Why Movie Audiences Prefer Marvel Over DC

It may surprise you to hear that people still buy comic books. Lots and lots of them. In fact, 2018 was one of the biggest years in comic books’ history. Comic books are no longer relegated to bespectacled 12-year-old boys reading under the blankets at night with a flashlight. Today, both boys and girls enjoy comics and there are titles that target pretty much every walk of life. Adults read comics, too, by the way – I subscribe to an app that lets me get my comic fix via digital issues on my iPad.

Perhaps the biggest reason for this resurgence in the popularity of comic books is the massive (and I mean massive) popularity of comic book movies. Superhero movies are huge, of course, with titles like Black Panther and Aquaman producing massive box office returns, but did you know that films like Men in Black, RED, Kingsman: The Secret Service and even Road to Perdition all started as comic books, too?

Over the last fifteen years or so, Marvel (now owned by Disney) has been the undisputed champion of comic book movies. Avengers: Endgame, for example, is currently the second-highest grossing film of all time after only being in theaters for a month or so. DC Comic properties like Batman VS Superman and Shazam have been far less successful (even though the latter is a great movie). Why is this?

DC approaches its films one at a time. Directors are given the agency to make pretty much whatever kind of movie they like. In the case of Zack Snyder, for instance, DC gave the 300 director the keys to the Superman and Justice League franchises and pretty much let him do whatever he wanted with them. The results were serious, dull and overly dependent on CG tomfoolery (much like 300, I suppose). Sometimes it works – James Wan brought the same kind of energy he created on Furious 7 to Aquaman and the results were awesome. Other times you get Green Lantern (How can Ryan Reynolds be so bad in one move and so good in another? Ask Tim Miller, who directed the actor in Deadpool).

Alternately, Marvel has hired good directors but compelled them to work within the blueprint of the MCU, or Marvel Cinematic Universe. The brainchild of super producer Kevin Feige, the MCU was developed to keep writers, directors and producers on the same page when it came to characters, plots and overall tone. There is an overarching plan with the MCU, and every single Marvel movie created by Disney has been part of it. That’s why every movie tied together, plot-wise. More importantly, though, it’s why every movie has shared the same lighthearted sense of adventure. MCU movies are fun. They may not all be great movies, but they are all great fun. They are consistent, and you know what to expect.

Sound familiar? When you step into Target, you know that it is different than its competitors. When you flip on your Samsung phone, you know what to expect. When you buy your favorite kombucha, it tastes the same every time. These companies have found a winning formula and they stick to it. Successful brands still innovate (Ant Man is essentially a heist movie, for example), but they don’t start over from scratch. Why would they? Why waste all of that positive momentum and brand equity?

Every brand should seek to create its own MCU. Your customers should immediately be able to identify your messaging by its look and feel. If you do it right, they will actually look forward to seeing your brand. The key is to create a plan and stick with it, tracking its success and tweaking it when it falls short. Iron Man is the same guy in 2019 as he was in 2008. Your brand should seek to do the same thing.