Coke vs. Pepsi, Red Sox vs. Yankees, Apples vs. Oranges, the debate of who’s the king of comics trumps them all.
The Argument for Marvel – Kody Malouf
I’m here to settle a rivalry so important, dynamic, so ingrained in American culture that it’s inescapable, especially in today’s society. That’s right, I’m talking about Marvel vs DC. The age old rivalry. I’m here to end the debate once and for all, and sorry DC fans, Marvel has the edge.
I’ll start where everyone usually does, with their heroes. Marvel Comics features some of the most iconic superheroes ever created. Spider-Man, Captain America, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, the list is virtually endless. But what puts Marvel’s heroes head and shoulders above DC is how relatable they are. The entire classic Avengers roster (with exception to Thor) are human beings endowed with incredible powers, and there are even a few non powered heroes as well. While the Justice League of America is comprised of literal gods.
Wonder Woman, Superman, Martian Manhunter, Aquaman, the Flash, and Green Lantern all wield powers of godly/supernatural origin. Batman is the only somewhat relatable character the Justice League has. The heroes Marvel has to offer are often flawed and fractured people who have to overcome the adversity and responsibility of being spontaneously endowed with incredible powers.
We put ourselves in the character’s shoes, and we ask ourselves what we would do if we were given such awesome and potentially lethal power. Bruce Banner was only protecting a child when he was exposed to the blast of gamma radiation that turned him into an uncontrollable monster of rage when he gets mad. He struggles with a side of himself he will never be able to fully control, and he has a sort of split personality. Spider-Man lives by his own strict moral code after his uncle Ben was killed by a criminal Spider-Man refused to stop. We can all put ourselves in that situation. We know what it’s like to lose a loved one, can you imagine if you were responsible?
Marvel’s most famous anti-hero, the Punisher, has become insanely popular with U.S. Military officers in particular. Unlike a lot of heroes who refuse to kill their villains, the Punisher (a Vietnam War veteran), has made it his life’s goal to kill every criminal that crosses his path after his wife and two kids were murdered by the mob for witnessing a murder. The Punisher represents the lengths that an ordinary man will go to in order to achieve his own brand of justice.
Every patriot in the country can relate to Captain America. In the 1940’s, Steve Rogers was a scrawny, 110 pound Brooklyn kid who wanted to join the Army more than anything, but kept getting rejected because of his frail physical attributes. After he successfully underwent an experimental U.S. government Super Soldier Program, Steve became America’s ultimate tool in defeating the Nazi’s during WWII. Every red-blooded American patriot can see themselves in Captain America’s shoes. Punching Nazi’s and winning the war for the good ol’ US of A. But thanks to the super soldier serum, which allows him to age almost indefinitely without any negative effects, and being frozen in a block of ice for more than 60 years, Captain America is now a man out of time. A 90 year old man with the body of a 24 year old, struggling to make sense of the world around him and find his place in it at the same time.
Deadpool, one of the most creative and unique comic book characters of all time, represents the humor in everything. Life is just one big joke to Deadpool, and no matter how dire the circumstances may be, he always sees the funny side. The often foul mouthed mercenary also knows that he’s in a comic book. Talking directly to the reader throughout the story (to the confusion of every other character in the book) and letting them know which page to skip to if they want to see what happens at the end. Deadpool comics combine profanity, humor, pop culture references, and Marvel’s more famous superheroes to create a comic unlike anything else in DC or Marvel history.
Marvel’s roster of villains is also head and shoulders above DC’s. While DC does boast the greatest villain of all time The Joker, his supporting cast can’t compare to Marvel’s. Their never ending list of villains ranges from psychopathic serial killers with insane enhancements, to incredibly powerful mutants hell bent on dominating the human race, all the way up to intergalactic beings capable of wiping out entire races and destroying entire planets with one swift motion.
Venom was created when every-day reporter Eddie Brock became the unwilling host to an evil alien symbiote. Venom is a bigger, stronger, faster, and more deadly version of one of the greatest superheroes of all time, Spider-Man. Since the Venom symbiote originally bonded with Spider-Man before he rejected it, Venom retains all of Spider-Man’s powers when the symbiote bonds with anyone else. Including his spider sense, ability to stick to walls, webbing, and enhanced strength. Venom is able to lift up to 13 tons when fully exerting himself.
Venom has come close to killing Spider-Man on multiple occasions, and Spider-Man often has to team up with other superheroes in order to take Venom down. A strain of that same symbiote also bonded with deranged serial killer Cletus Kasady, creating Carnage. Because of his insane and brutally murderous nature, Carnage is even more dangerous than Venom, and Spider-Man actually had to team up with Venom in order to defeat Carnage and prevent him from destroying all of New York City.
