This was one my mind after listening to one of Comic Book Girl 19’s podcasts.
The DC heroes as gods comments got me thinking. That deity angle could make for great drama, like how peripheral characters respond to them in the Alex Ross books such as “Kingdom Come” and the 4 books he did on Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman and Shazam. Marvel has probably done it too, but DC has always enjoyed boxing the characters in with storylines like these and I think they did well, like Superman Versus the Elite? And also, there are too many origin stories but I think origin stories, or “jumping on points” for these characters that put them on the road to becoming self aware, absolute… where they really cemented their identity, these moments seemed to make them god-like in my eyes. What’s more divine than when a character realizes who they are and who they want to be forever?? Books like Green Arrow: Year One, both Earth One Superman and Batman books, Superman Birthright and also later stories like Green Lantern and Flash: Rebirth (despite how u may feel about Hal and Barry) stories are just a few that really resonated with me. If I had to say they were transcendent or even god-like? Those moments when the characters faced… themselves I guess, was that moment. I wish DC could make the fans feel like that way more often. From the comics to the cartoons and right back into the comics, DC has defined themselves in positive ways with the deity theme. Maybe they need a new one? Or maybe they forgot how to make us care about ideas like what makes a god…
I was thinking some more and considered this. Marvel yes has probably used the god complex for the Avengers and other heroes. It’s super hero comics, who wouldn’t tap into that issue? But Marvel, I think, has always excelled as of late too, at grounding a lot of their characters. Those guys care more about that issue. Discovering humanity or reclaiming it.
DC is all about transcending it. I mean really now, not just creating super soldiers like in Marvel. Remember Lex Luthor and Vandal Savage and characters like that? The heroes at DC either instill jealousy or altruism in the villains or peripheral characters. They want Superman’s invulnerability, Wonder Woman’s beauty and knowledge, the Flash’s speed, the Lantern’s power, on and on and on.
DC has done this too, but Marvel really lives there, and where that is in fitting in. DC characters seem to want to shed the mortal flesh and live in the clouds. Marvel characters are still trying to fix things down here. That’s the angst that still endures in the pages of possibly every X-Men book to date for goodness sake! And it works. Joss Whedon loves that stuff and if you followed him before The Avengers then when that flick finally hit, you weren’t surprised at how the characters interacted. You were right there with Tony when he realized “Loki hit us right where we [live]”, emotionally.
What makes Marvel seem to work is that the characters fight to embrace and believe in humanity [first] and then make life better for everyone. Or not. Characters WANT to process everything and be normal like everyone else. Everyone underestimates themselves first and foremost then they discover their potential. That’s like every kid at Professor X’s School For Gifted Youngsters. Or take the movie Captain America (despite how lackluster the movie was for some)? I think what Steve went through is all abut this. He wanted to be like everyone else and knowing who he was before the serum is what put him in that machine in the first place.
DC pits its characters against their own ignorance and delusions of grandeur. It’s like the peripheral characters, the villains and the heroes themselves, even Superman sometimes, skip a step and go right to the heavens. They think they have it all together already. They don’t want to process their humanity, they take it for granted. What do they always say when someone good get’s powers then runs amuck? “It’s the powers, they’re corrupting you!” Yeah Marvel does it too but I wonder if it’s a deep seated DC staple for a reason? the character’s are too powerful for their own good. They’re prideful. Then when they get knocked down a peg they freak out. Superman VS the Elite, Kingdom Come by Alex Ross and Justice League DOOM are just a few examples of this I think. But I think it’s something that can make DC work. Maybe they don’t have to do it all the time but I wonder if all the characters or most of them dealing with pride and false humility the likes of what we’ve seen in the past, would make for a great identity for the product DC comics are trying to sell.
So I think it comes down to identity for both houses and how they market themselves and how they tell their stories.
I think Marvel is fine showing heroes and even villains push that rock up the hill to achieve wonders, for the world and for themselves. They start inside and work their way outward to touch others.
I think DC is struggling to find themselves. The deity angle has always separated them from Marvel but they don’t always handle the issue well. They still manage to alienate readers and it’s hard to relate because it feels like so many characters are better than humanity anyway. Like the stories that inspired them, DC heroes need to work together, powerful and ultra powerful the way the greeks and their gods did or tried to in legend. Someone was always forced to interact with someone else more powerful and achieve something.
Marvel inspires readers to accept themselves, the greatest super power. And DC gives readers the next level of power and identity to aspire to. Both companies should internalize these issues as starting points, if they do that, DC especially as far as fans are concerned, then who knows what the next level of memorable story telling fans can expect.
Here’s the link to Comic Book Girl 19’s podcast.