The world of geek fandoms is littered with disagreements over the superiority between two competing properties and their respective characters. Star Trek vs. Star Wars, David Tennant vs. Matt Smith, Batman vs. Superman. There’s an inherent desire among fans to be staunch supporters of their favorite properties, inspiring conversations and arguments in the halls of convention centers and back rooms of comic shops since even the days before the Internet made it possible for everyone to get in on all the fun. These days, with the current renaissance of geek and comic book culture, there are plenty of dividing lines that seem to split the loyalties of the community into warring factions.
Now, the world of cinema has become embroiled in what might be the longest running beef in comic book history -- DC vs. Marvel. With both comic book publishers currently in the midst of a battle for box office domination -- Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice opens next week, with Captain America: Civil War coming on its heels in May -- the old grudges are being brought to light once more. None of that seems to bother director Zack Snyder, however.
Snyder recently gave an interview to THR about his upcoming film and the inflamed tensions rising out of the competition between the DCEU and the MCU. The director, for his part, seems to relish in the discussion and is unphased by the war of words being engaged in on the Internet. When asked by THR whether he was "annoyed" by the conversation, Snyder said:
“No. You have these two giant comic book powers, and it would make sense that they would in some ways be compared to each other. It's like comparing Downton Abbey and Mr. Selfridge. Like Star Wars and Star Trek. Those are things that you could compare, but no one ever does. Those [DC versus Marvel] conversations are fun for the Internet. But in truth, it represents such a small group of people who are actually versed in the difference between DC and Marvel. The average moviegoer doesn’t know. Like my dad would be, ‘Is Spider-Man ever going to be in any of your films?’”
While it’s certainly good to see Snyder remaining stoic in the face of such infighting between DC and Marvel fans, can it really be said that only a small portion of the movie going public has a deep understanding regarding the differences between both properties? Marvel has done a fantastic job firmly establishing the MCU movies and their characters to make them almost universally recognized and understood as components of a larger product. Just as they’ve done with their comics for decades, Marvel has created a brand, cementing a level of expectation in regard to tone and structure. There’s an aesthetic to Marvel that makes them unique, though this has led to accusations of "filmmaking by committee" from many critics and fans.
For their part, DC seems less concerned with maintaining a similar look and tone across their expanding DCEU. At least according to Snyder:
“The mandate is that we try and make the best movies we can. If you're making a Flash movie with Ezra Miller, it's like millennial Flash. It's going to be a little lighter than making a World War I epic with this feminist icon like Wonder Woman. The films do live in a united universe. I feel like the danger is — and I think that the studio would acknowledge this — when you start to mimic things like tone. Then, when you go to the movie, you pretty much know the experience you're going to have.”
This sentiment was echoed by his wife and producing partner, Deb Snyder, who added:
“Then it loses a point of view and starts to feel like it's made by a committee.”
The granting of more creative filmmaking and aesthetic tone could be where DC is able differentiate itself from Marvel the most. While it’s true that the MCU tactic has been effective in terms of brand establishment and recognition, seeing divergent tones and styles come through in comic book films that share the same universe could be game changing for fans who want a little more variety in their cinematic experiences.
Time will tell, of course. The DCEU has a long way to go before catching up with the MCU in terms of output, but for now it looks like nothing can stop the onslaught of comic book heroes invading the box office. This is great news for comic book fans, and should continue to fan the flames of superiority arguments for years to come.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice opens on March 25th, 2016, followed by Suicide Squad on August 5th, 2016; Wonder Woman on June 23rd, 2017; Justice League Part Oneon November 17th, 2017; The Flash on March 16th, 2018; Aquaman on July 27th, 2018; Shazam on April 5th, 2019;Justice League Part Two on June 14th, 2019; Cyborg on April 3rd, 2020; and Green Lantern Corps on June 19th, 2020.