DC and Marvel: What’s the Difference?

What is the difference?

I think, with Paul and Jim each producing a thoughtful piece regarding DC Comics, it’s got me thinking about what it is that makes people prefer one company over another. I’ve never been able to put my finger on what it is about DC that feels one way, and what it is about Marvel that feels another.

Also, I realize that there are other comics out there, being made by other companies, and if I had to choose to read only one superhero book right now, it would be Invincible, and that doesn’t come from either of the big two. But as far as history, legacy, and general fun-of-debate, it’s hard to beat the Marvel vs. DC pondering.

So what really is the difference? First off, it’s absurd to say that one is better than the other. That’s like saying cheese is better than fruit. It might be to you, but not to another. It’s also a given that some people have an allegiance or preference for one over the other. There’s nary a comic book reader out there, no matter how indie they’ve ended up that isn’t or didn’t at one time identify themselves as a DC or Marvel guy. I think we all have an innate preference, and most of the value judgments that come are based on that choice.

Is the choice between publishers ambiguous, or just based on which one you started with, or is there a real difference? Is it just because you like Dan DiDio better than Joe Quesada, or is it just gut instinct? Is there something in the DNA of the core characters that makes something feel like a DC property or a Marvel one?

One word that’s thrown around a lot is “legacy,” as in “DC comics are based on a strong sense of legacy,” and the idea of passing down the torch from father to son, or ward, or whatever. While I certainly think it’s obvious that many of the better DC Comics exploit their legacy, it’s not really consistent. So many superhero characters start from a point of loss, and in that way, Batman is no different than Spider-Man, who is no different than Superman. Go through either company’s roster of characters, and you’ll likely find an equal number of mantles being passed on, as time and sales dictate. I think legacy is something writers try to take advantage of, but really, it exists in both universes, and isn’t really enough to differentiate the publishers’ products when really looking at them on an individual level. I start to think that Marvel has more broken families and characters born from instability, but every time I think of a Marvel character with a crap childhood, I think of a DC character who’s just as bad. For every Frank Castle, there’s a Bruce Wayne. Interesting characters are often born of tragedy, and as such, neither universe is lacking in that department.

Then yesterday, I read Young Avengers Presents #6, about Hawkeye, and the whole damn thing is about legacy, and Clint Barton fostering the next generation of youngsters, and I’ll be damned if Matt Fraction didn’t bring the DC special sauce over to Marvel. And wouldn’t you know? It fit like a glove. It didn’t feel like I was reading a DC book. It felt right. It felt totally normal. So it’s not legacy. Captain America and Bucky anyone?

Is Marvel Comics more realistic than DC? I might think so at first impulse, but then I remember Identity Crisis, and I think not. I’d like to table the idea that one is more ridiculous in continuity than the other. That conversation has been beaten like a Colombian who scores an own goal in the World Cup. They’re both completely absurd. I was just reading Infinite Crisis, and Geoff Johns summed up Crisis on Infinite Earths in about a page, and it was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. It was the first time I’d ever had it explained to me so well, and I was shocked at how really not confusing it actually was. Marvel has so many all powerful beings and devices, that between the Scarlet Witch and the Cosmic Cube, it’s a wonder there’s any continuity at all.

Speaking of Infinite Crisis, it turns out I very much enjoyed reading it. I was indeed quite surprised by this turn of events. Conor had said it was actually pretty good, following a re-read for him in the wake of the Crisis show we did, so I thought I’d give it a try. While it was just as big in scope as 1986’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, I wasn’t really all that lost, and when I was, I didn’t care. Now, I have the benefit of reading that which came after Infinite Crisis, which helped me put a good deal of it into context. Also, I read it in one shot, which I think, for me, was a better choice, because I might have gotten bored with it, in a monthly format. But the fact remains that I really enjoyed it. I liked the universe-spanning adventure. I wasn’t at all confused about the multiple earths, and context pretty much helped me keep things straight.

I don’t really think the multiple earths are that confusing. Marvel has multiple dimensions, but they just don’t bring them up as often. DC relies on them more for storytelling purposes, and I guess that might be something people either like or don’t. I think I like it every once in a while, when it’s done clearly. But even though there are apparently 52 universes, there are only a few that actually come up that often. Earth 1, 2, 3, and Prime. That’s about it. There are some others, but that’s about the size of things. Earth 1 is the main DC Universe, DC 616, if you will. Earth 2 is when the old timers are from. Superman has grey temples. Earth 3 is reverse, where the good guys are bad, and the bad guys are good. That’s about it. It can get confusing when you start trying to figure out which characters are from when, but 98% of the time, we’re only dealing with Earth 1 characters, unless it’s a multiverse based story, like Countdown.

