Marvel vs. DC: Is There Still a Difference?

Two articles on comics books hit the U.S. newspapers in the past few days — and only one of them manages to lead with a variation on the BIFF POW BANG theme. That’s progress, I guess.

The Houston Chronicle discusses diversity in superhero comics.

The Washington Post has an examination on the continuing rivalry between Marvel Comics and DC Comics.

The Houston Chronicle piece is a fairly standard article on the growing diversity amongst superheroes these days.

The Washington Post piece I found to be more interesting. It’s a totally pro-Marvel article about the differences in philosophies, fans and storytelling approaches of the two major superhero publishers. Clearly, when Marvel blew up in the 1960s (and probably all the way through to the 1980s) most comic book readers fell on either side of a hard and fast dividing line, but is that the case anymore? Judging from the discussions I’ve seen online, I guess it is. I don’t feel it, personally. Good comics are good comics and I’ve always bought from both sides of the aisle (to steal a political metaphor). Sure, I bought more DC books because I liked those characters better, but my collection of Marvel books is mighty.

But why all the rancor for the “other side” by some fans? If I enjoy Detective Comics can I not enjoy Captain America? Or is it all a lot of bluster and posturing?


  1. this is funny:

    DC, back then: It’s your kid brother, wacked out on Pop-Tarts, still in his underpants at 10 a.m., insisting on “Super Friends” over “Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space.” Thinks he’s Batman at night, thinks he’s Aquaman in the tub. It’s make-believe, make-believe, make-believe. A hot dog is not a death ray, now sit down and eat. And who used all of the red and orange crayons? And why is Robin always in here naked with my Barbies?

    Marvel, back then: It’s your big sister’s boyfriend, already 18 and “kind of different, but nice,” your mother observes, although he rides a motorcycle with no helmet. He draws an Incredible Hulk for you on a sheet of paper, and that’s it, you’re hooked, he’s a god. From him you learn about Ghost Rider and Conan the Barbarian and Silver Surfer. He listens to Rush.

    DC, back then: Shlockarific television! “Batman” in the ’60s (Ka-pow! Wham!), “The New Adventures of Wonder Woman” in the ’70s. The toys, the cartoons, the read-along storybook LPs.

    Marvel, back then: Put out a comic book starring the rock band Kiss.

    DC: “Sgt. Rock.”

    Marvel: “Doctor Strange.”

  2. Can you guess which of the two I prefer? I have to say listening to Conor has gotten me to open my mind towards “the other side” a little. I have found some Batman to be pretty good. BTW Jim Lee on Batman = good. Jim Lee on X-men in the 90’s = horrible and that kind of art made me leave comics behind for like 20 years.

    Personally, I think image is eating them both for lunch for lunch right now. I have more anticipation for 3 or 4 of their monthly titles than for anything from the big two. Although the quotes Josh listed above hits the nail on the head of my perception of the DC vs Marvel dynamic when I was a kid. This has stuck with me since then too. I was into Batman and Superman around the age of 5 or 6. Not the comics. I mean I used to run around the house with a towel around my neck. We’re talking 1975. By 1980 I had discovered Kiss Alive II and the X-men. I knew what ‘cool’ was and what it wasn’t. Get my Drift?

  3. Personally, I think image is eating them both for lunch for lunch right now. I have more anticipation for 3 or 4 of their monthly titles than for anything from the big two.

    Which titles?

  4. “This is our version of the wedding of Charles and Diana,” says Joe Quesada, Marvel’s editor in chief.

    What a wierd thing to say.

  5. OMG, I think I just threw up in my mouth.

  6. 1) Fear Agent, 2) The Walking Dead, 3)Invincible, 4)Girls, 5)Sea of Red, 6)Godland are all very good. Now Godland is a comedic, campy take on cosmic comics (it’s basically an acid trip). IMHO it’s done very well. I also just read the 1st issue of Emissary. I really liked it and will keep going with it. I am looking forward to Occult Crimes Task force as well. It might turn out to stink, but I’m gonna find out.

