Growing up, I collected comic books. Correction. I amassed a small repository of comic books that filled my entire room. I had comics from companies like Image, Dark Horse, Defiant, Malibu and of course the industry’s two heavyweights, DC and Marvel. Most comic book fans fall into one of the two camps: DC or Marvel. I was no exception. In my mind, Marvel was the only one for me. Now, though, because I have daughters, I know that the real answer is both.
I used to imagine what it would be like to be Spider-Man, swinging from skyscraper to skyscraper. I would practice my Spidey skills jumping from couch to couch in my living room, shooting webs from my wrists while making that “Phew, phew” sound and pretending to stick to the walls. Eventually, I grew up and left for college only to find that even among my college-educated friends, there was an ongoing debate over who was better: Marvel or DC? DC or Marvel?
Now, if you’re a fanboy like me, this was a difficult decision to make. I obviously had a bias as noted above, but now, as a middle-aged, slightly rotund dad, I have been able to put away my discriminatory ways and see clearly. The epiphany occurred to me recently, when my daughters and I decided to watch trailers for upcoming movies.
First was Marvel’s Captain Marvel, followed by DC’s Shazam! and Aquaman. For the finale, we watched a short “behind the scenes” of how Marvel’s Black Panther was made. And guess what?
My daughters liked all of them.
Although they didn’t say it out loud, my dad sense told me that the reason they thought both DC and Marvel were great was that they portrayed superheroes that looked just like them.
Here are a few things that the comic book and movie industry is doing right:
They are incorporating female heroines into their movies. For as long as I can remember, comic books were targeted toward male audiences. Today, the industry is working diligently on featuring female characters that young girls like my daughters can identify with. After seeing the Captain Marvel trailer, my youngest said to me, “Finally, there’s a girl with superpowers!”
Strong storylines surrounding female characters. It’s one thing to have female characters in a movie, but it’s another to build the story around one. More movies are coming out with good storylines that both male and female audiences are excited about à la Wonder Woman.
This opens doors for more diverse groups. There are now African-American superheroes, and maybe Latino, Middle Eastern, or Korean superheroes are on their way. Hopefully I’ll live long enough to see a superhero with disabilities. These movies can be the segue that minorities have been waiting for, and that is a good thing.
The movie and comic book industries are finally using their universes to mimic the real one we live in where boys and girls can be superheroes. Both DC and Marvel are becoming inclusive, finally noticing that there’s a whole generation of young girls clambering to see what a female action hero looks like. This extends to the actual comic books, too. Since 2013, the newest Ms. Marvel has been Kamala Khan, a teenage Muslim girl from New Jersey. And since May 2016, Marvel Comics has introduced Riri Williams, a 15-year-old black teenager who takes up the “Iron Man” mantle.
Kids, especially young girls, need and want to see that they, too, can become heroes and save the day. It doesn’t take my Spidey sense to tell me that gone are the days where both the comic book and entertainment industry only cater to fanboys like myself…and I’m glad.
When it comes to empowering girls and showing them characters they too can identify with, both Marvel and DC are winners in my book, and so are my girls.
Zachery Roman is a comic book aficionado and married dad of two daughters based in Los Angeles. He spends his days writing stories and debating the similarities between Marvel’s Deadpool and DC’s Deathstroke.