By Joey Lee


It’s the ultimate comic book fan’s dream – to witness the titanic clash between the Marvel and the DC universe.

Imagine a bare-fisted match between Thor, the Norse God of Marvel whose creation was fueled by the need for a superhero that could outmuscle The Hulk, against DC’s iconic Superman, who has enough raw strength to hurl mountains.

What about pitting the demented Green Goblin of Marvel, with his pumpkin bombs and goblin serum, against the twisted Joker of DC, whose terrifying arsenal of weapons range from cyanide-stuffed pies to his signature Joker venom?

Fine, perhaps it might just be a comic book lover’s wet dream, because although the list of potentially mouthwatering displays between the 2 long-time comic rivals can run for miles, it’s likely that neither of the comics will ever cave in and allow their characters to be on the losing end of the stick. But there’s a bigger war to be waged in the box offices, and it is, to say the absolute least, cataclysmic.

Truth is, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who is dominating the box offices. As of now, films based on Marvel comic books have garnered more than 47% in domestic box-office sales on average than DC movies, with the 28 Marvel films dating back to 1998 having averaged $190 million, compared to $129 million for 23 DC movies starting with Superman in 1978.

Marvel, whose library of superheroes include the likes of Iron Man, Hulk and Wolverine, has been wiping the floor with their comic rivals, DC. It’s not even a question nor a debate anymore – it’s a cold hard fact.

“Ask any random person on the street, and they could easily name 5 Marvel superheroes off the top of their head. Try asking about DC superheroes, and all you will ever get is Superman, Batman and a lot of stuttering,” says Yuveen Suresh, a fervent fan of both Marvel and DC Comics.

The real question though? How did Marvel Comics, the younger rival by a margin of 5 years nonetheless, progressively leave DC Comics so far behind in the dirt? Let’s backtrack a little.

Marvel and DC both have distinctive styles with every aspect of their comic books. Marvel plays to the inner geek in all of us; the creative variation of superpowers is ridiculous, with everything from Cyclops’s optic eye blasts to Colossus’s ability to transform into a state of “organic steel”. DC, on the other hand, pays less attention to the variation of abilities, but rather, swoops in on diversity in the character backgrounds. Readers looking for detective stories can depend on Batman for dark, gritty street-level crime stories, while Superman pummels mountain-sized monsters alongside occasionally flying to the sun and returning unscathed.

Even the little details such as their settings differ. Ever realised how DC Comics tend to recreate fictional locations such as Batman’s Gotham City and Superman’s Metropolis, which are essentially New York City in the night and day respectively, while Marvel Comics just uses New York City as the home of many of their superheroes?

It becomes even clearer when directors take the comic books to the screen.

Tony Stark, who is actually plagued by alcoholism in the comics, doesn’t show a single hint of it in 3 movies, and instead, is always ever so keen to fire off quips in the middle of serious fights. No questions are asked when Thor falls in love with the first female human being he ever meets, and Hulk’s sudden ability to control his anger midway through The Avengers is merely brushed off when invading aliens threaten wreck the entire skyline of New York City.

This, is what we call, escapism.

Of course, in a regular drama movie, such jarring loopholes in the scripting are cardinal sins. When you, however, toss in a metallic suit containing more firepower than Istanbul and Pakistan combined, or a Norse thunder god with the ability to summon lightning, that is all dismissible.

On the flipside, DC Comics took a rather different route. Not only did they avoid elevating the powers of their heroes and downplaying the serious issues, they eradicated everything from the Joker’s acid-spitting corsage to Bane’s rage-inducing “Venom”, to morph the previously hellish villains into criminals no more insane and warped than any extremists or psychopaths of our own world.

Forget taking a different route, they went in the unswerving opposite direction.

Is it working? Yes, it is.

It did take them a while to refine their angle, but with Christopher Nolan’s artistic direction and a gripping rendition of The Joker by Heath Ledger that attracted the eyes of the world, it seems like they may have finally got it.

The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises both raked in a little over a billion dollars each by fully spinning Bruce Wayne’s dark tale of loss and insanity, and developing humour through regular and unexaggerated scripting, rather than slapstick “get-hit-in-the-nuts” one-time laugh-offs.

Thankfully, Marvel has seemed to caught on. Iron Man 3 undoubtedly featured Tony Stark in an entirely different light, with Robert Downey Jr having plenty more screen time out of his metal suit, rather than in it. The up-and-coming Marvel movie The Wolverine also seems to be zoning in on the character’s story background, and traces back to his days where he wielded the Muramasa blade.

Evidently, Marvel’s formula for movies used to be the triumphant one, however, with the novelty value of action-packed scenes married with baseless humour starting to wear off, it could mean that a new age of superhero movies could be upon us yet again.

With Man of Steel being the latest placebo by DC to test the waters with their new angle, and The Wolverine being Marvel’s, we could all just be ready to witness a wave of superhero movie remakes. Again.