“Marvel and DC comics have been rivals for quite a while now. First, the rivalry was in print, then years later moved to film and has now entered the realm of television.
Smatterings of live-action television adaptations of comic book characters have been produced since the 1950s and continued through the 1970s with the shows “Adventures of Superman,” “Batman,” “Wonder Woman” and “The Incredible Hulk.” From there, there were few superhero shows that lasted more than a few seasons or retained strong followings. Now, instead of having only one show trying to satisfy fans, there are seven, and they are all vying for audiences’ attention.
“Daredevil” is unique to this group because it is the only one of these shows that isn’t a network or cable series. Rather, it is a Netflix Original series. However, like shows such as “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black,” “Daredevil” thrives in this format. Gone is the forgettable (perhaps laughable) 2003 film version of the blind crime fighter, and in its place is the dark, brooding and engaging television series. While it is only briefly mentioned, “Daredevil” is set in the current “Avengers” Marvel universe (the Battle of New York was mentioned in the first episode; and the Avengers are alluded to very briefly later in the season). Although it is set in the universe of “The Avengers,” this series doesn’t deal with many superhero-y elements. Naturally, Daredevil is a badass, but most of the show doesn’t focus on what makes Matt Murdock special, but rather the inner struggles of his psyche—is he willing to sacrifice himself for his city? Of course, it helps that the other characters in this show are as equally compelling as Murdock’s. Additionally, the writing is solid and well crafted, which gives reality to a fictional world.
“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” (Marvel)
Phil Coulson became a fan favorite character beginning with “Iron Man” back in 2008. From there, Coulson’s popularity and screen time grew to such a degree that he became a main secondary character in 2012’s “The Avengers.” The following year, Joss Whedon, the director of “The Avengers” brought “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” to the small screen. This series follows Phil Coulson and his team of S.H.I.E.L.D agents as they protect the world from potentially dangerous alien and superhuman forces. This show has very close ties to the events in other Marvel films. For example, a major plot point in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” was played out further in the remainder of the first season and into the second season. While the first season was wonderful, this second season has floundered slightly in story direction.
“Agent Carter” (Marvel)
“Agent Carter” was an engaging, eight-part miniseries that explored the life of Agent Peggy Carter following World War II and the “death” of Captain America. One of the aspects that made this series unique was the historical setting. While this series was a little slow at the start, by the end of its very short run, Peggy Carter’s character went from Captain America’s squeeze to bamf spy. There is no word yet as to if ABC will order a second season of “Agent Carter.”
“Gotham” isn’t actually about Batman. Rather, it is the story of future police commissioner James Gordon, young Bruce Wayne, and the origins of many of Batman’s future villains, such as Selina Kyle (Catwoman), Oswald Cobblepot (Penguin), and Edward Nygma (Riddler). The show is more of a crime drama than a superhero show, but that works in “Gotham”’s favor. The show is allowed to focus on the disparity of the city, and the struggles James Gordon faces as he attempts to remain uncorrupted while working to clean up this very corrupted city. This first season is off to a somewhat slow start, but is still engaging and successful enough for viewers to warrant a second season pick-up by Fox.
Because “Arrow” happened to be on the same network as “Smallville” and played within the same universe as Superman (and in fact would be using one of the main characters in the Superman universe), “Arrow” first had to distance itself from the more campy world of “Smallville” and create a world of its own. Once the show established that it would be deviating from Superman’s story, it was free to explore the more Bruce Wayne/Batman-esc character that is Oliver Queen, aka the Green Arrow. Like “Gotham,” “Arrow” focuses a lot on the corruption within Starling City and the Green Arrow’s attempts to save his city. Beyond this, “Arrow” also looks at the toll vigilantism takes on Oliver Queen and the people in his life. As the series has progressed, “Arrow” has become more flashy and comic book-y, though this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“The Flash” (DC)
Set in the same universe as “Arrow,” “The Flash” is more campy and flashy than its counterpart. Barry Allen is the Flash, the fastest man alive. And that’s about it. He is a “lab rat” at the police station who, after a freak storm juiced by a particle accelerator, is transformed into a “metahuman.” With his team, he must protect his city from other metahumans who are evil. This series is the weakest of all currently on television. The storylines are predictable, and the writing lacks a depth of emotion and reality to it.
“iZombie” (Vertigo Imprint, DC)
While this show isn’t strictly DC, Vertigo Imprint is a subsidiary. “iZombie” is the newest addition to the comic book/television realm (in terms of network or cable series), and has struck television gold. This show explores the concept of a high-functioning zombie, Olivia “Liv” Moore, who was once a cheerful heart surgeon resident with a loving family, fiance and friends. That all changed when she attended one party and inadvertently turned into a member of the undead. In the months following this transformation, Liv adopts a pale goth look and takes a job at the coroner’s office, where she has unfettered access to brains. There are side effects to eating the brains of the deceased–Liv adopts certain personality traits and memories of those dead. With these abilities, she assists the police in solving murders under the guise of being a psychic. “iZombie” manages to weave humor, horror, and drama into a delicious, brainy cocktail of fun.
Out of this group of shows, it is hard to determine exactly which series is the best out there at this moment. However, one must admit that “Daredevil” has the strongest case, being the most well rounded comic book/superhero adaptation out currently. The superhuman abilities Matt Murdock possess aren’t the main focus of the story. Rather, the central theme of this story is about people: what makes them good, bad or both, as well as the complex power struggle between greedy individuals and those who wish to better their world. The storyline is dark, but not so depressing that it becomes a turn-off for the viewers. Rather, the audience remains engaged throughout the first season, and are left anxiously awaiting the second.
Claire Farrow can be reached at Claire.firstname.lastname@example.org.