I have to bring up the “Johns” factor. Geoff Johns’ metahuman ability is to distill these concepts down into something we can all get behind, no matter how jaded a reader we’ve become. Johns’ work isn’t flashy. It isn’t striking, and very often, you don’t really see how good it is until after the fact. He fools you into thinking he’s a bit plain. But he grabs these themes, and finds the essence, and importance of a character, and makes you understand. It’s uncanny how often he does this, and how good he is at it. Infinite Crisis is a perfect example. If you don’t understand why Nightwing is important after reading that book, you’re not going to appreciate him at all. But Johns throws it right out there on the paper, and it’s just this side of obvious, with just enough subtlety. It’s actually quite elegant, and he does the same thing in Green Lantern and JSA every month, as well as his other titles.

This brings us to the difference between DC and Marvel that is, to me, most apparent. Marvel’s got more writing talent at the moment. It’s as simple as that. Over at Marvel, the big guys moving the pieces around are Brian Bendis, Matt Fraction, Ed Brubaker, Mark Millar, Dan Slott, and many others, depending on your preferences. DC has Geoff Johns. Grant Morrison is over there doing work, but Johns is doing all the heavy lifting for the major characters, and where he’s not, the titles are floundering. Classic big writers like Mark Waid aren’t getting the job done on characters like The Flash, and Dwayne McDuffie, while doing respectable work, is not making Justice League the huge book it needs to be, even if he’s held by editorial constraint. Greg Rucka just left an exclusive DC contract. Chuck Dixon, the best guy to ever run the Bat family, just left. Sure there are other guys doing excellent work on boutique type books for both publishers, but the decks seem to be currently stacked in Marvel’s favor. I love Paul Dini’s work on Detective Comics, but that book has nothing to do with the DC Universe, except in its own pages. Marvel’s upcoming writers are just better than DC’s upcoming writers right now. They’re more exciting. Marvel has Jason Aaron as newly exclusive. Geoff Johns can’t pull all the weight over there, and Grant Morrison isn’t quite consistent enough to be the flagship writer. When he’s on, he’s the best, and that might be the case with Final Crisis. But out of those two guys, there’s no one I’m super excited about writing a big DC book. DC needs a Mark Guggenheim. They need an Abnett & Lanning. They need a Robert Kirkman. They need a Jonathan Hickman. They need a Jason Aaron. They don’t need to bring back Marv Wolfman, unless he’s going to blow us all away. This all makes sense, because when I look at Marvel, I see bigger sales numbers, which translates to more money, which means more incentives. Where would you go work? In a couple of years, things will shift around, and you’ll see talent migrate, and the tides will shift. Maybe that will put some spark into DC. Maybe they should give Adam Beechen some more work to start with, and try not going back to the well quite so often.

After really thinking hard about the two publishers, I just don’t think one is inherently better than the other, or that the stylistic differences are so great. For every character I like at Marvel, I can think of one at DC. But more often than not, I like the writers at Marvel better, and this is Joe Quesada’s strength to me. It’s what made Marvel Knights so good when I first learned his name, and it’s what makes Marvel seem to be more vibrant at the moment. There was a day, not so long ago, when a certain Greg Rucka, and a certain Ed Brubaker were kicking ass and taking names in the Bat department, and a young Geoff Johns was making his name on Flash, and a comic called Starman was making everyone sit up and take notice. Those days can certainly come again. In the meantime, we see that it can be done by Geoff Johns. If only there were more like him, and if so, hopefully Marvel doesn’t sign them to exclusives first. It might be that some of us picked a home team a long time ago, and most of us will probably stick to that. But it never does a reader any good to ignore good work being done anywhere, regardless of what team is putting it out.


  1. Very cogent and sensible.  How dare you bring that approach to a DC vs. Marvel debate???!!

    I like the ‘fruit is better than cheese’ comparison — it’s impossible to quantify personal taste and, as you point out, almost all of the generalizations that are used to compare the companies fail to hold through across the board.  I also found ‘Infinite Crisis’ very accessible, just like I read ‘Civil War’ tie-ins I found incomprehensible.  I’ve probably read at least as many DC books I loved as Marvel books, in the (relatively short) time I’ve been in comics.  I just tend to read backwards in DC continuity (lots of trades) and forward in Marvel.  Whether it’s because I prefer the Marvel writers, or just that Marvel has more current storylines that grab me, I’m not sure, but a good comic is a good comic and I’m always happy to read one.

    And speaking of, how awesome WAS that ‘Young Avengers’ issue?  I was actually thinking as I read it, ‘This is going to make Josh’s day.’ 



