The worlds of Marvel and DC are currently undergoing a period of change. Marvel is struggling with its own version of fatigue, while DC is striving to regroup under the guidance of James Gunn. However, Sony has recently hit the scene with another smash hit, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, the sequel to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
Everything Marvel and DC Can (And Should) Learn From Spider-Verse’s Success
This highly successful release has caused many to wonder if it is time for Marvel and DC to take note and adapt their strategies.
Firstly, it is important to acknowledge that audiences are not tired of superheroes themselves, but rather the repetitive and formulaic nature of some superhero films. Like any other genre, there are die-hard fans who crave something new, something fresh. The issue that seems to be voiced by many critics and publications is that we need to cool it with superheroes. However, this is not entirely true. The Marvel formula, for example, has become predictable and lacks innovation. It typically follows a standard pattern: a relatable person gets powers, struggles with their identity, is challenged by an evil opponent, and engages in a huge CGI-laden battle.
James Gunn is one director who has recognized this issue and seeks to change it. He has demonstrated this with his work on The Suicide Squad (2021), which features characters who do not need to be redeemed and have skills or powers that are unconventional. They come together to fight an opposing force that is not equal to them, resulting in a unique and well-received A-list film with a cult following.
Animation is another area that is often underestimated and overlooked. It is a style, not a genre, and can be applied to any genre of film, including superhero movies. While some people may be hesitant to watch animated films, it is worth noting that animation has been a burgeoning industry for over thirty years, with anime leading the way. Animated superhero movies are becoming more layered, nuanced, and accessible for all audiences.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is a prime example of an animated superhero movie that defies expectations. It introduced a new character, Miles Morales, and gave him an animated landscape that surpassed all known versions of animation. This groundbreaking film provided a fresh and fun superhero story while also breaking the mold and demonstrating that audiences are receptive to new and innovative ideas.
The Spider-Verse films are setting a new standard for superhero movies and challenging the industry to think outside the box. Studios need to recognize this and adapt their strategies accordingly. It does not mean that everything needs to be connected or have Easter eggs. Instead, it means taking risks and trying something different.
James Gunn’s revamped DCU is a promising step in the right direction. He is a visionary director who enjoys presenting the illusion of running wild, and his unique influence over the current superhero industrial complex is essential. DC has primarily focused on creating animated cartoons, animated movies aimed at a slightly older audience, and a few well-received television shows. However, audiences are now craving something new and different, and if Marvel does not take note of the Spider-Verse as a wake-up call, DC may soon outplay them.
In summary, the superhero genre is not dead, but it does need to evolve. Marvel and DC need to recognize the need for innovation and take risks. Animation is a promising area that is often underestimated, and the success of Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is proof of this. As the industry continues to change and evolve, it is essential to keep an open mind and be receptive to new and innovative ideas.
Marvel and DC are in flux. Marvel is experiencing its version of fatigue, and DC is attempting to regroup under James Gunn.
But here comes Sony with another smash hit with its sequel to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. A very big deal doing very big business. Maybe it’s time for Marvel and DC to wise up.
No Such Thing as Superhero Fatigue
Let’s get this out of the way first. Audiences are not sick of superheroes. They are sick of the superheroes that keep being spoon-fed to them. Much like any other genre of film, plenty of folks will fall out of love with it, but there will always be die-hard fans. For those superhero fans, the need for something new is stronger than ever.
The issue that seems to be expressed by many critics and publications is that we all need to cool it with superheroes. Marvel had a good thing going, and now they need to realize that their time has passed, and their formula has got old. Only half of that is true. Their formula has become just that. A formula: 1. Relatable person gets powers, 2. That person struggles with their identity 3. That person is challenged by an evil/opposite opponent 4. They have a huge CGI-laden battle 5. Stay until after the credits for sequel teases—the Marvel formula.
James Gunn has seen this formula and wants to throw it in the trash. We saw this with The Suicide Squad (2021). Characters that do not need to be redeemed and who have skills or powers that are a bit stupid and are forced to come together to fight something that is in no way an equal/opposite force.
It was that strange amalgam of concepts where it was an exceptionally well-received A-list film with a cult following. It was unique. Something that hasn’t been seen in the superhero space for some time. The hope is that Gunn will continue on this path as he seeks to create a DC universe from scratch.
Animation Is Not Just For Kids
This is another piece we need to get out of the way. Animation is a style, not a genre. Because of this, a film can be any genre and fall under the heading of animation.
A huge swath of society won’t watch animated films, just like some people seem opposed to subtitled films. This reluctance may be chalked up to a generation that watched a majority of animated children’s movies. That being said, anime blew the roof off this style, and that influence has been making its way into Western culture for over thirty years when Akira made its way into the zeitgeist in 1988.
Now, animation is a burgeoning industry that has rapidly found a more-than-cult following. That said, animated superhero movies have become more layered, nuanced, and accessible for all audiences. The best current example is Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.
The Lesson of the Spider-Verse
When Miles Morales was introduced on film in 2018, a groundbreaking animated film took a new character, placed him in an old character’s shoes, and gave him an animated landscape that defied every known version of animation.
Because of this, the film did something revolutionary: It succeeded in providing a brand new, fun superhero story while not only keeping a visual appeal but surpassing what people thought animated films could do. The Spider-Verse movie essentially threw back the curtain and said, “Hey, guess what? We can do things differently, and it will attract audiences!”
The thing is, Hollywood loves a formula. We see it in every genre. And then we see the outliers. Those who break the mold and then see people attempting to follow their new formula. But it doesn’t always work. These one-off great ideas are hard to copy. Take any Tarantino film and watch other directors try and ape his style. They might get close, but at least he inadvertently pulls the industry in a new direction.
That is what the Spider-Verse films are doing to superhero movies. They are saying, “We know you think you need to make stylized, animated films. But you don’t. You need to see that people love what we’re doing in spite of your formulas.” And the studios need to listen.
This doesn’t mean everything needs a multiverse. It doesn’t mean everything needs to be connected or have Easter eggs. We’ve seen all that. Spider-Verse proves that you can take characters that are new to film (but not necessarily entirely new in general) and try something different.
Where Marvel and DC Go From Here
The big hope seems to be with James Gunn’s revamped DCU. He is a man of vision who seems to enjoy presenting the illusion of running wild. His control and his unique influence over the current superhero industrial complex are essential. Until now, DC has been primarily creating animated cartoons, animated movies aimed at a slightly older audience, and a few well-received television shows. But now people want something new and different. They have seen what Sony did with Spider-Verse and are frothing for something so well crafted.
At the moment, Marvel is at the other end of the spectrum. There is no denying that they have created amazing films and story arcs. However, their grip is slipping as their formula begins to wear thin. If they do not see the Spider-Verse as a wake-up call, DC will be outplaying them in no time.