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DC vs Marvel: A Breakdown

DC and Marvel: who’s better? I don’t think that’s a great question to ask. They’re not the same thing, their characters represent two different approaches to mythology. DC deals in archetypes, Marvel in characters with relatable issues. Besides, Image might be doing better than both of them right now anyway.

However, there is a question we can ask. Which one is doing better right now?

I’ll break it down as best as I can, using the different mediums to compare DC and Marvel’s CURRENT STATE. Of course, this is a subjective aspect to it. Man of Steel might be your favorite Superman movie and Hawk and Dove your favorite comic. That’s fine, I’m not saying you can’t. Admittedly, I’d have a bias for Marvel, but I’ll try to make this as objective as I can. Let’s begin.

Why is the Joker on a glider?

COMICS

The big showdown right out of the gate. Hmmm. This one is tough. DC’s work has been pretty strong since Nu52, but Marvel isn’t a slouch lately either.

If we’re talking quality, DC has Snyder’s Batman and… Swamp Thing and Animal Man (which they’ve canceled), maybe a couple of the Green Lantern books, and Earth 2 based on who you talk to. Marvel has Thor: God of Thunder, Hickman’s Avengers, the new Deadpool, and two out of the million X-Men books. But even they are hit-and-miss, not to mention the difficulty breaking into Hickman’s stuff as a new reader.

Do I take the sales of the books? I took a look at March 2014’s sales:

Screen shot 2014-04-19 at 6.24.43 PM

Hmmmm. Well Batman is really cleaning up, as is to be expected, and the new Sandman being on there doesn’t surprise me either. However there are more Marvel titles up there, although two of them are the same title.

This is going to be tough.

WINNER: Marvel

I know, I know, let me explain myself. At first it was simply that I’m reading more Marvel books, but I understand that’s too subjective. So instead this decision was made in two parts.

First, let’s take away the obvious leads. Take away the Batman titles and Sandman from DC and from Marvel take away Spider-Man, the books people who’ve seen The Avengers would be familiar with, and, hell, take away the X-Men books. I think Marvel still has more quality comics left over than DC.

DC has Swamp Thing, maybe a handful of Green Lantern books, and what? Constantine? Geoff Johns’ Aquaman? Dial H was their freshest title and it has been canceled for a while.

Fresh.

Marvel has Matt Fraction’s Silver Surfer, the new Ghost Rider with awesome art by Tradd, most of the MAX titles, and, oh man, almost all of the Ultimate universe to pull from. There are a ton of quality reads without depending on age-old stables.

Secondly, the current state of Marvel’s comics make me far more excited for the future. I need to know how Hickman’s Secret Avengers turns out. I’m always left wanting more with Thor: God of Thunder. Indeed, Snyder’s Batman has the same effect, but not really much beyond that.

I realize this is a bit subjective too, but here is my objective reasoning. I was not interested in a Ghost Rider comic really at all. Didn’t think I would ever be. But this new Ghost Rider comic changed some core things about the character — having him drive a car, stylized chrome skull, no more charred biker look — and I became excited. I never was really interested in reading Nightwing’s book either, and the new comic has changed things as well. Now he’s a gun-toting secret agent. But the difference is, I’m not excited to read it, these changes do nothing for me.

Your new Nightwing

VIDEO GAMES

Comic book properties have always had a tough time with this. From the tragedy of Superman 64 to the litany of terrible Spider-Man games.

I’ll include movie tie-ins in this because, while they’re more in line with the movie than the comic book, they often pull in more comic book references than the movie itself. This makes it a bit harder.

WINNER: DC

Surprised? You shouldn’t be if you really think about it. Oh because of the Arkham games, I hear you say. Well yes and no.

While the Arkham games are (mostly) fantastic, they represent another, bigger point. They’re based on the comics and have reached success without appealing to the basest public knowledge. Instead they’re packed full of obscure-ish characters that you’re more-or-less expected to know. Marvel has done that with what? Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions? An X-Men game or two. Nothing that has hit the immense popularity of the Arkham games, what with their own comics, spin-offs, and animated movies.

Not only this, but Marvel doesn’t even seem to be trying in this department anymore. What games they do put out nowadays are simple tie-ins and shoddy ones at that (despite Spider-Man 2 being the king of comic book movie tie-in video games). With all their new-found popularity and fans, there is a ton of opportunity to make their own standalone game, but they seem disinterested.

