Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the TV spin-off to Marvel’s The Avengers, recently debuted to fantastic ratings. That very day, DC Comics announced its own spin-off from their own iconic Dark Knight series titled Gotham. And, like everything else Marvel and DC, we must compare just how the two stack up face-to-face.
S.H.I.E.L.D. revolves around a group of the titular agency's members, with Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) in command. Due to the mysterious nature of the organization — fueled by Marvel's unwillingness to discuss them in detail on film — little is known of either Coulson or his employer. Because of this, the character has quite a bit of room to develop. His convenient onscreen death and his shady return both make for some compelling mystery. And who knows? Maybe we’ll even see a big role for that concert cellist Robert Downey Jr. — er, Iron Man — mentioned.
As for Gotham, the series will be an origin story, focusing on the film’s Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) back when he was a young detective and the city did not yet know Batman. Here, the character is less mysterious — a family man trying to keep his city safe — but Gotham is home to some of history's greatest fictional villains. If done correctly, there is still room for a great psychological drama.
S.H.I.E.L.D. is a product of Marvel's parent Disney, and airs on its own home channel, ABC. Because of that in-house advantage, promotional opportunities will certainly be easier to nab. Plus, the series is created and executive-produced by the critically praised and increasingly lucrative Joss Whedon. With such a powerhouse studio and a well-reputed name, there is little to dislike here behind the scenes.
Gotham, although a DC Comics product bearing the Warner Bros. TV label, will instead air on Fox instead of the company’s own CW (home of the studio’s previous hit Smallville and the upcoming Flash). Bruno Heller (The Mentalist) is tied to the series, so it also has a successful name attached, but if DC was really competing with Whedon, where is Christopher Nolan?
Marvel and DC Comics are both huge brands, with literally thousands of characters and stories, so it's useless to even attempt to make any vast generalizations; each has dozens of genres so a question like "which is better" is not something any fan of comics can easily answer.
However, S.H.I.E.L.D. has connections to virtually everything in the Marvel universe, which is why the creators have a fairly wide canvas to work on. Gotham, on the other hand, is a series about a very isolated city that according to some fans doesn't always work with other members of the DC universe. For that reason, S.H.I.E.L.D. may involve many of Marvel's iconic stories while Gotham will likely remain focused on the villains from its own city.
While it's tough to so neatly categorize any work, S.H.I.E.L.D. is likely closest to being a science fiction adventure while Gotham will either be a crime drama or a procedural. And even though the dark, gritty crime shows are always around nowadays, sci-fi has a tendency to flop. Be it cancelled shows such as Eureka or the "always-on-the-brink" cult hits like Fringe or Whedon’s own beloved Firefly, sci-fi simply has a tougher time recuperating its considerable costs.
Of course, so far S.H.I.E.L.D. has done nothing to amaze visually, so maybe that's where they are cutting costs! And it just wouldn't be a Joss Whedon show if it went on too long anyway.
Disney has already established a strong connection with its film universe by using the one character consistent across their film universe as the protagonist. However, the Nolan trilogy with Batman is finished, and any upcoming Batfleck appearance is not related to that, in either continuity or tone. Therefore, the Gordon in Gotham will not only be younger. If DC plans to use him in the films, he likely won't even be similar to the Gordon we have come to know. Of course, Marvel is prepping Avengers 2 and DC has yet to get one Justice League movie even close to being established, so maybe they will more aggressively attempt to emulate their opponent's strategy of "building a world."
Who do you think will ultimately come out on top? Will another Whedon show get cancelled after a few very well praised episodes? Is it insane to compare a show that has debuted, versus one that has not even announced a lead yet? Sound off!