Brock Willard managing editor
It’s clear to see that between the two major comic book movie franchises, Marvel has always made greater strides than DC’s properties have. This wasn’t always the case.
Outside of the modern film era, DC properties enjoyed vibrant success on the silver screen. The effects of DC’s powerhouse properties Batman and Superman can still be felt today. The Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher Batman films, that is “Batman” (1989) through “Batman & Robin” (1997), have left an indelible mark on popular culture, not just in comics but in other areas as well. The presence of Catwoman and The Penguin as villains in “Batman Returns” is particularly noteworthy given that before the movie, it wasn’t terribly likely that anyone would have any idea who they were before watching the movie. Now, you can’t find a soul alive who doesn’t know what Catwoman’s primary features are. Michelle Pfeiffer and Danny Devito were influential in developing these characters. Before this, Catwoman’s whole thing was that she was just an ordinary cat burglar. After the movie, she was a sex symbol.
Superman is another cultural icon whose movies’ influence are still felt. In each successive movie where Superman appears, there is always a call back to the original films, whether it be in some line or in a musical motif. These films have had a mark on pop culture. So why is it that modern films based on DC properties are gigantic flops for the most part?
Unlike the Marvel Cinematic Universe, DC’s modern projects have been rife with controversy and bad press. There was a light in the distance with “Wonder Woman”, but this was certainly quenched by its sequel “Wonder Woman 1984.” The extremely short answer is that Warner Bros and DC, at least in their film area, they have no clear singular creative vision. Each film exists as an island in a vast sea rather than as a string of refuges where audience members can see a narrative progression. Marvel has capitalized on the idea of the crossover, a feature from TV shows of the 70s. DC has two major crossovers thus far and they have both been lackluster outings. The reason for this poor performance is unlike Marvel, DC didn’t take their time with preparing such a grand outing such as “Batman v. Superman” or “Justice League.” It was like they were sprinting to the finish line and as a result, they tripped and sprained their ankle. Marvel proved that when you’re building a fictional shared universe between multiple properties, you simply have to take your time. A huge crossover is not going to be a money maker when you’ve built no trust between the audience and the characters on screen.
As an avid reader of comic books, DC’s fumbling’s make me a little sad. I massively prefer DC comics over Marvel and so I would like to see them succeed. I hope they can learn to take time when preparing and crafting these stories. Otherwise, Marvel is just going to dominate the comic book movie landscape.