Every nerd loves a good pop culture debate. ‘Star Wars’ or ‘Star Trek?’ Mac or PC? And one of the largest debates of all, Marvel or DC? When done respectfully, these types of arguments can be fun, and maybe even help us brush up on our rhetorical skills. However, neither side will ever prove the other wrong, and the spirited debate can turn bitter and mean-spirited. Most fans will prefer one over the other, and that’s fine, but the fight between DC and Marvel fans is ridiculous for several reasons.
Different Isn’t Better or Worse
DC and Marvel definitely take different approaches to their characters, but there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong way to approach a fictional concept like superheroes. The very fact that they’re doing different things means they’re not in conflict with one another, in the same way Olympians competing in different events aren’t in conflict. Since Superman was published, DC has always approached their characters as modern mythology. They publish bold, iconic characters that represent certain values and concepts. Marvel, on the other hand, has made its mark by focusing on the interpersonal drama between heroic, but very dysfunctional characters. To make a very general comparison, DC is ‘Lord of the Rings,’ Marvel is ‘Game of Thrones.’ Those two fanbases don’t have much of a rivalry, and even have a pretty large overlap. Liking one thing does not require you to hate something else just because it’s different.
The Other Comic Companies
If you only focus on the competition between DC and Marvel, you’ll be missing out of tons of other great comics publishers. A lot of them publish innovative stuff that keeps the medium fresh and exciting. These companies may not be iconic brands like DC or Marvel, but I’ll bet even people who don’t read comics are familiar with some of their properties. One of the largest competitors to the Big Two is Dark Horse Comics, However, which has done some awesome original material, like the ‘Sin City’ series and ‘300’ by Frank Miller, and Mike Mignola’s ‘Hellboy’ series. All of these have received high profile adaptations and left a mark on pop culture.
Another major publisher is Image Comics, which was created by a group of successful comic book artists in the ‘90s to give more control to creators. While most of its properties haven’t gotten much mainstream exposure (the less said about the ‘Spawn’ movie, they better), you may have heard of a little show called ‘The Walking Dead,’ which is based on the Image series by Robert Kirkman.
Writers and Artists
This might be news to superhero fans that mostly follow the movies, but if you follow comics much, you’ll know that many of the same creators work for both Marvel and DC. These writers and artists are free to work for whichever company they want, and often switch between them. A good example of this comes from writer Jeph Loeb, probably best known for his work at DC on Superman and Batman. In fact, his Batman story “The Long Halloween” was one of the main influences on Christopher Nolan’s ‘The Dark Knight’ trilogy. However, Loeb went on to work for Marvel, and is now their Head of Television.
Some comics creators spend years working with one company and defining their characters, only to switch to the competitor. Take Jack Kirby, who is best known as the artist of many Marvel comics. His first major success at Marvel came when he and writer Joe Simon created Captain America in 1940. In the ‘60s, he partnered with Stan Lee, developing such iconic characters as the Fantastic Four, the X-men, Hulk, Thor, and Iron Man. When Kirby had a falling out with Marvel, he brought his creativity to DC in 1970, where he created one of their biggest villains, Darkseid (who will eventually be introduced as the main antagonist in DC’s film series). There are plenty of other creators that have switched between companies, far too many to list here. The point is, both companies’ characters have been largely created and defined by the same group of people.
Sharing is Caring
DC and Marvel share a lot more than creators, however. Hardcore fans may argue which company is more original, but ideas have been borrowed back and forth quite a bit DC started the superhero craze when they introduced the world to Superman in 1938, and immediately found themselves with competition from other companies. Marvel reworked the concept of the superhero in the ‘60s and ‘70s with their soap opera-style drama and relatable, flawed characters. This new direction helped them attract more teenagers to comic books. This era also saw the return of social commentary to superhero comics, something that had largely disappeared since the 1940s. DC saw what Marvel was doing, and applied some of these techniques to their established characters. DC took the lead in the ‘80s pushing for increasingly darker content and more serious stories with the publication of comics like ‘Watchmen’ and ‘The Dark Knight Returns.’ Both companies have made huge innovations in comics, and learned from each other’s successes.
They Get Along Just Fine
If there is a war between Marvel and DC, it exists only in the minds of their most belligerent fans. They’ve published several inter-company crossovers together, which means they know there’s money to be made by getting along (even if their characters usually fight each others.) With the way the creators switch companies frequently, many of the people running DC and Marvel are colleagues and friends. For years, DC and Marvel both operated in New York. When DC announced it was moving its operations to California, Marvel tweeted this GIF to them as a farewell:
Really, what I'm trying to say here is, can't we all just get along?