First off, I want to make it clear that this isn't slamming the DC Universe shows on The CW Network. I love those shows, I have defended them time and time again and I do a weekly podcast about them that I very much enjoy.
The thing is, it was during a conversation with my podcast co-host Brent that this idea came up. We were talking about the divide among DC fans between those whose love the DC Extended Universe and those who love the DCCW. I haven't seen much of it on Twitter, but I've seen it a lot on Facebook and there are some strong and ardent haters and defenders on both sides of the argument. You've got people that think Tyler Hoechlin's two episodes as Superman on Supergirl is vastly superior to Henry Cavill's two movies as the Last Son of Krypton, and you have people that think Cavill's version even in death absolutely slaughters Hoechlin's "campy, outdated and corny" redress of Christopher Reeve's version from 1978.
It was in the middle of this discussion that Brent said the following:
Oh......yes it does, Brent. When you really dig into it, it REALLY does make sense.
I haven't seen any DCCW fans that really hate the Marvel Cinematic Universe or vice versa, but I imagine if there are any that they are beyond furious at this point. That's kind of the point, though: IS there anyone out there that loves DCCW and somehow hates the MCU? If there is, I would love to ask that person why because the similarities between the two franchises are more than striking and could also very much explain why DC is taking the DCEU in such a different direction than the MCU since they seemingly already have their own version of it on television. Let's breakdown what the DCCW and MCU have in common:
1 - LONGFORM STORYTELLING
This is the no-brainer of the comparison so we'll just get it out of the way first. The MCU has absolutely taken an episodic "TV" approach to its movies from the beginning with each one building upon the previous installment. Each mid or end credits scene is a cliffhanger tease to the next movie or phase, which happens at the end of almost every DCCW episode as well. It's the classic "Same Bat-Time, Same Bat-Channel" cliffhanger approach that any avid TV watcher has come to expect with good shows, and it doesn't keep the movie from resolving its A to B main plot in the process. At the end of each movie, the villain is defeated just like at the end of every DCCW episode, even if there is an over-arching villain for the season or phase looming from the shadows. This is exactly why I have said the MCU would start to get into trouble around Phase 3 because 14 movies in, that's a lot of homework for people to do if they want to get caught up. Granted, they can certainly binge the first two phases, but that's exactly what you do when you're behind on a TV show, isn't it?
2 - TAKING LIBERTIES WITH THE SOURCE MATERIAL
Some of the strongest arguments against the DCCW have to do with how much it goes off book from the comics, such as the treatment of the Black Canary character, origins of villains and other heroes and the general structure of the multiverse itself. The MCU, for all of the fans that argue how accurate it is to the Marvel comics, has done the exact same thing time and time again. The treatment of The Mandarin villain, Tony Stark and Bruce Banner being the creators of Ultron instead of Hank Pym who was introduced exactly one movie AFTER Ultron's appearance, and the general treatment of Black Widow and other female characters in the MCU are just a few of the liberties taken for the franchise and just like the DCCW changes, they make complete sense for the story being told despite not being comic book accurate. The only difference is that the MCU doesn't get nearly the amount of scrutiny for its changes as the DCCW does from DC fans that are more than irked by the creative differences, no matter how much they make sense to the story at hand.
3 - HUMOR AND FUN FOR ALL
Those who have issues with the DCEU often claim that a lack of humor and fun brings the whole franchise down into some dark pit of despair. Silly, but you could see where they are coming from if their reference point is the DCCW. Of the four current shows in the lineup, Arrow is the least funny and it still manages some solid comic relief from a number of characters on a regular basis. The other three shows are loaded with it, everything from slightly cheesy one-liners to completely cheesy one-liners, pop culture references, awkward situations and double entendres. It's the same setup you get with the MCU in almost every way. Jokes like "Mister Doctor" from Doctor Strange or "Language" from Avengers: Age Of Ultron are on the same level as "I'm not calling them the Legion of Doom" from Legends of Tomorrow or "You don't get to pick the names" from The Flash. In both cases, levity and lightheartedness are balanced with action and drama to keep everything safe for the whole family to watch at any time, even in Arrow's case, which as a show can get pretty dark.
