“Marvel vs DC” is an easy narrative that’s picked up both fans and critics. Goodness knows there’s been plenty of opportunity to have that discussion, either in comic shops or theater lobbies, where films based on comic book characters are squaring off against each other.
Today I’m going to focus on something that hasn’t been endlessly debated already but which came into focus in the last month. Namely, the massively different approaches taken on the posters for the two most recent comic book movies, Wonder Woman and Spider-Man: Homecoming.
If you look at the posters for Wonder Woman, many of which were created by either Concept Arts or BOND, you’ll see a sleek, simplified approach. Each poster went for one specific message while also carrying over some brand consistency. So a series of posters emphasized character traits like “Courage” and “Power” while others conveyed those characteristics simply by posing star Gal Gadot in various ways. They all tied together through the use of red, orange and blue, using visuals that reflected the light, clearly telling the audience the movie would have a brighter tone than previous DCU films. Each one was striking for its minimalism, something that may have been equal parts intentional and simply the result of not having a whole cast of heroes that needed to share the spotlight.
Contrast that with the overly-busy posters for Spider-Man: Homecoming. The designers here seem to have been given the direction to leave nothing off. Every poster, even the early ones, make it clear that Spider-Man is now part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That’s done either (relatively) subtly by just putting Avengers Tower in the background of the New York City skyline or overtly by including Iron Man and/or Tony Stark. And it’s not just that the character shows up here and there. Just like with the trailers, Stark/Iron Man is everywhere. By my count, there were eight domestic U.S. posters and six of them feature either Iron Man or Avengers Tower. All sense of understated design thinking is discarded on a couple of the posters that seem to have been created by someone pasting photos from Google Image searches together. It’s a very colorful campaign, but it’s also as subtle as an elephant with a sinus infection.
I’m not going to expect the less artistically-minded approach taken in Spider-Man’s campaign to impact its box office at all. But it’s notable how this is being sold as a movie that literally has *everything* the audience might be looking for, as compared to Wonder Woman’s posters that sold an image of a strong, confident solo woman superhero who stood out on her own. That shows a completely different mindset on the part of the studio, one that’s more committed to selling an attitude and style versus one that just needs to make sure it hits all its contractually-obligated beats.
I know which one I prefer.