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DC Vs. Marvel: Which Company Created a More Compelling Fictional Universe?

Will the Justice League film be able to compete with The Avengers?

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PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates!

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May 7, 2014 - 2:00 pm

In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email. 

The most interesting answers may be linked, crossposted, or published at PJ Lifestyle. 

Who will ultimately triumph in the superhero battles to define the genre? Does Marvel with Spider-Man, the Avengers, and the X-Men set the standard? Or does DC with Batman and Superman provide a better model for aspiring comic and superhero creators?

John Boot: 5 Reasons Why Thor Is a Second-Rate Superhero Franchise

Whose heroes are more exciting? Whose villains are more frightening? Who has the greater history of storytelling success?

John Boot: The 4 Big Lies That Ruined The X-Men Movie Franchise

What pop culture questions do you want to debate and discuss? Please leave your suggestions for upcoming Pop Culture debates also in the comments or submit via email.

John Boot: 5 Lame Superhero Sequels That Should Never Have Been Made

Dave Swindle: 10 Secret Reasons Why The Avengers Is the Best Superhero Film

***

Updated May 8, 2014: See Liberty Island COO David S. Bernstein’s great response here: “Marvel for the Win, Obviously.

PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates Features a new prompt each weekday to weigh the good, the bad, the overrated, the unbelievable, and the amazing throughout the worlds of books, film, and TV. We can't figure out how to build a greater pop culture until we dissect the mess we already have. Want to contribute your perspective to the debate? Email PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle with your take: DaveSwindlePJM [@] gmail.com Image via shutterstock/ DarkGeometryStudios

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Top Rated Comments   
DC never really took the trouble to create a universe that crossed over like Marvel's did. DC had the Justice League and The Brave and the Bold but they never really referred back to each character's world.

I give DC credit in the early '60s for creating genuinely bizarre visions with great covers and fun stories, but when Marvel gathered steam it wasn't even a close contest. Marvel developed an editorial house voice that was canny, cool and flippant. They made fun of DC and called it Brand Echh. DC could barely be bothered to have a two-part story whereas Marvel reveled in long story arcs that gave an added depth to the fun.

DC was stodgy and conservative and didn't like to break that fifth wall that dialogued with their fans or was self-aware as a house entity.

None of it lasted that long. Marvel lost Ditko and then everything with Kirby. Stan Lee cut back. Steranko and Barry Smith came along and just as suddenly left. DC seemed to have trouble keeping their artists and inkers where they did the most good, with the exception of Joe Kubert and war stuff. Would've liked to see a lot more of Russ Heath and Carmine Infantino.

Was great while it lasted. People laugh at the comics code but there were no female super heroes who looked like super sluts or vulgar Raymond Chandler imitations. When people came in and "improved" comics by making them darker and more real is when they wrecked comics. That generation took comics with them and left nothing behind for other kids.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (18)
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It's true that, after decades of ODing on alternate reality/multiverse/rebooting crack, both Marvel and DC have made it difficult to apprehend what's going on now in their respective universes. I'd say it doesn't matter much; for lots of comic book fans, time is pretty much frozen in the pre-Dark Knight/Watchmen era.

Which is why the fundamental differences between the two companies still hold true, most noticeably on the big screen. Marvel movies work better because the innovations Marvel pioneered in the '60s -- most notably the deeply-flawed and perpetually bickering superheroes -- still make great theater.

DC, by contrast, has one character that works on the big screen. They still have no idea how to resolve the all-powerful Superman problem, nor how to develop their secondary heroes into star-vehicle pictures (see: Green Lantern), which is why I doubt there will ever be a JLA movie.

DC does good work on the small screen, it should be pointed out; the adaptation of New Frontier showed how you COULD make a JLA film. But I'm skeptical that will ever translate into a big-money blockbuster.

https://www.libertyislandmag.com/creator/danleroy/home.html
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
DC Vs. Marvel: Which Company Created a More Compelling Fictional Universe?

I don’t think there’s any question that Marvel’s “Avengers” franchise wins this contest at a slow walk…there’s just never been a brand-building effort as ambitious or as successful before. Multiple movies, combined movies, a television show, and soon Netflix series, all bleeding plots over one another…it’s really an amazing accomplishment that DC will have a tough time attempting (or Marvel’s “X-men” or “Spiderman” franchises for that matter…oh, and just FYI: Disney owns “The Avengers”, Sony owns “Spiderman”, and FOX owns “The X-Men”…and no studio is allowed to poach from one another even though, technically, the characters are all operating in the same universe).
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
I grew up reading comic books. My dad was also a fan, so I cut my teeth on silver age Marvel (Iron Man) and DC (Mister Miracle). In my teens (early 90s), the X-Men comics were all the rage, and Image Comics was in its birthing stages. However, my chosen imprint was Dark Horse. I liked the Star Wars comics better than Marvel or DC.
Fast forward to adulthood, with bigger budgets and larger visions, Marvel and DC clash in the worlds of film and television. On the big screen, Marvel has posted its flag in the cohesive universe model. This is their big strength. Every other studio now has to raise their game beyond one-shot movies. DC has a strong track record on television - especially animated series. Most of their animated series have had strong followings, but everything (everything...thanks George Lucas) is tied to action figure and toy sales. Some series have been cancelled just because their toys don't sell as well.
As I walk through the store prior to a big superhero movie coming out, I always look at the action figures. Generally, the quality of an action figure has a lot to do with the success of the movie. If the action figure has some pointless action or feature that makes it just one of four (superman, for example) of the same character being released, I don't hold my breath for an amazing movie.
Major movies are a big game. I see DC staking their claim in the animated direct to video market. Lower budget, but also lower benchmarks to make a profit. Marvel is so far ahead of the competition in the feature films that I don't see anyone catching up anytime soon. Each company should create the world that best fits their characters. I give points to each, but my preference is Marvel.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think Marvel embraced the psychologically "flawed hero" more effectively than DC, and that made their books' characters more interesting.

