The Eternal Debate: DC vs. Marvel

Estimated read time 9 min read

The MCU is your best bet if you love continuity and a universe filled with rich and diverse characters. But, if you prefer dark, gritty, and tortured superheroes with plot armor the size of Asia, DC is the way to go. 

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In the eternal debate between DC vs. Marvel, I’ll always be on team Marvel for a bunch of reasons. Here are some of the prominent ones: 

  • Fleshed out characters with decent backstories ✔
  • Fun and relatable storylines ✔ 
  • Complex villains ✔
  • Continuity within the extended universe ✔

Maybe I’m already biased, but it’s no secret that Marvel has the edge over DC regarding their movies and box office successes. And it’s not like they make better movies (they do in some cases) than DC. Instead, they just cracked the formula.

My first foray into the Marvel universe was with the X-men (back when Fox owned the rights to the characters). Storm and Rogue were my favorite characters growing up. And to ten-year-old me, Professor X and Jean Grey had the coolest powers ever (telekinesis and telepathy).

Photo credit: 99images

It’s always a massive debate between die-hard superhero fans about which universe is better—Marvel or DC. While Marvel has an excellent track record of making lesser-known characters popular (Scarlet Witch, Vision, and Dr. Strange), DC created some of the most iconic villains ever (Joker, Lex Luthor, and Darkseid). 

So, with the help of my previously mentioned checklist, we’ll explore all things Marvel and DC. But before that, a quick backstory. 

DC And Marvel Origins

The 1900s was the golden age of comics, with DC and Marvel leading the industry with popular characters like Superman, Batman and Robin, Captain America, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, and Human Torch. 

Martin Goodman founded Marvel Comics, formerly Timely Comics, in 1939 to capitalize on the superhero genre. DC Comics already had the market cornered with bestselling characters such as Superman, Flash, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman. DC released its first comics in 1934 and introduced the world to Batman (under Detective Comics) and Superman (Action Comics), their two most popular characters to date. 

In 2009, Disney purchased Marvel Entertainment Group for $4 billion and spent the next few years getting their money’s worth and more. Then, they incorporated everything into a giant umbrella and launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), complete with blockbuster movies, television shows, and theme parks

On the other hand, DC Comics is a subsidiary of Warner Bros. (WB), and the studio handles everything from comics and animations to DC movies. 

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Marvel Has More Established Characters

Marvel does an excellent job of fleshing out many lesser-known characters and introducing new ones to the world. Besides the heavyweights like Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Black Widow, and Hulk, non-comic book fans know ones like Groot, Rocket, Nebula, Ms. Marvel, and more. 

Photo credit: Pinterest

Unlike Marvel, DC mainly focuses on popular characters like Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman; they only recently started introducing others. 

The CW’s Arrowverse helped them in that regard. They did a better job establishing characters like Green Arrow (Oliver Queen), The Flash, Batwoman, The Atom, Supergirl, Black Lighting and Thunder, Brainiac, and Killer Frost than the DCEU did. 

DC Has More Prominent Female Characters 

The DC universe has many established strong female characters and some of the best all-female teams (Birds of Prey)—I’ll give them props for this part. 

Some of their best-written female characters include Wonder Woman and her Amazonian sisters, Supergirl, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Amanda Waller, Black Canary, Selina Kyle (Catwoman), Vixen, Zatanna, Bat Girl, Hawkgirl, Raven, Queen Mera, and Lois Lane.

Photo credit: Deviant Art

The MCU can seem overpopulated with male heroes and powerful characters in the frontline. But lately, they are catching up with characters like Wanda Maximoff (Scarlet Witch), Jean Grey, Black Widow, Storm, Jane Foster, Nebula, Gamora, and Captain Marvel.  

Black Panther has also given us Shuri and The Dora Milaje. 

The Villains 

Asides from The Joker, Lex Luthor, Darkseid, and Brainiac (in the comics), many DC movie villains are one-dimensional or straight-up cartoonish. Steppenwolf from the Justice League movie was a ridiculous example. All it took was resurrecting the super-powered Kryptonian to defeat him. 

They didn’t need to assemble the Justice League for that.  

Besides the iconic trio of Lex Luthor, Joker, and Darkseid, other DC villains fall short one way or the other. However, their anti-heroes fare better. The popular ones include Black Adam, Harley Quinn, Catwoman, Deadshot, Jason Todd, Bane, and Deathstroke. 

Sidebar: The Joker’s menacing reign could have ended years ago if Batman got over himself and killed the jokester, thus saving dozens of lives. Batman just locks him up in Arkham, where he escapes and wreaks more havoc the next day. But then again, Batman wouldn’t be relevant without the Joker.  

