With so many superheroes on TV, viewers can’t help but compare them. Both Marvel and DC have big, high-profile franchises currently dominating television. Marvel has connected all its series to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so they take place in the same world as the popular films. The CW countered with its Arrowverse quartet which started with Arrow and now includes The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl. Marvel then launched a more grounded group of heroes with its Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist foursome, which led to a team up on The Defenders. Since the same fans are most likely watching both franchises, they have been busy comparing every aspect of each show from fight scenes to comic book faithfulness. No area is off limits.
While the Marvel shows air on Netflix and don’t have the restrictions of a series on The CW, the Arrowverse has had more seasons and been around longer, so there are going to be some obvious points where they have the advantage over the Marvel Netflix series. One that stands out, is the maturity level of the characters and storylines of the Arrowverse. It’s time to examine the ways in which the Arrowverse is more mature than Marvel’s Netflix shows.
15 BEING A SUPERHERO HAS CONSEQUENCES
In the MCU world, until the Sokovia Accords came along there weren’t a lot of consequences for heroes. In the Netflix world, the cops don’t seem to care until someone tells them they have to. The Punisher was in jail for awhile, but got out just in time for his own show to premiere. On The Flash, Barry works with the police and tries to work by the same rules they have. On Arrow, the Hood/Arrow/Green Arrow has gone back and forth between friend and foe. Currently Oliver is under investigation by the FBI for being a vigilante.
So, to varying degrees, the Arrowverse has shown that there are rules and consequences to hero work.
On Netflix, they may occasionally get questioned, but nothing ever really happens. If Captain America is a war criminal in the movies, there should at least be some mention of what happens next.
14 WORLD BUILDING
For all Marvel’s talk about how their whole world is connected, it turns out, it’s not actually that connected. There are a few mentions of the Incident, which is the Battle of New York, but otherwise it doesn’t seem like these shows are really in the same universe.
Barry was introduced on Arrow, then he and Oliver worked together on each other’s shows, beginning the annual crossovers. Legends of Tomorrow features characters viewers first met on Arrow and The Flash, and Supergirl is now best friends with everyone, frequently visiting to offer help. It’s more than just the heroes, even the villains crossover and fight characters on all the shows. It’s not just characters and crossovers that connect the shared world, the franchise backs it up with easter eggs like name drops and newspaper headlines throughout the year.
13 LGBTQ CHARACTERS
The Marvel Netflix shows excel on several fronts. They have a diverse cast from all walks of life portraying characters from every background. They have a really great lineup of strong female characters and Daredevil gives people with disabilities a hero to relate to. However, the one area where it’s lacking is in its representation of LGBTQ characters. With New York as a setting, the shows need to do better by the community.
On the other hand, in the Arrowverse there are several gay and bisexual characters. Alex coming out to her friends and family, and finding love for the first time became a major storyline throughout season two. In Crisis on Earth-X, fans were pleasantly surprised with the reveal that Earth-X Leonard Snart is in a relationship with The Ray. There is really no reason for Marvel to not have more LGBTQ representation among its series.
12 CHARACTER GROWTH
As good as Daredevil, Luke Cage and Iron Fist are, they don’t have a lot of growth throughout their seasons. Other than a costume change, Matt Murdock is essentially the same guy from start to finish. Jessica Jones and Frank Castle do have remarkable character journeys, but they can’t hold up the entire franchise.
While Oliver can still be a jerk at times, he has softened over the years. Barry started out as a naive, overly optimistic kid, but has grown into a hardened, experienced crimefighter, though he still has a heart of gold. On Legends, Sara has evolved from an angry assassin into a decisive, tough leader. With the freedom that Netflix offers, the characters should be more developed and make more adult decisions.
11 REAL WORLD STORYLINES
One of the reasons fans love comic books so much, is that they use fantastic stories and characters to examine real world issues. Among the Netflix shows, Luke Cage did a great job of showcasing timely stories, while staying true to its comic book roots. Sadly, the other series didn’t do enough to tackle real life problems. It’s not that the Arrowverse has a great track record either, but by comparison it’s a little better.
In season two, Supergirl used attacks on aliens in National City to tell an immigration story.
The rhetoric that Lillian was using in her anti-alien speeches were very similar to what was being said on TV during election season. It was a smart way to sneak such a tough issue into living rooms without being overly preachy.
10 OLIVER’S MENTORING OF OTHER HEROES
Within The Defenders, Matt Murdock/Daredevil is by far the most experienced crimefighter. However, when the heroes meet up for the first time, he is very reluctant to work together, let alone take a leadership role. He eventually gets there, but his denials took something away from the character. Fans were also looking forward to Luke and Danny finally meeting up, but their relationship didn’t have the fun dynamic that audiences have enjoyed reading. These were missed opportunities for Marvel.
It’s not as though Oliver jumped at the chance to mentor Roy, but once he made that decision, he was all in. From there he has helped Barry, Thea, Sara, Laurel, Ray, Nate, and Team Arrow all find their way in the hero world. During crossovers he almost always takes the lead. It’s these character traits that make the Arrowverse heroes feel like a more grown up team.
In the comic book world, team ups give readers a chance to see their favorite heroes in new circumstances, which often lead to seeing new sides to their personalities. Since the moment Netflix announced its Marvel shows, fans were waiting for the inevitable team up on The Defenders. While it provided the requisite fight scenes, it didn’t offer much in the way of new character traits.