4 - DEATH IS NOT THAT SERIOUS
Both the DCCW Universe and MCU have had major characters either cheat death or come back from the dead. In the MCU it's well documented with Bucky Barnes dying in Captain America: The First Avenger only to come back in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Nick Fury faking his death in the very same movie that Bucky comes back in, Pepper Potts appearing to die at the end of Iron Man 3 only to have been saved by Extremis, Loki appearing to die in Thor: The Dark World only to be discovered by the audience as alive and well at the end, Groot sacrificing himself only to give birth to Baby Groot that will be seen in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and even technically the crazy circumstance of Stephen Strange dying multiple times at the hands of Dormammu only to not ultimately die because of major assistance from the Time Stone. In fact, the only major death of note in the MCU with a recurring character is Agent Phil Coulson......who was brought back to life on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. but has yet to be referred to in the movies and is still treated as dead by The Avengers.
Death is a bit more serious in the DCCW Universe, but not by that much. Sara Lance, the White Canary has died twice, only to be found "not dead" the first time and then actually resurrected by The Lazarus Pit the second time. Also resurrected by the Lazarus Pit was Thea Queen, Oliver's sister and The Red Arrow. Her former boyfriend Roy Harper, Arsenal, faked his death in prison to escape custody and get out of Star City. Ray Palmer was believed dead at the end of the third season of Arrow, only to be found alive and miniaturized in Season Four. Even Oliver Queen himself has died after a Trial by Combat with Ra's al Ghul in the Season Three mid-winter finale, only to be brought back by Katana. Most recently Laurel Lance, a former Black Canary, died in Season Four, but her Earth-2 counterpart is currently in Star City lockup on Earth-1 as Black Siren. This isn't just restricted to Arrow either. Eobard Thawne, the Reverse Flash died at the end of Season One of The Flash but was brought back into the timeline by Barry Allen at the beginning of Season Three and is causing problems on Legends of Tomorrow in its second season. He's doing so with Damian Darhk, who is alive again after his future/present self died on Arrow at the end of Season Four. Hunter Zolomon AKA Zoom, the big bad from Season Two is sort of still alive after being killed by Time Wraiths and now becoming the Black Flash that is hunting down Thawne on Legends this season, and we've seen a few major characters lose their multiverse counterparts or get a second chance because of a timeline mishap. Even an actual death, like Henry Allen at the end of Season Two is still countered with the fact that Jay Garrick from Earth-3 looks exactly like him, both played by John Wesley Shipp. I think you get the picture here that characters cheating death is no big deal for both franchises.
5 - CRITICAL APPEAL
This a list of the Rotten Tomatoes scores for the MCU:
Now here's a list of Rotten Tomatoes scores for the DCCW Universe:
The similarities here are obvious, of course with neither franchise earning a single rotten rating overall. Even Constantine, which was cancelled by NBC in 2015. It gets even more similar when you look at critical reviews from both franchises:
Yes, the critics certainly love their "fun" from both the DCCW Universe and the MCU. We all know full well that these days the way to a critic's heart is by making them laugh in the middle of battle and chaos. Clearly that is true for both cinema and television.
The bottom line here of course is that since 2011 when Arrow first came on the air, DC has already been building it's own version of the MCU in nearly every major aspect, just for the small screen instead of the big screen. We could take that as DC wanting to capitalize on the family friendly approach in-home with television and then gathering a more adult audience in the theaters, while Marvel appears to be doing the exact opposite with family-friendly fun at the movies and a far more adult approach on TV, Netflix especially. Either way, it seems pretty clear that DC fans who actively want an MCU approach to the material should be watching The CW three nights a week with Supergirl on Monday, The Flash on Tuesday and Arrow on Wednesday all at 8pm ET, and Legends of Tomorrow on Tuesdays at 9pm ET right after The Flash.
For those of you that are fans of the DCCW as I am, I co-host a podcast every week with Brent Clark (@brentacPrime) about the DCCW called DCTV Squadcast (@DCTVSquadcast) as part of the Suicide Squadcast (@SuicideSquadcst) network. Give it a listen here for our weekly thoughts on the latest episodes of the DCCW.