ByKit Simpson Browne, writer at
Writer-at-large. Bad jokes aplenty. Can be gently prodded on Twitter at @kitsb1
Kit Simpson Browne

It's one of the great debates of our age - one that has divided families, ended friendships, and thoroughly confused people who don't like comics. The eternal question? Which is better - Marvel or DC?

It's a battle that has been raging for decades - going all the way back to the 1930's, back when the two companies weren't even called Marvel and DC, but Timely and National - and one that hasn't shown any signs of settling down since. In fact, the recent rise of both the Marvel and DC Cinematic Universes has arguably brought the debate to a whole new level of prominence, with millions of new fans chiming in with their two cents.

Which, of course, makes it even more fascinating when things like this happen. Y'see:

Ben Affleck - Batman Himself - Just Laid Into Marvel in an Interview

Presumably without the glowing eyes.
Presumably without the glowing eyes.

Speaking in the print edition of EW's Comic-Con special, Affleck opened up about what he saw as the key differences between what DC is now putting onto the big screen, and the Marvel movies that have gone before. Specifically, he argued that there are a couple of key ways in which DC's output is noticeably different to Marvel's:

"It is more mythic, it is more grand in that way, and it is a little more realistic...Just by their nature, these films can’t be as funny or as quick or as glib as Marvel movies."

Which...y'know what? Them's fighting words...

So, Wait - What's Affleck Actually Saying?

Other than that he likes Gal Gadot's earring...
Other than that he likes Gal Gadot's earring...

Well, on the one hand, he's arguing that DC's movies are "more mythic...grand...[and]...more realistic" - which is a perfectly reasonable opinion to hold. After all, Man of Steel was certainly grittier than the average MCU movie (and received its fair share of fan vitriol for it), and what Affleck sees as being mythic or grand is entirely up to him - and rightly so.

It's the other side of his argument, though, that's a little more contentious. Now, on the surface, suggesting that Marvel's movies are funnier and quicker than DC's actually comes across as pretty reasonable - but when it's followed up by describing them as "glib", too, it takes an interesting turn.

A 'Hulk smash'-shaped turn...
A 'Hulk smash'-shaped turn...

Y'see, there's a pretty common trend in Hollywood - one that's long been reflected during awards season - of treating movies that are lighter or funnier as being somehow less worthy than those that are serious. It's why so few comedies and action movies get nominated for Oscars, even in years where they're widely considered to deserve a place - and why an awful lot of people dismiss superhero movies outright without even watching them.

So, when Affleck suggests that Marvel movies are 'glib' - defined by Merriam-Webster as "said or done too easily or carelessly : showing little preparation or thought" - then he's basically just tapping into that long-running dismissal of lighter-hearted movies as being in some way inferior to those that feature tragic deaths, bitter-sweet romances and complex questions of morality.

All of which notably feature in Age of Ultron...
All of which notably feature in Age of Ultron...

Or, in other words?

Affleck is Basically Labeling Marvel Movies 'Childish'

"I also think your suit is stupid, Clark."
"I also think your suit is stupid, Clark."

Which, of course, he has every right to both think and say - after all, not only is it a free country, but he's also Batman.

What's interesting to note, however, is that the balance of which comic-book company is the darker tends to switch around quite a lot. Back when Batman was first introduced, for instance, he was a dark, brooding, criminal-killing vigilante - and then, by the 1950's, he'd become a light-hearted softie with a heart of gold. By the 1960's, it was arguably Marvel who were known for pushing the boundaries of what was possible in a comic-book far more than DC, with the former's challenging of the Comics Code a key step in comics becoming seen as an 'adult' medium.

Similarly, this new era of dark, brooding DC movie heroes comes in stark contrast to the far lighter superheroic offerings Warner Bros. put out back in the 1990s - at a time where the likes of Wolverine and Deadpool were giving Marvel Comics a reputation for being distinctly grim and gritty.

The point of all of which?

It Doesn't Matter Whether Something is Dark or Light - It Matters Whether it's Good

That, ultimately, is why Affleck may well come to regret those comments above. Not because his preferring DC's is wrong - that's simply his opinion, and a valid one at that - but because they seem to imply that one giant branch of comic-book (and comic-book movie) history is somehow lesser than another.

Which, for anyone who's enjoyed - say - both Frank Millers dark and gritty The Dark Knight Returns, and Grant Morrison's timeless, classical All-Star Superman, may well seem a pretty peculiar way of looking at things. One of the greatest things about comic-books, and about comic-book movies, is their capacity to turn both the harsher and the lighter sides of life into great entertainment - often in the space of a few panels or frames.

So, when we argue about which is better, Marvel or DC, we're not actually arguing about which is wrong and which is right, or even whether light or dark is the better way of telling a story. Instead, we're arguing for or against our favorite comics and movies, whatever form they may come in - and long may that continue...

What do you think, then?


Which company is the greatest?



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