“I’m not here to threaten you, I’m here to kill you.”
Over the last couple of days, the world (and the heads of quite a few fanboys) have exploded with this Batman v Superman lark. As everyone tries to shout their theory about who would win and why, I want to bring up a slightly quieter little fight that’s been going on in our homes; less a one-on-one versus match, and more a battle royal for the ages. I’m talking, of course, about the DC and Marvel television universes.
Kicking off some 15 years ago, Warner Brothers fired the first shots when it brought probably the most successful comic book to TV adaptation to date to the small screen. Smallville was the story of young Clark Kent growing up in a little town in Kansas trying to – literally – find his place in the world. We spent ten years with young master Kent from high school to his time at the Daily Planet. Even as the ratings started to drop, it was much more successful for Warner than that bloody awful Superman Returns was.
With the rise of Smallville, everyone wanted a piece of the pie and it meant we, the viewing public, were subjected to some of the most awful cash-in TV that we’ve ever had to suffer with. Do we remember the terrible Gotham City set Birds of Prey? Or the ghastly Human Target? Warner and DC seemed to be happy to hope that some of the shit they threw at the wall would stick.
It didn’t. But they weren’t alone; Marvel tried to bring a film property they’d just screwed royally back to TV and make a few quid. Oh Blade, how I tried to love you. But you were so, so bad. Sticky Fingaz – yes, that’s his name – is an okay actor, he was great in The Shield, but as the vampire hunting day walker, man he was bad.
Fast forward a few years and we have found ourselves in an amazing little time in television. Hiding behind the super-high budget HBO style TV that gets accolade after accolade, is a slew of cool TV based on comic book properties both famous and not-so famous and what I’m going to do is put them head-to-head, Dawn of Justice style. Ok, I’m going to put some of them head-to-head – mainly because I’ve not watched iZombie and can’t really see myself doing so anytime soon.
Gotham (DC – 2014) vs. Powers (Marvel – 2015)
Let’s kick things off with the two shows that, while they are based on DC and Marvel properties, don’t really have much in the way of backing from those companies. Produced by Fox and Sony respectively, with the latter being available exclusively to American PlayStation Network customers, these are the two biggest risks, in my opinion, to their production companies.
Bat-baby vs a weird anti-Heroes/Alien Nation thing that never did quite get off the ground for me. Gotham‘s focus on a young Detective Gordon as the scum of the Batman comics rise from the dirt and make themselves known is brilliantly compelling TV that still keeps me glued week in, week out. Powers, on the other hand, was a flat attempt at getting a foot in the door of an already saturated film and television market. I could only bring myself to waste a couple of hours of my life with it before I had to give up.
Supergirl (DC – 2015) vs. Jessica Jones (Marvel – 2015)
Yes, I’m pitching the girls against each other. No, it’s not out of any kind of agenda outside of I couldn’t decide who to put up against who. Anyways…
Supergirl is probably the closest we’ve gotten to having the success that Smallville saw replicated and forced upon us. The story of Superman’s long lost cousin, Kara Zor-El, a girl sent to protect a young Kal-El who, after a twist of fate arrives on Earth long after he has become the Man of Steel is a sadly boring one. We tried, we honestly did. We broke our “three episodes and out” rule trying to find good TV but the show came up short. I couldn’t care less about the characters on screen, the story they are telling or anything else to do with that show, frankly.
On the other hand, Marvel’s Jessica Jones is the dark and twisted tale of a woman struggling to get out of an abusive relationship with a person who uses their powers for nothing but evil. Essentially an investigative journalism drama with super strength and some pretty hilarious sex scenes. Jones divided audiences when she hit Netflix last year, but she’s definitely the stronger of the two here.
