With Marvel’s announcement today, rolling out their plans for Phase 3 of their cinematic superhero universe, we now know what both Marvel/Disney and DC/WB plan for the next few years. Interestingly enough, both feature solos movies for key minority characters (Black Panther and Cyborg) AND female characters (Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel). Both have major plans for a two-part “event” movie, mixing many solo characters together in one movie.
It’s very clear that DC has been desperate to follow in Marvel’s footsteps. The first Avengers movie made over $1 billion, making the year’s biggest money maker and rivalling the most successful Hollywood movies.
And yet, I can’t help but feel a little sad. Let me explain.
See, growing up, I was a huge DC Comics fan. I loved their comics – especially Superman. I loved their Animated Universe series of cartoons – Batman, Superman, Batman Beyond, Justice League. Heck, even their direct-to-video animated movies later on were more hit than miss. Their live-action movies…well, superhero movies in general had struggled for a long time, until Blade knocked on the door and Spider-Man broke it down. DC’s only major success (aside from Superman in the late 70s) were the Bat-films.
Even still, I loved DC. I loved their characters. I loved their mythos. Even though I liked and enjoyed many Marvel comics and characters, DC was unquestionably my bread and butter.
Over the years, though, something changed. I enjoyed DC Comics a lot less, most especially when they changed to the New 52 universe. The costumes were over-designed, the characters had much more angst, and the comics as a whole felt less like the DC Universe I loved and more like something Image Comics would produce in the 90’s. Not a positive comparison in my mind. While I still enjoyed their television cartoons, like Batman Brave & the Bold and Young Justice, I didn’t – and still don’t – really enjoy their animated straight-to-video movies. It could be because they’re now based on New 52 mythos.
Most damning for me, however, was Man of Steel. I was nearly adamant in my refusal to see it when I read that Superman killed. I admit that I liked parts of the movie when I finally saw it. But it was still overall a very dark, brooding, colour washed movie starring a Superman that wasn’t the one I grew up on. It was clear that Warner Bros was trying to do to Superman what they had done to Batman. Except Superman isn’t Batman and neither is the rest of the DC Universe.
In the meantime, I’ve appreciated Marvel’s work more and more. Ed Brubaker’s phenomenal run on Captain America. Brewbaker and Matt Fraction’s run on The Immortal Iron Fist, Fraction’s Hawkeye, Mark Waid’s Daredevil, or Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s cosmic tales, like Annhilation and of course, Guardians of the Galaxy. Marvel’s cartoons were suddenly better, like Spectacular Spider-Man or The Avengers. And of course, the Marvel Cinematic universe, which has been unquestionably more hit than miss. They took the idea of a comic book crossover and applied it to the movie. Ordinarily, I hate crossovers, but here it worked perfectly because each movie was self-contained and The Avengers was a culmination of all of them, yet still managing to be its own thing.
Now, Warner Bros and Marvel have announced their long-term plans for their respective cinematic superhero universes. Or in Marvel’s case, their continuation. Warner Bros plans for a two-part Justice League movie. Marvel, now in Phase 3, is rolling towards the long-planned, two-part Infinity War, which will undoubtedly have the Mad Titan, Thanos, as its main villain as he wields the Infinity Gauntlet.
Given Marvel’s track record, I’m absolutely excited for what’s to come in the next few years. We’re still not finished Phase 2, which will conclude with next year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man. I love Black Panther’s design and I’m excited to see what they do with Captain Marvel.
DC and Warner Bros? Every new announcement, I just curl my lip in disgust. It all just sounds so drab, like they’re just doing it out of necessity to compete with Marvel. Superman/Batman just sounds like a mess, with talk of nearly every member of the Justice League somehow making an appearance, and with Doomsday as a villain. Ugh. Look, The Death and Return of Superman is one of my favourite story arcs, but Doomsday is not one of the reasons I love it so much. He’s a terribly generic monster (basically a grey Hulk with bones sticking out of his body) and the only reason he existed was to give something for Superman to punch and be killed by. He’s a terrible character. The movie as a whole just sounds like a mess. It doesn’t help that all I can think about is how drab and brooding Man of Steel was, where every time I see the DVD on shelves, I wince disgustedly.
That’s not the reaction I want for my favourite superhero or my favourite superhero universe. I want the reaction I get from a new trailer from Marvel. I want to be wowed and excited. I want to feel giddy like a five-year old to see my favourite superheroes on the big screen. I don’t get any of that from Warner Bros’ work. I just feel this pit in the bottom of my stomach that they’re going to just do MORE to piss me off. Like, it wasn’t just Superman killing in Man of Steel. It was also how he reacted to that bully in the truck stop: rather than turning his cheek or handling it in a civil manner, he spiked the guy’s truck on a pole. That’s not Superman. That’s not Clark Kent. He doesn’t do petty revenge like a spoiled teenager.
And that’s what it feels like. Warner Bros is acting like a spoiled teenager trying to match what Marvel is doing and to me, they’re failing miserably. Their attempts to “catch up” feel rushed and forced. Their attempts to make all their superheroes like Batman is the wrong direction. In my eyes, they’ve yet to make a single correct decision. No, that’s wrong because I actually liked Henry Cavil, his look (not the costume) and performance. Just not the writing.
I don’t know if what I’ve said makes me a convert. But until DC reminds me why I love their superhero universe, I just have one phrase to use:
Make Mine Marvel