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Marvel vs DC

Marvel vs DC

I’ve been running this site for seven years and this is the 1,000th post and a subject that I don’t think I’ve really discussed more than a passing “I like them both”. But considering that I’ve seen every Marvel movie and every DC movie except for a couple I think I’m pretty well qualified to discuss the two biggest brands in superhero comics. Now, this isn’t just going to be a surface level discussion. I’m going to dig deep and take a good look at these two brands, where they’ve come from, where they are, and where they’re going. So sit back and buckle up.

DvM

Comics

I won’t spend a whole lot of time on this subject and this is going to be the one where I get the most personal. I’ve mentioned before that even though this site is dedicated to movies based on comic books, I’m not a big comic book aficionado but I do have a shortbox that’s full of mostly comics that are neither Marvel nor DC. But of the big two comics I do have, they are actually because of my fandom for Kevin Smith. I own, and enjoy his Batman runs: Cacophony, the Widening Gyre, and his Batman ’66 vs the Green Hornet which I very recently got signed by Alex Ross who did the covers. On the Marvel side of things I only own a couple random issues of Spider-Man which I haven’t read and don’t even remember how I got them and a four issue Rogue mini-series which I do actually enjoy. Winner: DC

DvM comics

Early Movies

When I say “early movies” I’m skipping the serials and shorts as I never watched any of them. Instead, I’m talking mostly about the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s movies. You have to start out with DC because they were still the first ones out of the gate with the first Superman movie way back in the 50’s right before the George Reeves TV series that still more or less holds up. It was followed up several years later by Adam West’s Batman movie which was also connected to a TV series. Meanwhile, the first Marvel movies were the pretty awful made-for-TV Dr. Strange and a motorcycle riding Captain America along with a couple horror based animes. DC did have a few missteps with a TV pilot movie version of Wonder Woman before Lynda Carter made the role famous, a bizarre televised musical version of Superman, and three pretty bad Superman slash Supergirl movies. Once Marvel finally made it to theaters, they amazingly went with Howard the Duck before two barely released/unreleased movies with Dolph Lundgren’s Punisher movie and Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four. Marvel’s high point would have to be near the end of the decade with their Malibu imprint success Men in Black and the precursor to X-Men’s success with Wesley Snipes’ Blade. On the other hand DC’s successes in this era still stand as some of the best superhero movies ever made with Richard Donner’s Superman, it’s first sequel, Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns, and the animated Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. Winner: DC

DvM early

The Superhero Rennaissance

This is the era that started with X-Men in 2000 and goes right up to just before the Avengers which really ushered in the next era in superhero movies. I’m also going to limit this discussion to just the theatrical releases. DC had a bit of a mixed showing with their superhero movies as they have their lowest lows with Catwoman and Green Lantern but also their highest highs with the Dark Knight trilogy. They did have quite a few successes with adaptations from DC owned imprints like Road to Perdition, V for Vendetta, A History of Violence, and Red, as well as others that weren’t exactly box office successes but movies that I quite enjoyed like Stardust, the Losers, and Constantine. This was a mixed bag era for Marvel as they started out with plenty of different studios producing films before they kicked off the MCU with Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor. There were some high points with the first two Spider-Man movies, the first two X-Men movies, Blade 2, Kick-Ass, and First Class. There were also plenty of low points like Blade 3, X-Men 3, Wolverine, Fantastic Four, and Punisher: War Zone. This one is really the hardest to decide between the two because they both have high highs and low lows, but based on sheer output, I’ve got to go with one side over the other. Winner: Marvel