  2. I am a Marvel guy basicly due to the fact that every time I try to pick a DC book it is just not that good.  I heared Trinity was going to be contained in it self and thought it would be good to pick up but 4 issues in and I will be dropping it.  Right now I need more Andy Diggle work from DC I loved Green Arrow Year One.  The writers at Marvel just blow DC away that is true.

  3. Interesting topic.  Interesting thoughts.  I was talking to a good friend of mine about this topic a while back as he has always been more of a Marvel guy while I have leaned DC.  We found that it is really very hard to actually articulate 1) What the tangble differences are between the two companies and 2) Why we have always gravitated one way or the other.  Whatever was intuitively working on our childhood selves seems to still be working on our adult selves – while I buy some Marvel books and enjoy them quite a bit, there is something about the DC Universe that attracts me more on a gut level.  I have to agree with you that, at the moment, Marvel has more good writers than DC.  I think this is at least partially the reason for Marvel’s monthly sales dominance.  Yet I still lean DC.  What can I say?  I’m just a DC guy…

  4. I’ve been a Marvel zombie since I began reading comics and I still am.  As for why, I think it’s as simple as Marvel was the company I grew up reading.  It started with GI Joe, then grew to Spider-Man, the X-Men, and…Darkhawk….and I just kept branching out from there.  During those formative years, I tried to read DC books but they just felt…off.  The art didn’t look as crisp ,I didn’t know who any of these characters were and hell, the paper the books were printed on didn’t feel right either.  So maybe I’ve unfairly ignored DC, but I don’t feel like I’ve missed anything.  Sure, I take the occasional dip into the DC waters with Flash (until recently) and JSA, but that’s about all I need from the Distinguished Competition.  But that’s just one fan’s opinion.  So until the Kingpin goes on a diet, make mine Marvel. 

  5. Wow, I think we’re all making too much of this…I really fail to see any fundamental difference between DC and Marvel aside from our personal nostalgic feelings about them, which usually stem from whichever titles hit our respective weird spots as kids

  6. I consider myself more into DC’s characters, but I like Marvel’s creative stable more. And considering a good number of Marvel’s "big" names – Brubaker, Rucka, Millar, Aaron, Carey, Slott, Loeb – got their breaks with DC (or Wildstorm or Vertigo), I may not be alone. It seems like DC’s characters allow these creators to tell great stories that bring them to Marvel’s (and readers’) attention, thus resulting in ‘moving’ to Marvel. If Marvel’s stable was writing Superman, Flash, Batman, and the rest, I’d probably cry.

  7. Blimey, another day, another outstanding article on iFanboy. I almost haven’t got time to read comics anymore because of this.

    This really got me thinking. I am a DC guy, no doubt about it. But it was never a decision I actively made, it just kind of happened. The strange thing is I really like most of the Marvel characters, and yet I don’t actually buy a single Marvel book (something that only really struck me after reading this). How do I like them if I don’t read them? I guess it just comes from knowing of them, seeing the movies etc. But I still don’t know why I don’t buy them. I follow the discussions about Marvel books on this site, and sometimes get as amped about what’s happening in them as the people reading and writing about them (the podcasts especially). Yet I don’t pick them up. I honestly don’t get that.

    Without a doubt, Marvel has a bigger team of quality writers at the moment, but that still doesn’t seem to make a difference to me. I’m still more inclined to read a DC character written by someone I don’t know (or who is sometimes just plain bad) than to get the new Marvel issue by Brubaker, even if everyone’s raving about it. That’s just plain silly when you think about it.

    But the fact is, no matter how heavy big and impressive the team working on Marvel is, I’ll be more than happy to stick with what Morrison, Johns and Tomasi are doing at DC right now. I don’t understand it, I can’t explain it.

  8. I personally find DCs rampant dependence on legacy stories to be a big turn-off but I know many people who love it.  Marvel has elements of it but DC practically bathes in it. 

     People tend to gravitate toward one company or the other because of the nature of comic book storytelling.  With crossovers and shared universes, a person is more likely to buy multiple books from a single company.  Someone just getting into comics is more likely to jump from Spider-Man to Avengers to X-Men than to Superman or a random DC book.  You don’t see this kind of thing in television because tv shows rarely tie into each other and there isn’t this desire to consume all the programs of one network.

    Stan played up this rivalry to promote Marvel as the hip new upstart company and in the era of the messageboard it’s grown even bigger.

  9. I think the basic difference many people see between DC and Marvel is that DC’s top characters are more godlike, while Marvel’s Characters seem more human. Sure, DC’s trinity have alter egos, but Superman is the most powerful being on earth, Wonder Woman is the most powerful woman, and Batman is arguably the best fighter without powers in the DCU. The legacy of these characters also extend further back than Marvel’s characters.