Due to the fact that it’s had a few years of crossovers under its belt, the Arrowverse has the teamwork part of the equation down. There’s a real adult quality to being able to know how to work with others. When to take charge and when to step back. Like in real life, these are elements that Marvel will improve with time.
8 LEARNING FROM MISTAKES
Any comic book fan will tell you that superheroes aren’t perfect. They make a lot of mistakes. Usually in the form of cities being destroyed and sidekicks getting killed. In the movies, we’ve seen that Tony Stark pretty much never learns from his mistakes. That’s one aspect of the MCU, that should’ve stayed on the big screen. On TV, Danny Rand is the biggest repeat offender in this category.
While Barry isn’t the best example for this, Oliver, Sara and Kara do try to learn from their mistakes. On Legends, Sara didn’t waste any time turning Rip in after he betrayed the Waverider crew to go after Mallus. She remembered the times he had done this in the past and was not about to let history repeat itself. Fans want to know that their heroes are smarter than them. No one is interested in a dumb superhero.
7 THEY HAVE FAMILIES
In a weird twist of the genre, most superheroes don’t have families. Either they’re orphans or have watched their love interest die right before their eyes. That thread continues on the Marvel shows, with Danny being a tortured orphan, Matt having watched his father die and Luke dealing with all kinds of family craziness.
While the characters of the Arrowverse have created new families on the various shows. It’s still obvious how important the connection is between Kara and Alex, Oliver and Thea, and Barry with Joe and Iris. When Kara has trouble separating her life from Supergirl’s, it’s Alex who talks her back into saving the world. It’s usually the same for Barry and Oliver. It may not seem important, but everyone needs unconditional support.
6 ACCEPTANCE OF HERO LIFE
Getting superpowers is obviously a traumatic experience. First you have to figure out if you even want powers. Then instantly have to decide whether to be good or evil. And just because you don’t become a supervillain, doesn’t mean you want to be a hero.
However, some of the heroes of Marvel’s Netflix shows have a real issue with being called a hero. Though understandable, it’s still disappointing to watch.
When Barry woke up with superspeed, he instantly knew he would be a hero. Yes, he had Oliver to advise him, but it’s this acceptance of who he’s meant to be that defines Barry’s character. Kara had to hide her powers to be a somewhat normal teenager, but when she got older she didn’t hesitate to become Supergirl. While Jessica and Luke know they have to take care of their city, it was a reluctant journey to get there.
5 SCIENCE SAVES THE DAY
While there will always be a need for someone to punch out the bad guy, it’s nice to see a universe where the geniuses in the lab are just as important as the guy flying through the air. Yes, Oliver has to shoot arrows and fight ninjas, but when it’s time to stop a bomb he needs Felicity to tell him how.
On The Flash, as smart as Barry is, he would never figure out how to take down the weekly rogues without Cisco, Wells and Caitlin explaining the science of how the bad guys’ powers work. Cisco designs all the suits and tech for Team Flash and Team Arrow, while Nate’s knowledge of history helps the Legends fix time. Basically, there would be no saving the world without the nerds on comms.
4 ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS
Romantic relationships are the real aspect of a hero’s life that makes all the hard work of saving the world worth it. The Marvel shows have a lot of sex, but not very many grown up, adult romances. We all know Luke and Jessica belong together, but right now they’re in the awkward post-hookup phase. And Matt and Karen can’t get past his nights as Daredevil in order to be together.
From day one, Barry and Iris have been the star-crossed lovers who were destined to be together. Oliver and Felicity have had a bumpy road, but viewers knew they would eventually find their way back to one another. It may not seem important, but seeing the leads in healthy, adult relationships adds a level of legitimacy to their lives.
3 JOE WEST
As Iris, Barry and Wally’s dad on The Flash, Jesse L. Martin’s Joe West adds a gravitas and class to every scene he’s in. Over the course of four seasons he has evolved into becoming the father figure for all of Team Flash. The way he keeps all the crazy science and hero antics grounded and human is no small feat.
His presence makes every moment he’s involved in feel like the most important part of every episode. Martin is able to be important to every scene without pulling focus away from the main stars. He’s essentially The Flash’s secret weapon. If life were really a comic book, every other superhero show would be trying to duplicate Joe West like they do with Iron Man suits.
It may seem strange to have comedy on a list about mature superhero TV shows, but it’s really about having a balanced life. Unless you are living in a warzone, no one’s life is so serious and dark all the time. Having a sense of humor while dealing with the chaos of life is part of being an adult. Though the Marvel shows include some jokes from time to time, they don’t feature much comedy.
One of the reasons fans come back to the Arrowverse is the comic relief in between all the fighting. Winn, Cisco, Wells, Nate and Curtis usually get all the funny lines and scenes that help balance out the emotional drama. Comedy is a big part of the MCU films and TV series, so maybe incorporate just a little more into the Netflix shows.
1 KEEPING IDENTITIES SECRET
There are a lot of jokes about how everyone knows Oliver is the Green Arrow, but until recently it was only his inner circle of teammates and friends who knew the truth. The same can be said of Barry and Kara, even though it’s ridiculous that no one recognizes Kara when she takes off her glasses. On Legends, they travel through time and erase memories, so it doesn’t come up a lot.
Perhaps it’s a Marvel vs DC thing, but in the MCU it’s no secret on who the heroes are and where to find them.
Everyone knows Luke Cage is the bulletproof hero of Harlem and that Jessica killed Kilgrave. There’s something to be said for life being a little easier when no one knows your name.