Besides Thanos, the MCU has other well-written villains (e.g., Killmonger, Kang the Conqueror, Green Goblin, Red Skull, Ulysses Klaue, Hela, Ultron, and Namor). Their anti-heroes are also pretty good, for example, Loki, Deadpool, Venom, Winter Soldier, Moon Knight, Ghost Rider, and Wolverine. 

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Relatable Heroes

DC characters are usually unrealistic or overpowered (Batman and Superman). Heroes in the DCEU are legends or gods, untouched by envy, greed, or ego. We see these characters make mistakes and learn from them in very few instances. Except for The Flash, after he’s caused a flashpoint paradox.   

Superman is a god whose only weakness is a shiny green rock (Kryptonite), and he’s sometimes allergic to magic when his plot armor isn’t so thick. 

Batman is a billionaire orphan with a tragic backstory and fancy gadgets that makes everyone forget he’s just a regular human fighting gods and aliens. He can leap from tall buildings better than Superman or Spider-Man. He never sleeps and is somehow always in his best form—without getting slow or tired. And, for every ridiculous feat he accomplishes, the unofficial catchphrase to explain it away is, “Because I’m Batman.”

Marvel takes a different approach with its heroes. 

Iron Man is a narcissistic billionaire playboy with impulse and guilt problems, but he’s also a genius. Captain America was a 98-pound weakling who was bullied and ignored because of his size. And after becoming a super soldier, he remained a boy scout who believed in fairness and equality. 

And while Thor is a god with family issues, he suffered numerous setbacks that helped him grow as a character (although the recent movies have made him a goofball with bad jokes). 

Animated Movies

I’ll admit that DC’s animated universe is top-tier. They excel in this regard. 

In terms of quality and quantity, they win this round. Some of their best entries include Justice League: War (2014), Batman: Assault on Arkham (2014), JL: The Flashpoint Paradox (2013), Justice League Dark (2017), Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010), and Teen Titans: The Judas Contract (2017). 

For the longest time, DC trumped Marvel in this category. However, Marvel seems to be catching up lately with entries like Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse and What If? 

Justice League: War

Continuity And The Bigger Picture

Marvel excels at connecting most of its characters and storylines—case in point, all the standalone movies that led to Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame. The studio laid the groundwork for this ensemble film since the first Iron Man movie in 2008. 

Each movie built up the Thanos threat across a dozen films until you couldn’t wait to meet this Big Bad villain that everyone is scared to piss off. 

DC tried to replicate Marvel’s Avengers success with Justice League. And they still couldn’t create something worthwhile. While the Snyder Cut was an improvement, it still wasn’t enough to save the franchise. 

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Maybe if DC didn’t spend every few years rebooting Batman, they’d have better luck with other characters. Every Batman reboot brings a different version of the caped crusader, from Michael Keaton to Christian Bale, Ben Affleck, and Robert Pattison. As a result, each performance is more inconsistent than the next.  

The MCU crafts exciting story arcs that blend into a tapestry, while the DCEU seems like a patchwork of random plots that try to force connections between movies. 

Box Office Numbers and Grossings

When it comes to the box office earnings and overall grossing, Marvel whoops DC’s ass every time. The MCU has ten movies in the top 50 categories of highest-grossing films, with six entries in the top 20. After James Cameron’s Avatar, Avengers: Endgame remains the second highest-grossing movie at $2.7 billion. 

Meanwhile, DC just has four entries, and three are Batman-related (The Dark Knight, Joker (2019), and The Dark Knight Rises). Aquaman takes the lead at $1.1 billion. 

Marvel also wins in the Ratings Game, with about 66% of MCU movies certified fresh, compared to DC’s 54%. Black Panther is the highest-rated MCU movie at a 96% RT score, while The Dark Knight holds 94% for DC. 

The Verdict 

DC is great at making comics and animated movies, while the MCU has the upper hand in its cinematic aspects. Many fans can agree with this fact. 

But the truth is Marvel has gotten lazy with some of its recent movies by doing the same thing repeatedly. They probably subscribe to the mantra, “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.”

I still like some DC productions, like the 2017 Wonder Woman movie and the Harley Quinn animated series on HBO. So I don’t completely favor Marvel over DC. Nevertheless, the universe has its moments. 

At the end of the day, it all boils down to taste and preference since both universes have legions of fans. 

The MCU is your best bet if you love continuity and a universe filled with rich and diverse characters. However, if you prefer dark, gritty, and tortured superheroes with plot armor the size of Asia, DC is the way to go. 

Chioma Ahamefule

Chioma is a professional content writer who writes everything from tech reviews, B2B/B2C marketing content, and blog posts for websites and businesses. She also does fiction and non-fictional content once in a while.
She loves reading Fantasy, YA, Thriller, and Chick-Lit.
She has an avid fascination with tech and how it improves our daily lives.
In her free time, she binges TV shows and movies, reads fan-fiction if they don’t end the way she wanted them to, and writes movie reviews about the best and crappiest ones.

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