     Thing have changed, and more people are becoming aware of who the X-men are, who Spider-man is, and who Captain America is. I think for a long while, the American Icon in comics had been Superman, even though Cap has the flag as his uniform!

    Back to DC and Marvel.  While this is certainly not true, especially in this day, DC was more about these great men and women with extraordinary abilities helping the average citizen. Marvel, on the other hand, had people like you and I, with problems like we have,  who  have been given great power.

    The Fantastic Four is a family, and they were exploring space, not trying to save the world. The X-men are hereos, but they aren’t widely loved by humanity. Spider-man’s just a kid, and he has responsbility thrust on him. Not to say that DC doesn’t have emotional depth, but Marvel brought a different human angle to mainstream comics.


    Now,  DC and Marvel are as deep in terms of character development as they have ever been. Never have I cared more for DC characters as I do now. I’m a young buck talking though. I’m just a 20-something guy, so I could be wrong because I haven’t been reading DC for that long.

  10. Paul Montgomery Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Why is the Marvel logo so much bigger than the DC logo in this article?  Bah!


    Spot-on analysis, Josh.  A good story is a good story is a good story.  So I look at it from that level.  For me, Superman was the big target over at DC that people were really attacking, so I tried to approach that debate from the the realistic vs. unrealistic complaints.  And it’s just not there.  You can’t frame everything at Marvel or DC by the trappings with which we traditionally associate them.  The stereotypes fall down. 

    And all that leaves you with is, who’s telling the better stories.  Right now, yeah, Marvel probably has better teams.  But it almost balances for me because Goeff Johns is writing my favorite superhero books right now.  I don’t look at it by logo, but by title of book and author.  That’s all that matters, the content.  

    And, if you really want to be blindly faithful to one imprint, pick something like Dark Horse, which, for me, puts out the most consistently excellent books from week to week.  

  11. Marvel has more letters than DC.

  12. Paul Montgomery Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    But the size of the actual characters (letters) is a little bigger in the Marvel logo.  I guess DC being at the top of the article makes up for it. 

    Still, outrage!

  13. Maybe the logo size was determined by the market share.  If so, then brilliant!

  14. I find myself thinking back to the JLA/Avengers crossover. When the JLA were in the Marvel world they were all like "Ewwwww. This place is HIDEOUS! How do the heroes here let this place get like this."

    Can u imagine Batman, or even Supes reading the paper and seeing the Punisher’s body count? I think in a short time, it would be "Welcome to Arkham Mr. Castle. We offer the best in therapy and three square valiums a day." And you just KNOW that the biggest conglomerate corporation would be "LEX-STARK: Because we own everything"

    DC is just nicer. Its like Beaver Cleaver’s America in the 50’s. It’s Post Giuliani Times Square.  If u had to pick a place to raise your family, you would pick the DCU hands down.

    HOWEVER! Marvel isnt so nice a place. And for me, thats what makes it more interesting. The heroes are just as heroic, but they are more human. They make more mistakes. THey have more problems. I am not using that statement as an absolute, I am just saying in general. And because of that reason I prefer Marvel in genral. The story possibilities are more interesting to me. (That being said, if someone said I could only have one comic book for the rest of my life, it would be Batman. Hands down.) 

    I grew up in a crappy part of Brooklyn where I witnessed murders, robberies, etc. And the fact that Marvel (welll most of Marvel) takes place in New York, kind of sealed my choice when I was very young. I wanted and needed heroes back then when I was a little kid and I could read a comic book and see Spider-Man swinging from the Empire State Building, and then I could look across the river and ACTUALLY SEE the Empire Stat Building.

    Anyway. Thats my nickels worth. 

  15. THe DC letters have the little zoomy thing, which accounts for the smaller letters.  I wanted the "Marvel" to be monolithic as I recounted their ridiculous stable of writers.

  16. Oh please put an edit button on posts in the near future. I missed a couple of:

    These ->

  17. "little zoomy thing"? Awesome!

  18. I’m kind of a dilettante in this area, so by all means put me in my place about this, but the "legacy" thing isn’t actually true, is it?

    Here’s what I mean: they’re really good at ushering in the new Flash or Green Lantern or whoever… but not so good at retiring the old one. When I glance over, I don’t see a new Green Lantern; I see 14 Green Lanterns and half a dozen Flashes. Do I have that wrong?

    And once you start looking at the characters with recognition in the greater public consciousness… lots of Batman sidekicks growing up, but no Bruce Wayne retirement party in the foreseeable future. 

