Nope. Maybe that’s not fair to completely discredit DC and everything they’ve done, but things aren’t looking too good. I recently read in the back of a DC comic that Dan DiDio, Co-Publisher of DC Comics, claimed he would bring DC to the top and be the number one publisher. This stuck out to me, because he didn’t say “best” publisher, because that’s subjective, but he said “number one”, which is a lot more subjective, depending on which aspect you’re looking at. However, DC is pretty awesome, and despite not really being number one, in quite a few ways, I figured I’d take this opportunity to compare the two in the various realms in which they compete with Marvel.
This is what these two companies are about, so it’s important to look at the numbers and see who is winning. As far as units sold, Marvel is typically a big chunk ahead of DC, month after month. However, as far as quality goes, it’s really up to who is reading the books. What I’ve always said about DC is that they have a smaller roster of substantial characters than Marvel has, but the amount of titles you can milk out of those characters is a lot more than with Marvel. For example, one of the strongest characters from DC would be Batman, who currently has over a half dozen titles that focus on him. Compared to a character like Iron Man or Spider-Man, who only have a couple of titles with their names on it, yet make appearances in quite a few other books. Marvel’s advantage is the amount of characters that they can pull from, and whenever you need a new team, just put a bunch of characters together, use the word “Avengers“, and you’ve got yourself a few years worth of stories. However, DC has recently started a campaign about “holding the line at $2.99”, or in other words, they aren’t increasing the prices of any of their comics, compared to Marvel, who sells books anywhere between $2.99 and $4.99. The price difference doesn’t mean much to me, because I’m still going to buy this stuff, no matter what it costs. Also, the price on the cover doesn’t necessarily reflect the quality of the work inside the pages, and I’d rather pay more knowing I’ll enjoy it more, despite that not always being the case. Another issue I typically have with DC is the way their major events and crossovers are handled. With most Marvel events, to get every issue of everything involved with that event, you are looking at buying dozens of books. However, if you only like one character in that event, you can read their title and learn what their role was in that event, for the most part. Even though DC doesn’t necessarily have more tie-in issues for their events, they seem to link the storyline to other books too regularly. For example, if I am only reading Batman, I don’t want to get to the back and read “Look for the conclusion in next month’s Batman Detective Comics!” Not a major issue, and I’m sure some people will defend that format of storytelling, but it’s just kind of annoying to me.
It’s going to end up being the same result here as with the comics themselves, in that there is a larger pool of entertaining characters with Marvel than with DC. Nobody can argue the fact that the original Superman movie series, the Tim Burton directed Batman movies, and most recently The Dark Knight were some of the best movies that were released in the times they came out, let alone the fact that they were movies based on comics. Then again, out of those 11 movies, they were about two different DC characters. Conversely, since the release of Blade in 1998, Marvel has released 22 movies theatrically, with another two coming out in the next few months. They didn’t necessarily all do that well, some of them were just terrible, but these generally aren’t considered losses for the company. For every Elektra, you have two good Spider-Man movies. For every Ghost Rider, you have two good X-Men movies. I don’t think there has been a single Marvel film that has been as critically or financially successful as The Dark Knight, but they continue to produce quality films every year, sometimes even twice a year.
Let me just clarify that my use of the word “television” should define weekly, live-action series, their success, and longevity. I think once again, we can refer to DC and the depth of their characters for being able to make multiple installments into the continuity of one television universe. In the 50’s, there were Superman TV shows, in the 60’s, there was the campy Adam West Batman series, the 70’s had Wonder Woman, the 90’s had Lois & Clark, and only recently did Smallville have its series finale after ten seasons. DC characters have spanned multiple decades and had quite a few years of successful franchises. Compare that to Marvel, who has attempted this format, yet really only found success with one, which was an Incredible Hulk series in the late 70’s. I’m sure they will be attempting more in the future, but as of right now, they haven’t found their stride.
Whether it be Saturday mornings or weekday afternoons, these cartoons are the ones that are syndicated and play on multiple channels frequently, and are shown for quite a few years after no more new episodes were being created. In recent memory, both Marvel and DC had success with critics and fans with X-men: The Animated Series and Batman: The Animated Series. I’m gonna say these two cancel each other out, just to make things easier. There haven’t been too many long running series, or at least, series that last more than two or three years, but it once again comes down to quantity over quality. Since these cartoons are generally geared towards a younger audience, it’s hard to accurate judge how good the cartoon is, based on faithfulness to comics, writing, and animation style. When it comes to quantity, we are going to have to once again hand this one to Marvel and their rate of production.
