The rivalry between giants Marvel and DC has been a feature of comic book fandom from the beginning of the two companies through the film adaptations of their stories.
“It’s fascinating to see how the narrative of the rivals has always been there, and definitely they’re competing, but I don’t think there is any real sense of anyone has to win over the other,” said Roger Whitson, associate professor in the English department at Washington State University.
Whitson said he’s more of a DC fan because he grew up reading Superman comics, and it’s like a comfort food to him. However, he says splitting comic book fans into only DC or Marvel camps doesn’t work.
“It’s kind of a false dilemma,” he said. “Most DC people read Marvel and vice versa.”
Not only that, but comic book creators like John Byrne (“X-Men: Days of Future Past,” “Alpha Flight,” “The Man of Steel”) and Brian Michael Bendis (“House of M,” “Ultimate Spider-Man,” “Alias”), and even Fantastic Four co-creator Jack Kirby, have moved from Marvel to DC. There have also been crossovers between the two companies with Superman and Spider-Man appearing in one comic together and Batman and Daredevil in another.
Still, Whitson recognizes some differences in how the two companies are run and how they tell their stories. Marvel remained a single company and has been able to tell a more continuous storyline in its comics. DC is more of a conglomeration because it bought up other comic book companies and added in those characters. Because of that, DC is always resetting the universe to account for new characters from new companies, whereas Marvel’s timeline and universe are more streamlined.
This translates to the films, where Marvel producer Kevin Fiege is in charge of creating the Marvel Cinematic Universe, while questions remain over who (perhaps Zack Snyder) is in charge of the DC Extended Universe.
“Marvel always seems much more in control of what’s happening with their characters,” Whitson said.
He noted some differences within their pages as well. DC is more focused on creating the nuclear family dynamic and making the comics family-friendly, or at least it was in the 50s.
“When Marvel arrived on the scene, they were part of the counterculture of the ’60s and engaging with the youth culture at the time,” Whitson said. “DC always felt like it was always catching up on it.”
Part of that movement also was creating more diverse, nonwhite characters, at which Marvel has been more successful than DC.
All of those factors also have affected the companies politically.
“If you look at their history, they (Marvel) are slightly more left, and DC is slightly more right,” Whitson said.
The Tribune's Kaylee Brewster, Brian Beesley and Matt Baney discuss the 60th anniversary of the Fantastic Four comic book series. Click here to listen to the podcast.