Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last few years, you’ll no doubt be aware of the abundance of comic book-adapted films that have been bombarding the senses of movie goers in 2D, 3D and IMAX cinemas across the world. The source material of these ‘comic book blockbusters’ hails from the universes of the two biggest and best known American comic empires – Marvel Comics and DC Comics.
Hence the billion dollar question: Will it be DC or Marvel who ultimately triumphs in the end in terms of earning the big bucks?
Before we answer this question, however, let’s take a look at these two epic companies and the Hollywood road they’ve travelled down since they were founded in the 1930s. Thanks to these legendary comic brands, generations of fans around the world have been enthralled by a slew of heroes and anti-heroes, and multi-faceted ‘good vs. evil’ storylines and plots.
However, it was only when Hollywood eventually came knocking that these comic book characters became much more than just the domain of youngsters with a few quarters to spare, and evolved into the larger than life characters they’ve become, and even crossed over to other platforms such as online casinos. Slots have been created which take advantage of the huge hype created by the movies. Click here for free versions these slots. The characters have always been a marketer’s dream and the advances In CGI have made possible the impossible. Marvel and DC are more popular than ever.
Films of Comic Books can be Very Lucrative
Since realising how lucrative comic book films can be and how widespread and universal their appeal is, Hollywood has been quick to pluck the most famous and popular comic book protagonists and villains out of newsagents and comic books stores, and thrust them firmly into the limelight – or tried to.
Getting to the point Hollywood is at now with the comic book genre has been a long, hard and often expensive journey. Most studios have learned the hard way that having the biggest budgets and ‘who’s who’ of Hollywood producers, directors and actors attached offers no guarantee for box office or critical success.
Consider, for instance, Steel, a 1997 movie based on the DC Comics’ superhero Steel with NBA basketball star Shaquille O’Neal as the lead character, and one of the most famous box office comic book bombs of all time.
At a cost of $16 million to make (a mere trifle by today’s standards, but still a decent chunk of change back then), the film barely grossed $1.7 million at the box office. Luckily, however, Shaquille O’Neal still had his highly lucrative basketball career to fall back on.
DC Comics Spawned the First Comic Book Feature Film
Going back three decades before Steel’s release, it was DC Comics who spawned the first ever comic book feature film in the form of Batman the Movie in 1966. It starred Adam West, the same actor who brought the ‘winged crusader’ to life in the popular American television series, Batman. However, as popular as Batman was on TV in the day, the film version barely recouped its $1.5 million budget.
Perhaps this is why it took another 12 years before Hollywood was tempted to dip its toe back in the comic book water, which it did with DC Comics’ Superman in 1978. Starring the late, great Christopher Reeve, Superman got the ‘blockbuster ball’ rolling by pulling in a whopping $1.26 billion worldwide, and spawned not one but three (albeit very average) sequels in the 1980s (Superman II, Superman III and Superman IV) as well as a couple of reboots in recent years.
It was only in 1986 that Marvel Comics decided to join the party and try out celluloid for a change in the form of Howard the Duck. This inauspicious Hollywood debut for one of the world’s biggest comic book companies was head-scratching for many of its fans, considering Marvel’s vast library of superior and far more appealing characters than a talking duck.
Unsurprisingly, the film barely managed to recoup its $37 million budget. It did, however, put Marvel on the movie map, even though it would be another 12 years before Marvel Comics ventured back out to Los Angeles from its native New York.
Blade Earned $131 million at the Box Office
In 1998 film audiences around the world received Marvel’s film version of its comic Blade very well, which starred Wesley Snipes as a ‘cooler-than-ice’ vampire killer. Against a budget of $45 million, the movie earned a respectable $131 million at the box office despite mixed reviews from fans and reviewers alike.
Late American critic Roger Ebert, however, liked the flick, saying in his review of Blade that it “slams ahead in pure visceral imagery” and awarded it 3 out of 4 stars. Although Marvel’s biggest box office windfall at the time, it was just a crumb compared to what was to come.
DC Comics, in the meantime, spent most of the late 1980s and 1990s approving scripts for Batman movies, starting with 1989’s Batman. In that film, Michael Keaton donned the dark mask and cape, and went up against Jack Nicholson as the Joker with Kim Basinger as his love interest Vicki Vale.
Punctuated with a funky soundtrack by Prince and dynamic direction by Tim Burton in his trademark Gothic style, DC’s first Hollywood box office smash was born.
From a budget of $35 million, Batman grossed a none-too-shabby $411 million. 1992’s Batman Returns and 1995’s Batman Forever contributed another $600 million to the DC Comics’ franchise.
X-Men was Box Office Gold in 2000
In 2000, Hollywood struck gold with X-Men, the first film of many to feature a selection of Marvel’s most beloved characters including Professor Charles Xavier, Magneto, Wolverine, Storm, Rogue, Dr Jean Grey, Cyclops and many others. From a budget of $75 million, the film grossed close to $300 million at the box office, setting the scene for what would become one of Marvel’s most lucrative film franchises.
Since then there have been another 9 films from the X-Men franchise namely X2 (2003), X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), X-Men: First Class (2011), The Wolverine (2013), X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), Deadpool (2016), X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) and Logan (2017). Combined, the box office from all 10 films has grossed almost $5 billion, which is more than admirable considering X-Men started out life in 1963 as a humble comic written by Stan Lee and illustrated by Jack Kirby.
Not to be left out, after its dud of a film Catwoman in 2004 that spectacularly failed to recoup its $100 million budget, DC Comics inspired Batman Begins in 2005, a much darker reboot of the original Batman which grossed $375 million against its $175 million budget.
Christian Bale’s performance as the ‘bat man’ earned him high praise, so it wasn’t surprising that when he returned in the 2008 sequel, The Dark Knight, the film grossed over $1 billion against $375 million in production costs. The third and final film of the trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, scooped another billion dollars versus its $300 budget in 2012.
The Avengers Broke the Box Office with $1.5 Billion
That same year Marvel Comics also had a massive hit with The Avengers, an ensemble film packed with characters from the Marvel universe including Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Loki, Nick Fury and many more. Grossing over $1.5 billion, it broke the box office compared to its relatively meagre $220 million budget.
Since that blockbuster film, Hollywood has released another 19 Marvel-themed box office bonanzas including Iron Man 3 (2013), Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Fantastic Four (2015), Doctor Strange (2016) and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 (2017).
During the same period DC Comics only inspired 5 films – Man of Steel (2013), Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), Suicide Squad (2016), Wonder Woman (2017) and Justice League (2017) – which were also well received at the box office.
However, considering all of the above and the relationship these two comic titans have had with Hollywood over the years, while the entertainment and enjoyment value of any film is open to interpretation and opinion, the box office i.e. the numbers don’t lie.
In other words, since 1986 a total of 48 Marvel Comics-themed movies have grossed a total of $18.5 billion, whereas since 1978 only 30 DC Comics-themed films have been released to date grossing $8.1 billion in total. That’s a clear $10.4 billion difference.
Marvel Comics will Triumph in the End
So there you have it folks, according to the box office figures Marvel will likely triumph in the end. You heard it here first.
But… DC has Superman