Comic book tv shows

Superhero TV vs Film: No more looking down on TV (Discussion)

superhero tv vs film

It’s nearly that glorious time when many of the comic book TV shows return, and what’s become especially clear this year is that both Marvel and DC are quickly developing and increasing the number of properties they have on film and TV. And whilst film is the major focus for the studios, there is a lot of great stuff coming out of the TV side. So let’s take a look at where TV is succeeding where film hasn’t really yet.

Looking at Marvel’s television shows, they’re especially doing amazing things over at their Netflix shows. Daredevil and Jessica Jones are both part of the same universe as the films and are doing things that the films haven’t really been able to nail yet. The big one is the villains. Personally I haven’t found the villains in the MCU to be that interesting or compelling aside from Loki. They are often one and done, forgettable villains. The villain department is especially where TV succeeds where film doesn’t. King Pin was a genuinely terrifying and well-developed villain. Of course it should be noted that TV has a lot longer to develop their characters, but film still has the ability to develop a villain in one movie.

Kilgrave is my favourite MCU villain and he’s from TV. Here’s a villain you understand and are disgusted by. He has a skewed sense of morality and uses his power to gain a sense of authority and order he was unable to gain as a child. He’s a psychologically rich character with many layers to him. The films have been building up to Thanos for a really long time now, and although we got a taste of him in Guardians of the Galaxy, it won’t be until Infinity War that we really get a sense of what he’s capable of. Here’s hoping that he’s more than just another one-dimensional, quip-throwing villain. Let’s dive into his motivations, personality, threat and his plans.

kilgrave best mcu villain

The other thing Marvel TV has done really well is explore darker themes and ideas. This was especially prevalent in Jessica Jones, but even Daredevil did a great job exploring the depths of pain, morality and religion. It’s a depth that has been touched on in the MCU, but not properly explored. I’m hoping with films like Civil War, Black Panther and Captain Marvel we’ll get some interesting thematic explorations that we have yet to really see in the other films.

Over to DC, obviously their TV side is a lot more expansive compared to their film side, so there’s a lot of things at to where the TV side has succeeded where the film side hasn’t. One of the main things is a real sense of connection to these characters and their world. One of the best things about many of the DC shows is that you really feel invested in these characters, their lives and their world.

superhero tv vs film

Looking at The Flash especially, their development of characters and relationships has given a really compelling emotional layer to the show. You really care about what happens to these people. Looking at the film universe most of these people are strangers so it’s important that the film universe does the same thing. You want to come out of Batman v Superman feeling invested in these characters and what’s happening in their world.

Another thing the TV world has done so well is capturing and exploring a number of different tones. The tone of Arrow is pretty different compared to Flash, but that isn’t a bad thing, in fact it’s great. Within one episode The Flash will have moments of fun and humour and really intense emotional drama. Many complain that Man of Steel didn’t impress them with its overly dark and grim tone, so it will be good to see the film universe find a balance in tone. Judging from trailer 2, WB wants us to know that there will be more of a balance in tone, with the trailer being a little lighter.

And of the course one of the greatest things the TV side has done is build a cohesive world that balances all their characters and story arcs. Obviously WB want to push their world forward as quick as possible but the building blocks need to still be in place. Dawn of Justice will be doing a lot of the worldbuilding for the entire cinematic universe, but how effective will it be?

worldbuilding superhero movies batman v superman

Overall it’s clear that for the longest time there’s been this thought that TV wasn’t as good or important as film, however the last few years has really proved that sentiment wrong. Just looking at the superhero world it’s clear that although film will be the one that brings in the big bucks, a lot of attention is being put on the TV world. It allows for a deeper exploration of the superhero world and these characters and even provides a testing ground of sorts for what can be done and could be done in the cinematic world.

The TV side allowed Marvel to take a risk and explore the darker and more grounded side of their world, and for DC it allowed them to explore the stories of these characters that have not been explored properly in live-action before. It’s pretty awesome that we are seeing such great things from both the film and television side, and it wouldn’t be a bad thing if the film side learnt a thing or two from TV!