DvM renaissance

The Connected Universe

This is the current era of films that we live in that all started when Joss Whedon and Marvel brought together all of their heroes in the Avengers in 2012 up through where we are now just before Avengers: Endgame. In just six years that actually covers two full phases of Marvel movies with the lead ins to Age of Ultron and everything leading up to Infinity War. The high points would be the Guardians of the Galaxy movies and the latter two Captain America movies and even the low points are pretty great. But outside of the MCU there’s also some decent X-Men movies with Days of Future Past and Logan plus the surprising success of the two Deadpool movies. There’s even a couple great Kingsman movies from Marvel owned Icon comics. But they weren’t all successes, the biggest disappointment would be Josh Trank’s failure to reboot Fantastic Four as well as the poor reception for Kick-Ass 2 and Amazing Spider-Man 2. But the real high point might just be the fact that Black Panther was the first of these types of superhero movies to garner an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. And coming back around to DC movies, they finished off the Dark Knight trilogy and took a few years before trying to kick start their own extended movie universe with Man of Steel into Batman v Superman and Justice League. Their overall output is pretty slim compared to the three different studios putting out Marvel movies and the reception was fairly mixed for Suicide Squad and the first two but things turned around for Wonder Woman and Aquaman and are looking good for Shazam coming out next month. Winner: Marvel

DvM modern

Home Video Animation

And while the last category seemed pretty one sided toward Marvel, this category is going to be pretty one sided in the other direction. Marvel started their home video animation with a nine picture deal through LionsGate which had some mediocre releases with a couple Ultimate Avengers movies, a Doctor Strange movie, and Planet Hulk. A few years later, they switched animation styles and went more kid friendly with a couple Heroes United releases and a couple holiday themed releases. They also tried their hand at anime with Avengers Confidential and Iron Man: Rise of Technovore. They also just recently released a TV movie version of the girl powered Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors though I haven’t caught that one just yet. Meanwhile, DC Animation started out with a few releases tied in with Batman: The Animated Series before getting into more adult themes with Superman/Doomsday. Their releases gradually got more and more adult themed until they finally went full R-rated with Batman: the Killing Joke. Their animated universe releases about three to four movies a year and they range from great to excellent with some of the best being Under the Red Hood, The Dark Knight Returns, and the Death of Superman. On top of that, they also have plenty of animated movies aimed at the younger crowd with plenty of LEGO movies besides the theatrical LEGO Batman movie. They also have their own girl-powered series with DC Super Hero Girls which initially seemed like a gimmick, but is holding its own. Winner: DC

DvM animation

Early Television

Similar to the movies, DC was the one who got out of the gate first with their George Reeves Adventures of Superman and created the first big superhero craze when Adam West’s Batman hit the air in 1966. Then in the 70’s Lynda Carter made Wonder Woman completely iconic as Marvel came into the picture with Lou Ferrigno’s Incredible Hulk and the Spider-Man series. In the 80’s, DC had a Superboy series before hitting another success in the 90’s with Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. They also had a short lived Flash series which the current Arrowverse has paid homage to many different times. The only other series that Marvel had in the live action arena was a Japanese co-production of Spider-Man that felt more like Ultraman than Spider-Man. Winner: DC

DvM early tv

Modern Television

In the 2000’s DC came out with yet another popular Superman series with Tom Welling in Smallville, and when it ended, they started what has become an expanding connected universe that started with Arrow, gained popularity with the Flash, and now covers five different series including Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow. They also went the origin route with Gotham which focused on Jim Gordon and a Bruce Wayne who had just lost his parents. They did have a few one-season failures like Birds of Prey and the comedy Powerless and now they’re working on a new set of connected series for their own DC Universe streaming service. On Marvel’s side, they didn’t really hit their stride until 2015 when they partnered with Netflix to come out with the connected Defenders series though they had some success with Agents of SHIELD that came out a couple years before and brought back the popular Agent Coulson character. This is another difficult decision as I was a big fan of Smallville and the Arrowverse but the Netflix series are also excellent but are now cancelled. Winner: DC