Winner : Jessica Jones
Legends of Tomorrow (DC – 2016) vs. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (Marvel – 2013)
DC’s ensemble spin-off, rolling in a few characters from its big sister shows (and a really crap Iron Man wannabe) isn’t really far enough in to make a judgement yet, but the episodes I watched have just been uninspired dross, playing off of the success of the shows that spawned it and not really living up to them, yet. I admit, I will probably let it go on a little longer before I give up, but it definitely needs to up its game.
Marvel’s offering isn’t doing itself any favours either. Basically doing the same thing as Legends of Tomorrow, it’s a massive ensemble piece loading in all those lesser known superheroes from the Marvel universe into a little sardine tin of X-Files style monster of the week episodes and Cinematic Universe Easter eggs. I gave up on this before the first season was done.
Winner: Neither of them. They’re both as pants as each other.
The Flash (DC – 2014) vs. Agent Carter (Marvel – 2015)
DC’s ultimate marathon runner didn’t grab me at first. I thought the show was a bit too Saturday morning cartoon-ish and honestly, I only continued to watch it because it shared a universe with Arrow. I’ll give The Flash its due, it’s a fun little show and it’s decent TV. But seasons seem to sag in the middle with writers seemingly not able to keep the pace up with 22 episode seasons. I don’t hate it, I just wish it was more engaging, more of the time.
Peggy Carter, on the other hand, and her fun little slice of World War II espionage drama, aside from keeping seasons to a brisk 8 and 10 episodes, never failed to be interesting. The story of her double life of secretary by day and investigator by night is woefully underrated. While a third season seems unlikely, the show’s first two seasons are well worth your time.
Winner: Agent Carter – and it has nothing, whatsoever, to do with me loving Hayley Atwell a little bit.
Arrow (DC – 2012) vs. Daredevil (Marvel – 2015)
Here we are ladies and gentlemen. The main event of the evening.
I knew absolutely nothing about The Green Arrow when this series first started, but seeing as it was the first of these shows I gave it a shot. And I really enjoyed it, for a year and a half! I gave up not far into season two and had to be convinced to try it again and stick it out because it improves (and plays as a soft-pilot for The Flash) and so I did. And I loved it. One of the few shows that we watch every week religiously and getting towards the end of season four, it’s still decent. Dodgy mate wearing cheap knock-off Judge Dredd helmet aside.
Now, Daredevil, man. Didn’t we all think this would be dog shit? Yeah, we did. Netflix’s first attempt at getting into Marvel’s universe was dark, brooding, violent; everything the MCU isn’t. And we loved it. With one of the greatest and most terrifying bad guys ever put to screen in Wilson Fisk in season one, Daredevil instantly solidified itself as one of the best TV shows to date, and may that stay true for years to come.
Winner: A solid draw. Both are great TV shows.
Preacher (DC – 2016) vs. Luke Cage (Marvel -2016)
Battle of the upcoming shows? Preacher is the dark and violent DC comic book that AMC are producing. Due in a couple of months, DC seem to be trying their hand at the dark and twisted stuff, while giving it to the Breaking Bad producing AMC to show distance if it fails. I’m certainly intrigued and going in open minded. We can but hope.
Luke Cage, on the other hand, the super strong and indestructible bar owner first introduced in last year’s Jessica Jones looks like it might be the most “fun” of all the Netflix adaptations. Roll on September, this is gonna be a hell of a fight.
Winner: Only time will tell.
No list like this would be complete without a few “also rans” that either didn’t fit, didn’t make the cut or no-one has heard of. DC’s spin-off of a spin-off Lucifer doesn’t seem to be getting much traction. Which is a crying shame, it’s great television, with a Constantine type feel to it, I fear it’ll suffer the same fate as the Hellblazer adaptation.
The Marvel side of things only has one thing worth mentioning, as far as I am concerned. The rumoured Netflix show that’ll give Daredevil season two’s Frank Castle the spotlight he deserves. Another Punisher movie would certainly be welcome, but the Punisher by Netflix? That would be all my dreams come true.
Us. The TV watching audience. Because for the most part, this is some damn good television. Competition breeds excellence. Long may it continue.