  19. @Jimski   Though the flipside of that is that we get to see different generations of Flashes and Green Lanterns and Batfamily hanging out together.  Whereas, there can only be one Cap until the old Cap is dead, and it would apparently give Marvel a coronary to have Jean and Rachel Grey in a comic at the same time — never mind that they’re mother and daughter and it actually would have made character sense for them to have a relationship.  And the whole relationship between the Teen Titans and their mentors epitomizes legacy; the X-books have played with this a little (outside of the Phoenix thing), but Young Avengers is the first book I can think of that explicitly brought that idea to the rest of the Marvel U. 

  20. Despite all the cool DC stuff (and basically having the only comic book movies worth mentioning) available, Marvel comics won me over fairly early in my life and it’s been that way ever since. Ultimately, I just like the Marvel Universe better. 

    That said, if someone knows of a DCU book set in Los Angeles, I will start picking it up.



  21. @Jimski – The Batman books going on right now is Batman RIP.  The bats is going to step down.  Now for how long… thats another story.

  22. I guess my response to that is "so what."  How long will it be until they "unretire" Steve Rogers?  How many times have they gone back and forth between Jean Grey and Rachel as Phoenix?  Spider Man has aged maybe 10 years at most in the last 40 and Reed and Sue haven’t aged at all despite their children going up and down the age-ladder numerous times. 

    One my favorite concepts in a book like JSA is that the older heroes and younger heroes get to work together.  There just something about seeing Jay and Wally racing off together side by side that I just love.   And the vast majority of the original Golden Age heroes have been dead for years.  One of the things I’m hoping for in the new multiverse is a chance for them to return.

  23. @ohcaroline – we are obviously on the same wavelength!

  24. Comic book aging makes no logical sense in any comic.  It’s a red herring any way you look at it, regardless of publisher.

    I think there’s something really cool about the multiple generations getting together.  I hate to harp on Starman, but Jack Knight with Wesley Dodds was badass.  Clint Barton with girl Hawkeye was also awesome.  Wolverine with young X-Men is the same thing.  One thing I think DC does better is the family thing.  There’s the Bat family, and the Green Arrow family, and the Flash family.  I love that stuff.

    Who cares if the old guy doesn’t retire? 

  25. @Josh

    The old guy not retiring is just a part of the big problem with continuing comic book series:  nobody ever grows old, nobody ever really dies, nobody ever really wins. 

  26. That’s only a problem if you think of it that way.  To me, that’s just what continuing superhero comics are.  It’s like Back to the Future.  Just go with it.

  27. All I mean is, "legacy" means something that is handed down from one person to another as opposed to a group that new generations and old generations belong to. This sounds more like a frat.

    Okay. Now I’m just being difficult for the sake of it. But I make my own fun. 

  28. It really does come down to the basics.  If the writing is good I pick up the book, regardless of it being a DC or Marvel book.  It just happens that in this moment in time Marvel has the better writers and because of this I consider myself a Marvel person right now.  I still prefer DC characters, but until DC gets its head out of its ass and starts retaining people like Chuck Dixon, Marvel will continue to get more of my money. 

  29. @Diabhol – DC’s Manhunter is set in Los Angeles.

  30. @njbaritone — Hee!  Yeah, the first DC book I ever read was Johns’ run on Teen Titans, and it was exactly that sense of continuity between generations that made me think, ‘Wow, here’s something I’m not getting from Marvel.’  Now I do think Brubaker and Fraction have started to bring that, and other writers have tried (the "New Mutants/Academy X" series that DeFillipis & Weir did, with the original New Mutants as teachers for a new generation). But it’s less of a systematic/institutional thing than it is in DC.  


  31. A fine article but too involved.  Capes … the difference is capes.

  32. Josh – Excellent article. iFanboy’s really bringing it with these articles. I think the new kids are making you guys work harder. 😉

    I really enjoy the points made here. A lot of the Dc/Marvel perception is based on stereotype. It reminds me of a sociology professor I had back in college who talked about what makes someone white or black or Asian or whatnot. If you take just the elements themselves — you can find plenty of counter examples. It’s only a preponderance of those elements that suggests to us that someone is of a certain ethnic group.

    The Marvel/DC debate is like that. Sure, if you look hard you can find legacy on both sides. Cosmic silliness on both sides. And a lot of it has been pushed by the publishers. Exploiting the differences between companies has worked for Marvel, so Quesada gets value from saying that "Marvel is the world right outside your window." Even though they have fake cities/ countries, too (Wakanda, etc.).

