2022 was another milestone year for the comic book powerhouses Marvel Studios and DC Films. Iconic IP like Batman was revitalized and streaming evolved to a new level, with a record-high 6 MCU Disney+ projects premiering on the streamer.
In the true spirit of yin and yang, for all of the peaks climbed by both franchises this year, there are also a few valleys. Marvel is working to continue the longest running movie-franchise dynasty of all time while navigating the studio rights of their most iconic player. Meanwhile, DC is making significant moves toward its future while also navigating its tumultuous past.
There is not a "war" between the red and blue brands, but the friendly competition between the two is essential to the growth of the comic book movie/TV genres. Here is a look at the biggest wins and losses for both Marvel and DC in 2022.
Marvel Win: Bob Iger Is Back!
This is a win for the entire Disney corporation with the former CEO of Disney returning to his role two years after his retirement. Bob Iger replaces his replacement Bob Chapek after the new regime left much to be desired across the company.
For Marvel, this is a big deal, as the Marvel Cinematic Universe is expected to return to the formula of The Infinity Saga. This does not mean Marvel Studios will be going away from Disney+ streaming series or special presentations, but more so reestablishing the ideology of quality over quantity.
More than anything this is a sign that Iger and Disney are going to do what brought them to the dance in the first place and let Kevin Feige cook. After the rebuilding season that was Phase 4, and a new crop of fresh faces in the universe, look for Iger and Feige to return to their roots.
DC Win: James Gunn and Peter Safran
After nearly a decade of unfortunate circumstances, poor planning, and catering to multiple polarizing audiences, the DCEU is getting a full makeover. Leading the way will be Warner Brothers veteran Peter Safran, and Marvel legend turned DC superstar James Gunn.
Despite a loud minority of fans blindly assuming James Gunn is going to fail, everything he has shown in the past points towards major success for the future of DC. Gunn has made it known that his goal is to rebuild the DC Universe on film and TV, capturing the magic that made this brand as iconic as it is.
The biggest win at the moment is the incredible transparency from Gunn. One of the most glaring issues of the former regime of the DCEU is a combination of shady announcements and vague hope given to characters and actors. No more.
Marvel Win: Ms. Marvel
While Iman Vellani is widely beloved in the fan-favorite role of Kamala Khan, the biggest win coming from this Disney+ series comes in the final moments. Ms. Marvel is a mutant in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Reports say that Kamala Khan would have originally been a mutant in the comics if it wasn't for the FOX/X-Men movie rights situation. Changing her from an Inhuman to a mutant could be considered an appropriate correction of history.
It also adds value to the rumored report that Disney is unable to recast X-Men characters used in FOX-Men properties until after 2026. Introducing mutants in the MCU through non-X-Men characters like Ms. Marvel and Namor is a great workaround.
DC Win: The Batman
Batman is undoubtedly the most important character in the DC Universe when it comes to the big screen. Despite some initial public pushback, Robert Pattinson has proven he is worthy of the cape and cowl for the future of DC Films.
Successfully introducing a new Batman is already a major win, but what Matt Reeves was able to do in The Batman is set the foundation for a new Gotham universe. To add excitement to that, it seems James Gunn is going to let Reeves do his thing with this version of the Caped Crusader and Gotham.
This also is a great way to buy time with fans, as James Gunn takes his time to reintroduce more iconic DC characters in his DC Universe.
Marvel Win: Werewolf By Night/Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special
The rich get richer, as Marvel Studios introduces a brand new way to tell one of the most elaborate cinematic stories ever told. Special Presentations Werewolf By Night and The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special are massive hits and a great sign of things to come with this new medium.
The biggest win for 2022 is that Werewolf and Guardians Holiday Special are two completely different types of specials. One introduces a brand new character and corner of the MCU, while the other fills in a gap between projects for one of the MCU's most established IPs. The sky is the limit for how Marvel Studios can use these projects to enhance their universe.
DC Win: Peacemaker
DC projects on television have been a wild ride over the last decade. the CW era seems to be coming to a close, but the streaming wars are hotter than ever across every studio in Hollywood. Peacemaker is the first live-action attempt for DC on HBO Max, and it was a home run.
Much like Marvel Studios, streaming series are a universe-building tool that allows for more characters to tell different kinds of stories. Peacemaker was the perfect example of a character that might not warrant a feature-length film, but perfectly slots into a series following up The Suicide Squad.
Marvel Loss: Multiverse of Madness/Love & Thunder
Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness and Thor: Love & Thunder are not financial losses for Marvel Studios. Their critical success varies all the way from Top-10 and Bottom-10 in the MCU. The loss of these movies is the spotlight put on the visual effects controversy with Marvel Studios in 2022.