Magneto is another great villain in the Marvel Universe. He is a mutant whose main power is his ability to control anything made of metal. Magneto harbors immense hatred for humans, stemming from his time as a child spent in a Nazi concentration camp. Magneto wants mutants to rule over mankind, he sees humans as lower-class beings after years of being discriminated against and having his mutant powers suppressed. Magneto is one of the most powerful mutants of all time. His power to move metal has even been shown as giving him the ability to move the metal in the Earth, tearing the planet apart and wreaking havoc across the globe. Magneto is the founder of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, an organization that has given the X-Men a great many problems and will not rest until mutants are the dominant race on Earth.
The greatest villain in the Marvel Universe is the mad titan Thanos. He is a cosmic being with almost unlimited power and a literal love for death. He is actually in love with the embodiment of death and once slaughtered half of the living beings in the universe to please her. In the Infinity Gauntlet storyline, Thanos acquires the infinity gauntlet, a relic that grants the wielder “omnipotent power” and he uses it to almost end the entire Marvel Universe, killing several of Marvel’s best heroes, including Drax the Destroyer, Star-Lord, Nova, and War Machine in the process. Thanos is the most powerful comic book villain in history, and he would undoubtedly make quick work of 99% of any other Marvel or DC villain alike.
Marvel blows DC out of the water when it comes to their movie/TV adaptations of their comic book properties.
Marvel Studios can’t lose when it comes to their films, and their Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is one of the biggest spectacles in Hollywood right now.
Every movie they’ve made connects to one another while at the same time revolving around different main characters. Every MCU movie has been critically acclaimed while at the same time killing it at the box office. All of Marvel’s films are made in house by their own production studio, that way everyone from the producers to the developers to the directors know the source material inside and out, which allows them to make movies that please die hard Marvel comics fans while at the same time appealing to a more general audience.
The MCU was launched back in 2008 with the release of Marvel Studios’ first film Iron Man and Marvel hasn’t looked back since. Releasing hit after hit and introducing a number of classic Marvel characters to the big screen including Captain America, Thor, Nick Fury, The Incredible Hulk, The Avengers, The Guardians of the Galaxy, and a lot more.
In 2012 DC tried to copy the MCU by creating their own DC Extended Universe or DCEU, but to little success. The first DCEU movie Man of Steel received mixed reviews from fans and critics alike because of the overly dark depiction of Superman, who is supposed to be a beacon of hope and light for humanity.
The majority of the DCEU movies so far, Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad have also been berated by critics. While Wonder Woman was admittedly a hit, it’s not enough to overshadow the massive gap between Marvel and DC when it comes to movies. The only bad movies based on Marvel properties have come from other studios whose movies don’t tie into the MCU like Fox’s Fantastic 4 movies or Sony’s Spider-Man 3.
On the flipside, the only good movies based on DC properties have been made outside of the DCEU, such as Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy.
Marvel has also partnered with Netflix to release several Netflix exclusive TV shows based on darker, grittier, and more grounded Marvel heroes such as Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage. These shows have also been praised by fans and critics alike. And coming off the back of the superb third season of Daredevil, Marvel and Netflix currently have two more TV seasons of other their remaining shows slated for release with Jessica Jones season 3 and The Punisher season both expected sometime in 2019. Marvel’s small screen success has allowed them them to expand their fan base even farther, reaching casual fans who never read the comics but still want to experience that world of superheroes and villains, all while crushing DC in their wake.
The Argument for DC – Dante Troina
Yeah yeah yeah, whatever, Marvel is doing well with their movies recently, good for them; but comic book companies should have the best comics, and that’s what DC has. My counterpart has attempted to change the terms of this argument with movies included, because he knows of the fact that DC is the best comic book company in this comparison. Since DC was founded in 1934, and Marvel in 1947, playing catch up has long been a tradition for the comics of Marvel. Here’s why DC is better:
Superman. Batman. Wonder Woman. Green Lantern. The Flash. DC’s starting five is unbeatable. While I am definitely picking the lesser of the two cinematic universes, DC’s comics are head and shoulders above Marvel’s. Who is the first superhero everyone wants to be as a kid? Superman. DC’s range in heroes is wide; from super powered figures from other earths (Superman, Martian Manhunter), to stand up people with no superhuman abilities (Batman, Green Arrow) is what makes DC stronger than Marvel. The heroes are complex, with each possessing a tragic flaw. For Superman, he is always alienated on the earth that he loves so much, and fears never becoming good enough. Batman struggles with a no-killing rule, and can never fully relate to someone on a human level, being cautious of their potential death. Flaws like this, among others, make DC’s larger than life characters more relatable than perceived. The Flash is someone who always wants to do the right thing, Green Arrow is constantly trying to avenge his past failures, and Wonder Woman shows that any girl can be a hero. Sidekicks like Nightwing, Kid Flash, and Black Canary show that even the smaller superheroes can be well developed and become fan favorites, unlike Falcon and Iron Patriot in the Marvel comics, who are the most generic sidekicks anyone can ask for. The teenage Shazam and the crazy cowboy Jonah Hex proves that DC can take the wildest ideas and make them into solid characters in the universe. Marvel, on the other hand, has copycats of DC characters, such as Hawkeye to Green Arrow, Quicksilver to The Flash, and Namor to Aquaman. Why would anyone want to read about the bland counterparts that feel like Marvel’s Great Value brand of DC’s stars? Marvel may have more heroes, and easily recognizable ones (because of their films), but DC puts quality before quantity, which is more important in an argument about the quality of the brand.
