Monday, May 14, 2012

Geeking Out on Avengers

As someone who grew up reading and collecting comic books, I ask that you indulge me for a moment while a geek out a bit over the Avengers movie. Remarkably, I actually found the time and the motivation to plan to see a movie in the movie theater for the first time in years this weekend. I must say, I was really impressed and (save for the extra dough forked over to see it 3D, which rather than further immerse me into the movie always managed to take me out of the movie, calling attention to the special 3D effect rather than the story), I was entirely satisfied with the time and money I spent.

Indeed, an argument can be made that Avengers is the best superhero movie ever made. Certainly, it is the best ensemble superhero movie by several orders of magnitude. As Kurt Loder accurately observes, the real hero in all of this is Joss Whedon whose masterful skill at ensemble story telling is on full display.

By the way, my favorite one-liner in the movie is from Cap, who responds to being told that Loki and Thor are basically gods with, “There’s only one God, ma’am, and He doesn’t dress like that.”

Personally, though, Avengers is not my favorite of all time. In the end, I have always been more of a DC kinda guy and Christopher Nolan’s take on Batman takes the cake for me. Ironically, the reason for this comes down to a superhero I want to despise, but can never bring myself to actually spurn — Superman.

If I were to boil down the difference between Marvel and DC into one statement, it would be this:

Marvel superheroes are all about the struggle to protect humanity, DC superheroes are all about the struggle of becoming human.

It is not that Marvel is bad — see my comments about Avengers above — it is that I find the archetypal struggle found in DC to be more compelling.

Superman is one of the most powerful superheroes in all of the comic book world. He is an alien from another planet. He ought to be a character we cannot really relate to and the stories one can tell about him should be tiny in number. Yet, he is one of the most beloved and longstanding superheroes of all time. The reason being that the real hero isn’t the guy who wears the ’S’ on his chest — the real hero is Clark Kent.

Superman is as endearing as he is because he struggles to be human. This struggle permeates the DC universe. Even Batman — who has no superpowers — struggles with his own humanity because he is so broken. These stories really speak to me as a Christian because this struggle — to become human — is at the core of my faith. Humanity is born broken. Ours is a struggle to repair that damage by following in the footsteps of Christ and uniting ourselves to Him.

Don’t get me wrong, Marvel does deal with very real issues that affect us as human beings — the mutants being an analog for racism being a big one; however, even at their best (and the Avengers movie is one of the best things Marvel has ever produced), they don’t reach to the depth of the DC universe, especially when DC is done right.


  1. I had never noticed that difference before. Well put.

  2. I agree, I liked Cap's line the best, and the Hulk's line to Loki was also quite good.

    I liked this movie a lot - the writing was excellent, and the superheroes acted like heroes.

  3. It was a tremendously good movie, and you are right, Cap's line was great.

  4. @ Fr. Dave:

    Huh...never quite thought of it like that. But in a way, Marvel is very much more of an escapist fantasy while DC is a lot more reflective due to this. Which is probably why I have (historically) preferred Marvel, or DC comics that were less self-reflective (like the Blue Devil...though even that was more about the character's personal struggle/crisis of wanting to REGAIN his humanity, I suppose).

    1. [Um...which is to say, I think your analysis of the difference between DC and Marvel is pretty right on.]