Back-to-back VFX-heavy projects (following Spider-Man: No Way Home) allowed visual artists to speak up on the overworked conditions of VFX studios working with Marvel Studios. The issue starts at the beginning of the design process and planning their visual needs ahead of time. This a foundational correction Kevin Feige and co. have promised to correct in the future.
DC Loss: Black Adam
The hierarchy of power in the DCEU remained the same after the release of Dwayne Johnson's long-awaited and promised game-changer, Black Adam. The movie was okay by all metrics, but the issue comes with The Rock's promise to change the DCEU forever, rebuild a new franchise, and be the face of it all. Fans were disappointed when the movie leaned on every aspect of the FORMER DCEU, except for the movie which it's a pseudo-sequel to, Shazam!
The cherry on top is of course the cameo post-credit appearance of Henry Cavill as Superman. Reports say that Dwayne Johnson strong-armed his way into Cavill being a part of this movie. That is supported by Johnson's marketing strategy weeks leading up to the film all but spoiling Cavill's appearance (likely in an effort to draw more interest).
The irony is palpable as it seems like The Rock viewed Henry Cavill as the key to making this movie a success. What he did not realize was that the DCEU's core foundation was broken, and the more Black Adam leaned on the past the more it buried the chances of a future for those characters. What many believed was the resurgence of Cavill's Superman actually ended up being the final nail in the coffin.
Marvel Loss: Morbius
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is in the middle of a rebuild. On the surface, it is a step down from the heights of Phase 3, but looking deeper it is positioning for something potentially bigger than Endgame ever was. All is fine on the MCU front for the most part... and then there is Sony.
Sony Pictures' most valuable asset is the film rights to Spider-Man. While they have worked to help the MCU with Tom Holland's Spider-Man, they have gone rogue with the Sony Spider-Man Universe as well.
Venom was a cult success, Venom: Let There Be Carnage introduced the idea of the Sony Spider-Man Universe (SSMU) and MCU crossing over, and Morbius went all in on that idea, souring the taste of Spider-Man: No Way Home with a widely panned post-credit scene.
Arguably the biggest loss is the number of projects Sony is greenlighting in its Spider-Man Universe. Not only are those titles potentially taking pieces off the board for Marvel Studios, but they are taking actors away that many have fan cast in the MCU.
DC Loss: The Ezra Miller Saga
For nearly a decade Warner Bros. has been trying to get The Flash on the big screen with its once up-and-coming lead, Ezra Miller. To prove how important this movie is to the previous "plans" of the DCEU, virtually every DC character that has ever appeared in a movie was rumored to appear in The Flash.
Ezra Miller had one of the worst runs of PR after multiple reports of emotional abuse, assault, and harmful relationships. This put Miller on a complete public shut down and put a huge dent in this film's marketability. The movie that was supposed to be the "soft-reboot button" for the DCEU became one of the most toxic projects in Hollywood.
Marvel Loss: Marvel Fatigue
The reality of the situation is that when the Marvel Cinematic Universe began, the first six movies made up Phase One and were released over a four-year span. With the success of the MCU breeding the demand from audiences and studios, Phase 4 released 17 movies, series, shorts, and specials in two-years time.
Losing in 2020 forced a congested launch of the rebuilding Phase of the MCU. The new tool of Disney+ increased the volume of important MCU content by double. The MCU is bigger than ever and the gap between the worst and best projects is growing larger.
More niche and unique projects mean less blanket approval from audiences. The goal is to get back what Phase 3 brought with the floor being higher than it has ever been.
DC Loss: The Leftovers
With The Flash starting behind in the count and Black Adam failing to revitalize the former DCEU, James Gunn and Peter Safran are going to go hard reset and reboot the DCU. This means new stories are being told for some of DC's most famous characters like Superman and Wonder Woman.
Unfortunately, the DCEU has four movies yet to be released that are too late to be stopped now. Shazam! Fury of the Gods, The Flash, Blue Beetle, and Aquaman: The Lost Kingdom all are set to release in 2023 as extensions of a now-dead cinematic universe.
While fans of these characters will be the first in line for tickets, once the general public finds out that any and all of these characters are up for a reboot over the next five years, it will be tough to command interest.
Red, Blue, and 2022
Both Marvel and DC had major wins and losses in 2022. While DC's lows seem to dwarf the struggles for Marvel Studios, for the first time in a long time they have serious contenders for best comic book movie and live-action series of the year.
Both brands are entering new strides in 2023.
Look for Marvel Studios to capitalize on its new influx of characters as the Hollywood giant attempts to repeat the phase-over-phase success of The Infinity Saga.
Warner Bros. Discovery has to bite the bullet of the leftovers in 2023 but has the opportunity to campaign for James Gunn's new DCU and bring hype levels to a point they have never been before.
With DC seemingly heading in a direction to compete with Marvel for the first time in a long time, that means Marvel is forced to raise their game and bring their best stuff. It has never been a better time to be a fan of the fantastic.