There is no easy way to answer this question. Because it’s boring. And irritating. Why is it that I must choose between things I love? Why can’t I love things in a different way? The truth is, you can love something more than other things, but I have noticed recently that the world accepts no new ideas. Everything must be compared to something else, and nothing can stand on its own two feet. You can like Star Wars more than Star Trek, but you can also like both equally. You can compare Adele and Taylor Swift songs and voices, but you must also admit that they are very different. I can’t be the only person to think that the conversation about comparing DC and Marvel is weird. It’s like comparing Penguin and HarperCollins. They are both publishing companies that tell thousands of stories, so why does one have to be better somehow?
The first time I really heard this question asked was when I was watching an interview of Jason Momoa. Momoa will be playing Aquaman in the upcoming Justice League film, as well as a standalone Aquaman movie. What I found so ridiculous about this question was that at the time, it was widely known that he would be Aquaman. What other answer could he give but to say DC was his favorite? Which he did—very aggressively. It seems silly to choose one over another when they both tell amazing stories with incredible characters who are overcoming villains, and even some who are turning into villains themselves.
Marvel, in one form or another, has existed since 1939, and DC Comics has been around since the early 1930s, when it started as Detective Comics. Without counting every comic available on marvel.com, I estimate that there have been more than 20,000 individual comics written and published since 1939 (you can sign up with Marvel Unlimited and get access to 15,000 old and new comics, but not all have been converted to digital versions). DC has probably published more than 30,000 since they started, and these numbers don’t even take into account comics that were translated into other languages.
There is so much history in comic books. DC started as detective stories and featured mostly anti-heros. In the beginning Batman didn’t care about the casualties he left behind, and was frequently seen killing criminals, but he was trying to save Gotham so he wasn’t a traditional villain. Marvel began with a number of monster stories. In fact, Marvel owned the rights to “zombie” from 1975-1996. In 1954, the Comics Code Authority (CCA) was created to regulate content for children and “approve” storylines so parents knew they were safe. For a time, the word “werewolf” was banned, causing some hilarious workarounds (X-Men [No. 69] featured a “were-pterodactyl” named Sauron to get around the code). Over the 80-plus years comics have existed, writers, illustrators and editors have come and gone through the companies and left an imprint based on their favorite stories and the messages they wanted to put out. Then TV and movies came along, which changed things even more, and executives decided that was a fun new way to portray comic book stories.
Today’s comics look vastly different from the first stories DC and Marvel published (more than just the changes in how we illustrate). Movies have turned the tone of comic book heroes darker and changed things (like their costumes) to suit the newer comics, except when it comes to putting female superheroes in main roles in movies.
Right now, Marvel has more comic titles with female leads than DC for perhaps the first time ever—10 this month—to DC’s eight, but it seems the higher number of women on the page isn’t leading to time on the big screen. Instead, women in comic stories are finding their ground on TV.
The idea of having to choose one or the other came up again recently with the success of Supergirl and the release of Jessica Jones. Both are amazing shows that deal with only two of the different narratives of women. Truthfully, we are all so different and our stories look, feel and sound different, which was a point made very well by Carly Lane on The Mary Sue.
“…if Supergirl is the show that’s standing in the sun, Jessica Jones is the one that lurks in the shadows, dealing with the grittier aspects of superherodom. Both Kara and Jessica face their fair share of evil—but, as we already know, evil itself wears many faces. These two superheroes are fighting the same battle, but they’re each doing it in their own way, and it doesn’t mean that one is more valued or more important than the other.”
I agree. Both heroes are important, and it’s important they are women. We need female characters we can relate to on screen. Obviously, there are still things about both characters I cannot relate to, but I can see more of myself in them than in a character like Batman or Captain America. As much as I love them, I want a place for all different kinds of characters. Having two comic creation powerhouses like Marvel and DC can only increase the number of different stories that can be told.
Here’s the thing. I read comics, but I don’t have a huge collection. Ultimately, I just love the stories, the characters, the journeys, and the themes of heroism. I don’t wanna choose. I just want to like everything without alienating people who “only read DC or Marvel comics.” So instead of asking people to choose, why not just ask them why they like comics at all?