When people say DC has been the losing opponent in the DC vs Marvel Feud, they would be putting it mildly. DC has tried to relaunch their universe several times and has failed, whilst Marvel is thriving with hit after hit. This claim isn’t one made solely by Marvel fanboys either; take a look at the box office for the two studios. Just this year, it was Marvel’s mashup movie Captain America that grossed the highest in the box office at 1 billion worldwide while Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice made 800 million. Some may say that 800 isn’t that bad, and they’d be right, but what’s keeping DC behind isn’t only linked to money but plot quality. Critics know this: both BVS and Suicide Squad were ripped to shreds for bad pacing, awful editing, and cringe-worthy dialogue.
However, when it comes to diversity and who DC is putting out on the big screen, they might be winning, thanks to Marvel’s Doctor Strange. DS, along with The Great Wall and Ghost in the Shell, have all received backlash for whitewashing and playing into the white savior trope. However, this isn’t the first time that Marvel has whitewashed a character. Wanda and Pietro Maximoff, aka Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, were introduced in Age of Ultron, but the Romani twins weren’t played by Romani actors.
This was brushed aside for some time, but when Marvel did it again with the Ancient One in DS, fans took notice and were not happy. Tilda Swinton, who played a Celtic retconned Ancient One, was called out for accepting the role in the first place. Although Tilda, along with the director and Marvel, faced backlash for months, its cinematic universe always lacked diversity in its cast. Every Marvel movie has a white male as their lead. The black characters are often reduced to a sidekick, further perpetuating the idea that White Rules Above All. Women of color and Asian Americans are underrepresented in the MCU. To top it off, there is not a single LGBT character in the MCU. So in a way, Doctor Strange’s controversy aligns with the route Marvel is taking: undiverse and white-biased.
Some say the upcoming Marvel movies: Spiderman: Homecoming, Captain Marvel and Black Panther will help the MCU with this problem. While these movies can, it might be too late — DC has already gotten a head start.
This year’s Suicide Squad, while not being a box office hit or a particularly great movie, one-upped Marvel, with Harley Quinn as a female lead, Deadshot as an African American, and Katana, a Japanese character played by a Japanese-American actress. As sad as it is, this already makes DCEU more diverse than MCU. Let that sink in. The DCEU still has untapped potential: Wonder Woman will be released next year, with a confirmed bisexual as lead (the actress’ problematic behavior notwithstanding), the Flash is an up-and-coming movie with queer actor Ezra Miller as Barry Allen, and Suicide Squad director David Ayer confirmed an adaptation of the Gotham City Sirens, a movie with an all-female (and possibly LGBT!) villain cast. That is, of course, if they remain as canon as possible — which is every fan’s wish for a comic adaptation.
The DCEU has massive potential. They have progression in their hands, which the superhero movie genre and the entire movie industry needs right now. DCEU could use it to their advantage and give minorities their long-desired heroic voice in movies. With such bright potential, one can only remain hopeful. Even when the movies themselves are less-than-stellar, they still give us a lot more solid representation than Marvel’s greatest hits.
Author: Elif Erdem
Keshav Kant, aka Mx. KantEven, is a neuroscience nerd turned Creative Consultant and Executive Director of Off Colour!
You’ve probably seen her on TikTok or caught her work on Off Colour's many channels. From consulting on films & shows, manuscript review, conducting interviews, or hosting podcasts & panels, if there is some way to bring sensitivity and authenticity to diversity, inclusion and equity conversations, Keshav will be there.