    I’ve been reading comics long enough to not really distinguish between the universes. Instead, I note differences in how the companies are behaving. I read DC almost exclusively throughout the 90’s. But it wasn’t because I thought the universe was inherently better. It was because I really enjoyed DC’s publishing plan. I liked the writers and the stories that DC had in the spotlight.

    Since about 2000, I’ve swung back around to Marvel. Marvel Knights, Jemas & Quesada… this revitalized Marvel. They started making their stories more independent. They were trying new things, getting the new writers whose indie works i was already reading (Bendis, Mack, McKeever, etc.). Meanwhile, DC was beginning to stumble. 

    But I still love the DC universe. And I’m still finding good books there.

    On a sidenote: I think Matt Fraction and Joe Casey did make one great point about the inherent differences between classic MArvel and DC characters in their old "Basement Tapes" column from Comic Book Resources. In it, they note that there IS a difference between Batman and Superman and Spider-man and the Hulk based on the time in which they were created. Batman and Superman were archetypal. They were iconic. Golden Age stories didn’t deal with difficulties keeping one’s secret identity or trying to hold down a job while being a hero. They were chiseled and square-jawed. 

    Lee and Kirby come along in the 60’s and they give us a different kind of hero. Peter Parker has trouble being a hero, balancing his heroism with a job, a girl, etc.  This is a different way of looking at the super-hero. I’m not saying it’s better or worse, but there is more modern humanity baked into the 60’s characters because of when they were created. I think this lends itself to that notion that Marvel characters are more relatable.

    That said, that does not mean that TODAY’s DC characters are similar to the original creations. Modern DC characters often follow much more of that 60’s Marvel mold, and writers have also spent a lot of time figuring out how to inject that same feeling into Batman and Superman.  So, while the roots may have been different, modern execution is something altogether different.




  33. Crap, didn’t mean to write a whole ‘nother article there… 😀

  34. @Josh

    I’m really trying to be less curmudgeonly.  Honest.  I’ve bought all the SI tie-ins in Mighty Avengers and New Avengers and have hardly complained at all!  I actually really enjoyed the Spider Woman and Hank Pym spotlight issues.

  35. @daccampo  Great point.  You summed up a lot of the things I was thinking while reading over the comments — most of what we talk about when we talk about the differences between the companies is based on their roots, or based on what might have been happening at a specific time when a reader was introduced to the universes.  But it doesn’t necessarily apply today, and with a lot of the same writers and artists going back and forth between companies, and ideas crosspollinating each other, it’s hard to point to any intrinsic difference — as opposed to what one company may be doing well at a particular time.  Like, it seems to me that most of DC’s high-profile stories now are cosmic, while Marvel’s are political.  But that doesn’t mean that DC isn’t doing political stories (Checkmate) or that Marvel isn’t doing cosmic ones (Annihilation, etc).

  36. Is there a difference? Of course there is. And that’s not a bad thing. If there was no difference one of the companies would have disappeared or been swallowed up by the other a long time ago. Sure both publish stories about super heroes, with equally implausible characters and situations. But to quote Roger Ebert, ‘it’s not what it’s about, it’s how it’s about it.’

    Leave it to the ‘indie’ guy to ask that question (just kidding).

  37. I think people choose company allegiance subconsciously at an early age, by whichever company has thier favourite character(s) in it. Batman has always been my favourite character far & away, so I guess that’s why I am more into DC.

    I don’t see any fundamental difference between the two companies, and I won’t make any broad sweeping statements about both companies when my comic knowledge is pretty much only based on one … I’ll leave that to everyone else. It’s funny to me how people are saying how much they love Marvel, and it’s better because "DC is like this", when they admit they don’t read the books.

    And, just for the record — something being more popular doesn’t make it better. Look how many albums Britney Spears sold …

  38. I think I’ll always prefer the feel of the DCU, even though Marvel has a lot going on for them right now (Cap, Daredevil, Avengers) and things like countdown just are plainly shamefull, I’ll always be a DC fan first for the epic and somewhat religuous quality its universe has.

    Don’t get me wrong, Marvel may have Thor and the Eternals, and the celestials, but those tend to be incidental characters, mini-series. DC on the other hand feels to me like an expanding universe with a sense of history and culture. Of course this may come from the direction minds like Geoff Johns (GL trilogy) and Morrison (God Pantheon JLA) are pushing the stories, but well, that´s the kind of universe I like to be in.

    PS: Josh, My mouth just dropped with the "Colombian beaten down for making an own-goal in the world cup" reference. Just one thing. The guy I think you’re talking about (Andrés Escobar at U.S.A 94) was not beaten down, the poor guy was shot and killed (for the same reason)…

  39. I bet they beat him up first.  That’s what I was banking on for the analogy anyway.

    Also, I see I spelled Colombian wrong.  Gotta love that international audience!


