Why Marvel TV Can Never Catch up to DC TV:
The debate of which comic book giant is better of the two – Marvel or DC, rages on. Superheroes and characters flock both the big and small screens. Box Office wise, the Marvel movies reign supreme. For the casual moviegoers, Marvel has created a billion-dollar market space that caters to people who may or may not know about the core Marvel characters but would still like to enjoy a CGI backed movie featuring vigilantes and caped crusaders. The DCEU may have faltered in that regard. But the Big Screen Theatres are not the only battlegrounds for the two largest comic book publications of the world. The TV Shows are also a vital artery to generate popularity, hype, and of course revenue. With the culmination of the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover, the battle has been won by DC while Marvel retreats to lick its wounds.
Rotten Tomatoes once did a survey on their website. The survey asked people to estimate the amount of television they watch, the kind of shows they watch, and the shows they would like to watch in the future. One of the sub-categories of the survey which happened in the fall of 2018 asked a very peculiar question. Considering the amount of popularity the superhero genre has garnered over the years, the question was pretty straightforward – whether you prefer Marvel TV Shows or DC?
The behemoths of the comic book houses were ranked against fan ratings. DC got abysmally low ratings while Marvel got more than three times the ratings of DC shows. Some fans preferred to stay neutral and gave the diplomatic balanced rating to both. DC shows got about 10.4 % ratings. Marvel got 31.54% and the balanced ratings that preferred both Marvel and DC were at 31.39%.
Clearly the DC shows were at a massive disadvantage both in terms of popularity and prefer-ability. Marvel shows that ranked the highest were Agents of Shield and Daredevil. Marvel’s Jessica Jones, Legion, and The Punisher ranked the next three consecutive spots respectively. Marvel’s Iron Fist ranked the lowest with less than 1% preferring the show. Inhumans, Luke Cage, and the Defenders were not on that list but you get the picture. Marvel shows are fairly popular and only a few are not privy to that criterion. Daredevil was considered the most favorite Marvel TV Show with about 6.24% of the voters being a part of it. The TV Show that was the most favorite of them all was Netflix’s Stranger Things, which is a non-superhero genre TV Series and a Netflix Original.
On the other hand, DC TV shows like The Flash and Gotham were considered to be fan favorites according to the ratings given by the fans. Black Lightning and Arrow occupied the next two spots on that list. The next entry was Krypton. The least favorite TV Show based on a DC Superhero was Powerless, a One Season Situational Comedy TV Series, according to the rating data given by the survey.
So what changed?? Marvel TV was miles ahead of DC TV just two years ago. How did DC manage to bridge such a colossal gap in a span of two years?? There are several reasons for it. Crisis on Infinite Earths was the final nail in the coffin but the chain reaction that led to the eventual downfall of Marvel TV had been initiated a long time ago.
The first reason is poor mismanagement and lack of a clear roadmap for Marvel TV. Marvel had first given out the rights of some of their most popular characters to different Studios and networks. This led to Marvel not being able to make adaptations out of some of their flagship characters like the X-Men and Fantastic Four and everything related to those superhero teams including supporting characters. Even Spiderman and related accessories were out of Marvel TV’s reach. As a result, the popularity of these superheroes waned to an extent that Marvel had to let go of any future plans to make small screen ventures out of them.
And then there was the announcement of Disney+, the online streaming platform of Disney that will feature its own set of Marvel-based TV Shows. Marvel already had contractual agreements with Netflix for several major superheroes like Daredevil, The Punisher, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Defenders. Disney+ was a direct competitor to them. Netflix making season after season for Marvel superheroes would just have been free publicity for Disney+ which would have even more Marvel TV Shows for the Netflix viewers who would have gotten hooked on Netflix Original Marvel shows and would have wanted more, forcing them to jump ship to Disney+. The lack of a long term strategy coupled with Netflix’s sudden announcement to let go of Marvel shows (at a time when Marvel-based Netflix Originals were at their peak popularity) spelled death for Marvel TV. The fans felt that they were let down. Disney and Marvel Studios announced that Disney+ will be streaming new shows for them. But it was too little too late. Many of the small screen viewers had switched sides to DC.
The Battle was almost over.
Remember how we talked about how Crisis on Infinite Earths is the final nail in the coffin?? There is a reason for that. Year after year, the CW network has released a crossover arc featuring all their superheroes in one grand adventure of four or more episodes called a crossover storyline. The Crossovers were low key events until the Dominators arc blew everything sky high. Crisis on Earth X was just even more icing on the cake. But it was Crisis on Infinite Earths that showed us the stature of television for the superheroes genre that DC TV helped achieve.
And the reason is – DC managed to finally integrate its Small Screen and Big Screen Universe. Something Marvel TV has failed to do on anything but paper. Ezra Miller’s cameo in Crisis on Infinite Earths proves that the DC TV and DCEU continuity are related. Marvel has managed to pull it off in its Avengers movies. But since the Marvel TV Shows have only passively referenced and mentioned the movies and their events within their framework, the element of total integration was severely lagging. And that is where DC TV won and Marvel lost.
After years of struggling to meet fans’ expectations, DC finally put itself together to release quality movies and have the TV Shows connected to them. To have a major superhero from the movies feature in a Small Screen Crossover event shows just how long term the showrunners of DC TV shows were thinking. What Marvel Studios did for their movies is what DC Films did for its TV Shows – they gave them the gift of a grand vision. Something Marvel TV sorely misses. And the fans have started to notice.
Marvel failed to convince its movie overlords to allow the actors to switch to the TV side for a change. And this will probably continue to be the norm. Disney+ will give us a lot of TV Shows based on prominent Marvel superheroes. But these are actually TV Shows based on the movies and featuring movie stars. We cannot expect Marvel’s Agent of Shield to feature say, Iron Man or Thor, in their episodes. What looks impossible for Marvel TV is now a sure shot possibility for DC TV.
DC TV – 1, Marvel TV – 0.
The Crisis on Infinite Earths began with Super Girl on December 8, 2019, and ended with Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow on January 14, 2020. The official synopsis for the crossover arc reads:
In “Crisis on Infinite Earths“, the Monitor gathers Green Arrow, the Flash, Supergirl, Batwoman, Sara Lance, Ray Palmer, and several “Paragons” from throughout the multiverse to stop the Anti-Monitor from destroying all of reality. The crossover’s events resulted in the entire franchise being rebooted.