You know what’s weird to me, as a lifelong comicbook fan?
All things considered, DC’s superheroes are more in line with Disney than Marvel. Like Disney’s various works, they exist (and even manage to thrive) in this more idyllic, outdated bubble of storytelling and character work. Stories and conflicts are often distinct in their black-and-white view of the world, where things are often clearly good or bad. Any shades of gray are founds in these faint, simplistic morality lessons due to a character being naive or misguided. Because in both Disney and DC’s world, heroes themselves are lofty ideals rather than complicated, messy humans who struggle with equally complicated, often unheroic personal problems.
Aside from the ABC shows, I’ve been pretty happy with the work between Disney and Marvel. Especially as the years bring more broad, general acceptance of even the weirdest concepts to be found at Marvel *and* the willingness and desire to experiment with the formula that allowed the MCU to flourish in its first ten years.
But part of me would love to see Disney bring Superman to life. Their animated feature Hercules was effectively just that. And while I’m not a huge fan of that movie, largely due to the way the material had to be watered down tremendously to make it family friendly (so much death, so much sex, so much not Disney-friendly material), taking that exact same plot and putting Superman in it would be an instant hit. This lost young man dreaming of leaving his small farming life behind due to this innate desire to be something greater, only to discover that the hero he wants to be is also the hero the world always needed. That’s a great Superman origin film. That’s the film we should have got with Man of Steel, but didn’t.
I love complexity and depth in my superheroes just as much as I love the simplistic fun they can also provide. But Marvel’s complexity comes from the human conflicts derived from its human (or humanoid) characters. It doesn’t stem from some misguided belief that grim and broody is the extent of such things.
And it’s not as if Marvel’s approach hasn’t been integrated properly into DC properties in the past. Batman: the Animated Series and Superman: the Animated Series both did this to great success and acclaim. Bruce Wayne was a fleshed out, relatable person rather than some cold, disconnected Mary Sue. Clark Kent struggled in ways Superman never gets to. These are, to this day, the best depiction of these characters and their worlds.
Nolan missed the point. Snyder didn’t have a clue. And it feels like Warner now has an opportunity to correct course rather than continue down this dark, uninspired path full of teenage angst masquerading as depth. Because while The Incredibles are a blatant riff on the Fantastic Four, those characters and their world are very much in the spirit of DC. And when the single best DC movies since Mask of the Phantasm come from Pixar studios of all places, maybe it’s time the film execs at Warner (and DC “fans”) reevaluate what these characters and stories truly mean to us as a culture.