The Deadpool game does not count

TV

Oh man, where to begin? Smallville drug on for 10 seasons, but still made the CW enough money that they thought they needed another DC property to fill the void. What they got was Arrow.

To be fair, I’ve only seen the first part of the first season of Arrow, so I may be a little outdated. What I understand is that a scarred (read: metaphor) billionaire playboy-turned-archer returns to his hometown to wander around his expansive mansion dealing with his three major problems: his sister, his mom, and his girlfriend (read: women, ugh) all while trying to grittily fit the recycled footage of a single exercise in between murdering people for murdering people because murdering people (who Arrow deems innocent) is wrong.

This has strangely been successful, so now we’re getting a much warned against Batman-less Batman show and a primetime, safe, fun for the whole family Hellblazer (Heckwalker, Fridays on NBC!). Unfortunately, none of these exist yet so I can’t factor them into DC’s current state.

Gotham‘s Alfred to tend to 12 year-old not-Batman Bruce Wayne

Marvel isn’t batting a thousand either. Marvel’s Joss Whedon’s ABC’s Disney’s Agents of SHIELD is a solid enough Whedon-y show, but it seems like Disney’s fingers are all over their pies. They can’t seem to use anything that’s not from Asgard, Chitauri, or involving Extremis. Or all three combined. Most likely out of fear of losing people who have only seen the movies. What actual, original from-the-comics villains we do get are given some weird episode-long origin story that teases us about seeing their powers some other time.

Not to mention it’s very very Disney-fied. For one, Skye is an anti-authoritarian radical hacktivist WHO LIVED OUT OF HER VAN, yet has perfect hair and make up and dresses in designer clothing despite the fact she should look like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Plus, the show is really white. Like the whitest whitey white. I don’t think they did it on purpose and I’m not trying to ram political correctness down anyone’s throat, but after a while it got weird. The first black character on their show was an inattentive father who got blown up and resurrected as a brainwashed cyborg (who is still a lousy father). But it looks like Triplet might be replacing Ward, so they’ll have an Asian and a black! They’re a latino away from Planeteers level of adversity. Yay!

WINNER: DC

There was basically one simple fact that lead me to this. I’ve heard more non-comic fans talk about Arrow than Agents of SHIELD. Which is a major feat considering the MCU’s unstoppable march towards having all of the money in the world. My fellow comic fans are always talking about Arrow, but mostly because of the references to the comic books. Which is all you really need to capture them, so they’re an unreliable source in the first place.

No, I’ve heard everybpdy from 2o-something Bros to 30-something Moms gush about Arrow for different reasons (super murder and shirtlessness respectively). However everyone agrees it’s a “cool” and “awesome” show.

Shirtlessness plays a bigger part than you’d think

Marvel, with its struggling ratings and less nerd-catching comic book references, seems to have lagged behind.

Also, taking animated shows into account, Marvel still falls short. Both seem to have trouble getting their best shows canceled, but DC has had more success than Marvel. It seems, in animation at least, DC aims to take the material more seriously than Marvel, who opts to target kids (again, I think this fault lies with Disney).

With the entire multiple-series-spanning DCAU, Young Justice, Teen Titans, and Batman: the Brave and the Bold DC has outpaced Marvel with Spectacular Spider-Man, Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Wolverine and the X-Men, and, arguably, the 90s X-Men and Spider-Man shows.

MOVIES

Nolan’s Batman trilogy, with all its problems, is still a cornerstone of comic book movie history. Hell, The Dark Knight is almost a perfect movie. Not to mention DC’s animated movies, which are a collection of awesome comics turned into awesome features. How could they not be the best at this?

Especially with that Justice League movie

WINNER: MARVEL

Oh, of course. Was it the financial success? A little. The popularity? A little. I know, some people might consider this a close draw, so let me list my biggest reasons:

1) Marvel has created their own kind of micro-genre. People now say “I like Marvel movies”. Guardians of the Galaxy looks weird to non-comic fans, but they’ll go see it because of the Marvel logo on it. They’ll go see almost anything now with a Marvel intro in front of it. That’s some real sway in movies today, especially since they have to compete with so many other sources of entertainment.