    The first three listed above are better to me than anything else. I would put Daredevil, Astonishing X-men and the planet hulk run in there with them. These are all slanted towards my taste which is a lot of action. Talking, talking, talking, talking turns me off when its done by super heroes in costume. The whole civil war thing will be good to me when they start throwing down a little more. Politically polarized talking heads are on every news channel and I’m not interested in this in comics. Sorry for the rant Conor. I know you didn’t ask me all that. Just so all of you know I have just subscribed to all of these and a few others through and listed iFanboy as the referral. ‘hope that helps y’all some how.

    One more comment and opinion…. 🙂 I agree with Josh on the last issue of new avengers’ art. The story was very good, but the art didn’t look as good to me. I didn’t hate it, but it just wasn’t up to par for me. I also like Cassaday and others in that style, but my favorite two artist are Tony Moore and Romita jr. ‘not as detailed but their work is just plain cool.

  7. Don’t apologize – that’s a great post. We love posts like that.

    Invincible and The Walking Dead are two favorite titles here at iFanboy. We heart them. The thing is, we rarely mention them on the podcast because we all buy Invincible in trades. Same for Josh and I with The Walking Dead (I don’t think Ron buys it… yet). I picked up the first trade of Fear Agent because when it came out it was a really light week for comics, it was only ten bucks and someone (I assume you, HMM) mentioned that they really liked it. I’m only about half way through it, so I can’t give my opinion on it at this point. I know Ron was buying Girls, I don’t know if he still is, though.

  8. I try so hard not to favor one publisher over another (you never hear people in real book clubs going, “F*** Random House. Random House books are all lame. Simon & Schuster forever!”) but I just can’t help myself. No matter how many times I try to jump onto DC books, I always end up dropping them in a matter of issues. Too much history I don’t know. Entertainment Weekly recommended Infinite Crisis #1 to new readers, and my head still throbs just thinking about it.

    I have always been a Batman fan, though; I have many an issue of Detective in the long boxes. But… all those made-up cities, and… it all just seems a little too much. Marvel is still a bunch of guys in body stockings, but for some reason their titles have always just resonated with me more.

    I do like the non-DC DC books. Fables, Y the Last Man, Ex Machina… I don’t discriminate based on company. I just likes what I likes.

  9. Once again, Jim has pretty much told my story. I don’t think there’s a DC book I’ve been reading regularly for any significant period. I read Batman for years, but eventually the quality dropped out, and I dropped it.

    Vertigo is a different story. But I tend to follow writers rather than characters, so perhaps I’m atypical.

    Never trust EW on a DC book! They’re just company schills! Do they ever recommend Marvel or Image books? (real question.)

  10. I have always had a Marvel bias. I think it started because the first comics I collected were from that arena. I feel the DC characters are like cousins that I only see a couple times a year at Christmas (Infinite Crisis) and Easter (52). I know them, they are like me, we get along on those days, but they are just different enough that we always drift apart after the holidays. At times I have picked up Superman, Green Lantern, and Batman, but I end up dropping them after a short while. The one DC title that I have ever really enjoyed was Young Justice. It had a decent cast of characters, but I think it was Peter David’s writing that made me enjoy that comic. I have been enjoying Superman/Batman for most of that title’s run.

  11. Yea, I feel the same way about Marvel vs. DC. I’m with Marvel, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t check out a DC title or Vertigo/Wildstorm. And the only real reason that I buy Marvel is that when I was younger, that’s what I used to collect. So I feel like if there’s a continuity issue or a obscure character I can usually puzzle it out. If I were to try to do that with DC, I’d be totally lost. I hardly know the main players, let alone obscure ones.

    That’s another thing that draws me to titles like Planetary, Noble Causes, Invincible, and Girls. Stuff from Image and Wildstorm makes me feel like I can pick up the first trade, read it and not have to worry about understanding subtext or previous relationship between characters.

    I mean, if there was an easy way to get into DC, I think I’d try it out. But things like Infinite Crisis would lack the pop that they’d have to people who know the history of these characters.

    I was tempted to pick up the new Flash, but you all said that it was pretty bad, so I didn’t get it.

