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Superpowered: The DC Story is a new series that explores the world of DC Comics and its superheroes. Celebrating over 85 years of superhero storytelling, this series will take you on a journey through the rich history of DC Comics, from their first appearances of superheroes in comic books to their popular adaptations in movies and TV series.

The 3-part documentary series, set to premiere on July 20th on Max, is full of modern-day interviews, as well as archival footage of people who are and were important to the DC Universe. From screenwriters and artists to directors and actors who explain why DC is so important to them and what it means to be a part of it.

The history of the DC Universe and its importance to people

The history of the DC Universe is a tale that’s being developed for decades. It consists of iconic characters, monumental events, and groundbreaking storytelling. From its humble beginnings to its current status as a cultural phenomenon, the DC Universe has shaped and influenced the world of comics, movies, TV, and video games. Superpowered: The DC Story focuses on similar things in each episode.

It begins with the history of Detective Comics (and its founder Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson) and Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster. (The original creators of the first widely hailed superhero and the “godfather” of them all: Superman.) This first episode focuses on the importance and history of comic books and superheroes.

We can hear commentary about different aspects of the DC timeline from writers like legendary Grant Morrison, Jim Lee, and even current CEO of DC James Gunn. If I were to count every person who was in episode 1 alone, it would be at least 20-30 people. And that’s really good because it gives you a full perspective on DC’s history. Not only by hearing good things about it, but also by seeing archival footage, the company’s successes and failures, and its importance to society.

Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster
Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the creators of Superman (image via The Log)

In the episodes that follow, we see one of the most important aspects of the DC universe, the so-called “Big Three.” It consists of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. These characters have become the cornerstone of DC Comics, representing various ideals and archetypes.

Superman, with his god-like powers and commitment to truth and justice, stands as the embodiment of hope and American values (but that’s not his motto anymore). Batman, the dark and brooding vigilante, showcases the human side of heroism, relying on his intellect, gadgets, skills, and determination to protect Gotham City. Wonder Woman, the Amazonian princess and warrior, embodies strength, compassion, and female empowerment.

The enduring popularity of the Big Three has allowed DC to tell diverse and fascinating stories for decades. Inspired by the success of its flagship characters, DC Comics has expanded its universe, introducing a pantheon of iconic heroes and villains. One of the characters that had a huge impact on the DC universe was the Flash. As the fastest man alive, The Flash introduced the concept of the Multiverse. A very complicated entity of alternate realities that opened infinite possibilities for storytelling. The Multiverse allowed DC to explore different versions of their characters, giving rise to iconic iterations like Jay Garrick, Barry Allen, and Wally West.

Superpowered rivalry between DC and Marvel

The rivalry between DC and Marvel has been a constant source of debate and excitement among fans. Historically, they were both the major players in the comic book market, but their approaches and styles have often differed. As both publishers tried to gain as much of readership and market dominance as possible, they competed to be the most creative company on the market. This rivalry pushed both companies to constantly innovate and raise the bar in terms of storytelling and art.

The competition between the two comic book giants has led to groundbreaking crossovers, such as the iconic Crisis on Infinite Earths (DC), Secret Wars (Marvel), or even Marvel vs DC. These collaborations have not only thrilled fans but have also showcased the rich history and mythology of both universes, showing the impact and importance of multiple characters in popular culture.

Marvel vs DC comic book cover
Marvel vs DC comic book cover (DC Comics/Marvel Comics)

In the modern era, the rivalry between DC and Marvel has taken on new dimensions with the exploration of superhero movies and TV productions. Both companies compete for audiences and box office success, continually releasing new adaptations and expanding their respective cinematic universes. It is important to note that many comic book fans (including people working in both companies) love and enjoy both DC and Marvel and appreciate the unique qualities of each other.

The rivalry has fueled a healthy competition that has brought about some of the greatest comic book stories and characters in history, enriching the industry as a whole.

Going live-action is what saved the DC universe

The decision to create films and series about DC superheroes was a very bold one in the 1940s. Kirk Alyn was the first live-action Superman and after his comicbook success, people started to love him. Then there was George Reeves part of whose history was told in the movie Hollywoodland. But the most iconic Superman even to this day is Christopher Reeve. His incarnation of Superman was very important, and it helped save DC comics.

