DJ Matticus offered up an intriguing question for his Official Matticus Kingdom Tug-of-War debate: Which universe of superheroes (and villains) is superior: Marvel or DC?
When I first read the prompt, I assumed that my answer would be Marvel, since I’ve always been a fan of their comics.
My earliest exposure to superheroes was watching Spider-Man on the television show “The Electric Company.” He soon became my favorite superhero, and I soon acquired a hearty collection of Spidey merchandise. I had Spider-Man action figures, Spider-Man T-shirts, a Spider-Man Big Wheel, and even Spider-Man Underoos!
It shouldn’t be a surprise that one of my favorite cartoons as a child was Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends. This show often featured guest stars such as the Hulk, Captain America, and the X-Men. As a result, I became familiar with other characters from the Marvel Universe as well.
On the other hand, DC’s characters held little interest for me. Aquaman? Even as a child, I knew he was kind of a joke. The Flash? All he could do is run fast. As for Superman, aside from his bus-throwing battle in Superman II, I was never that enthralled. The only DC character who I ever paid any attention to was Batman, and that was mostly because I enjoyed his movies.
Before I could simply cast my ballot in favor of Marvel, I realized that it wouldn’t be fair to base my decision on my childhood television watching habits. I needed to take an adult approach and look at the debate logically. In my opinion, there’s only one way to properly do that: A Dr. Jack-style breakdown!
Let’s get started!
Marvel heroes such as Spider-Man and the X-Men have gained a lot of notoriety in recent years thanks to their movies, but their fame still pales in comparison to the heroes of the DC universe. Spidey may have a large, devoted following, but Superman and Batman are worldwide icons. Is there a human being on the planet who could look at the trademark “S” symbol (Even though the Man of Steel movie would have you believe that it wasn’t actually an S), and not know what it represents?
While iconic status is nice, it doesn’t always result in better comic stories. For instance, Superman’s immense power sometimes makes it difficult for writers to come up with interesting stories. Is it all that exciting when the hero of the story is such an overwhelming favorite? It’s kind of like saying that your favorite sports teams are the Yankees, Lakers, and Cowboys. (For this example, we’ll assume that Superman has spent the past twenty years being thoroughly mediocre.)
Maybe I only feel this way because I’m more familiar with them, but it feels like Marvel has produced more memorable storylines over the years. One of the reasons Marvel’s movies have been so good is because they’ve been based on classic comics from the past.
There’s a cliché that says a hero is only as interesting as his villain, and both companies certainly have their share of memorable villains.
One oddity that I’ve noticed: It seems that most Marvel villains focus on just one particular hero. For instance, it’s rare that you’ll see one of Spider-Man’s enemies go after Iron Man. (Although back in the 80’s, they actually had a story where the villains teamed up and swapped enemies.) DC’s villains may be mostly associated with a particular hero, but it isn’t unheard of for there to be some crossover.
I’ve got to say that Marvel’s most prominent villains are just a little more threatening than DC’s. While a psychotic clown is indeed frightening, I’d still take my chances with him rather than a Norse god of mischief. Sure, Lex Luthor may be smart, rich, and ruthless, but Marvel’s got a guy who can control metal and has no qualms about wiping out the human race.
Just about every year, both companies will produce a major event that involves almost every character in their universe. The event will often have repercussions in storylines going forward, and in some cases, they’ll even cause a “reboot” of the entire universe.
Back in the 1980’s, DC realized that it was confusing having so many alternate versions of the same characters running around, so they had an event called Crisis on Infinite Earths where they merged all of their multiple universes together. Since then, they’ve done a few more reboots, partially because they want to find a way to deal with the fact that their characters don’t age in real-time. Marvel has handled this problem by just kind of ignoring it and hoping that nobody asks too many questions.
While some people don’t like the way DC’s reboots screw with continuity and bring about what they consider to be unfavorable changes in the characters, it does cause their crossover events to gain an added sense of importance.
Until the year 1999, DC really produced the only comic book movies of note. They had given us classic films such as Superman and Batman, while the only movies with Marvel characters were barely seen by anyone. (And if you’ve ever watched the old Captain America movie, you’ll know that’s a good thing.)
Since then, Marvel has blown away DC. We’ve gotten awesome films like Spider-Man, Blade II, X2, and the Avengers. While there have been some misses mixed in, I’d say the hits far overshadow them.
As far as DC is concerned, aside from the amazing Dark Knight trilogy, there hasn’t been much to speak of. There was a bad Green Lantern movie, the mediocre Man of Steel, and that’s about it.
Our final tally is 3-2 in favor of…Marvel! It looks like my childhood self was correct, and Marvel is indeed the superior comic universe.
What do you think? Do you agree that Marvel is marvelous, or does DC reign supreme?
If you’re curious to see how others have sided in this battle, head on over to the Matticus Kingdom to check the results.