Major Differences Among the Big Two Publishers
For good or bad, Marvel and DC comics dominate the industry. Their decades-long rivalry has pushed them both to produce quality material. We, the readers, are the biggest beneficiaries.
And yet, we fans cannot help but choose sides.
Whether is an affinity to a particular hero or franchise. Or whether is a personal bias, we tend to gravitate towards one over the other.
As a long-time comic book fan, I am no different.
Granted, despite their many similarities at a glance, they also have some differences. Here are a few ones:
- Marvel has real locations (mostly New York City) and DC has made-up locations (Metropolis, Gotham, Central City, Coast City, Star City, Fawcett City, etc.)
- DC heroes have true secret identities. Most Marvel heroes do not with a few exceptions (Spider-Man and Daredevil). Marvel heroes are superheroes all the time.
- DC heroes are “god-like“, and not just in terms of power levels. Marvel heroes are more grounded and down-to-earth.
- Unlike DC heroes, Marvel heroes tend to have flaws and real-life problems. At least, that is the perception.
- Finally, DC heroes are generally liked and celebrated by the population (the Flash even has a museum in his hometown). Marvel heroes are in general mistrusted and dislike by the population they are trying to save.
Again, all of the above are oversimplifications. Nonetheless, they give us a general idea of what their respective universes are about.
For simplicity’s sake, Marvel is more like our world and more grounded (as grounded as gamma rays green monsters and Asgardian gods can be) than DC who seems more fable-like and fantastical.
And yet, I prefer DC by a large margin.
A Few Considerations
First, I want to argue, what makes a hero? We previously asked that question when we debated heroic fantasy.
Back then, I wrote “a hero is someone who is idealized and admired by his nobles qualities and outstanding achievements. They are brave, fearless, selfless, caring, and confident.”
Moreover, they are willing to do the right thing, even if it cost them their personal lives.
Yes, we read comic books to escape reality, not for moral lessons. However, comic books are inherently moral in nature (good guys versus bad guys).
They need to hold up to the hero ideal. The heroic archetype is not a modern invention. The ancients had Hercules, Jason, Theseus, Gilgamesh, Sansom, Beowulf, Hektor, and Arjuna, just to name a few.
Consequently, the heroic myth did not end with the ancients. Comic books are our modern myths. Myths like Superman, Spider-Man, Hulk, Wonder Woman, Batman, Captain Marvel, and the Fantastic Four, just to name a few.
Therefore, the larger debate is not which one is better, DC or Marvel. It is a matter of taste. Except it is not. It really is a matter of which company’s heroic ideal appeals to you.
Do you want your heroes realistic, approachable, and relatable? Or do you prefer your heroes as ‘goody two shoes’, larger than life and a paradigm of virtuosity?
Depending on your hero ideal it will be the company you would gravitate towards.
The Case for DC Comics
If your idea of a superhero is the boy or girl next door, with real-life problems, and even a few psychological issues, you are probably a Marvel fan. Nothing wrong with that.
If the hero does not need to wear a mask or a costume and lives in a real city, Marvel is for you.
Conversely, if your idea of a superhero is someone who lives a double life, with a secret identity he or she guards like a treasure, wears a colorful costume (cape optional), always does what is right without struggling with morality, and never kills unless inevitable, you are a DC fan.
If your hero lives in a fictional city and the bad guys are really bad guys without a shade of gray, DC is your company.
Remember, by definition, a hero is courageous, humble, selfless, caring, and a role model. We want to be like them. They also persevere against all odds.
Granted, Marvel heroes are underdogs compare to DC’s icons. They also have a different morality.
Some Marvel heroes are willing to kill. Some fans find them cooler. Compared to DC’s World War II-era type of morality seems like something out of a bygone era, which it probably is.
And yet, I still prefer DC. I want my heroes to be heroic no matter what. Being a hero means sacrifice and doing what is right always. Even if holding the higher moral ground is difficult.
For example, it would be so much easier for Batman to wield a gun rather than a Batarang and kill the Joker. But he does not. That is not what he is about. He is about justice, not vengeance.
Also, DC heroes are much vibrant and idealistic. Actually, they are more optimistic. Then again, when people love and admire you, it is easier to smile and be cheerful.
Granted, not everything DC does is awesome. They make plenty of blunders, like:
- putting Superman in an armor (incredibly stupid);
- switching Cyborg for Martian Manhunter as a founding Justice League member (Victor truly belongs with the Teen Titans);
- Wonder Woman 1990’s slutty costume (unnecessary);
- and don’t get me started on the recent Batman and Catwoman wedding fiasco.
Then again, DC created the greatest superhero team/space opera series ever: The Legion of Superheroes.
In conclusion, I prefer DC’s notion of heroism to Marvel’s. Let the heroes be super. Don’t lose the “wow” factor by making them too ordinary.
Are you DC or a Marvel fan? Who do you prefer and why? Please share.