There’s always a huge debate amongst comic book fans about who’s better – Marvel Comics or DC Comics. Of course I’m biased being a DC reader, and my Marvel fandom only stems as far as watching the movies and some cartoon shows. This debate amongst fans tends to be elitist and baseless since, if you get down to it, most arguments center around things that each publishing company has despite what the nerd rage claims. The major differences between the two exist in on a thematic scale – DC delving into more mythologically based arcs, and Marvel sticking to the more scientific – which, in-and-of themselves, doesn’t make one better than the other.
Recently one of my favorite authors, A Lee Martinez, gave his opinion on some the current and past trends between the two power house comic book companies, and gave his two cents on what makes them significantly different.
DC has struggled for decades with something akin to an inferiority complex. Ever since Marvel rose to the top of the heap via the gimmick of being more mature and darker, DC has always been readily dismissed as the less sophisticated of the two.
It’s nonsense, but it is perceived as truth by the general public, the comic reading public, and sadly, even DC management itself. A lot of this is simply preconceived notions, insurmountable in their own way. Trying to convince someone to change their mind on an accepted “truth” is all but impossible.
(As a “fluffy, comedic writer”, I’ve experienced this prefabricated opinion often enough to know.)
So DC has gone darker and more gruesome than pretty much anything in Marvel. Seriously, there must be more mutilations, torture scenes, and general unpleasantness in DC than the average person would ever know. It’s something of a running gag in DC that arms get severed and a grimacing “Aquaman is grimdark!” aura is everpresent.
It doesn’t stop in comics. While Marvel has created a universe of varied characters and motion pictures, DC has elected to make everyone Batman. I suppose I can’t blame them. Most people hated Green Lantern (I liked it, but I’m the odd man out), and Nolan’s “realistic” Batman films (chortle, chortle) are considered awesome. (The Dark Knight is my contender for most overrated movie ever. Not just superhero, either.) Man of Steel received very mixed reactions, but in the end, sad Superman got people into the theaters.
But there’s even more at work here. Both Marvel and DC are obsessed with their glory days. The difference is that DC is stuck there. I’m not against a dark Batman vs. Superman movie. I’m against one based on a thirty year old story that was a bit ridiculous when it first came out and hasn’t aged particularly well.
The problem will always be that no matter how gruesome or dark DC tries to be, it’ll always be perceived as inferior. Marvel could release a Rocket Raccoon / Howard the Duck movie and probably get away with it. DC could drown the Justice League in blood and tragedy, and everyone would still be making jokes about how lame Aquaman is and debating on whether Wonder Woman should wear pants.
In any case, I think the heart of the problem is found in the management. Marvel has its problems, but it is free to experiment, to explore, and to take chances. It’s built up a ton of goodwill and shown non-superhero fans how wide-ranging the superhero genre can be. DC will always be perceived as runner up.
DC can’t be itself, and it can’t be Marvel. And there’s really nothing they can do about it.
So, a very interesting point of view, for sure. One I tend to agree with. What about you, faithful comic book readers? What do you think of Martinez’s thoughts on the subject?