  40. Nice work Josh.  I still don’t know if any real disparity has been proven, but that’s ok.  Sometimes, it’s just nice to talk about.

  41. @Simon – You pretty much just articulated why I prefer the "feel" of the DCU, as well.


  42. I like what DC is doing to more obscure nooks and crannys of the DCU. Huntres: Year One and Manhunter for instance.

  43. I actaully find myself pretty well placed in the middle. I buy just as many DC books as I do Marvel. About a year ago, that wasn’t true. Marvel totally took over my stack with Batman and Detective poking their heads out. But then two things happend.

    1) I finished watching Justice League Unlimited. I suddenly felt like I know a lot of these characters, even characters that were featured in one episode. I had a general grasp of their personality and I had a voice to go along with it. After that I started to read alot more DC.

    2) Sinestro Corp War. I had a little extra cash, and decided to try my first DC event after having done years of Marvel and just though "Damn!" live everyone else.

     Now I’m pretty evenly split. If someone were to ask me I’d really have to think abou it, because I enjoy both companies. the one major thing is I find I’m more willing to take a risk on a DC unknown writer then a unknown Marvel writer, I’m not sure why, but I find that to be the case for me. 

     The only time I can say I choose a side is when it comes to animation. DC has it, hands down.  I go back and watch the Spider-man show from the 90’s and a few episodes oft he X-men, they don’t hold up as well as I would have hopped. Batman TAS…still amazing

  44. If slow clapping wasn’t so cliche…

    Excellent points, my friend. Marvel does have better writers and DC needs to start picking hot new writers, not established writers (Wolfman and Bruce Jones and Jodi Picoult) just because they’re names… It’s actually more frustrating than anything else…

    I think it’s interesting though that you say Johns is the guy pulling DC right now, and by himself. I couldn’t agree more. Yeah, Morrison’s doing stuff, but he’s just off in his own little world, and it’s not that he’s not writing good stuff or DC stuff, it’s just that his stuff feels much, much more different than anything else out there in the mainstream… When I talk about it, it’s like, there’s DC, and then there’s Morrison’s DC, what with his Batman and Final Crisis. Not saying it’s wrong, just saying it’s a completely different feel than anything else going on at DC… 

  45. This is the sort of thing that sets Marvel apart from DC right now


    Check it out at 3 minutes. They always do this sort of thing here and there.

  46. I’ll give you one thing that DC has ALWAYS had over Marvel. The Elseworlds Line. That line ROCKS! Every time they come out with a new one…. oh wait….. they stopped Elseworlds didnt they?

  47. I tinkered a bit with comics when I was a teenage (Spider-Man, Spawn), but only recently (beginning of SI) have i actually started to be really into it.

    And from the outside, as I’ve explained to my friends, besides Batman, so many of the DC heroes just seem too God-like and inhuman.  Someone above me said the same thing.  It is the flaws of many of the Marvel heroes I like that make them more interesting to read.

  48. It could be said that a flaw in an omnipotent character is more interesting than a flaw in a mere mortal.  It’s all about how you do it.  Just throw a bunch of alien robots at Superman, and it’s a borefest.  Show him interacting with his human father, and you’ve got drama.  They just need writers who are as good as Geoff Johns, but who aren’t Geoff Johns.

  49. A very interesting sounding joint Marvel/DC panel went down at Wizard World Chicago – cohosted by Brian Michael Bendis and Geoff Johns, the two guys basically running the universes at each company.

    You can find an article about it here.

    I’m not really a big fan of panels, but man, I wish I had been there for that one.

  50. Couple of observations.

    1. Wildstorm is the farm leagues of writing; DC and Marvel are the majors. Most of it’s AAA, but some is only double (any miniseries not featuring the Authority) or even single A (the Real Bad minis). Even when someone Big goes there these days it feels like a rehab assignment – think Morrison on, heh heh, Wildcats or Authority. ("Three issues total and I’m outta here! Fifty-two, here I come!).

    2. Cheese is clearly better than fruit. But what’s REALLY good is stinky cheese paired with sweet, nearly overripe fruit. Gorgonzola and strawberries, or Morbier with watermellon. Can’t be beat.

  51. Josh, I gotta argue with the family thing.  Marvel has families too, they’re just different kinds.  Sure, they may not all be "theme-families" i.e. Bat-, Super-, Flash-, GL, etc., but they have strong groundings in real family dynamics.  The FF are literally a family, the X-Men and Avengers are the dysfunctional families.  Other important relationship archetypes are exhibited quite a bit too.  Spidey and the Torch having buddy-cop adventures.  Wolvie as father figure to a legion of X-Girls (Kitty Pryde, Jubilee, Armor).

