Joss Whedon has his cult following – the Whedonites, and he has earned this respect of the masses on his roller coaster career. I do have a lot of respect for a guy who has as much talent and presence as he does and is still very down to earth. Well recently Joss put out a bit of a commentary where he shares a theory as to why Marvel Films are more successful than DC films, and it is an interesting read.
Joss begins by saying: “With that one big exception (Batman), DC’s heroes are from a different era. They’re from the era when they were creating gods.” For a bit of background and perspective before we continue, DC Comics was founded in 1934 (originally as National Allied Publications), while Marvel Comics was founded in 1939 (as Timely Publications). Batman was created in 1939, Superman was created in 1932. On the Marvel side of things, Spider-Man was created in 1962, and Captain America was created in 1941.
“The thing that made [rival publisher] Marvel Comics extraordinary was that they created people. Their characters didn’t live in mythical cities, they lived in New York. They absolutely were a part of the world. Peter Parker’s character (Spider-Man) was a tortured adolescent.”
“DC’s characters, like Wonder Woman and Superman and Green Lantern, were all very much removed from humanity. Batman was the only character they had who was so rooted in pain, that had that same gift that the Marvel characters had, which was that gift of humanity that we can relate to.”
This hits home for me, and while I was always a big Marvel fan I couldn’t quite explain why I didn’t like DC as much. Oh I loved my DC Comics, but there was certainly a difference in feel and presentation to the characters. My favourite DC Character is Robin (the most recent Robin) because he is more than just Batman’s sidekick, but also because he is a “real boy” who deals with real issues on top of being a superhero. (And despite him being my favourite I still say he shouldn’t be in the new Batman films …yet)
Even Batman on some level is elevated to demigod status because in real world terms he is not a “common man” what with all the millions of dollars and celebrity status he holds. Even in a real world he would be hard to relate to as an everyday guy.
But this theory that Whedon has also brought me to thinking about other movies. People complain about Transformers and that they hate how it focuses on the humans and not enough on the Robots. While I agree they could shift the balance away from the people a little more, that Human element is what connects you to the film, and to remove them completely would make the movie less emotionally involved.
When you watch a movie about two warring robot factions coming to earth with no human connection at all, you would be more drawn to a “I hope they just leave” kind of story instead of the Autobots fighting their own war while protecting the humans, and the humans in kind helping out the Autobots. Now there is a connection.
Of course there are a dozen other factors that come into play when considering why one company’s comic books make better movies. The writers, actors, directors and everyone involved affect the quality of the film. We have seen two Hulk movies that were both based on the same character and told a similar story, but they were both very different films.
The article does speculate on Joss’ assumption that DC movies are not as successful, since by the numbers more Marvel films have failed than DC has put out. So his theory isn’t flawless, but it is an interesting look at the difference that DC and Marvel have always had and how this may be affecting their efforts to adapt these properties to film.