I’ve been spending a lot of time perusing my comic book collection lately. I am nearly halfway to my final goal of 2000 comics. I find it interesting that currently I have twice as many DC comics as I have Marvel comics. I’ve been trying to decide if that says anything about my personal tastes.
As a young collector, I seem to remember preferring Marvel comics. To those of you who may not know all that much about comic books, and who are reading this just to humor this pitiful fifty-something nerd and his self-indulgent posts about comics, let me explain. When I was collecting comics as a kid, Marvel and DC were perceived as approaching comic book storytelling very differently. I don’t know if this is still true, but back in the 70’s and early 80’s, this was the case.
I think it came down to each publisher’s iconic flagship character. For DC this was: Superman. For Marvel this was: Spider-Man. Superman can change the course of mighty rivers and fly through outer space without a suit. His face is visible, and often shows a smile. Spider-Man can rarely manage to pay his rent on time. He never seems to be as powerful as the enemies that he faces. His face is covered completely. So, if these characters are your foundations, how then does this define your comic book world as a publisher?
DC characters are by and large much more powerful and deal with issues on a grand scale. Marvel characters are more grounded, less powerful, and deal with issues on a smaller scale. This causes a tonal shift. DC is somehow brighter and more optimistic, while Marvel is darker, grittier and more pessimistic. I am pretty sure if you are still reading at this point that you are one kind of nerd or another. (Or as Julie likes to say, “nerd-adjacent.”) So, this analogy should work for you: DC is Star Trek / Marvel is Star Wars.
DC is the older more mature franchise, like its icon: Superman. Marvel is the younger more reckless franchise, like its icon: Spider-Man. And, when I was a kid, I know that I liked Marvel more. And, now approaching my 55th birthday, if my buying habits are any indication, I like DC more. It’s not a big deal or anything. I love all my comics. I just noticed the trend, and that got me thinking.
When I was younger, I wanted to “believe” that the adventures that I read were somehow possible. I wanted to imagine myself in that world, so I needed a world that stayed closer to my own. As I am older, I realize that the adventures depicted in the pages of comic books are fantasy. They are pure escapism, and as such I want them to be grand and amazing and bigger than life.
I think that’s what it is.