8 replies »

  1. Greetings, hope everything is great. I’m very intrigued about your blog and I have a question for you. Would you be interested in joining OutLoud! Culture? We are a site that covers the latest regarding Comics, Movies, TV series and more. We’d like you to join as a writer. (


    • Heyy, thanks so much for the offer, but I’m super busy right now (can barely find time to update my own blog), but thanks for checking out my stuff. I’ll be sure to head over to your site when I can 🙂


  2. Well, maybe film villains would be better if we had longer films ^_^. I remember from somewhere that Joss Whedon cut like over an hour of footage from Age of Ultron!

    Also, the thing with Marvel is that they. Keep. Killing. Off. Villains. ARGH. So really it’s not that surprising that the only one that sticks out is Loki – he’s the only one who’s gotten to appear in more than one film :P. Also – and I think I mentioned this in a recent post of mine – Marvel villains tend to be quite formulaic. It’s particularly evident in the Iron Man/Captain America films – white guy with money, wants power…yeah. Ant-Man, Incredible Hulk, yep. Let’s discount Guardians of the Galaxy since they’re aliens…Age of Ultron, kind of? Ultron ironically is pretty similar to Stark…basically evil Stark. The Thor films…hmmm Loki is pretty much the only villain who breaks the mould!

    Anyway, regarding what you said about the Phase 3 slate – I’m pretty sure it’s almost impossible to not explore new stuff; it’s certain that Black Panther film will be showing the titular hero not only in his role as a champion of justice, but as a monarch). It’s so ingrained into his history that there’s 0 chance that they won’t do it. That in itself brings up a lot of interesting things to explore – Wakanda traditionally is rather isolationist, so we can likely expect major geopolitical shockwaves from T’Challa during his reign, considering he’s a supporter of opening up Wakanda’s borders. There’s also a lot of traditionalists in his government, who don’t see eye to eye with him on Wakanda joining the outside world, so political intrigue and maneuvering is something I’d really like to see more of, especially after the past couple of MCU films. Nonstop action is beautiful, and fun, but it’s the quieter moments that are often more meaningful.

    And since T’Challa’s a king, he’s far more serious a character than arguably most of the other MCU heroes, so (fingers crossed) he’d likely not be cracking witty one-liners that ruin the gravitas of the scene :P. So in Black Panther, we’re definitely going to see T’Challa balancing his vision for his nation with appeasing other government officials, perhaps on an international level – and Kevin Feige himself has said that Black Panther in particular is crucial to the build up to Infinity War, so we can probably expect a rather major threat of some kind.

    The point I’m (not very successfully) trying to make is, there really isn’t a need to fear that the MCU will fail to explore some newer themes and ideas :). Doctor Strange, Infinity War and probably Ragnarok are certainly going to feature Cthulu level entities, and the age old question of the worth of men in a world of gods and monsters…It’s been hinted that in Thor 3, Hulk and Banner will actually interact with each other on a far deeper level than ever before, which should prove for interesting Jekyll and Hyde dynamics. We are pretty much guaranteed to get political intrigue in Black Panther.

    I could go on, but…this is probably long enough for one comment.


    • Yeah well said, it’s why I’m especially excited for this new phase in Marvel films, because they’re finally really exploring new characters and worlds. Obviously these films will always follow a certain formula and structure, because it has worked so successfully for them in the past, but I like that they are tackling different aspects of their world. Will be interesting to see!


  3. Kinda wish with all the advancements DC and Marvel put in their live action, there’d be more substantial animated stuff from them too. DC does do the animated FILMS well, but when it comes to animated series, all they got is Teen Titans Go!, which SUCKS. Marvel’s animation stuff right now is better than DC’s current slate, but also meh. There used to be a time when there was really awesome animation to come from them. Now it’s few and far between…


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