4. DC TV plans out stories better
It may not be obvious at first when watching Flash or Arrow, but the shows are carefully planned out season-long arcs that know where they’re going. Both seasons of The Flash have begun by introducing a season-long arch enemy for Barry to battle, whether it’s Reverse Flash or Zoom. Then the show methodically teases out the mystery, one breadcrumb at a time, leaving the heroes and villains in a different, exciting place by the end, ready for the next adventure. Even with each episode usually comprising a single adventure, they always make room for moving along the full season’s plot.
Man of Steel was never intended to be the starting point of a DC cinematic universe, making Dawn of Justice overburdened with the grunt work of being the bridge to a bunch of films Warner should’ve planned out years before. Batman V Superman has to be a sequel to Man of Steel, an introduction to Batman AND Wonder Woman, and even resorts to lazily inserting three more Justice Leaguers into a scene of Bruce Wayne watching viral marketing clips. Even the seeming setup of Darkseid and an invasion makes little sense within the film itself, easily removed and having almost zero to do with the conclusion. BVS is the start of seemingly a decade of DC films, and it can’t even muster up 10% of the careful planning the TV shows possess in an off season.
3. The shows clearly explain complex continuity
The above video is how long and complicated it was for me to explain just how multiple worlds work within the DC narrative. It wasn’t easy and honestly I think mainstream folks are better off without risking the confusion. And yet, DC’s current TV shows found a way to succinctly and believably introduce the concept of Earth-1, Earth-2, all the way to Earth-52 in just a couple episodes of The Flash, making the multiverse a piece of cake. And it did the same for alternate timelines, psychic gorillas, immortal Egyptians, and much more thanks to smart storytelling.
The films seem afraid to do more than lightly touch on the idea of Kryptonian technology, the science of being Superman, or even how the fuck Lex Luthor could know everything about it by STANDING IN SMART WATER!. Ahem… BVS clumsily deals with ideas like time travel and Jack Kirby’s Fourth World, but does so in the most surface of ways, to the point where even die hard comic fans were confused, thinking “I guess that was a Motherbox, right?” Perhaps the film doesn’t trust its audience enough to attempt explaining complex stuff that’s core to the comics, but The Flash makes throwing out technobabble seem easy as pointing at a dry erase board and saying “This is Earth-1.”
2. They aren’t afraid of smiling on TV
Funny story: I had lunch with my mom recently, telling her how disappointed I was in Batman V Superman. When I told her the film begins with Jimmy Olsen barely appearing and then being shot in the face, she couldn’t believe it. How could the comic relief of the Daily Planet be executed by terrorists? Clearly she didn’t know how much Zack Snyder hates the idea that anything funny could POSSIBLY happen in the vicinity of Superman. My mother just didn’t understand that being a costumed hero is a massive burden that makes you a cynical killer. Thankfully, DC’s TV shows don’t understand that either.
The Jimmy Olsen equivalents on Flash/Arrow/Legends/Supergirl say funny things, offer insight into the lives of characters, and often help explain those previously mentioned complex ideas – ironically, Supergirl’s version of Jimmy Olsen doesn’t fill this need on the show. These characters say humorous things to lighten the mood even a little bit while characters are talking about the end of the world. These are the folks you need sometimes, characters who can point out that it IS a little silly a blond alien is fighting a woman made out of electricity. Those winks to the audience let you know the show is self-aware of its flaws instead of gritting its teeth and pretending that everything related to Batman and Superman is VERY VERY SERIOUS.
1. They aren’t ashamed to be DC Comics
DC Comics was built as a world of paragons and god-like people. It was a bright world filled with an incorruptible Superman, the fastest man alive, and Amazons out to teach the world peace. Making it work in live action means accepting the characters roots making them work in a new medium. What it doesn’t mean is liking the grim portrayals of Batman and then artlessly slapping that onto every other DC hero. With Superman alone, it’s ignoring what made the character enduring since 1938, instead making him unrecognizable out of shame for having to even work with the Big Blue Boyscout. I can imagine Zack Snyder whining to an executive “Yuck, why is Superman so boring? Let’s just make him like Batman, though specifically the Batman from these dozen issues by Frank Miller.”
Now, when you’re a better, more skilled storyteller than Zack Snyder, you don’t view the roots of characters like Superman as a burden to be overcome. Shows like The Flash treat his history as something to be cherished, like a backlog of thousands of stories to reinterpret for a new audience, while keeping Barry’s spirit close to why readers have loved Flash for generations. Instead of twisting Captain Cold into a knock-off Joker (see Eisenberg’s shitty Luthor), they keep cold as the uncaring, all business professional criminal that made him so compelling in the comics. Same goes for the relationship between Hawkman and Hawkgirl, Arrow’s involvement with the Suicide Squad, even something as stupid as 1980s Justice League reject Vibe. Instead of thinking “Ugh, wasn’t it dumb Flash fought a giant gorilla,” the shows say “giant gorillas are awesome and ours will be the best.”
And really, that could just because the people making the shows actually read the comics and know why people care. They can recapture the excitement of seeing your favorite heroes team-up for a rare crossover. This is absolutely preferable to finding the .00000000000001% of comics where Batman or Superman killed someone and exclaiming “See! In comics this happened once, so ACTUALLY it’s totally cool Batman exploded that guy!” The shows look at the totality of heroes life before putting it on screen, not picking and choosing the grim and gritty discontinuity that fits their myopic view of what makes someone like Superman interesting.
All these differences were never in more stark contrast than the Monday after Batman V Superman’s release. After the critics ravaged the film and the world saw a Superman threatening to murder just about every person he met, all while Batman brands the skin of criminals and Lex Luthor wiggles his fingers while torturing Ma Kent, CBS aired a special episode of Supergirl. On the CBS series, Flash teleported into her world, ate ice cream with her, teamed up to save the city, and then had a friendly race as a tribute to the Silver Age races between Superman and The Flash. No characters died, no morals were compromised, and two costumed people found a way to spend time around each other without threatening to stab them through the chest. It was proof that the aggressive self-seriousness of Dawn of Justice was a burden on what could’ve been a memorable moment for DC’s long mythology.
So, if anyone says “You’re biased. You just want DC films to be more like Marvel, ” consider all these reasons when replying “No, I just want DC to be more like DC!”
If you prefer when superheros fight, check out our list of the top 7 Batman vs. Superman battles in comic history!
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