  12. I think I may be in the minority here. I don’t think I favor one publisher over another at all. If you look at my purchases in any given month it is a pretty good mix of Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse, and indie. There are really 3 (well, 4 I guess) types of comics I buy:

    1) I buy comics written by specific creators, regardless of the property or publisher. For example, I will buy almost anything by Gaiman, Bendis, Alan Moore, Millar, Morrison, Vaughn, Willingham, Wood, and a couple others. This is by far my largest category.

    2) I will buy a few specific titles regardless of the creator. These currently include Batman (and Detective Comics), UFF, UXM, Green Lantern and I will probably continue with Ultimates once Millar leaves. However, if any of these become awful, I usually will drop it until the writer changes, then start to pick it up again. This category is by far my smallest.

    3) I also pick up a few books each month on a whim. Either they look interesting in Previews so I give them a shot, or quite often my service will have issue #1s for 75% off so it makes it easy to pull the trigger. I don’t normally care about the Flash but #1 was 75% off so I tried it. Needless to say I am glad I didn’t order #2. On the other hand, I probably wouldn’t have tried Heinberg’s Wonder Woman otherwise, but because of the big discount I gave it a shot and am glad I did. I’ll be getting that book at least until Heinberg is gone.

    4) My one caveat is that I do have an affinity for Vertigo, so I tend to give new Vertigo books a shot regardless of writer/artist. I will usually pick up a #1 of a new Vertigo book. If it sucks I drop it right away though.

    Anyway, I guess my point is I don’t really gravitate towards one publisher over another. I’m not a huge continuity freak so it makes it easy for me to pick up and drop books.

  13. Wow, much like the order in which I read my groups, I think I’m alone in my purchasing habits and reasonings why:

    1) The majority of my titles are Marvel mainly because that’s what they’ve always been. I know the characters and the history and have a vested emotional interest in what’s going on in that universe.

    2) Next, I buy DC books, but only a few major titles like JLA, The Flash, Green Lantern (and events like 52/Identity Crisis etc) because I have a casual interest in the characters. I have never bought any Bat or Super family books because I don’t have THAT much of an interest in them. But I do have whatever weird fascination with the Wildstorm universe that I can’t shake.

    3) Even though super-hero books seem to rule here, I probably buy more indies than DC books. Books like Girls (which I’m still getting), Invincible (in trades as Conor mentioned), Noble Causes , Strangers In Paradise , Stray Bullets etc. I don’t read Walking Dead though, not because I haven’t heard good things, but rather I don’t really dig zombies.

    On interesting thought that Derek made me think was I don’t really buy books based on creators solely. Like I love Bendis, but I’ve never read an issue of Sam & Twitch . There are tons of writers and artists I like, but I don’t seek them out specifically, rather just get excited when they’re on a title that I happen to buy or like…funny how that works. It’s like who do you root for the player or the uniform? I tend to root for the uniform. That’s not to say that I won’t seek out a title that a particular creator did or is on, but if I have no interest in the book/title/subject, then I’d probably leave it alone…

  14. I think DC had a great chance with One Year later to revitalise their books – the early OYL issues all sold much higher than their normal sales, proving that people were pciking them up to give them a try. Unfortunately most of the OYL book shave let readers down heavily – Batman started great but got a little lost towards the end, same with Superman. Nightwing Green Lantern and Outsiders have been terrible. Robin, Wonderwoman and Teen Titans seem to be the only books to have got the relaunch right. Even Infinite Crisis ended on a wet whimper.

    It just seems like a huge waste of a potentially very strong event; the hype and sales for the event have been huge, it just failed to deliver.

  15. Ron, Ron, Ron, Ron, Ron….

    If we were on the podcast, we’d start going back and forth right now, and then people at home would say, why is that guy arguing with himself?

    To me, having a creator you like do something new is a great way to experience something different. I don’t like zombies, and if you were to ask me if I’m interested in a zombie book, I’d say, no, of course not. But since Kirkman was doing it, and I’d heard it was good, I tried it, and was surprised. Sam and Twitch was really good when Bendis was on it. And not a moment more. I think Alex Maleev was the artist. You’re telling me you wouldn’t have liked that? And I’d never read a spawn book before or since. But, if that’s the way, you’re going to keep playing it, so be it.