DvM modern tv

Early Animated Television

Surprisingly both companies came onto the scene in 1966 with DC and the New Adventures of Superman while Marvel had the Marvel Superheroes before their Fantastic Four and the Spider-Man that was referenced in the recent Spider-Verse post-credits scene. The biggest early cartoon would obviously be the various Superfriends series that seemed to have a different name every year but I believe was basically the same thing. Marvel had another Spider-Man cartoon in the 80’s but was the biggest when it came out with the X-Men in the 90’s with its amazing theme song and the best Spider-Man series a couple years later. And the same year as the X-Men series, DC also hit it out of the park with Batman: The Animated series which also had a couple variations and a couple spin-offs with Superman and Batman Beyond. Winner: DC

DvM early animation

Modern Animated Television

This one is probably going to be the most difficult for me to judge as its the one that I have the least experience with. On the DC side of things, there’s the beloved Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, Teen Titans, and Young Justice. I actually have the most experience with the Looney Tunes/sitcom inspired Teen Titans Go! While most fans of the earlier series dislike the cartoony turn, I quite enjoy the silliness of Go! There’s also the updated version of DC Super Hero Girls led by the popular My Little Pony exec Lauren Faust. Marvel actually had a bit more output in terms of total number of different series, but they don’t have nearly as many fan beloved series as DC. The short lived Spider-Man series on MTV was well received but didn’t make it past a single season. There was also a series of anime shows based on a handful of different Marvel heroes. But Marvel’s most successful run would be with their collaboration with Disney and their Spider-Man, Avengers, and Hulk though many of those series seemed to skew towards a slightly younger audience. And again, it’s a difficult decision for me as I really only have first hand experience with Teen Titans Go, but I know there’s tons of fans of several of the DC series and they even convinced DC to bring back Young Justice for a third season on their streaming service, so I’ve got to go with. Winner: DC

DvM modern animation

Final Results

When I started this article, I honestly didn’t know which direction this would go. I know Marvel is generally the favored contender in the live action market, but DC has a strong hold on the animated market. I think splitting it into so many different categories actually favored DC as they have had a strong multimedia output from the very beginning while Marvel had a spotty start and only recently came together once they were bought out by Disney. Maybe if I do this again in another ten years, the outcome might be different, but for now with six wins to three the overall winner is:

DC

DC logo

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About Bubbawheat

I'm a comic book movie enthusiast who has watched and reviewed over 400 superhero and comic book movies in the past seven years, my goal is to continue to find and watch and review every superhero movie ever made.

Posted on March 18, 2019, in Blogs. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Reverend Moonshine

    Are you sure about your timeline between the first Superman movie and Adam West’s Batman movie? Maybe I’m misreading “…with the first Superman movie that still more or less holds up followed up several years later by Adam West’s Batman movie.” Adam West’s Batman movie came out in 1966.

  2. Reverend Moonshine

    In terms of modern television, I think you’ve ignored the impact of the Marvel shows on Netflix. Cancelling them was either Disney’s biggest mistake or they’re just bringing the shows under their control to put them on Disney’s streaming service rather than Netflix. The Punisher series has been flawless in my opinion, and I can’t get enough of Mike Colter as Luke Cage. The other Marvel Netflix shows have big flaws, but I generally like them all. Lastly, Hulu’s Cloak & Dagger is another good Marvel show that should fall in the “modern television” category. DC has ruled in terms of its animated shows, but if “live action modern television” was a separate category, I think DC and Marvel would tie in the category.

    • That was the hardest category for me to decide between. The Netflix shows are pretty huge in terms of critical and fan acclaim. But so has the Arrowverse with slightly less critical acclaim but likely a bigger fanbase. It was very very close, but I gave the edge to the Arrowverse, also this isn’t fully objective and I’ve seen more of the Arrowverse than the Netflix shows.

  3. Love how thorough you were in attacking this subject. And it’s pretty hard to argue with your conclusion. Great job!

    • I figured I needed to go big or go home. There were only a couple categories that I skimped out on, mainly the comics which would be the most detailed for a lot of people. Thanks for checking it out!

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