Marvel Keeps Beating DC (With DC's Own Ideas)
Marvel movies have smuggled a ton of nerdy concepts into the mainstream, from complex metaphysical theories to the idea of a guy who turns tiny and talks to ants. Thing is, a lot of concepts that the public at large will forever associate with Marvel were originally from the competition, DC Comics -- Marvel's movies just got to them first while DC was busy making closeted anime movies.
A particularly dumb example on DC's part is Darkseid/Thanos: Marvel telegraphed that their big purple space tyrant would be the villain of the third Avengers film (2018), like, 14 movies in advance, giving DC ample time to debut their big purple space tyrant, Darkseid, as the villain in Justice League (2017). This would have been appropriate since, in the comics, Thanos first appeared two years after Darkseid and was blatantly modeled after him. But no, DC had to hold their big baddie back for the sequels that were totally going to happen.
It doesn't help that Thanos is obsessed with death and Darkseid with "anti-life," which sounds like something a kid would type while rephrasing Thanos' Wikipedia page in a school paper. At some point, Darkseid's estranged son, Orion, will appear in a movie, and a thousand people on Twitter will go: "Orion? Like the famous nebula? Because Thanos' daughter is called Nebula? Come on." (Orion predates Nebula by 14 years.) Incidentally, Orion is part of a group called the New Gods, and DC had a movie about those guys in the works for years but canceled it. This allowed Marvel to swoop in and do a movie about a bunch of second-rate New Gods called "the Eternals" first (New Gods creator Jack Kirby started the Eternals comic when he jumped ship from DC to Marvel).
So many popular MCU characters used DC ideas as their starting point. The original Guardians of the Galaxy (1969) were a group of aliens from different planets living in the 31st century, which sure sounds a lot like DC's Legion of Super-Heroes (1958). Marvel's first Captain Marvel was created specifically to secure the trademark from the DC-owned character of the same name (now called "Shazam") -- hell, they even copied the "child turns into adult hero" gimmick for a while.
The most shameless example is Deadpool, who started as a very poorly disguised copy of DC's Deathstroke: one is Wade Wilson, a soldier who undergoes medical experiments that give him enhanced reflexes and super strength and becomes an assassin for hire who wears a full face mask and uses big guns and swords, and the other is Slade Wilson, a soldier who undergoes medical experiments that give him enhanced reflexes and super strength and becomes an assassin for hire who wears a full face mask and uses big guns and swords. The main difference is that Deadpool is more prone to making dick jokes and knows he's a fictional character, but even that was done by DC first: there's the also ultra-violent Lobo, who routinely broke the fourth wall to abuse readers ...
... and an even earlier character called Ambush Bug, who was satirizing comic book tropes and trolling DC heroes as early as 1982. Deadpool gets a $110 million dollar movie budget while Lobo gets a canceled Guy Ritchie film, and Ambush Bug gets, uh, this 14-second video from a long-abandoned YouTube channel.
What's more, any MCU fan picking up Avengers-related comics from the '80s or '90s or earlier would be shocked by how serious everyone was -- other than Spider-Man, Marvel's biggest heroes tended to be a pretty stern bunch. Iron Man wasn't the witty guy from the movies; he was a dad in a robot armor. The humor-heavy tone in most Marvel movies has more in common with DC's Justice League International comics (1987-1992), where they could devote a whole issue to one hero convincing another to go on a date and taking her to a porno theater. DC fans have been saying that JLI would be the perfect material for a live-action adaptation for decades, but the closest thing we got was a horrible low-budget TV movie that looked like Melrose Place meets Power Rangers.
The MCU's big thing right now is the multiverse, but even that is capitalizing on DC's past work. In the comics, Marvel has traditionally stuck to one universe while DC went crazy experimenting with literally infinite parallel Earths and variants for all major characters. Almost exactly 60 years before Spider-Man: No Way Home, DC had two separate incarnations of the same character cross universes and meet each other in 1959's groundbreaking "Flash of Two Worlds!" story -- DC actually pioneered the concept of the multiverse in popular fiction, and now Marvel is cashing in on their legwork.
What's funny is that, whenever DC's movies try to crib from Marvel in the same way, it blows up in their faces. The 2011 Green Lantern movie had "MCU" written all over it, from the snappy dialogue to the post-credits scene to the scientist villain with the giant head (though, once again, DC's comic book version predates Marvel's).
The movie, which starred Ryan Reynolds and Taika Waititi, flopped -- only for Reynolds AND Waititi to hit it big with Marvel films years later. Even the basic concept of the film (Air Force pilot gains superpowers from aliens and becomes an intergalactic cop-type) ended up being used to great critical and commercial success with the MCU's Captain Marvel. We expect Marvel to do a hit movie based on the same plot as Superman IV: The Quest for Peace or Steel within the decade.
Even if DC gets it shit together and starts making decent movies on a consistent basis, it might be too late: Hawkeye is more iconic than Green Arrow. Ant-Man can be recognized by millions more people than The Atom. Most devastatingly for DC, Chris Evans' Captain America already has the pop-culture role of heroic morality that Superman should have occupied. But hey, at least DC fans can rest easy knowing that none of this inter-company rivalry will matter when everything is owned by Disney!
Top image: Warner Bros. Pictures, Marvel Studios