Having grown up reading comics books I am well aware of the bum rap comics get. But something has happened this past decade or so. Comics have become cool! With the multiple comic book franchises making the leap to the silver screen, several TV shows on network television, and an endless supply of plastic products out there. Now more than ever comic book nerds can hold their heads up high. But with mass appeal also comes confusion. DC Comics and Marvel Comics are the big two and most if not all exposure comes from these two comic book companies. Yes there are other comic book companies Dark Horse Comics and Image Comics come to mind but for the sake of comparison let’s focus on the big two. Comic books being one of the few truly American contributions to popular culture have stood the test of time and with time two companies have shown two distinct views of storytelling. On the surface not much is different between DC and Marvel but I will like to take a closer look at two points in particular. The concept behind the characters of each company and the worlds they inhabit to prove how different each company’s universe really is with a little bit of history mixed in for perspective. Now if only comics were cool back when I was in high school that would have saved me a lot of grief.
The first and most obvious difference between the companies are their characters. Not just the characters themselves but the concept of them. Comic book characters have been around since the Reyes 2
early 1930’s mostly dealing with comedy, westerns and horror. In 1938 that all changed. A fledging comic book company called DC Comics introduced the world to Superman. He was the original super hero that all heroes would follow. He could “leap tall buildings in a single bound, faster than a speeding bullet, and stronger than a locomotive.” He was a super man. DC followed up with Batman (1939), Green Lantern (1940), and Wonder Woman (1941). They had no moral grey area, never questioning what is right and what is wrong. You knew what side they were on at all times. Most stories consisted of the hero rescuing the damsel in distress from the evil scientist and saving the day in a quick and timely fashion all to be repeated in next month’s book. DC never went into moral dilemmas. Making the character choose between the lesser of two evils or ever dealing with real life issues. No their heroes represented truth, justice, and the American way, in essence they represented the very best humanity had to offer. This was the original template that DC followed for the next 20 years which would be considered the Golden Age of comic books. DC had invented the iconic superhero.
DC Comics had hit gold with the superhero concept. Other companies took notice and jumped on the bandwagon but nothing really stuck. Fawcett Publications debut Captain Marvel in 1939. Will Eisner’s The Spirit starts in 1940. Both are mildly successful comics but end up falling to the side of comic’s history. DC was running ruff shot over the comic industry until 1961. A struggling comic book company named Timely/Atlas Comics finally wakes up and enters the Silver Age of comics. Atlas Comics wanting to make one last push before shutting the doors for good turn to Stan Lee and rebrand themselves Marvel Comics.
Marvel Comics release The Fantastic Four in 1961. The comic proved to be extremely popular, changing the fortunes of Marvel and the comic industry. Stan Lee created characters that you were more interested in them, not just their powers and the flavor of the month villain. The Fantastic Four were a family first and foremost. They argue and bickered but when the chips were down they came together to get the job done. Stan Lee put it best when he explained. “The characters would be the kind of characters I could personally relate to; they’d be flesh and blood, they’d have fallible and...