    The relationships at Marvel seem way more natural than at DC.  Why would Superman and Batman be best friends or trust each other at all.  I’m sure they would work together, but only as coincidence, I don’t think they’d go out of their way to team-up.  Let’s look at some of Marvel’s flagship characters who were created at about the same time as each other.  Spidey and the X-Men.  They’ve had their team-ups, but the relationship between them has always been awkward since they represent different goals and different struggles.  Iceman however stands out since he has a similar attitude to Spidey’s.

    @RobAbsten – I have to disagree about WildStorm as a farm league.  I see it as an escape for writers to write the stories they want to tell without being restricted by continuity and editors.  That goes for other companies like Image, Dark Horse, and Virgin.  Garth Ennis has a die-hard fan following for his work writing Punisher, but he wants to do a space adventure so he does the incredible Dan Dare, which rivals his best work with Frank Castle.  Brian K. Vaughan clearly enjoys more freedom as a writer doing Ex Machina and until recently, Y: The Last Man.  Bill Wilingham shines on Fables and is a capable DC writer, but clearly enjoys one more than the other.  Anybody talking about Shadowpact these days? (admittedly, no one does Detective Chimp better than he does).

    I feel like I’m rambling and my last few thoughts are more than a bit disorganized since I’ve been up for about 36 hours, so I’m going to go to sleep, but I will say this –

    DC = hope, what we want the world to be like, appeals to the optimist.

    Marvel = reality, what we can relate to, appeals to the humanist.

    Also, yeah, the whole capes thing is a bit ridiculous.  Plenty of Marvel Characters have capes.  Dr. Strange, Sentry, classic Drax, Justice, Storm, The Hood, Black Panther, Doc Doom, and in lieu of capes some of them (at least in the 90’s X-Men) wore trench coats instead.  Plenty of DC characters don’t wear them.  Flash, GL, Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, Booster Gold, Nightwing, Aquaman, The entire current JLA roster if I’m not mistaken, with the obvious exception of Supes and Bats..  

    OK, I’m done.  Next time I’ll organize my thoughts better…

  52. My personal view from the very beginning when I was young was the "look" of the two books and the atmosphere. In the 70’s when I was a young teen I was primarily a Marvel follower.  I had a chance to go to a cousin’s house where he had a few DC books. I felt the look for DC was more garish, old fashioned (it seemed to have not moved from it’s 1930-1940 look) and seemingly juvenile in their approach. DC seemed to come into a different look during the 80’s. Most notably with John Byrne doing a lot of the artwork. It seemed to modernize it and bring it’s style closer to Marvel. Of course at that time he was doing so much work in both companies. As were a number of other writers and artists.

    But even now the characters and costumes have a decidedly dated look.

  53.   I’ve only recently returned to reading and collecting comics from a nearly 20 year hiatus. In the late 80s and early 90s my “superhero” continuum was Marvel’s. Basically, I followed the universe that best marketed to my angst-ridden interests. Wolverine and the X-Men were my favourites, but I also liked Spidey, Hulk, DD and Alpha Flight.  Batman and the occasional Superman were my only DC exceptions, and that’s probably due to the Batman movies and the hype around the “Death of Superman”.

    When I started reading and collecting last year it was, again, mostly Marvel. Not X-Men so much as Marvel Cosmic going back to the Silver Age.  However, when I chanced upon an inexpensive bin copy of Countdown to Infinite Crisis, I bought it and really, really enjoyed what I read. This took me the wider DC universe and I’ve since enjoyed (to varying degrees) back issues of Action Comics, Batman, Green Lantern and cross-overs like Infinite Crisis, 52, Villains United, New Frontier, etc. I’m still a little behind with the larger DC meta-narrative (Identity Crisis and 52 would have been impossible without the DC wiki) but so far, so good.

    So, all in all, I have to say that both companies are very good and have lots to offer the fan of sequential art. Some people above have mentioned how DC is prone to god-like characters while Marvel is better at producing flawed heroes. To an extent, I agree with this assessment and I’ve always appreciated the angst of a Marvel character like Silver Surfer or Wolverine. However, it is also sometimes just FUN to watch too immortals (Black Adam v. Superman) kick the proverbial crap out of each other!

    Being primarily a Silver and Bronze Age collector, I’m still more inclined to go with Marvel. Superman, Batman or World’s Finest in the 60s can’t hold a candle to FF, Thor or the Avengers. But now-a-days I’ll continue to pick up TPBs, GNs and back issues from both Universes and will always believe that healthy competition between the two companies only makes our medium more interesting.