Started in 1934 by Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, Detective Comic Comics, or DC Comics, (originally National Allied Publications) released New Fun: The Big Comic Magazine in February 1935. In December 1936, Wheeler-Nicholson created Detective Comics, whose 27th issue debuted my favorite superhero, Batman. Shortly after the release of Detective Comics, Superman was introduced in Action Comics. DC Comics saw great success and continued to release new popular heroes in comics throughout the 20th century, like Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and the Justice League, along with their respective villains.
Started in 1939 by Martin Goodman, Timely Publications’ released Marvel Comics #1 featuring the superhero the Human Torch. In 1941, Timely Publication was successfully able to capitalize on World War II patriotism and introduced Captain America in Captain America Comics #1. In 1954, Goodman began using the title Atlas Comics, straying away from superhero comics. In 1961, comic book legend Stan Lee revolutionized the newly-named Marvel Comics by making comics appeal to older readers. Marvel Comics formed an identity of focusing on real world adult issues and became very popular. Like most forms of media, now both companies have shifted their focus onto the the screen, big and small.
In the media, Marvel is far superior. In fact, as of November 16, 2016, Marvel films are the highest grossing U.S. franchise, grossing $8.8 billion, $3.1 billion more than the next highest grossing group, Legendary Pictures. Marvel Films are much better received, with recent box office hits like Doctor Strange making $160 million as of November 15 and receiving a 90% on movie rating site Rotten Tomatoes. DC Comics, on the other hand, have proceeded to release terrible movie after terrible movie. Both recent releases of Suicide Squad and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (BvS) did relatively well in the box office, but the films received scores of 26% and 27% on Rotten Tomatoes, respectively.
“Marvel [films] are hacky and dull but reliably competent. DC is astonishingly horrible and has left me dumbfounded with every movie I’ve seen from them,” says movie enthusiast Spencer Rider (‘17) about the two studios. While I agree with Rider’s comment about the Marvel films, specifically that they are simple yet entertaining and action-filled, I disagree with his comment about DC films. Yes, they are usually extremely underwhelming, although I did enjoy both Suicide Squad and BvS. And The Dark Knight in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy is one of my favorite movies of all time. There is something about Batman that makes him better than all other superheroes. While he did have some more family-friendly years, he has recently been restored to a dark, no-holds-barred caped crusader. While BvS did have plenty of problems—its plot was muddied and the characters were mostly unlikable—director Zack Snyder helped actor Ben Affleck nail his portrayal of the Batman. His fighting against criminals was fast-paced and brutal, something previous iterations of Batman had been lacking.
Michael Warker (‘17) said, “The Marvel [movie] formula is getting a little stale to me. The fact that half of all Marvel movies are: introduce [the villain]… cut to hero for origin, bring villain back once hero initially gets power, hero takes on goons and beats them… then somehow, magically by the end of the movie [the hero] has beaten the villain that the audience has not gotten to know at all.” Marvel movies are fun. They are simple but entertaining and very successful. DC Comics breaks this mold. BvS was entertaining because it felt new and exciting. While it was not executed perfectly, it set potential for something not seen before on the big screen. “Marvel is great… but I felt like had seen Dr. Strange before, even though it was really good,” Warker commented. “[I] love Marvel movies, but [I’m] just getting tired of them.”
Marvel continues to release a repetitive, but proven model that aims, and succeeds, at entertaining. DC took risks in BvS and Suicide Squad, which Rider says, “was an unmitigated disaster. It was a horrifying spectacle to behold.” Where DC succeeds and Marvel fails is in the story. While superheroes are the main spectacle, they would be nothing without their counterparts. The Joker, Batman’s arch nemesis, is my favorite villain of all time. He is given just enough backstory so that he is mysterious, but his character is creative and captivating. Warker agrees, saying, “[DC Comics] give the necessary time to create compelling villains, while Marvel has their chosen few that recur constantly.”
DC Comics falls short to Marvel on the big screen and on the small screen as well. But DC movies take risks and are refreshing and new, and their characters are better developed and explained. Injustice Mobile is the best game I have found for phones, and the Batman: Arkham series are some of the most entertaining video games I have ever played. Marvel is amusing, and if there is a Marvel movie in theaters, it is always a reliable watch. However, I find myself more invested in DC movies and wanting to learn more about the DC universe. DC has always been more interesting and is the creator of Batman, the best superhero with the best universe of all time.
Featured image credit: DC Comics.