The term “home video” seems a little antiquated, but I am referring to the movies that are produced by these companies that go straight to DVD or Blu-ray and are typically at least 60 minutes each. It seems as though Marvel tried to set the bar by starting things off a little earlier with an animated adaptation of The Ultimates with the movie Ultimate Avengers back in 2006. They generally release one or two a year, but they are fair, at best. I haven’t seen all of them, but I’ve seen a fair amount, and I’d say the only one I’ve seen that holds up to repeat viewings would be Hulk Vs., but that’s it. DC had a few back in the 90’s, and then didn’t really start up again until Superman: Doomsday in 2007, and every release since that has been quite entertaining. One standout was Batman: Gotham Knight, not only because of the animation styles, the writing of the stories, or the mature subject matter, but also because it filled in gaps between the Batman Begins movie and the events in The Dark Knight. It was a great link for fans and novices alike who were pumped to see Batman beating up bad guys.
I’m not talking about special edition figurines that are sculpted out of marble and placed on a shelf after being purchased for hundreds of dollars, I’m talking about toys, the things you see at Toys R’ Us or Target. Yes, I am a grown up who frequently checks the toy aisle at Target and drags Rampaige along to Toys R’ Us, and it’s evident that DC needs some new toys. The toys themselves are a weird size and look awkward, and I wouldn’t really want anyone to look at them on my shelf. I really do want to buy more DC toys, but it’s hard to find anything worth purchasing. Marvel, on the other hand, is constantly rolling out new toys with new colors and new packaging and variant costumes. They give you a reason to want to buy them, because they just look so fucking cool. The Marvel Select figures come with sturdy bases and the packaging art looks awesome, and the Marvel Legends figures are released in a series, and each toy in that series comes with one part of a larger figure, so if you buy the whole series, you get a bonus large figure. Another advantage might also be that with more movies and cartoons coming out, Marvel can make more toys related to that, but they are still in the lead. However, I must admit that compared to Thor and Captain America toys versus the Green Lantern toys I saw, the Green Lantern ones were a lot cooler.
This one is a little bit harder to quantify, trying to figure out which characters kids like more. Working in a public place where I see thousands of people every single day, there’s one thing I know for certain…KIDS WEAR MARVEL SHIT. Whether it be shirts, shoes, backpacks, lunchbags, water bottles, whatever it is, I see plenty more Marvel. I think there are a couple of reasons why, one of them being the subject matter of their characters. Plenty of kids like Batman, but after seeing a movie like The Dark Knight, most parents don’t run out and throw their 5-year-old in a shirt with the Joker on it. Older audiences wear these things, but as far as little kids, it seems as though parents are a lot more willing to toss their kid in a Spider-Man shirt, because he is a high school kid, or Iron Man shoes, despite the fact that he is an alcoholic. Big surprise that the company who is now owned by Disney has a lot more kid-friendly products. I also think another factor in this is just the licensing rights, and with Marvel overseeing the production of more of their movies, TV shows and cartoons, that shit can just get pumped out nonstop without being slowed down with paperwork. Even though I don’t have any statistics to back it up, it appears that kids support Marvel more than DC.
I have played my fair share of comic book based videogames, however, it’s mostly just shitty sidescrolling games where all I am expected to do is mash buttons and kill things. I do own Arkham Asylum, which was extremely successful and has a sequel coming out, but I haven’t beaten it yet. I also own Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, and quite enjoy it, but it’s basically an updated button masher. I think both publishers have success and failures in this area and it might be too close to call. In case you would like to chime in with your opinion on that, you can check the list of Marvel related videogames here and DC related videogames here.
It’s like picking out which one is funnier!
There you have it, the official score is Marvel – 5 and DC – 2. Granted, these are just my interpretations of these two publishing companies, and I wouldn’t have felt it necessary to compare the two, being two completely different companies that just happen to have similar goals, but that’s Dan Didio’s fault for claiming they were going to be “number one”. I still think both companies are awesome and will support pretty much anything they attempt, I just want DC to do more stuff with Green Arrow. I mean, that guy’s awesome! He doesn’t even have a movie yet!