It's been a long holiday over here in China, and after working on personal projects, I've been mainlining movies.
Last night I watched Captain America (#1). Today I watched The Avengers. Right now I'm in the middle of Man of Steel.
Watching them back-to-back, the difference (and why Marvel is so much better) is blatantly obvious: Marvel is about the characters, DC is about the epic story. The problem is: Epic is nothing without empathy.
Captain America goes to great lengths to show us that Steve Rogers is "Joe Average". He's a pipsqueak. He's the least of us becoming the best of us. That's a tale of hope.
On the other hand, Man of Steel goes out of it's way to tell us that Clark Kent is not one of us. We can never aspire to be Superman because he's alien—he's separate from us, above us.
Marvel has Thor—a god! But... that god is humbled. He is sent down to Earth to learn humility—to understand that even the lowest person can stand up and face unbeatable odds. Man of Steel says... "Stand aside puny mortals, this is a job for Superman!"
It comes down to empathy. The audience can see themselves as every member of the Avengers (even Thor, who resonates with father issues). Nobody can see themselves as Superman.
I think Man of Steel did a very good job, given what they had to work with. But the constraints of the character are just too much.
The same goes for Batman. Whereas a rich playboy Stark is easy to identify with (and want to be), a rich Wayne—steeped in personal tragedy and fallen into the dark and brooding—is as alien as the man from Krypton.