Tuesday, August 19, 2014

9 Marvel versus DC Comics -- Thoughts on Writing Characters Post Guardians of the Galaxy

We went to see Guardians of the Galaxy on opening night. I was skeptical, I admit it. A talking raccoon with a gun? Not usually my cup of Earl Gray, what can I tell you.


It was actually irreverent, charming, engrossing, funny, and unexpectedly warm. In short, it was better than great.

Trying to explain the reason for that greatness to someone who hadn't seen the film left me a little bit perplexed though. Because if Marvel can make a film starring a talking, gun-toting raccoon, surely someone can make a decent film with a woman lead? (Cough, Wonder Woman, cough. I'm looking at you D.C.)

Which brings me to another point. As good as this movie was -- and it is going to be shown at my house frequently, trust me -- what I loved most about it was that the female character actually got to drive the bus. This isn't Gamora's movie, don't get me wrong. Zoe Saldana plays just one piece in an ensemble cast, but that piece is the one who provides the motivation and the heart for the team to do what it must (see how non-spoilerly I made that?) to overcome the bad guy. And frankly, without her, the plot would have devolved into get the thing the bad guy wants, run like hell, go back to your previously scheduled lives.

What else did I love about Gamora?

I love that she's sexy, in a Wicked-Witch-of-the-West sort of way, but that despite a couple of almost-moments with Star-Lord (as played by Chris Pratt), she doesn't succumb to insta-love. The tension is building and you can see it coming, but Marvel didn't cheese up the script by including a gratuitous romantic sub-plot that wouldn't have been believable. Instead, they focused on pulling together a bunch of loners and making them into a team.

The resulting dynamic is warm. It's human--even if only one of the characters involved was actually homo-sapiens. Ish.

And that brings me to my topic of the day. It seems to me that there are two schools of approach emerging vis a vis comic book adaptations, and that the same goes for any sort of fiction.

Marvel has a repertoire of films that stars characters who seem to think all is more-or-less okay in their larger-than-life worlds, and then get dragged into something that's clearly not okay. How they deal with their changed situation and how that transforms them creates the underpinnings of the story and provides the extra layer of warmth that connects us to those characters.

Recent Marvel Films include:

  • Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
  • X-Men, Days of Future Past (2014)
  • The Amazing Spider Man 2 (2014)
  • Captain America - Winter Soldier (2014)
  • Thor: The Dark World (2013)
  • The Wolverine (2013)
  • Iron Man 3 (2013)

DC on the other hand includes:
  • Man of Steel (2013)
  • The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
  • The Green Lantern (2011)
  • Jonah Hex (2010)
I keep trying to put my finger on what's missing in the DC films for me. I think it comes down to humor. There's a certain amount of wallowing in darkness that the DC films dive into that Marvel leavens with just enough humor to keep the characters from getting broody.

Don't get me wrong: I write dark. My characters (duh, they're cursed, right?) have some pretty crappy lots in life. But even if they feel sorry for themselves, they don't like feeling sorry for themselves. And from now on, I'm going to refer to that as a Marvelous way to handle character. I'm going to work on that even harder.

So what do you think? Do you see a difference in how the two studios portray character? Handle characters ARCs? Bring human into their scripts?

And now for some winners : ) 

The winner of the Pick 3 Arcs #1 is:

Patricia Lopez

She can pick three of the following: BZRK, The Walled City, Sinner, Ghost House, of Scars and Stardust, Lament, I'll Give You the Sun, Unmarked, Lux, White Hot Kiss, Falling into Place, Scintillate.

The winner of the Pick 3 Arcs or Books #2 is:

Rebecca Greer

Pick Any Three: Unmade, Perfected, Beauty of the Broken, Til Death, Unravel Me, Compulsion, Shatter Me, The Raven Boys, Diamond Boy, Allies and Assassins, The Walled City, Black Ice

The winners of the two ECHOES OF US ARCs  by Kat Zhang are:

Anne VanLoon

Heather Ratlin


  1. This is such a good observation. I'd never realized that before. I was skeptical about Guardians as well, but totally loved it. I don't think there's a marvel comic I don't like. That doesn't mean the movies are immune from being bad (I've heard Wolverine was terrible), but still, they have a much heftier list of comics than DC does. Perhaps this has something to do with it.

    1. I didn't see Wolverine, even though I'm a HUGE Huge Jackman fan. There was just something about the level to which he pushed his body for that role that made me think the movie was going to push too far as well. Maybe I'll get to it someday. : )

  2. Very interesting! I haven't seen all the movies on either DC's or Marvel's lists, but I did really enjoy Guardians. Glad you did too!! Good observations. Humor goes a LONG way, even if it's dark broody humor. :)

  3. Well, now that you mention it, I can see the broody difference in the characters. I've often wondered about the source. But your observation is keen. I've read of several reviews of Guardians, the majority of which all note the movie is a true enjoyment. I haven't seen it yet but I look forward to rectifying that.

  4. 'they don't like feeling sorry for themselves' ... I love that! And it really does define a strong character! Haven't seen many superhero films (not something my hubby enjoys, but I'll have to rent this when it's available!)

    1. I think you'll really like it -- even your non-superhero movie liking hubby will. It's really not a film about superheroes. It's a film about "people" facing a super villain. If I had to say it was close to anything, I'd say the original Star Wars. Let me know what you think when you do see it, okay? : )

  5. Yes! Great post - you raise so many good points and I love the Joss Whedon rule for humor and dialogue. Plucky characters are way more fun. :)


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