The riskiest thing DC could have done was greenlight Tim Burton’s Batman film with Michael Keaton. They wanted to create a dark, serious film about Bruce Wayne, not Batman. People didn’t believe in the project because of Burton and Keaton’s image as people associated with strange or funny movies. But when the first picture of Batman was shown, fans started a hype train that was the biggest at the time.

In the future, the DC universe has also enjoyed tremendous success on television with the Arrowverse, a shared universe that includes series such as Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, etc. This interconnected universe allowed for crossover events, expanding the scope and impact of these characters beyond their individual series. There was something for every fan, and the combination of all the live-action projects (not only TV, but also movies) in Crisis on Infinite Earths, allowed fans to experience what DC’s past was like.

The other important part of DC in the 21st century is the Snyderverse, created by director Zack Snyder. He made a significant impact with films like Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Zack Snyder’s Justice League. These films divided audiences at times but showcased a distinct and visually striking vision for the DC Universe. Showing bold, dark, and very serious versions of superheroes was something that not many people expected and accepted. But even important people in DC admitted in the documentary that it was something unique and necessary.

Video games have also played a crucial role in the expansion of the DC Universe. The immersion between world in the game and the player deciding what to do allowed fans to experience what it’s like to be the hero or a villain.

DC Comics and its impact on society, fighting hate speech and other social & cultural issues

DC Comics has been known for being very innovative. They make significant political commentary through stories, for example, in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. But in the 20th century, they decided to do more to fight hate speech by creating heroes like Wonder Woman, Black Lightning, and Static Shock. These stories had a huge impact on society and helped the struggle for equal rights.

A notable aspect of DC Comics is the diversity of characters. DC has introduced superheroes from different backgrounds, ethnicities, and genders, contributing to representation and inclusion in the comics industry. Characters like Cyborg, Batwoman, Harley Quinn, Dreamer, Jon Kent, John Stewart, Jessica Cruz, and many more, have played important roles in showcasing diversity and challenging stereotypes.

In addition, characters such as Superman and Wonder Woman are often portrayed as defenders of truth, justice, and compassion. They stand against oppression, bigotry, and hatred, serving as symbols of hope and inspiration for readers. Superpowered: The DC Story perfectly illustrates what the DC Universe was, is, and probably will continue to be. Each episode shows exactly what projects like the first Superman or Batman comics, Watchmen, Sandman, Arrowverse, Snyderverse, and others meant to fans.

By sharing different opinions and experiences over the years with actors who played these characters 30-40 years ago, it tells us what it was like to be these characters at that time. And now comparing it with comments from actors who recently played some of those characters, the documentary gives you a new fresh perspective. A perspective that shows that DC designs and comics, etc., try to be suitable for everyone depending on the times in which DC creations are made. DC wants to be suitable for everyone, and as has been said repeatedly throughout these three episodes. There’s something for everyone at DC, whether you like villains, heroes, or anti-heroes.

As a big fan of DC, this documentary allows not only me but also casual viewers to learn more about the history of this iconic company in a wonderful way. It is important to learn more about DC, and how they’re working to be more accessible to all, and fighting for equal rights. This documentary shows that you don’t have to have powers to be a hero and act like one. Just do the right thing and for the right reasons.

My rating for this documentary:

★★★★½/ ♥♥♥♥½

Superpowered: The DC Story premieres on July 20th, 2023 on Max . This documentary includes interviews with people like James Gunn, Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman, Gal Gadot, Matt Reeves, Tim Burton, Greg Berlanti, and many many more. Are you hyped for it? Let us know on Twitter and our own Discord channel.

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Wiktor Reinfuss

Big fan of all sorts of pop culture stuff. I also enjoy ambitious cinema. Games, music and graphics are all within my interests. I have a great fondness for the Arrowverse series, especially The Flash.

Wiktor Reinfuss has 127 posts and counting. See all posts by Wiktor Reinfuss