DC vs. Marvel?

I was going to write a review of ‘ Superman Returns ‘ (previous comments here ) but I’ve got comic book movie fatigue — for the near future, I’m swearing off the writing of such reviews as much of that stuff, I fear, is a waste of time, considering that the artistes who make these movies never take them as seriously as I’d like them to. (Granted, this is from someone who majored in Semiotics while he was in college — thus I ought to be excluded from most serious discussions..)

I’m all about the revisionism (c.1987) in comics and I’m disappointed that the rest of the world still hasn’t caught up with Alan Moore’s ‘ Watchmen ‘, Watchmen , importantly being THE signal event in the American comics industry that changed just about everything, with Frank Miller’s revisionist Batman miniseries, ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ being a close second.

Ironically enough, DC published both Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns , but Marvel has been the publishing house to benefit from the grittier storytelling though DC somehow also manages to publish its Vertigo and ABC product lines. Soon after reinvigorating Batman, Miller went over to Marvel and did the same for Daredevil .

As Hank Stuever says in the Washington Post :

Of the great brand-loyalty debates — Ford or Chevy? John or Paul? Road Runner or Coyote? Newport or Marlboro? Orthodox or Reform? — only a very few people still sort themselves along one of the narrowest consumer dichotomies of all:

Marvel or DC?

Back when it mattered, you used to be certain. You would ally yourself and endlessly argue the merits in comic-book stores or at a convention at the airport Ramada. DC Comics, led by Superman, was for people who adored the fantasy, the Ubermensch triumphant. These readers loved skyscrapers and archvillains and sidekicks, billowing flags, unerring ethical strength.

Marvel, led by Spider-Man, was a place for the smart but troubled reader, the deeply weird. They loved the night, the underground, accidents in the lab. All that dialogue, so many thought balloons! The heroes always on some emotional ledge, and the hubris of it all — a grittiness that came with saving the world.

Stuever continues:

Paul Jenkins, who is currently writing Marvel’s “Civil War: Front Line,” which is about reporters embedded with warring factions of superheroes, has also worked for DC. The big difference, he thinks, is that DC editors want stories to stay in imaginary places, with imaginary presidents, rock stars, cities. Marvel loves anything that references popular culture and current events. When DC goes after a big story, Jenkins has noticed, “it means they want a big story that will really impact the DC universe. But at Marvel, it’s more like ‘We want a big story that really gets to what’s going on in the real world.’ “

And so it goes with Marvel’s current tentpole, ‘Civil War’, wherein all of the costumed characters are being called upon to register their secret identities with the Government and become defacto agents for Nick Fury’s S.H.I.E.L.D. organization. Defying this order means mandatory jail-time. Tony Stark a.k.a. Iron Man is leading the charge here and Peter Parker, now a member of the Avengers, has already come out of the closet on this one.

The signal difference between Marvel and DC is that Marvel seldom traffics in omnipotent characters whereas Superman has been just about that since his inception. Superman/Clark has one vulnerability, Kryptonite, but that’s about it. The added turn off — for Marvel zombies like myself — is that Clark/Superman is such a Boy Scout. (That may also be a contributing factor in my enjoyment of Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski’s re-revisionist (revisionist?) take on the old ‘ Squadron Supreme ‘ title, Squadron Supreme which was created 20 years ago by a JLA enthusiast by the name of Mark Gruenwald, who happened to work for Marvel. Under Straczynski’s pen, the would-be Superman was raised in captivity and fed a daily dose of flag-waving propaganda that would warm the heart of any Neo-Con involved with the PRoject for the New American Century . This ‘dark side’ of course the portion of the narrative that DC always seems to leave out, unless of course the title is being written for their Vertigo line of comics.

But to return to ‘Superman Returns’, my suspension of disbelief was ruined early in the movie, when Superman averts an airline accident. My thought? If I’m on an airplane and it’s going to go down, no one, not Superman, not G-d, is going to pluck it out of the sky Deus Ex Machina and see that it somehow arrives back on the ground safely. Call me a ‘reality-based’ thinker if you want, but I believe that the power of prayer has some distinct limitations.

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