The passed few weeks I have been comparing DC and Marvel characters to demonstrate how making the DC versions so overwhelmingly strong/durable/fast/magical that they have lost a key element in making them more interesting characters. I had planned on writing another blog, between Superman and Thor, but it would only belabor the point. One more comparison is all that’s needed; one of sames.
Hercules is a figure of myth, so it is unsurprising that both the DC and Marvel versions of the character have similar powers. Both versions possess superhuman strength, endurance, speed, and stamina. And whereas Marvel’s version is able to heal himself and has some resistance to magic, the DC character can shapeshift as well as make use of magic. I am also fairly certain the DC version is a physically tougher character, but there is no specific data on that point.
That seems to be where the comparison ends. The DC Hercules is a flat character. As in the myths he generally follows a cycle of crime, punishment, and redemption. The writers have tried to make storylines about him interesting, but his character never develops beyond those three familiar activities.
The Marvel character (predictably) is much more interesting. He begins as much the same individual as he is found in the myths – arrogant and self-righteous. But he develops, and generally tries to be a positive character. He is occasionally a member of the Avengers and is a Champion, he makes a movie, he is fooled into fighting heroes but then reconciles and fights with them. He sacrifices his godhood to save the planet and loses his powers for love. When acting as an instructor at the Avengers mansion during the most recent adventure, he comments that the older generation have only found war, but that at least some of the younger X-Men and Avengers have been able to find peace. That is a huge development, and nothing like his counterpart in DC comics.
Early on in this series of comparisons a reader commented that Superman and Batman would always be her favorite, that she preferred her heroes to be super. And I admit, there is something appealing about idolizing an incorruptible individual that could never have anything to fear from we mortals, especially in a world without incorruptible public figures or super-people. I find myself wishing for that too, and I find myself very interested in what DC is attempting right now because I want to see Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.
But that’s not the point. As a great director once said, super-hero stories can’t focus on their super-powers, they have to focus on the struggles of the individual. And while a nearly invincible hero can have personal struggles, it makes the story less interesting if he is invincible. As has been seen, many DC heroes don’t even have much in the way of those personal issues.
Will I continue watching DC movies? Of course. I grew up with the DC characters. Nolan’s storytelling technique is astounding, and DC’s approach to introducing its characters might offer something to my own writing that Marvel hasn’t come up with. But what Marvel has done with the quality of its characters, their vulnerabilities physically, mentally, even socially, has not been equalled. It probably won’t be.