I’m not going to pretend to be impartial here. Growing up I was always a Marvel fan. I used to joke that DC stood for Dumb Comics… Except for Batman, of course. Everybody loves Batman.
The reason I would give, when pressed, was relatability. Spider-man had superpowers, sure. But he was also a nerd with lots of problems and often lousy luck.
Superman? Basically a deity-level Boy Scout. Not much to relate to there.
Marvel tended to be edgier (Black Panther) and relevant (X-Men). They focused on characters that felt more human, they weren’t paragons of purity (Iron-man was a drunk, for god’s sake). They sometimes struggled to do the right thing.
Once again, Batman is an exception here. He definitely had his personal problems.
Here we are, 20 (or 30) years later and now we’re talking about movies instead of comics. But I still prefer Marvel.
Why? Well, characters once again.
Marvel characters are sarcastic, funny, arrogant, you-name-it. But they are true to their core ideologies.
DCEU characters… Are soulless cardboard cutouts. They lack depth and, most importantly, optimism.
That was DC’s true strength. Their characters, even Batman this time, were fundamentally optimistic to their core. If Batman wasn’t optimistic that criminals could be reformed, then he would have killed the Joker decades ago.
The movies jettisoned that. Maybe to differentiate themselves from Marvel. Or maybe because they thought all their superhero movies should “be like Batman,” which they took to mean “be dark and gritty.”
But I think it’s because they chose Zack Snyder to be their cinematic mastermind. None of his films are what you would call optimistic. Or upbeat. (Or even good, but never mind that.) Bleak is more what comes to mind.
I’m not saying that dark and brooding is bad in-and-of-itself. But as it relates to DC—Yes, it’s categorically wrong. It derailed the entire DCEU before it had even started.
I think that’s the long and the short of it. It could have been great. But it’s been profoundly disappointing. I can only imagine how annoyed I’d be if I were actually a DC fan.
“But Matt!” You say. “Snyder is gone, the DCEU can be good now!”
I sigh in reply. “We’ll see. We’ll see.”
By the way, does anyone know who drew the image I’m using as the cover to this post? It’s excellent and would like to credit them.
All of Bruce Timm’s early DC shows leading up to Justice League Unlimited was great too, of course. But I think JLU was really a cut above. And a great example of a large shared universe with tons of characters in it. ↩︎