Marvel vs DC: Who has the best comic universe?

Iron Man and Batman may never duke it out on the big screen, but the box-office battle is stronger than ever


Marvel and DC Comics' good-natured rivalry has been around since the 1930s. More recently, its transferred to the big screen, with films such as The Dark Knight, The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy competing to break box office records.

Film adaptations of superhero stories are big business, but the latest harsh reviews for Suicide Squad show it isn't easy to keep a cinematic universe afloat. Can DC bounce back - or does Marvel have the edge?

Even Marvel struggled in its early days, argues Aaron Couch on the Hollywood Reporter. Some of its first filmsslumped before the run of recent successes they now pump out on an almost yearly basis.

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In 2008, the studio had the surprise hit of the summer with Iron Man, a film about a lesser comic-book character starring an actor "many thought was washed-up". It went on to be one of the most influential comic book movies ever made.

At the same time, DC's Man of Steel appeared as a way for Warner Bros to play catch-up and launch its own cinematic universe. The film divided opinion, but earned $668m (around £507m) worldwide on a $225m budget.

Iron Man was the clear winner, says Couch, and has proven to be the cornerstone on which the Marvel universe was built.

Like Suicide Squad, Iron Man 2 also received negative reviews, but those complaints were glossed over thanks to goodwill generated by the original film and the promise of The Avengers. This year's Suicide Squad "does not have that luxury" as it's the third in "a string of divisive and dismissed films for the DC extended universe", he adds.

This might have something to do with the type of superheroes each universe fields, says Tiffany Lew on Cheat Sheet. DC superheroes such as Batman and Superman "seem to carry all the weight of humanity on their shoulders and they broodingly act out that way".

Christopher Nolan's Caped Crusader is the darkest superhero adaptation on screen, she continues, using dubious means to catch his villains. Audiences have also noted the political undertones in the reboot trilogy.

Marvel films tend to take on a lighter note, Lew argues. Their heroes are "ultimately virtuous and shining rays of hope", even with wild playboy-types such as Iron Man and Star-Lord, who joke around in the middle of the action. Even Captain America "is never ruthless in his quest for justice", says the critic. "Batman or Superman? Not so much."

Well, there are hours of fun from both universes, but it really depends on what you're looking for, say Caitlin Petrakovitz and Iyaz Akhtar on CNet. If you're a continuity junkie, Marvel's Avengers universe offers interconnected stories crossing from the big screen to web series, "which makes it a lot of fun to get involved".

However, they say, "sometimes it can get a little overwhelming, and without watching every single show and movie, you may miss some inside jokes or references to past events". DC's universes are more contained and you can enjoy smaller TV shows without worrying about how it affects the big films.

"Maybe one day comic book fans will finally get an intercompany crossover" such as Avengers vs Justice League, the critics speculate. "But don't hold your breath."

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