Geek Life: DC and Marvel on the big and small screen

Its been a while since we last updated and I apologize, but today I’d like to come back with some thoughts I’ve been having on the two comic book giants on television and movies. I’ve always had a personal observation that DC does great on TV where they don’t do very well in movies, and vice versa with Marvel. Now just to clarify I find that both Marvel and DC had fantastic projects both on the big and small screen, and I also think they had their flops. However, when looking into a broader success rate of the two companies I think my observation is pretty valid. It makes me think about why this happens.

I started really thinking about this again when I began my obsession with the CW’s Arrow while sharing a lot of thoughts on the boom Marvel movies have made over the years. First for those who disagree with me (and I’d understand if you did, I can see why people would see it as a mixed bag) I just want to illustrate my point a little more. Lets take a look at right now in both the cinema and TV industry with comic book heroes. At this current time the some of the most popular super hero shows are Arrow, Flash, and Gotham. Also at this current time the most anticipated super hero movies (including Batman vs Superman) are Avengers 2, Capt. America 3, and Thor 3. Looking into past, one of the most influential cartoon series of all time was Batman: The Animated Series; Teen Titans, The Justice League (+Unlimited), and Young Justice are shows that still are referenced and admired in many DC projects since then. [Block Buster] Super hero movies did seem to begin in a general sense with the original Superman and Batman movies, but they just ended up nostalgic memories (regardless of how good or bad the movies were). No major breakthrough for this new genre of movies came about until the first Spiderman trilogy came out. Movies based on Marvel characters came and went since then with very mixd bag opinions (to this day). To many it wasn’t until Iron Man where these movies made a breakthrough on how a successful super hero movie works.

DC along with the Spiderman movies (produced by Sony, not Marvel) right now seems to be playing catch up with all this success to the Marvel movies. Whether or not they are going about it right are a big debate right now. Likewise Marvel has been making much more cartoons and shows then they were in the past in response to DC’s strong television record, but even though I found the majority of them excellent they don’t make a huge impact despite making great decisions and great effort put into them. Marvel shows have also existed for a long time, but like the Superman and Batman movies mentioned before a lot of these shows seem to have become nostalgic memories rather than game changers or memorable works like Batman: The Animated Series and Smallville (watched by a much larger audience than the core comic book audience). I loved a lot of Marvel shows like The Avengers: World’s Mightiest Heroes on Disney X D (only unfairly lasted two seasons) and X-Men Evolution, but the first thing I’d think of when thinking of heroes on TV would jump to DC productions. DC had great movies as well, but again it seems that Marvel is more visible in theaters. I loved the Dark Knight Trilogy and I actually like the last Superman movie despite many people’s issues with the product placements. Movies like the Avengers and Capt. 2 really pushed the bar though and keeps me very interested in seeing them. Marvel movies are also a big factor in what’s keeping the box office alive.

There are two things I came to about why it is like this to me. One thing I think is more likely is the time and places of these movies/shows. Many DC shows got great prime time slots on popular channels. When it comes to Marvel (especially after Disney buying them), Marvel shows would go on exclusively Disney channels (whose ratings were suffering for years now) and would only get two seasons before puling the plug. Marvel movies however took more risks in the movie industry until they hit the milestones like Iron Man, and the Avengers. This also happened to the DC Nation block on Cartoon Network killing great shows like Young Justice and Beware The Batman by putting it on a time slot targeted for kids when they should’ve placed it for a time for teenagers to young adults (Green Lantern was an example of a fantastic show from the DC Nation block). However, the difference here is unlike the Marvel shows, a lot of cult followings came to many shows in the DC Nation block (including some shorts people wanted as a full series) demanding them to come back. This bring me to my next idea about DC and Marvel’s formulas of story telling being better suited for a television show or movie. TV shows and movies though both are filmed, directed, produced, etc.; they are very different mediums that have different story telling elements. Maybe DC needs the longer time span and increased separate plots on television to get a complete satisfaction. While Marvel needs the larger and shorter in length big screen production to get a satisfactory story. Maybe the writers responsible for each companies respective milestones just find it more natural to put a certain comic book universe to life in a certain industry convention.

Its all really subjective stuff I know, but I find it something to think about with the competition these two companies had since the beginning that are now reaching larger audiences then ever in cinema and television. Both have great stories to tell, that just seems to be more natural in different places.