By Jason Aquino
Comic books have been on the rise in popularity in recent years. We’ve gone from having a decent comic book movie every few years to having three or more appearances from the Avengers, Iron Man, Thor, and Batman every few months. Just last year, we got six comic book movies from both DC and Marvel. This rise of comic culture has not only made the two companies more popular, it has also impacted the sales of merchandise for both Marvel and DC. According to the site, Comichron.com, comic book sales have almost doubled from five hundred million to almost a billion dollars each year since ten years ago.
Some of the most well-known heroes out of the DCU—Batman, Green Arrow, Superman, and the Flash—recently have appeared more and more on the small and big screen. Movies such as Batman vs. Superman, Man of Steel, and Suicide Squad have been released in theaters all across the world and have gained the company hundreds of millions of dollars. On television, CW’s Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow have been around to entertain people and attract new fans to the company. For comic books, the sales for DC have been on a steady high due to a renewal of the comic universe which has made comics more open for new fans.
While the increases in DC’s presence in the big and small screens have been a benefit for the company, many of them have not received great reviews. Even though they’re still successful in the box office, DC’s movies have earned low scores on review sites and has been ravaged by critics as well as audiences. Suicide Squad earned a rating of 25% on Rotten Tomatoes and Batman v.s Superman has earned a 27% and has even gotten multiple Razzie awards. DC still has a number of future comic book films such as Wonder Woman and Justice League that will hopefully give DC redemption for their earlier movies. While DC’s shows have have gotten generally better ratings than their movies, shows like Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow still get mixed reviews by fans and critics. Some commend the show for its characters and their introduction of DC comics to the populous, but many others give the shows low ratings for its lack of depth and an engaging plot.
Whatever DC is lacking on-screen, it is made up for in the comics. One change in their comics is the New 52, a reboot of the comics world, which allows new fans to read about multiple characters without having to read back on the thousands of issues released in the past decades. Heroes like Batman and Superman were rewritten and given reworked stories, which many fans, old and new, enjoyed.This reboot, along with other events such as Rebirth and Convergence, has allowed new comic fans to easily follow their favorite characters. On comic review sites, such as Comic Book Round Up, many of DC’s recent comics have gotten high scores from both fans and critics. So far, DC has greatly benefited from the growth and improvement of their comic franchise.
Marvel too, revolutionized their company—both in the comics and the on-screen media. Marvel has featured some of its most popular characters—Iron Man, Captain America, and Wolverine—in largely successful films such as Iron Man, The Avengers, and Logan. Marvel has released more of these comic book movies in the past five years than ever before, fueling the comic book movie genre. Along with their movies, Marvel has created shows such as Agents of Shield, Daredevil, and Jessica Jones, expanding the Marvel Cinematic Universe even more.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been the engine for Marvel’s astronomical success since the first movie, Iron Man. Each of their movies earn close to half a billion dollars, which, in previous decades, used to be their yearly earnings with just their comics and merchandise. Their movies are well received and with their most recent movie, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, Marvel has had their fifteenth consecutive No. 1 opening at the domestic box office. One unique aspect of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is that each of their movies are interconnected, which has made moviegoers more interested, garnering more success for Marvel. The rise in Marvel movies has increased Marvel’s fanbase and overall has made Marvel an integral part of modern pop culture.
With the rise of the MCU and a new generation of fans, Marvel needed to update their comics. Unfortunately, what resulted dropped success rates and stirred controversy. Marvel introduced a cast of new, diverse characters that were much more contemporary. While bringing diversity in race and gender into comics is great, these characters were poorly incorporated into the Marvel universe. Stories such as The Totally Awesome Hulk, which features an Asian hero, and América, which features a lesbian Hispanic heroine, received low scores on comic review sites and had poor sales. Other failing changes Marvel has done include killing off classic—and beloved—heroes, making politically motivated stories—both awkward and unnecessary—, changing the origins and personalities of some characters, and including so many events in such a short time that fans have became tired of trying to keep track of the plot. In April of this year, Marvel announced a stop in political stories and vowed to focus more on other stories. They also announced that their next event will be much later in the fall and will bring back classic heroes while keeping their new heroes intact. This is great for new and old fans alike. Whether these changes help Marvel in their comic sales is up to the future.
DC and Marvel have been making comics for decades, but with this revolution, these two companies have been even more popular than ever before. While many of these changes have been successful for them, some changes however have lacked aspects that would make them successful. As a fan of comics and movies myself, I can only hope that these problems can be fixed in the future and that both companies continue to revolutionize pop culture in the years to come.