For example, Simon Williams, a.k.a Wonder Man, died and was "reborn" as an immortal. He was intellectually aware he couldn't get hurt yet had a terrifying phobia about dying that frequently made him hesitate when immediate physical action was needed.

His "brother" the Vision was physically an artificial being but had the mind of thinking, feeling human. He frequently dithered between thinking of himself as a machine and as a human. As he eventually justified his humanity to himself (quoted from memory), "Some men have prosthetic arms and legs; me, I have artificial everything. And as said by someone Prince Namor might approve, 'I yam what I yam and that's all that I yam.'"

Bruce Banner was diagnosed with MPD. The Hulk was a physical manifestation of one personalitity, one that represented his childhood rage. There also existed a gray Hulk which represented his adolescent frustrations. Someone treated Banner by helping him to merge the personalities, resulting in some dangerous mood swings.

Similarly, Ben Grim, a.k.a the Thing, was the only member of the Fantastic Four that couldn't shift from his fantastical form to human. He eventually learned that he'd always been able to change to human but subconsciously couldn't allow it. Ironically, he learned this after he killed, in self defense, a sort of doppelganger that looked like his physical form, and that action ended his ability to turn human. (In his mind, he symbolically killed his human form.)
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
I agree with your assessment. DC really put the "super" in superheroes. In order match the keepers of the status quo with strong enough opponents, the stakes are raised outrageously high. Titans tussle and earth shakes.
Marvel's strength came in mutants - those that don't fit in. They have a fine slate of heroes, but the sense of perpetual alienation spoke to generations of comic readers.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
They both have their good points and their bad points.

Marvel's big problem is that not much ever really changes. In another 20 years, Spiderman will still be a young adult trying to find his way. Iron Man will still be seeking a redemptive death. And Captain America will still be catching up on Pop Culture.

With the New 52, DC has actually fixed a good many problems with their setting(s). They have some great characters and storylines (especially in the lesser titles) . But they're having too much interconnectedness (IIRC, one of the Teen Titans issues explicitly referenced the events in 11 other comic lines.) And the good individual stories keep getting whipsawed by the overarching catastrophe of the day sucking everybody in.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
DC is very good on the small screen but on the big screen they fall very short(Batman trilogy excluded). Marvel is on the opposite side, great in movies lackluster everywhere else.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
No, let's go back to the origins, in the 60's.

The Fantastic Four movie did a great job with the FF, but that was NOT Doctor Doom. Darth Vader was a transparent Dr. Doom ripoff, and the true Dr. Doom was as mysterious, complicated and evil as the Darth Vader of Star Wars (before the "prequels"). And although that was a decent rendition of the Silver Surfer, that was NOT Galactus. (Where are the Red Ghost and the Watcher?)

Doctor Strange (there should be a movie) and the Dread Dormammu (oh, I'd make a "romammu" joke here, but I'm not Jewish) who is truly horrifying.

Spiderman and the original Goblin (where's the Vulture?).

The original Loki had more in common with the old Norse stories than the Loki of the movies, and the vulnerablility of the original Thor as the lame Dr. Blake was a much more compelling figure than the movie version of Thor (but where is Crusher Creel??).

The Marvel Movies are not truly loyal to the original concepts. But Dr. Doom would take out Lex Luthor in a microsecond, the all those campy "villains" in Batman wouldn't survive a minute against Spiderman.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
When I read comics, Marvel always had a better universe, but I still read mostly DC comics.

Even as a kid, if I wanted a fleshed-out world or stories with in-depth characters, I'd read a real book. Comics were for escapism.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Have to agree with FB and RT, DC had a nice little monopoly and then Marvel came along and innovated and took it all in the late 1960s, 1970s.

However, that was then and this is now. In between I'd say they both lost their way, most of all in the quality of the art. Something got lost when it all went digital. OK, maybe we all just used up all the stories and pictures of guys in spandex, I dunno, but it's been years since I saw an actual comic book in either universe where the story made sense and the art made it work.

Now, they're both a little overdeveloped. I mean, along came Star Wars and along came Judge Dredd and along came Ace and Gary and well, after Marvel has destroyed the universe and all life and retconned it several times, is there anything left to say? Now all the characters are turning gay, it seems, and this may help rainbows to fill the air but I'm not sure what it does for the superhero biz.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
DC never really took the trouble to create a universe that crossed over like Marvel's did. DC had the Justice League and The Brave and the Bold but they never really referred back to each character's world.

I give DC credit in the early '60s for creating genuinely bizarre visions with great covers and fun stories, but when Marvel gathered steam it wasn't even a close contest. Marvel developed an editorial house voice that was canny, cool and flippant. They made fun of DC and called it Brand Echh. DC could barely be bothered to have a two-part story whereas Marvel reveled in long story arcs that gave an added depth to the fun.

DC was stodgy and conservative and didn't like to break that fifth wall that dialogued with their fans or was self-aware as a house entity.

None of it lasted that long. Marvel lost Ditko and then everything with Kirby. Stan Lee cut back. Steranko and Barry Smith came along and just as suddenly left. DC seemed to have trouble keeping their artists and inkers where they did the most good, with the exception of Joe Kubert and war stuff. Would've liked to see a lot more of Russ Heath and Carmine Infantino.

Was great while it lasted. People laugh at the comics code but there were no female super heroes who looked like super sluts or vulgar Raymond Chandler imitations. When people came in and "improved" comics by making them darker and more real is when they wrecked comics. That generation took comics with them and left nothing behind for other kids.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
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