Super Hero Wars Against Marvel/Disney
    Read more at http://nerdbastards.com/2014/01/30/how-dcwb-can-win-the-super-hero-wars-against-marveldisney/#mMyWF4Z3thf4tQ09.99

    • Spellcheck Is Your Friend

      15 INVENTED RIVALRIES THAT CAN’T EVEN

      YOU WON’T BELIEVE THESE 10 THINGS SUPERMAN SAID ABOUT THOR

  • The Walking Cuban

    The Defenders on Netflix may make it harder, or easier, for DC. I can’t wait.

    • Jason McAnelly

      I agree. Marvel could really make some headway with their series approach. I’m pretty jazzed to see what they put together.

      • The Walking Cuban

        It sounds amazing

  • Dietrich Jeffreys

    “I know Man of steel is contentious. Superman killed someone and Metropolis got leveled so therefore the entire movie was crap. I understand the narrow-minded opinions with regards to this film.”

    Ignoring the fact there was no plot and 4 different openings?

  • SmokingFrog77

    Wow, so many comments, won’t bother reading them. Just want to say that I agree with the article, even though I fear it’s perhaps a little too optimistic about the future, but time will tell. I will also agree with the one comment I can see while writing this, Kenneth Branagh was an utter coup for Marvel, he is top notch and knows his shit. I also raise one disagreement with this article – I loved the Thor movies, both of them. But in my mind, this is precisely because I am a DC man. For me, DC have always grasped the mythological nature of The Super Hero, the Campbellian notions and all that jazz. Marvel built its house on heroes being real people with real problems, whereas DC built one of the truly sustained modern mythologies. And Thor, whom I always thought was massively out of place in the Marvel universe, fits right at DC. So anyway, yes Captain America was good and the first Iron Man was good, but they weren’t Man of Steel or the Dark Knight Trilogy.

    But I’m good for it all, I love a good superhero movie, so whether it comes from Warner Brothers, Fox or Marvel Studios, I don’t care, I just want to be entertained.

  • Lars Von Panzerbjørn

    This article is obviously more about personal opinion, which is fine by me by the way, so I’ll just say that I largely disagree.

    My opinion is that DC should stick to cartoons which they absolutely totally rock at.
    *All* the MCU movies have been amazing in my opinion. IM2 perhaps less so, but I still enjoyed it.
    Thor was pretty much the epitome of what an entertaining action movie should be.

    Batman started out strong, but the third one was a bit weak.
    DC has Batman as a strong draw, Supes is pretty boring, come on we can all admit that he is, where as Marvel has MCU, X-Men & Spiderman all being strong franchises.
    And I’d watch the X-Men movies again (Including the Wolverine movies) over any of the DC movies.
    Also, When I think of DC vs Marvel movies, I only count ‘superhero’ movies. Sure, RED, Sin City & Kick-Ass might be comics, but they’re not the kind of movies that spring to mind when someone says ‘Marvel’ or ‘DC’ movies…

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