Marvel vs. DC: Why DC Has the Best TV Shows

The Marvel/DC battle is one as old as both companies, dating back decades into their early days. That rivalry found a new battlefield in the modern era of superheroes, first in theaters, and more recently, on television. It’s on TV though where DC has truly shined, proving that a true comic book television series could actually work on a major network. Each year has seen them grow their empire, strategically adding new elements piece by piece, and composing a greater narrative that’s unprecedented on TV. But what exactly sets the DC TV shows a level above their Marvel counterparts?

1. A commitment to a singularly comic book-y feel

The Flash and Gorilla Grodd

The Flash and Gorilla Grodd | The CW

Part of what’s made DC so wildly successful on The CW has been their complete commitment to not taking their shows too seriously. Even Arrow, a series that’s very much about how one man’s PTSD turned him into a crimefighting murderer, has moments that feel like they’re pulled straight from the pages of a comic book. Meanwhile on The Flash, we see a series that’s already featured a psychic, a talking gorilla, a giant half-man/half-shark, multiple universes, and time travel.

Over on Marvel’s side of the fence, there’s the distinct feeling that every one of its various Netflix properties takes place in a serious, gritty, and realistic world that also happens to have superheroes in it. If you’re looking for pure, unadulterated comic book fun, DC is the place to go on television.

2. Cordoning off DC’s TV shows from the rest of the Expanded Universe

CW Superhero Crossover

Superhero Fight Club 2.0 | The CW

The respective Expanded Universe for Marvel and DC are approached in two different ways. For Marvel, the “everything is connected” strategy reigns supreme. Every single one of their properties is set in a single shared world, and that often works in their favor. At the same time, it also severely limits what they do on television.

DC takes an opposite tact, setting their TV-verse in an entirely separate universe from their films. All the heroes you see on Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow exist independently of movies like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, and Justice League, affording them a special kind of creative freedom that Marvel simply doesn’t have.

3. A varied tone for each individual show

Supergirl / Flash crossover

Supergirl meets the Flash | CBS

While DC’s TV shows often crossover with each other, the tone for each one individually is decidedly different. Arrow operates as the grim, violent narrative. The Flash is devoted to the relative insanity of its comic book source material. Supergirl is the optimistic, happy alternative to both. Admittedly, Legends of Tomorrow hasn’t yet found its niche, but three out of four ain’t bad.

That difference in tone runs in direct contrast to Marvel, who has yet to really break the “dark and gritty” mold established by Daredevil, and subsequently picked up by both Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. All this, while DC features something for everybody across four distinctly unique shows.

4. The single creative presence of Greg Berlanti

Greg Berlanti

Greg Berlanti | AP Images/Invision

The division of creative labor for both Marvel and DC is yet another place where we see the two studios taking different tacts. Marvel’s Kevin Feige is the big boss in charge of everything, acting as the unifying force responsible for keeping the Marvel Cinematic Universe consistent across all its various properties. At DC, those responsibilities are divided among a handful of people. DC’s Geoff Johns and Warner Bros. executive VP, Jon Berg act as the co-leads for the entirety of their films, with Zack Snyder holding down directorial work for their flagship offerings (i.e. Batman v Superman, Justice League).

Over on The CW though, Greg Berlanti is the man in charge, offering his own intriguing perspective on DC’s stable of superheroes. Berlanti is no stranger to the format either, having worked on everything from The Tomorrow People to Dawson‘s Creek. He’s since parlayed his success into a producer credit on DC’s upcoming Booster Gold movie, showing us firsthand just how integral he is to the future of the studio’s superhero success.

5. DC dove in headfirst from the get-go and succeeded accordingly

Arrow | The CW

Arrow | The CW

When The CW unveiled Arrow back in 2012, there was nothing like it on TV. Marvel was still a year away from its Agents of SHIELD‘s debut, and Daredevil was a whole three years off. Never before had a network committed so many resources to a live-action, standalone superhero series, and in the end, it paid off in spades for DC. Someone had to be the first to do what Arrow did, and without its initial run of success, we could be looking at a wildly different landscape of superhero TV for both Marvel and DC. Thankfully, DC and The CW’s gamble paid off, and we’ve been rewarded with a steady stream of new shows in the years since.

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