2) DC is scrambling to catch up to their model. They attempted a Justice League movie in the 00s only to have it fall through, but when Avengers made a billion in 19 days, they suddenly jumped into action. They seem to be slapping together a shared universe as fast and sturdily as they can, but the cracks are starting to show. Superman vs. Batman opens on the same day as Captain America 3. DC has so much riding on it, it would be smart to move the date, but it would appear as though they were backing down to Marvel so they might not. This could prove as a final nail in the coffin when Cap 3 beats it out at the box office.

A metaphor

3) Marvel’s success is coming, in part, from resonating with people. They make fun, exciting movies that stick to the source material. To the true meaning of the character.

Some have said that DC is ashamed of their superhero movies and so they make them as gritty and “realistic” as possible. I don’t think so. I think that when The Dark Knight made a ton of money Warner Bros. and DC learned the wrong lesson. They believed Gritty and Realistic = Cash, and ignored the fact that TDK connected with audiences because it was true to the character that had lasted for nearly a century. That’s why we got a frowny, gray-and-cold-blue-filtered Superman that seemed to send mixed themes. It wasn’t true to what the character was about. I mean,  Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a better Superman movie than Man of Steel. That was about doing what’s right, even when that puts you at odds with the powers that be and the so called “good guys”. That’s what a Superman movie should be.

Marvel movies are fun and flashy and sometimes a little silly, yes. But that’s comic books for you. You package deep themes in bright colors and power fantasies. No other comic book movies exemplify this better than Marvel’s.

Some themes ass less deep than butt

SO WHO’S DOING BETTER?

Let me just tally the winners here. Oh. It’s a tie. Hmmm… well. Man. This went different than I had planned.

WELP, I guess you have to draw your own conclusions. Let me know what you think in the comments below.

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Comments

  • David Young

    I don’t read a wide enough variety of comics to have an opinion on that question, as to the others — as much as I like Agents of SHIELD, I think DC is winning the TV battle by a narrow margin at the moment. Depending on how “Flash” and “Agent Carter” fall out, that could change quickly. (I have no interest in the “Gotham” show.) If you were to include Marvel’s original Netflix shows, I’d say they’re going to blow DC out of the water in the future, but that’s probably not a fair comparison. Movie wise, no contest. Other than Nolan’s first “Batman” flick, none of their recent offerings have really turned my crank, while I’ve enjoyed the Hell out of all the recent Marvel films (some more than others, of course). And the fact that they’ve got me chomping at the bit for “Guardians of the Galaxy,” a series I’d barely even heard of, is a testament to how well they’re running the show at the moment. And Marvel has Jaimie Alexander as Lady Sif. ‘Nuff said.

    • Mike Miersen

      I’m really looking forward to the new Netflix shows, and I agree with you on the potential for their quality (a MCU show filmed in New York and without the limitation of TV censorship, yes please) but I didn’t include them just because they’re not out yet. It wouldn’t be fair, because it’s too hard to factor in hypotheticals. The Justice League movie might be the Avengers x100 or just the worst movie ever, for instance.

  • Michael Weiss

    The scales have just recently tipped to go entirely to Marvel’s favor unfortunately. The dc movies were the best thing out there until the last three releases. Marvel’s got the mainstream cinched with it’s marvel/dizney films. DC/Warner hasn’t have a great comic book movie since The Dark Knight. Dark Knight Rises was. Not. Good. It’s not a Batman movie, despite popular belief it doesn’t feature Catwoman, Bane or (bahahahaha) Robin. It’s a stupid movie about a bunch of really serious (no, seriously, they’re so serious) terrorists… uh… stealing a … city.. hmmm, Christopher Nolan should try and make THAT movie without Batman involved and see what happens. The New 52 is proving to be a set up for the Movies and Cartoons to get more diverse and alter the history and the only thing they seem interested in doing (and a lot) is making Cyborg suuuuuper mainstream. They care ALOT about that. Really tho, Dark Knight Rises – These bad guys had no personality as to make you feel like they’re mindless and cannot be reasoned with…so serious.. Why so serious? right? Then at the end, the same terrible thing that happened to Bane in Batman and Robin happened again, he was a little lap dog to the film’s female villain. Making him boink Talia and giving him a Dark Knight Returns-esque return were the only things good about that stooopid movie.

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