Why DC is Braver than Marvel

The DC v Marvel feud is one that has been going on for several years now. Since the mid-2010s, these cinematic superhero franchises have been compared and contrasted by critics and fans alike.

For a long time, Marvel appeared to be the winner in this race, outrunning DC on quality storytelling, interesting characters, quick humour, and all-round enjoyable adventures.

By contrast, DC had tried replicating Marvel’s success in making an extended cinematic universe. But, unlike Marvel, its attempts were often underwhelming, and this unfinished universe faded into obscurity.

The contrast in success could not have been starker. But now, things appear to be changing.

Since 2019, DC has dropped attempts to create its own universe and moved on with its own thing. Audiences have been amazed with adaptations, such as Joker (2019) and The Batman (2022).

Meanwhile, Marvel appears to be losing its magic touch. Whilst the franchise is not exactly in disaster mode, some fans are getting bored of the usual tropes. This is perhaps best reflected in The Eternals (2021), which has generally had the response: “it’s okay”.

But why do the tables seem to be turning? An obvious answer seems to be that, since Avengers: Endgame (2019), Marvel has lost direction.

But there’s also another observation to make about Marvel and DC’s differences.

DC films are much braver than Marvel in terms of the subjects they tackle.

Joker was essentially about a mentally ill man living in a selfish society that drove him to the edge.  In 2021, Suicide Squad tackled the issue of US government interference in Latin America.  Just this year, I was amazed as I watched The Batman confront the theme of police corruption. Which, in the light of recent events, is chillingly relevant.

By contrast, Marvel seems to be incapable of having a serious moment without anti-climactic humour following up. After having seen a masterpiece such as Joker, Marvel films look almost grey in comparison. Could they not do something just as brave?

Granted, some Marvel films have taken on certain issues. But they often tackle them in a way that’s vague and devoid of opinion. You never get the sense they have a message they really want to educate the audience about.

Just to clarify, I’m not saying Marvel must become a heavily politicised, preachy, dead-serious series. Suicide Squad managed to confront a dark theme, but still be fun and avoid just shouting at the audience.

Perhaps, if Marvel were to take this on, it would save it from the lack of direction it appears to be suffering from now.

A lot has happened to the world in the last couple of years and people rightly want to be engaged with it. This means our media helps audiences become more aware in understanding the issues that have shaped our world.

Whatever direction they go in now, let’s appreciate both Marvel and DC for the quality stories they’ve both brought us so far.

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Ellie Scott

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May 2022
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