    Chris, I think you’re dead on. It was time for DC to bring their big guns out and really start swinging hard, and they, in large part, just turned in very average work. I’ll keep reading Robin, and the Batman books (which I didn’t find as distasteful as you, but still lacking some) but they’ve lost many potential sales, which is sad, because they definitely got their foot in the door.

  16. Average work?

  17. I have been pleasantly surprised by following creators to characters I didn’t care about. Prime example: “Hmmm. Daredevil has always bored me to tears, but this if this Bendis guy’s as good as he is on Alias, it won’t be too painful.” By the time he left I was praying he’d stay on for one more arc… but then I didn’t drop the book because I liked the new team of creators.

    On the flipside, there was a time recently when I said, “Well, everybody loves this Geoff Johns guy, and it is a #1 so it’s probably a great jumping on point.” 22 pages later, I still didn’t know who the @%#$ Green Lantern was, but I knew he owed me three bucks.

  18. Chris is right – I hereby declare OYL a failure – mainly because they seem to have dropped the ocncept 3 issues into it…The Flash #1 didn’t even have a OYL logo on the cover (*I think*)

    Josh – I didn’t say Walking Dead or Sam & Twitch weren’t good – I’m sure they are – Just have no interest – same reason why I still have yet to see Master & Commander, or for that matter more recently Constantine, which I have from Netflix and have no desire to watch.

  19. It pains me to admit, but on the whole DC’s recent output has been very average. They had a really good chance with OYL to relaunch these books with really strong writers trying out bold new ideas but they came out of the gate and most of the books have stumbled. I have a lot of hope for Dini and Morrison on the Batman books, though.

    It’s cyclical, though. In a few years when the Marvel exclusive contracts run out and people like Brubaker switch back over to DC, the balance will tip back.

  20. I’ve actually been pretty pleased with most of the OYL titles I’ve read, including: Wonder Woman, Batman/Detective, Superman/Action Comics, Checkmate, Secret Six, Shadowpact and 52. Not all of them were classics, but they were good enough to keep me interested and to keep buying, at least through the current writers’ arcs. My only real disappointments have been Flash and Green Lantern. I haven’t read any of the other ones. So at least in my experience, I have been happy with OYL.

  21. Chris is right – I hereby declare OYL a failure – mainly because they seem to have dropped the ocncept 3 issues into it…The Flash #1 didn’t even have a OYL logo on the cover (*I think*)

    Failure seems harsh, but it was underwhelming. I don’t think the fact that they took the OYL branding off is a big deal. I mean, at first they have to say it’s a year later, but eventually, and 3 months is a good amount of time, that “One Year Later” just becomes “now.” But then again, we know you have problems with the concept. Perhaps we can get some answers in San Diego…

    But yes, I say again, One Year Later titles, or basically, many of the current DC titles are exceedingly mediocre, and are bringing nothing new to the table.

    Josh – I didn’t say Walking Dead or Sam & Twitch weren’t good – I’m sure they are – Just have no interest – same reason why I still have yet to see Master & Commander, or for that matter more recently Constantine, which I have from Netflix and have no desire to watch.
    What I’m hearing out of you is that if you have no prior interest in something, you will not give it a chance. How in the world do you ever expect to find something new to like? Sometimes, you can find something interesting that you never thought you’d find good, but unless you try, you’ll never know. Furthermore, just because something, on it’s surface is about zombies, doesn’t mean it’s actually about zombies. That’s the backdrop for a story about people. The zombies and the state of the world is a metaphor for the decaying relationships of people.

    I wasn’t interested in castaways on a remote mysterious island. Not in the least. But I heard it was good, so I started watching it. Lo and behold, I enjoyed it, much to my surprise.

    As far as Constantine goes, you won’t like it, don’t bother. I know you well enough to make this call.

    I also know you well enough to realize the futility of this conversation. Damn you!

