DC vs Marvel is an interesting issue for those who care enough, as people tend to have fairly strong opinions on it. For me, the issue is simple. DC represents quality while Marvel represents quantity. DC has a few key characters, all iconic and complex. All have been interpreted and reinterpreted in a myriad of ways, because doing so allows interesting things to be explored. Take for example Batman, where we had the campy 60’s version, the 90’s TAS, the appalling Burton series and the current Nolan series. Has anything similar even been attempted with a Marvel character, or is it even really possible? To be fair, Frank Miller managed this with Daredevil, but by adding a lot to what was a poorly defined character in the first place.
By contrast Marvel seems to bank on having a huge collection of characters interacting with each other in interesting ways. These characters always seem to simply be catalyst for the plot, without ever being interesting characters in themselves. If I read a story about Batman, it can be riveting if he is in his home for more than half of the story. I can’t see that working with many Marvel characters. To be fair, Marvel does have a few interesting characters, Wolverine (whose gain in popularity was also due to Miller), Silver Surfer, Hulk and sometimes Punisher. It’s not often however that these characters are really explored or have interesting story arcs. Indeed whenever I try to get involved I can’t help but feel they have just been stagnating, not having progressed much in the last few years.
One thing I have noticed anecdotally is that many marvel fans are really X-Men fans. They identified with the X-Men during childhood, feeling different or picked on for whatever reason. The thing with the X-Men is that it is so glaringly obvious that I can’t see what people get out of it. Oh look, a group of mutants (people who are somehow different) ostracized by society. I too am different and feel picked on, so I identify! Yeesh. DC comics may not have such superficial metaphors, but I’ll take carefully developed complex characters over that any day of the week. The other thing with Marvel characters is that they all seem to be fundamentally good or bad people. The heroes always end up doing the right thing more often than not, while the villains either try to do the right thing or go back to their villainous way. I mean, can it get any more obvious than a Brotherhood of Evil Mutants?
This is a trivial post, but I would be interested if Marvel fans could defend their brand and maybe point me to some interesting counter examples. I still have yet to read Civil War which I hope will explore some interesting issues, although I can’t help but think it’s not going to get across the same message as Kingdom Come did in only four issues, which it does appear to be trying for. Still, if anyone can recommend me some interesting complex characters or story arcs, or just refute my assumptions/observations, it would be much appreciated.
Update 1 – September 19th 2011
Another thing that always irked me about Marvel was the amount of Characters who happened to be a result of radiation. I guess this is a result of many characters being created in the 50’s and 60’s….but still. Marvel has Spider-man, Hulk, the Fantastic Four, DareDevil, Phoenix and probably others I can’t remember right now. Radiation doesn’t seem to be the origin for DC characters nearly as often…instead we have humans with various personal motivations or scientists who discover something new they can use or aliens. Not simply coming up with a new power and using radiation as the explanation for it. It just seems lazy to do so.