Sorry Kody, but Batman alone has a better rogues gallery than the entire Marvel Comic Universe. Joker (the best villain of all time, in case you forgot), Two-Face, R’as Al Ghul, and others are all well developed, interesting villains. Other menaces in the universe, such as Lex Luthor, Brainiac, and Deathstroke are always multiple steps ahead of the superheroes, and often times end up winning one way or another. The villains in this universe are so interesting because of the fact that they are the closest thing to direct counterparts to their heroes; Joker points out many times that Batman was just a few steps away from insanity like him. Reverse Flash is exactly what his name implies, a twisted, narcissistic version of The Flash. Points are often made throughout the comics that the heroes are on the brink of being the bad guys, and the points are convincing. Every nemesis in the DC universe does one thing exceptionally well; attacking the protagonist’s weakness, which creates a power struggle, and an internal conflict, overall making the story that is being told much better. DC also has more faith in their villains, often times having one or two of them face off against the entire Justice League, whereas Marvel often counts on nameless alien clone armies to be easily killed off in pages with montages to the heroes’ powers. Marvel also has copied DC’s villains here too. DC’s Darkseid is a top 10 villain in their comics, but Marvel made Thanos, who isn’t much more than a powerful, generic plot device for Marvel to get their beloved heroes another montage moment. Brainiac is also an amazing villain in DC, and Marvel made almost the exact same character in Ultron ten years later. If Darkseid and Brainiac were in Marvel, they would easily be within the three best villains of the comics, but in DC, they are around the top ten, showing the quality of DC’s deep villain roster. Marvel has three more obvious copycats who are all worse than DC’s stellar villains, with Bullseye being a copycat of Deadshot, Black Cat being made 39 years after Catwoman, and Boomerang being a shameless rip off of Captain Boomerang. It’s safe to say Marvel has always been behind the curve on villains; it’s also safe to say that DC will always have better villains than Marvel, because the villains in DC create chaos, and have more interesting plots than just “taking over the world” 100 times in a row. DC realized early and often when making comics that the villains also matter, and can’t just be random, powerful plot devices, that they deserve an actual story to their name as well, and Marvel has been playing catch up ever since.
DC plotlines don’t contain the generic, take over the world plot that Marvel always seems to use as it’s crutch to make something “epic.” Sure, every writer can cave in to the cliche plotlines, but DC often has an underlying theme of internal conflict, making the both the heroes and villains develop wonderfully. Stories such as The Killing Joke, Batman: Hush, Flashpoint, Green Arrow: Year One and countless others have shown that a storyline doesn’t need a widescale plot to be successful. Daredevil is (admittedly) an amazing character, but his best stories are mirror images of some of the best Batman stories produced beforehand. DC also started the famous Year One comics, showing our heroes as a younger self, not just trapping them into one setting in time – not to mention, DC was the first to have a multiverse – with Marvel following soon after. Plotlines that have apocalyptic implications come sparingly, and when they do, they’re not just average. Storylines like Invasion!, Crisis on Infinite Earths, and Sinestro Corps War are some of the many successful wide scale comic runs in DC. Also, DC goes very broad, from making different earths to having time travel, there are many great stories of a different variety; such as the Red Son storyline, theorizing if Superman was a Russian. And… oh yeah – Watchmen is also one of the comics under the DC brand, which is widely appraised as the best comic run of all time. DC goes big and broad, but always manages to switch up the plotline and add in something fresh and new, and no matter how big the plot may seem, the emotional core of the story is always found in their characters, putting the people we all care about first.
Who won? Which company is winning the arms race for comics? What should we debate next?