Marvel vs. DC: Differing approaches to superhero cinema

Marvel vs. DC: Differing approaches to superhero cinema

It’s a debate as divisive as Republicans vs. Democrats or Coke vs. Pepsi. For decades, comic book fans have argued long and hard about the superiority of the two major brands: DC and Marvel. With superhero movies in such high-demand these days, it would seem prudent to examine the films — from both DC and Marvel — to determine the strengths and weaknesses to the differing approaches in adapting their properties.


Right out of the gate, Marvel Studios has a distinct advantage of Warner Bros., the studio responsible for all DC Comics adaptations. They took a risk early and created the first “cinematic universe” with “Iron Man” in 2008, and that risk certainly paid off. While a great number films have had sequels and spin-offs over the years, the “Marvel Cinematic Universe” represents arguably the most comprehensive collection of interconnected film franchises ever brought to cinemas.


Images from Marvel TV shows, "Daredevil" on Netflix and "Agents of SHIELD" on ABC

Marvel’s TV properties, such as “Daredevil” (left) and “Agents of SHIELD” (right) run parallel to the films, keeping viewers constantly engaged with the universe (

Marvel has also managed to expand that universe further into television with successful properties like “Daredevil” and “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Meanwhile, DC seems to have missed that boat by insisting that their popular television properties, like “Arrow” and “The Flash” on the CW, remain separate from their films.


The origins of these universes differ radically as well. Marvel took the safer route of starting with a plausible hero such as Iron Man; slowly integrated more far-fetched characters, like Captain America; and finally started indulging in the outlandish once they had established success with moviegoers.


Warner Bros. has taken the exact opposite approach with DC’s characters; the DC Cinematic Universe started with the arrival of Superman — arguably the most fantastical DC hero — and built that universe around him. These are wildly different approaches towards achieving the same goal: a successful cinematic universe.


On the other hand, DC undoubtedly has the advantage of recognizable brands on their side. Both companies have their share of popular source material to draw from, but DC possesses a more iconic roster of heroes. While Marvel Studios’ first films often felt bogged down with origin stories, DC’s upcoming “Batman V. Superman” has a distinct advantage — most people already know the lore behind Batman and Superman.


The DC Trinity -- Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman

The DC “Trinity” (Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman) are often recognized as the three biggest names in comics (

DC has also gone about casting their heroes in a more progressive manner than Marvel, drawing actors from numerous demographics: Wonder Woman (Israeli Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Pacific Islander Jason Momoa), and The Flash (self-identified “queer” Ezra Miller). This method runs contrary to Marvel; a company that until recently drew heavy criticism for only having white, hetero-normative, American heroes.


Finally, Marvel has had to contend a major problem over the last few years: they do not own all of their best characters. While Warner Bros. has access to every character in the DC roster, several famous Marvel properties, like the X-Men and Deadpool, belong to FOX. This means Marvel cannot bring as many iconic characters to the big screen as DC; although, “Guardians of the Galaxy” proved obscure characters can turn a profit, if handled properly.


Ultimately, it boils down to a matter of preference. Both companies have earned a fortune at the box office, as well as entertained billions of people worldwide. With the Marvel Cinematic Universe going strong and the DC Cinematic Universe still in its infancy, only time will tell who truly comes out the victor.


Do you prefer films about Marvel or DC heroes? What advantages or disadvantages did we miss? Comment below or tweet @connerws to keep the conversation going!

Conner Schwerdtfeger

A recent graduate from Chapman University, Conner aspires to tell stories that not only engage, but inform and inspire readers around the world. Growing up in the highly active culture of San Diego, he has a passion for adventure and is always looking for new and interesting experiences. Fun is the name of the game, and he holds firm to the idea that a day without laughter is a day wasted. He has a passion for fitness, and when not at his desk can most likely be found hiking or swimming. He reports on a wide variety of topics for MUIPR, with an emphasis on entertainment and current events. Follow on Twitter @connerws.

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