Comic book fans have been battling it out for years in regards to which company is better than the other, Marvel Comics or DC Comics. In one corner, you have the “Marvel Zombies” that are telepathically led by Axel Alonso, Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics, basically a Charles Xavier want to be. In the other corner, you have the hive minded “DC Drones” that only follow the orders given by king bee Geoff Johns, President and Chief Creative Officer of DC Entertainment. Both groups refuse to accept that they share similarities even though Aquaman is basically Namor, Hawkeye is as Robin Hood as Green Arrow, Thanos is the purple version of Darkseid, Ultron is nothing more than Brainiac, and so forth and so on. Regardless of these often-overlooked similarities, the comic book gods have declared that Marvel Comics fans must be bitter enemies with the readers of DC Comics.
The rivalry doesn’t stop with comics though. Fans of both companies love to tout how well their respective movies and TV shows are performing. If you tell a DC Comics fan that Batman v Superman stunk he’ll quickly respond by telling you that the movie had the best domestic movie opening for a Warner Bros. film ever. If you tell a Marvel Comics fan that Avengers: Age of Ultron was just ok he’ll quickly point out that no MCU movie has ever received a Rotten Tomatoes rating as low as Batman v Superman.
The bickering between fans is an endless cycle that ultimately leads nowhere - much like the presidential debates - but what if I were to say that Marvel could learn something from DC, and DC could learn something from Marvel. Heresy I know, but hear me out true believers.
It All Starts With The Comics, And The Critical Fans
Let’s be honest, the plethora of comic book movies and TV shows is due to the support of the comic book community. If comic book fans didn’t exist nor would comic book movies and TV shows. And let’s face it, graphic novels and comic book story-lines popularized by fans dropped their hard earned cash on them have influenced the movies and TV shows.
I’ll be honest with you - I’m a critical fan. I like my comic characters to be portrayed a certain way, and usually that way is the traditional way. Sometimes change is good, but when that change causes my heroes to become unrecognizable to me, I’m the first to express my disapproval. I think that’s true for a lot of comic book fans. Yes, we can be annoying about it and even over-the-top, but I think it’s because we are protecting the memory of what makes our heroes relatable to us. For instance, if Bruce Wayne suddenly became a one legged pirate that still fought crime as Batman I'd be screaming bloody murder.
I believe that the rise and fall of comic book sales has a lot to do with fans being critical and fickle all at once. If we look at DC Comics, when the New 52 reboot occurred in 2011 it was initially met with praise; however, by 2015 sales were lackluster. To me, it appeared as though fans fell away from DC Comics within a short amount of time because the heroes were altered to degrees that made them unrecognizable, and because the long-standing legacies of the heroes were discarded.
I remember picking up a Superman comic and a Batman comic prior to the most recent reboot at DC Comics called “Rebirth.” In the Superman comic, Superman was a powerless dude riding around on a motorcycle. Not exactly what I think of when I hear Superman. In the Batman comic, Batman was actually Jim Gordon inside of a mechanical Batman suit. Again, not exactly Batman.
The Rebirth Of DC Comics
Looking at the August 2016 sales chart, the majority of the top comics sold are published by DC Comics. It wasn't always like that and I think DC's surge in sales is due to the soft reboot the publisher did several months ago called Rebirth. Keep in mind, this is the same company that has taken a lot of heat over its dark, and gritty superhero movies.
I found it interesting that fans could love the comics, but not fully enjoy the movies. In contrast, fans are loving the Marvel Studio movies and TV shows, but aren't jiving with the comics. You'd think that the comics and the movies would both be doing well at the same time in terms of fan reaction, but that's not the case.
As I thought about the reaction fans are having to the comics and movies it occurred to me that the reaction — whether it's positive or negative — correlates to whether or not the characters are being portrayed according to their classic form. To me, it seems as though fans are hungry for their heroes to be true to their origins, not updated to the point of being unrecognizable.
Marvelous Movies And TV Shows
Marvel Studios has been doing an outstanding job of making movies and TV shows that feel true to the characters created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and others. It doesn't feel like Marvel Studios has tried to update their characters through a dark and gritty lens. Instead, Marvel Studios has embraced the classic nature of its heroes. For example, Captain America — a character that was said to be too big of a boy scout to be appealing — has had great success at the box office.
Marvel Comics Aren't Doing So Hot Right Now
Although the movies and TV shows based on the Marvel characters are doing great right now, Marvel comics can't keep pace with the titles being sold by DC Comics. Looking at the top 50 comics sold in August, only five are based on classic Marvel characters, and of those five, there are only three classic characters featured: Spider-Man, Black Panther, and Deadpool.
Just a year ago, Marvel Comics was dominating the sales chart. Recognizable characters and teams such as The Hulk, Spider-Man, X-Men, Wolverine and others were outselling DC titles. What happened within the last year or so?
Currently, Marvel has been moving their core heroes away from their classic appeal or removing them all together.
Right now, Captain America is an agent of Hydra.
Thor is not the long blond that you know.
Peter Parker isn't a high school nerd but rather a CEO of a major global corporation.
There is no Fantastic Four.
Bruce Banner, a.k.a. The Hulk, is dead.
This isn't the current X-Men team.
Wolverine is dead.
The list, as depressing as it is, goes on and on.
Marvel Comics Can Learn A Lot From DC's Success, While DC Films Can Learn From Marvel Studios' Success.
I believe that it is evident that DC Comics is doing well because they have taken their heroes back to their roots. Marvel Studios is producing some of the best superhero movies and TV shows out there because their heroes are recognizable and reminiscent of their comic counterparts on the big and small screens. What's truly thought-provoking is that in an age of heated rivalry between DC and Marvel, with fans and critics alike warring over which is better, both could stand to learn from each other. Marvel Comics are in dire need of a return to the roots of their heroes, much as DC Comics have done with Rebirth. On the other side of things, DC Films need to better represent the soul of their characters instead of burying them in brooding grittiness. If they can both take a page out of the other's book, the superhero genre will be an even bigger success!
Where's the love for one of our favorite DC heroes, you say? We've got all you Wonder Woman fans covered in the video below: