With this week's release of the much-anticipated Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and its subsequent evisceration by the film critics of America, I thought it only fitting to write about some of the key differences between DC Comics and Marvel (and how those differences have affected my own writing).
1. People Over Powers: Powers are cool. They put the "super" in superhero, but at the end of the day, powers alone do not make a compelling character. The best characters are human, and that means they are filled with flaws. This is a concept that Marvel has always understood. For example, compare and contrast the DC character of Bruce Wayne/Batman with his Marvel counterpart Tony Stark/Iron Man. On the surface, these two characters are very similar -- they are both billionaires who use their fortunes and technology to fight crime. Now look deeper. What can the casual fan tell me about Bruce Wayne? He's an orphan. Check. Got it. That explains his motivation to fight crime. But what can you tell me about the adult Bruce Wayne? Can you tell me anything other than he's rich? Now contrast that with Tony Stark -- What do we know about Tony? He's arrogant. He's a womanizer. He's prone to addiction. He's a genius trying to meet the expectations of his late father. The man has so many inner-demons that you start to lose track (and that's a good thing). When you strip these two characters of their alter egos, it becomes clear that Tony Stark is much more interesting than Bruce Wayne.
2. Weaker Is Better: It's hard to fault DC when they've created the most iconic superhero in history, but in my opinion it's harder to come up with a more BORING superhero than Superman (even the name is pretty boring when you think about it). The problem with Superman is he's too powerful. The audience is never really worried about his failure, and without that specter of defeat on the horizon, it's hard to create a compelling story. Even when writers try to create a plausible threat for Superman, the end result is often so contrived (like magic glowing rocks from your exploded home planet) that the weight of the story is lost. Compare this to a character like Marvel's Spider-Man. In the pantheon of heroic powers, Spider-Man is far from top dog. He's strong, but not THAT strong. Fast, but not SUPER fast. Even his web-shooters can run out of webbing. In fact, Spidey's history is filled with defining failures (Uncle Ben and Gwen Stacey to name two), but those losses give a sense of urgency and importance to every Spider-Man fight. He's routinely cast as the underdog, and we love rooting for the underdog.
3. Respect: This may not be fair, but I'm going to draw this final conclusion specifically from the DC and Marvel movies. The Marvel cinematic universe (including television) has thrived while the DC universe has sputtered (with a few exceptions like Arrow and the Flash, both on the CW). Why? I firmly believe the answer lies with respect, both for their characters and their audience. Marvel has gone out of their way to respect their characters and their audience -- if you want proof, remember that before the Marvel universe exploded onto the scene with Iron Man, popular thinking was to dress all superheros in black leather (I'm looking at you Bryan Singer and the X-Men) instead of their iconic costumes. Contrast this approach to what you get from Warner Bros. and DC. Case in point, a failure to cast Grant Gustin as the Flash in Batman v. Superman. For those of you who don't know, Gustin plays the title character in the CW's The Flash, and his portrayal has earned praise from fans and critics alike. This was DC's golden opportunity to create continuity and show some respect to their fans who invested themselves in Gustin's turn as Barry Allen. Instead, Zack Snyder tagged Ezra Miller for the role of the Flash. Dumb.
So what does this mean for ANOM: Awakening?
I hope it means I have characters who prove to be much more than just the sum of their powers. I hope it means I have a story that's filled with dramatic action sequences that leave the readers on the edges of their seats. And I hope it means that I have enough respect for the genre and my audience to create the kind of superhero novel they deserve.
If I can accomplish all of that, it means I have a story that people will want to read.