Yeah, I know that to kick sand into the eye of the old gods is utter blasphemy. For that, I may burn in comic book Hades, but at least I’ll die holding onto my beliefs.
Marvel is DUSTING its rival, DC, at the box office. But then, this should be no big surprise, since Stan Lee and his merry band of comic creators have been doing it on the printed page for decades!
I, like most folks my age, grew up reading comic books like biblical scholars read the Word. For my buddies and I, comics were the currency of our young existence. We traded them, we drew characters from them, and hell, we even BELIEVED them to a certain degree!
However, just as I eventually grew to realize that McDonalds’ burgers were not as tasty as I thought they were (to their credit, Ray Kroc once stated they were more a real estate empire than a burger joint), I understood Marvel was the superior product.
DC came off like the titans of Greek mythology. Once they wore out their welcome, they were taken out by the Zeus and his pantheon of gods. However, accepting that they were the top dogs on Mount Olympus, they did not see a reason to evolve or take any other challengers seriously.
But they were wrong. Enter Marvel, which had once had other names, like Timely Comics. They started up their own pantheon during the WWII era. In its Golden Age, heroes like Captain America, the Human Torch (not Johnny Blaze of the Fantastic Four), and the Submariner (who was more an antihero) held major pull. They were pimp slapping the Axis Powers all over the place. Marvel’s work was current for the time, keeping the readers’ interest.
Meanwhile, DC had rested on their laurels. Their own trinity of heroes (Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman) were not attempting to relate to readers. They came off like deities instead of human beings.
Batman, of course, was their most interesting property, and would go on to have some great runs on the silver screen. Tim Burton freaked it, while Christopher Nolan would come along years later and revive the entire franchise. Let’s completely forget the old TV series that starred Adam West and Burt Ward, though. I guess we should also overlook the two Dark Knight movies from the original run that almost derailed the whole thing…
Stan Lee, who was the face of Marvel (ask yourself, who was the face of DC?), dreamed bigger and hoped for more. DC had the golden ticket with Warner Brothers, whereas Marvel was tied up in all kinds of legal crap. Prior to the Disney buyout, they had no exclusive movie studio to back them. Again, DC simply accepted that they could put out flicks whenever they wanted, while Marvel’s stuff was shelved (Roger Corman’s original outing for the Fantastic Four), released as inferior product having little to do with the source material (Dolph Lundgren as The Punisher), or suffered in development hell (James Cameron’s Spider-Man).
This is how it comes around like a Kung Fu flick. The hero, who has had his entire family or crew killed off and his girl captured, is beaten within an inch of his life. Left in the wilderness, he uses his anger as rocket fuel to improve his skills and plan his revenge.
That dish, best served cold, has DC coming off more as Vanilla Ice than Ice Cube.
Marvel came out SWINGING, though there were hits and misses. People often forget the success of the first Blade movie. Spider-Man was a blockbuster. Fantastic Four was alright, but was nowhere near as interesting as the comic. The first outing of X-Men was so-so. Of course, things would improve with the unveiling of The Avengers Initiative.
Watching all those characters come fleshed out on the big screen was something of a family reunion. With Marvel, we could identify with Peter Parker’s awkwardness and failure to get the girl. We could understand how Ben Grimm felt, since he was stuck looking like a pile of rocks.
DC, however, had failed to make the connection. Superman and Wonder Woman were practically gods. Batman was flawed, but he was a multi-gazillionaire playboy (Marvel would do this one better with Tony Stark’s funds and alcoholism). Robin was outright irritating. In all, their characters paled in comparison.
So, how can DC level the playing field? It might be too late, but it’s time for them to pull from other parts of their arsenal. I know I would LOVE to see Mister Miracle on the big screen. Until DC begins to feel the milk money they’re losing at the box office, they’ll simply continue on in the same way. And that’s sad, considering Suicide Squad was supposed to allow them to flip the script a bit.