Animation & Video Games
See You In The Funny Books
DC and Marvel Comics have been the main purveyors of comic book heroes and their intrepid adventures for the last 75 years. Both enterprises have had many different names: DC was first National, then Detective Comics, for example, whereas Timely became Atlas before settling on the far more memorable Marvel Comics. Despite the change in monikers, they have both gone on to become giants in their chosen field of expertise.
As the decades have passed, they have been long waged a battle, albeit a largely friendly one, for comic book sales. The Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee, once the firm’s head writer and editor-in-chief, long referred to DC in his letters column as the ‘Distinguished Competition’. This was not only a clever play on the firm’s initials, but displayed his deep respect for the company.
Both corporations have created some of the world’s most beloved characters, not only in comics, but in the realm of fiction. DC Comics has generously given us the, mostly infallible, likes of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, while Marvel has treated us to the, generally more flawed, Spider-Man, X-Men and The Hulk, among many others. Though they are more or less equally matched in the comic book industry, both companies are making inroads into other multimedia avenues. But in these ventures, however, are they as well matched?
Whatever A Spider Can: The Animated Worlds Of Marvel & DC
Animation has long been attracted to the colourful properties of both Marvel and DC. Marvel has had an animated presence as far back as 1966, when it licensed its characters to Grantray-Lawrence Animation to create the Marvel Super Heroes series. Later, the 80s saw the launch of the Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends and The Incredible Hulk cartoons, whereas the highly regarded Spider-Man: The Animated Series and X-Men shows aired in the nineties. These cartoons were immensely popular and continue, even now, to have a huge following.
Since the turn of the millennium, Marvels presence in television animation has waned due to uninspired shows X-Men: Evolution and Wolverine And The X-Men. Like any hero, they refused to let negative past experiences shake them and have recently returned to animation in force. The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, despite being cancelled after it’s second season, was a critical and financial hit. Disney, the new owners of Marvel, has announced that a new Avengers show, Avengers Assemble, will take its place alongside its other Marvel show, the reasonably popular Ultimate Spider-Man, with Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. also coming soon.
DC Comics have similarly been an animation mainstay since the late 1960’s, beginning with the Filmation series The New Adventures Of Superman. It has also had many other popular shows focusing on all their main characters. Super Friends, which ran to 1986 from 1973, introduced many to the heroes of the DC universe. They truly hit their stride in 1992, however, with the Bruce Timm helmed Batman: The Animated Series.
Many shows followed Batman, with Superman, Batman Beyond and Justice League all gaining plaudits and deserved success. Their most recent additions, Batman: Brave And The Bold, Young Justice and Green Lantern, have all gathered legions of fans and have been met by critical praise. The tremendously talented Bruce Timm has continued to oversee the DC animation wing, although he is soon leaving for a short time to pursue other projects.
Where DC has really excelled in recent years is the release of their home release animated movies on Blu-Ray and DVD. The first to hit shelves was 2007’s Superman: Doomsday and DC have since released many more, including Batman: Under The Red Hood, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern: First Flight, Justice League: Doom and, most recently, Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns. Their approach, in most cases, is to adapt admired and well-established comic book story lines. The films are exceptionally high quality, and perform extremely well in terms of both sales and encouraging reviews.
Marvel started releasing their direct to video animated movies in 2006, a year earlier than DC. So far, though, they have experienced far more mixed results. Although reasonably successful from a financial standpoint, they have been critically attacked for being poorly animated and badly written. Marvel home releases, The Ultimates, Invincible Iron Man or Doctor Strange, for instance, are largely regarded to be inferior compared to the works of DC. All is not lost, as Iron Man: Rise Of Technovore and Iron Man And Hulk: Heroes Unite reach small screens in 2013, with early trailers showing promise.
Outcome: Round Goes To DC!