Currently, Marvel is the top dog in the media while DC is the underdog. However, this wasn’t always the case. In the last decade, Marvel has rebranded and redesigned many of their characters to appeal to newer generations and to pave the way for their movie debuts.
About a decade ago DC heroes, like Batman and Superman, were more recognizable and known to the masses than Marvel characters like Ironman and Captain America. The reason behind the lack of recognition was one of Marvel’s biggest strengths among current readers. Unfortunately, it was also Marvel’s biggest weakness in gaining new readers. Marvel built their brand on continuity. Across all of the comics, everything was happening at the same time in one universe. So if Thor was back on Asgard during a particular period, he would not show up in a Captain America issue.
For DC comics, continuity is only present at relatively high levels. Also, many characters do not operate in the same universe, and typically there is a reason for a crossover. For instance, Flash has ran fast enough to accidentally enter a parallel universe where he met Supergirl. The lack of continuity in DC comics allowed new readers to pick up on any issue without feeling lost.
Fortunately, Marvel recognized the need to intrigue new readers and began strategically changing their comics and characters. In 2000, Marvel launched Ultimate Marvel (Owen, 2013). In Ultimate Marvel many characters timelines were reset returning them to younger ages. Also, costumes, ethnicities, and backstories were all redeveloped to fit with newer generations and to attract new readers. The redevelopment diversified the ethnicities and genders of many superheroes.
On the other hand, since there is not continuity in DC comics it’s hard for readers to adapt to all of the story lines. For this reason, DC hasn’t done as many cameos as Marvel. So less famous characters, like the Flash and Super Woman, have not been able to gain a large, loyal following like Superman and Batman.
I believe for DC to surpass Marvel they will have to develop their other characters. Currently, DC appears to hedge all of their bets on Superman and Batman. There have been television series for The Flash, Green Arrow, and Supergirl, however overall the company is not producing as many blockbusters as Marvels because Marvel has more characters and more events to explore because they have evenly promoted all of their characters by using cameos and continuity.
One strength of DC comics is that they have developed their superhero and their evil counterparts equally. As a fan, I know almost as much about Superman as I do about the Joker. Also, there are fan bases devoted to the evil doers of the DC universe. In my opinion, the same isn’t true for Marvels. I believe as DC promotes more characters they can utilize the back stories and events of the “bad guys.”
A final recommendation is that although comics, video games, and movies tend to be aimed at kids, not all versions of superheroes need to be rated PG or even PG-13. Dead pool, a Marvel character, had a rated R film and it earned over $135 million in its weekend debut (Land, 2016). Targeting adults still works for many comics, and DC’s lack of continuity allows for there to be an adult version and kid friendly version of Batman, the Joker, and more.
I believe many people prefer Marvel over DC currently because Marvel has been producing more movies and television shows. Also, since they are a fan of continuity, television shows often match with film events. Also, DC’s recent attempt at the box office left many fans unhappy. Marvel has taken the time to individually give each character a backstory before the movie that brings them all together. DC decided to bring several characters together in Suicide Squad and tell their stories during the events of the movie. This left very little time for the development of the plot and current events. Many fans and critics were not impressed.
Personally, I like DC comics more. I believe DC has always offered more diversification in their characters. DC has provided female, black, Asian, and several other demographics heroes and characters to identify with. In fact, recently DC introduced their first openly transgender character and the first ever lesbian marriage proposal in comic history (Sieczkowski, 2013). The brand seems more inclusive than Marvel, and I have always been a huge fan of Harleen Quinzel.
Lang, B. (2016, February 14). Box Office: ‘Deadpool’ Obliterates Records With $135 Million Debut. Retrieved April 16, 2017, from http://variety.com/2016/film/box-office/deadpool-box-office-1201705937/
Owen, M. (2013, August 28). Building a brand the mighty Marvel way. Retrieved April 16, 2017, from https://econsultancy.com/blog/63294-building-a-brand-the-mighty-marvel-way
Sieczkowski, C. (2013, April 11). DC Comics Introduces First Openly Transgender Character In Batgirl Comic (PICTURES). Retrieved April 16, 2017, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/11/dc-comics-transgender-batgirl_n_3061268.html