  22. When I made my jump into comics a few months ago – right around the start of OYL – I was pretty confident that the majority of my money would be dumped into the DC universe (Justice League and JL Unlimited had piqued my interest in the characters), but now the majority of my money is dumped into Marvel. While the quality of the DC books has been a big factor in me not buying them (although for some reason, quality has no bearing on me reading Green Lantern), the larger factor was the accessibility of the big two’s universes. To me, the Marvel Universe feels inclusive; the DC Universe exclusive. While I’m a glutton for punishment (I did mention I was still reading Green Lantern, didn’t I?), I’d much rather spend my time/money where I feel more comfortable. Does that make sense?

    Conor – if you liked the B:TAS, you’ll be very happy with Dini’s first issue of Detective. It’s really good.

  23. My interest in Marvel and DC have an inverse relationship– I like the Big Name characters in Marvel and the smaller characters in DC (Batman is the one exception).

    I’m much more interested in the Question, Montoya, Jonah Hex or the mish-mash of Checkmate than Supes, Green Lantern, or Wonder Woman. But I have no real interest in the cosmic and mutant fringes of the Marvel U, but can’t get enough Spidey, Cap and Avengers.

    The comment above said it well, comparing DC to relatives you enjoy seeing once in a while. This might be why I enjoy all the big DC events, but whenever I try to read the regular titles of main characters outside of Batman, it just doesn’t work for me (eg, Green Lantern). Like it’s too concentrated a dose of DC-ish-ness.

    The thing I am most suprised about about myself is my lack of interest in the b&w indies. When I started getting interested in comics again about three years ago, my intention was to read books that had “lit cred” and then maybe just some Batman to get my noir fix. But pretty quickly I reverted back to the same Marvel-centric reading habits I had when I was ten years old. I discovered I don’t want too-down-to-earth “literary type” stories from my comics, I want big stories and collective universes. Maybe because I get enough of that from “regular” books, but I was surprised that I went that way. I realize this statement is akin to the addict saying, “I only wanted to try it once,” but there it is. And here I am: a relapsed fanboy.

  24. It’s cyclical, though. In a few years when the Marvel exclusive contracts run out and people like Brubaker switch back over to DC, the balance will tip back.

    That’s probably true, but DC currently has a lot of exclusive guys spearheading the whole 52 thing that are geniuses in the industry. It’s not like Marvel has an exclusive on talent by any means. Actually, to harken back to the “player vs. uniform” discussion, Mark Waid is another one of those creators who did the impossible a few years back when he made me excited about the Fantastic Four again. And everybody seemed to love Morrison’s X-Men for some reason. But even with all that creative might behind it, 52 boggles my feeble mind. I’m pretty sure it’s in German.

    (On a subconscious level, I think the fact that DC ended Gotham Central and set Montoya up with Batwoman has communicated to my brain that DC is headed 180 degrees away from my tastes. Man, did I love that book.)

    And if Busiek and the Dodsons can’t keep me interested in Superman, it cannot be done. That creative team would be a no-question immediate addition to my pull list if it were almost any Marvel character– Squirrel Girl, you name it– but I guess Metropolis just makes me zone out.

    I did like what I was reading in OYL Detective Comics, but I dropped it when the second issue I picked up made no sense and I realized that the story had continued in Batman weeks earlier.

  25. I did like what I was reading in OYL Detective Comics, but I dropped it when the second issue I picked up made no sense and I realized that the story had continued in Batman weeks earlier.

    I suggest picking it back up. The books are seperate now and Paul Dini is writing it! His first issue is out today! I picked it up at lunch and I am fighting the urge to read it at my desk….

  26. Speaking of comics that seem like they’re in German, I picked up the first four issues of Loveless, because I love the Western genre and was completely underwhelmed by it all. And eff me if I could follow it.

    The only person that I wish hadn’t really signed an exclusive to a company was Sam Keith. I am reading through the first 3 issues of The Maxx right now and really digging it.

  27. Loveless is not for the faint of heart. LOL. If you listened to any of the early podcasts when we covered this, you’d know that your confusion is not alone. But we keep buying it…

    That’s some classic Azzarello right there! Nice art though, right?

