DC vs. Marvel: Entertainment Value

Stories must accomplish one thing.

They need to engage the audience. That goes for movies, books, TV shows—everything. And to engage the modern audience, stories need to be entertaining.

movie theaterThrough the unifying of all the moving pieces, the story must seize people by the front of the shirt and refuse to release them until the credits start rolling.

Unless it’s a Marvel film of course. 😉

Which brings us to today’s topic of entertainment value, the final post in the DC vs. Marvel series.

Read the rest here:


In general, DC gravitates toward grittier content, darker themes, and characters that prefer to dwell in the land of antihero or twisted psycho. DC could be considered the “adult” segment of the superhero market. That’s simplifying too much, but it makes the point.

What type of entertainment do DC movies and shows offer?

The kind that aren’t afraid to get down and dirty in the muck of reality. The kind that don’t shy away from nasty people doing horrible things. With the notable exception of the Flash, which is more reminiscent of a Marvel production, most DC entertainment dwells in the land of dark fiction.

This can be good because it doesn’t paint an unrealistically ideal picture of the world. In a universe where the good guys have powers, the villains have powers too and aren’t afraid to use them. The stories don’t take the humorous, almost whimsical route Marvel has decided to follow.

Shows like Gotham remind us of humanity’s fallen nature.

Movies like the Dark Knight Trilogy present us a world where the shining white of good and the stark black of evil have been muddied into a gray whirlpool.

Batman, Gordon, and DentIn this whirlpool, antiheroes subvert the law because the law itself is powerless to keep the criminals at bay. The question is asked, “Do the ends justify the means?” Characters struggle with decisions that aren’t cut-and-dried.

On the other side, one could argue that DC’s storylines are too dark, its content too graphic, its characters too psychopathic, its morals too fuzzy in a world already drowning in relativism. Perhaps that’s true in some cases.

A balance is needed. Stories can’t dwell in the sunny lands of unreality. They need to be honest about the world without going overboard in the depiction of evil and its consequences. At the same time, they are fictional. Some leeway is needed to make the plots work.

DC movies and shows make you think. They ask difficult questions and don’t always provide an answer. They weave weighty themes into intense plots. They present us with realistic characters and aren’t afraid to look evil in the face.


On the other side of the superhero field, we have Marvel, with an approach to storytelling that differs markedly from DC. Marvel is the burst of sunshine to DC’s murky gloom. Not to say all Marvel’s offerings are too cheery or that they give us a world where the shadows are glossed over.

We have movies such as Guardians of the Galaxy, a unique story as far as superhero movies go. It’s a roguish adventure filled with humor. Ant-Man combined a heist with a hero who, well, was hilarious to say the least.

In fact, humor is a staple in the Marvel diet. It lightens the story amid the heart-pounding action, keeping the mood positive and appealing to our desire to be amused. Seriously, Marvel movies have some of the best one-liners and comebacks in the history of cinema.

On a larger scale, because of the number of movies Marvel has released so far, it has done an excellent job creating the MCU and finding creative ways to integrate the various pieces into a unified storyworld.

Marvel deals with deeper issues, but with a few exceptions doesn’t descend to the bottom of the dark shaft as DC does. The characters have less of an arc. The content isn’t as graphic. The themes aren’t as complex.

With two phases down, Marvel has perfected a formula and, judging by box office numbers, have hit upon one that resonates with fans. That’s the key in all this. Marvel deliberately appeals to the fans. Easter eggs abound. Characters make appearances in multiple films. TV shows tie into new movies.

And who can complain about the tradition of waiting until the credits have finished to see that final, tag-on scene?

When it comes to entertaining the audience, appealing to that audience is a surefire way to succeed.

The Verdict

Granted, when talking about preferences, any decision is subjective. No one will agree on which is better across the board. However, I need to render a verdict. For sheer entertainment, Marvel has to take the cake.

This puts the grand total at two wins for DC, two for Marvel, and a virtual tie when it comes to heroes and villains.

How ironic. A series on which of the current powerhouses is better ends with them sharing the throne.

Honestly, that’s as it should be. Each has strengths and weaknesses. I think one thing fans can agree on, no matter which side of the debate they take, is that the future is bright.

Which type of entertainment do you prefer? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


DC vs. Marvel: Entertainment Value — 4 Comments

  1. DC seems to have grown darker with the passage of time. When you examine DC’s past (I’m talking way back, like 1960s and 1970s), their heroes and stories weren’t nearly so dark and gritty. Back then, the major differences seemed (to us readers) to be that Marvel offered heroes with personal hangups (a la Spider-Man, for instance) in the form of more internal conflicts and personal desires. Also, back then, a difference was that Stan Lee personally replied to Letters to the Editor and made Marvel a friendlier, more open comic brand, while DC’s letters from the editor were signed merely “–Editor.” Interesting to see how the two brands have veered into different directions with their plots and heroes.

  2. I’m not even sure I could say which type of storytelling I prefer. It really depends a lot on the mood I’m in when picking a movie. I love the depth and darkness and there-are-real-stakes-here storytelling of DC, but I also enjoy the humor and action and devil-may-care attitude presented by Marvel (speaking strictly to the movie franchises).

    As far as superheroes go… I tend to prefer DC… because Batman.

    I mean… he’s BATMAN!

    And I prefer the Justice League/Justice League Unlimited cartoons to the Avengers Assemble! cartoons (though it is kind of a toss-up… they’re both quite good).

    So… bottom-line, I think it’s quite fitting that this series ended up in a tie. 🙂

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