For the past 82 years, the names Marvel and DC have been synonymous with one thing—superheroes.
From Superman to Captain America, Wonder Woman to Captain Marvel, these comic book companies have built entire empires based on their beloved crime-fighting characters. With storylines tackling everything from conquering world-eating aliens to impressing a high school crush, fans of all backgrounds have found something special within the pages of Marvel and DC comics. And these comic book companies have forever left an impact on pop culture, with Marvel and DC subscription boxes and films being modeled after these empires.
But when it comes to conquering the superhero world, is there a clear winner between these two comic book titans? In the Marvel vs DC battle, who claims victory?
After 82 years of arguing, we’re here to answer the question once and for all.
What is the Difference Between Marvel and DC?
To determine whether Marvel or DC Comics is better, let’s take a look at what defines each company. We’ll start where every superhero journey begins—their humble origins.
Company Origin Stories
We’ll start with DC Comics history. In 1937, Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson founded Detective Comics Inc.—a comic book publishing company that focused on telling noir-style detective stories. But it wasn’t until 1938 that Detective Comics found its true calling when it published the first Superman comic, created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.
The unexpected commercial success of their high flying bird, err plane, err scratch that—superhero, led to what we know today as the costumed superhero genre.
While Superman was busy saving the citizens of Metropolis, Martin Goodman was busy creating Timely Comics. In 1939, his company introduced the world to characters such as the Human Torch and Sub-Mariner. However, it wasn’t until the 60s that Timely reinvented itself as Marvel comics, and found newfound success with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four.
Marvel vs DC Characters Comparison
At its onset, DC became known for developing god-like superheroes with other-worldly powers and fantastic backgrounds. And since DC comics was first to the gate, some of these characters are still seen today as classic superhero icons.
Let’s take a look at a few DC heroes you may have heard of:
- Superman – Moments before his home planet Krypton was destroyed, Superman (born Kal-El) was sent to Earth. It was here he discovered his superhuman abilities, like flight and bulletproof skin, growing to become the strongest of all the DC heroes.
- Wonder Woman – The daughter of Zeus and Hippolyta, Woman Woman is said to have been sculpted from clay and bestowed with superhero gifts by the gods.
- Aquaman – Another royal-blooded baby, Aquaman is known as the King of Atlantis. In addition to his strength, he’s able to breathe underwater, swim with unparalleled speed, and communicate with the creatures of the sea.
On the other side of Marvel vs DC characters lies the Marvel superheroes—regular humans who obtained powers by accident or through extraordinary circumstances.
Here are a few classic examples of Marvel superheroes:
- Spiderman – It’s not until he’s bitten by a radioactive spider that high school student Peter Parker is able to scale walls, detect danger, and fight with superhuman strength.
- The Incredible Hulk – In an experiment gone wrong, scientist Bruce Banner is exposed to a powerful blast of gamma radiation, giving him the ability to transform into the green behemoth known as the Incredible Hulk.
- Dr. Strange – This Marvel hero was once a surgeon. Doctor Strange turns to the Sorcerer Supreme after a car accident damages his hands beyond repair. It’s through extensive training that Strange becomes a master of the mystical arts.
Of course, there have been exceptions to these rules. The Dark Knight, also known as Batman, for instance, is a notable DC character who isn’t born with any special abilities, whereas Marvel’s Thor, the God of Thunder, is derived from Germanic mythology.
DC Universe vs Marvel Universe
In keeping with their other-worldly atmosphere, DC comics set their stories in fictional universes. Superman sails over Metropolis, Batman brawls in the shadows of Gotham, and the Flash speeds through the streets of Central City.
But Marvel Studios took a different approach to world-building, choosing instead to use what already exists. By showing Spiderman web-slinging across the New York City skyline and writing Captain America as a proud Brooklyn native, characters within the Marvel universe are grounded in the real world, furthering their relatability.
Marvel vs DC Theme and Tone
With their mythical characters, DC comics told fantastic stories with broad themes about upholding justice and defending the weak. Characters like Superman and Wonder Woman weren’t supposed to be average citizens suddenly bestowed with power. Instead, they were written as pillars of honesty, integrity, and law, serving as role models for people everywhere to look up to.
It’s no wonder that Wonder Woman’s choice weapon is a lasso of truth.
Because many of Marvel’s heroes develop their powers later in life, a consistent theme throughout their stories is the struggle to accept their new responsibilities and the weight of their “heroic” decisions. In fact, it’s not unusual to see Marvel heroes arguing with each other or acting selfishly as they attempt to find a balance between their personal lives and their superhero lives.
These types of storylines forced readers to ask themselves, What if this happened to me?
DC: What to Love
As creators of the OG superhero, DC paved the way for a world of costume-clad crime fighters. But that’s not the only thing we love about them.
Choose DC comics if you’re looking for:
- Fantastic storylines with larger-than-life characters. Because sometimes, you want your heroes to be overpowered. Plus, some of the best DC comics storylines have stood the test of time.
- An expanded animated universe. Incorporating such characters as Hawkgirl, Martian Manhunter, and the Teen Titans, DC’s comprehensive animated universe has offered character-driven plots and sweeping story arcs over the decades.
Marvel: What to Love
After their merger with the House of Mouse, Marvel comics skyrocketed to new heights, offering Marvel fans:
- Thrilling cinematic experiences – With witty dialogue, colorful action sequences, and upbeat soundtracks (a la Guardians of the Galaxy), Marvel movies appeal to audiences around the globe.
- Sympathetic villains – To avoid narrow stereotypes, Marvel Studios works to build villains who believe they’re doing the right thing, making them more interesting (and more dangerous) than villains who simply want to be bad.
CultureFly: The Best Source for All Your Superhero Needs
In the battle of Marvel vs. DC Comics, each company throws some serious punches. While DC started the superhero trend, Marvel made it more relatable. And while the Marvel cinematic universe has broken box office records, DC’s animated universe is an untouchable staple of countless childhoods.
When it comes down to it, each comic empire has provided Marvel fans and DC fans with inspiration, adventure, and hope that’s stood the test of time.
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Britannica. DC Comics. https://www.britannica.com/topic/DC-Comics
Britannica. Marvel Comics. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Marvel-Comics
CBR. 5 Reasons Why The DC Animated Universe Is Better Than The DCEU (& VIce Versa). https://www.cbr.com/dc-animated-universe-better-dceu/
Daily Dot. Marvel vs. DC: Which comics universe reigns supreme? https://www.dailydot.com/parsec/marvel-vs-dc/
Tell Tales. Marvel vs. DC: List of 10 Major Differences. https://www.telltalesonline.com/37754/marvel-vs-dc/