  28. The only person that I wish hadn’t really signed an exclusive to a company was Sam Keith. I am reading through the first 3 issues of The Maxx right now and really digging it.

    Who did Keith sign an exclusive with? I just read the first issue of his new series with Oni, My Inner Bimbo, if you did Keith (like I do) you’ll love it!

  29. I am a somewhat new reader compared to all you old-timers…ha ha..j/k I have only been hardcore reading comics for the past 2 years and I am only 23 years old. My weekly pull list is a nice balance of DC & Marvel with a few other companies splashed in. Every week the books that excite me the most is DC. I can’t help it! For some reason it doesn’t matter how crappy other people think a title is, I will continue to love it. (Superman seems to be the main one I hear about) This is not to say that I don’t love Marvel books too. I am as excited as anyone about Civil War. However DC still holds my heart. WHY?

    WHY? this is the question that I have wondered. Why does DC speak to me and why is Marvel the favorite of others.

    Maybe this is why. When I started reading comics, I began as a clean slate. But immediately I was in awe of the huge universe that DC had created. It was literally a way to escape because there was such a rich rich history. I immediately ravaged the back issues and trades, as well as buying a huge DC Encylopedia. I read Crisis on Infinite Earths just months before Infinite Crisis started and I totally felt up to date on my information. Everything that happens seems to be for a reason and in the context of what each character would naturally do. No surprises like someone saying “you know, forget a secret identity.” Not to say that I am not excited about Spiderman doing this, but it was totally out of character.

    On the other hand, I see why some of the older readers feel drawn to Marvel. Its what they read when they were young. They feel a rich rich history with Marvel that I was able to get with DC. They read Marvel when they were the same age as Peter Parker, and in turn they have grown up to around the same age as he is portrayed now.Of course these people feel like this is home! I can’t stand when people say that DC is for the more fantasy and Sci-Fi minded person. Has anyone noticed the rows of the Cosmic Annhilation books at the store?

    I guess my point to this rant is to show that DC was successful in bringing in a new reader, and now I can enjoy the quality from both companies.

  30. Keith signed an exclusive with DC, if I remember correctly. It must just mean that he won’t publish with Marvel though, if he’s working for Oni.

    I haven’t checked out his Zero Girl stuff yet. Any good?

  31. I really liked Zero Girl. Definitely work checking out if you dug the Maxx. I know alot of people think he’s out there, but I really like his stuff.

  32. I know he basically claimed he was just writing out of his ass on The Maxx, but I love the concept and he’s such a great character.

    I’ll probably pick up Zero Girl, or maybe I’ll wait to see if I can trade for it. What’s the status of that idea anyways?

  33. I love that aspect of him, that unpredictableness of both his art and his writing. Even if he claims he was writing out of his ass, he tied up together nicely into a legendary series. Having Bill Messner-Loebs help out didn’t hurt either…

    Stay tuned on the Trade program – we’re focused on San Diego right now, but after the con, we’ll see what we can do about setting that up! I’ve got some very good ideas…

  34. Yea, more than anything, I just loved the characters. The Maxx made me want to keep reading just to see if he was really crazy or some sort of hero.

    His art is fun. He doesn’t draw woman traditionally in comics and has a very distinct style. Which makes me sad that he’s doing DC. I think that I’ll wait for the trade on the Oni title.

  35. Sam Keith is one of the all time greats. Watching The Maxx on MTV when I was in high school is what really got me back into “serious” comics.

    Zero Girl was great stuff, though his most recent Batman: Secrets (you have to say that title like when they do the secrets stuff on conan o’brien) is not great. Art wise it’s awsome, but it’s the same old story we’ve seen before.

    I’ve always been a major DC fan, but some of my favorite titles come from Marvel: Runaways, She Hulk, Amazing Spider-Man, and Young Avengers.

    Although I’ll always be a DC fan, I love Marvel as well and will always check out work that comes from them. As well as Image…

  36. I don’t know if any of you guys were Coalesce fans but Sean Ingram just had a baby boy and named him Maxx.

    Yes, named after the Sam Keith creation.

  37. Hehe – that rules as did Coalesce