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Marvel vs DC

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
So, let's not 'edition war' over our favourite billion dollar multinationals. But I wanted to zoom in on a particular difference I've seen repeated over and over for years.

"DC characters are more epic. Marvel characters are more relatable."

It's a comparison which is repeatedly used. Is that actually true though? What do you think?

Superman more epic than Thor?

Flash more epic than Quicksilver?

Hawkeye more relatable than Green Arrow?

Darkseid more epic than Thanos?

Scarlet Witch more relatable than Zatanna?

Generally, I feel like they have very similar characters (of course they do -- they spent decades copying each other).

I wonder if it's literally down to Marvel's biggest property is Spiderman (relatable) while DC's is Superman* (epic). Is that why the comparison keeps getting used?



*Well, Batman I guess. But he's not epic.
 

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aco175

Legend
Like most things fantasy (movies, books, characters, etc...) it comes down to relatability and character development. Some of my favorite PCs are ones that have the best story and bits of roleplay that come through. Movies are better when the character are defined and have development.

Marvel feels more developed to me. I know that there are examples in DC, but this is just me. I relate to the heroes better and feel them. Not sure how this is defined.
 

Ryujin

Hero
I don't know. Batman and Iron Man are the two gadget guy millionaires. Is Stark more relatable because he's a dick, while Wayne is aloof?

DC characters might have problems, but Marvel characters have real world problems. Perhaps it's the storytelling that's more relatable, rather than the characters?
 

Dire Bare

Legend
Maybe at one point . . . .

But the two houses have been copying each other's successes for decades, to the point they aren't terribly distinguishable to me.

For every DC character, you can easily find a Marvel analogue, and vice versa.

I do think DC plays up more the mythic quality of it's heroes, and their "legacies". Superman is both an individual hero . . . . but his symbol represents a legacy of other heroes as well, Supergirl, the Superboys, Kal-El's kids, other allied Kryptonians and Earthers, and alternate universe incarnations of all of the above. The Justice League, at times, seems presented similar to the 12 Olympians . . . .

But you get into the actual stories about each hero, and they are no more or less "relatable" than their Marvel counterparts. IMO, of course.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
But the two houses have been copying each other's successes for decades, to the point they aren't terribly distinguishable to me.
Yeah, that's where I am. So much of it is carbon copies. The main difference these days is the cinematic universes, which go out of their way to play on those alleged differences, but I'm not convinced they actually exist.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
@Dire Bare summed it up nicely. Both have been copying each other for so long, I can no longer tell them apart. NounMan, The Human Noun, IntensifierMan, whatever. Just take my money and I'll see you at the box office. Bring popcorn.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Superman more epic than Thor?

Broadly speaking, yes. In various parts of Superman's history, he has reversed time, and moved entire planets with only his own strength. He routinely moves through the vacuum of space under his own power and without protection, and indeed fly faster than light to travel between galaxies. He can melt steel by looking at it, and hear a whisper on the other side of the city. He is nigh invulnerable, such that he has, in some stories, survived being at ground zero of a nuclear blast.

Flash more epic than Quicksilver?

Most definitely. The Flash can run fast enough to travel in time (and, at times, "faster than teleportation"), and vibrate his body quickly enough to be able to move through solid matter, and processes thoughts in "under an attosecond". Quicksilver is limited to about Mach 10.

In worrying about Green Arrow and Zatanna, you are leaving out a few of the other common DC heavy hitters - Green Lantern. Wonder Woman. The Martian Manhunter (who has all of Superman's powers, at similar levels, but is also a shapeshifter, and top level psionic as well). Shazam (who is basically another Superman). And, perhaps most importantly, Batman, who is so epic that he has canonicaly worked out ways in which he, a person without superpowers, can take out pretty much every other superhero he's worked with.

I wonder if it's literally down to Marvel's biggest property is Spiderman (relatable) while DCs is Superman (epic). Is that why the comparison keeps getting used?

I think if you put back those top-level JLA-types, the point becomes more obvious.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
Generally, yes, I think it's true. Marvel characters have been more relatable, in general, than the DC heroes. I think DC has come a long way since the Silver Age in relatability but they had to move there while Marvel staked out that territory early and continues to work it.

And it's not just Spider-Man. Marvel comics have tended toward having characters with regular foibles - Spider-Man worries about money, true, but the Fantastic Four bicker like family, Hawkeye's a pill when not in charge of things, the X-Men are the targets of prejudice and bigotry, and the people around them sometimes die because they fail (Gwen Stacy, I'm looking at you) or they commit suicide (Jean Grey v1.0) to save the world. Maybe it's because the Silver Age DC heroes soldiered through or originated in the cornball 1950s, but I think they had to play a lot of catch-up.

Even the two publishers seem to have some recognition of their differences and their impressions. Back when they did the JLA/Avengers crossover in the early 2000s, the various groups noticed the contrast between how supers are treated in their world vs how the other team is treated in their own. The DC heroes were larger than life and respected by the public, the Marvel heroes were considered with a much more jaundiced eye, their lives and images being much more complicated.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
From those answers it sounds to me that the issue isn't one epicness vs relatability but one of realism. Not in the existence of superheroes, but in the way they'd be regarded or treated by the public. So it's not the heroes themselves, it's the world that's relatable.
 


Ryujin

Hero
From those answers it sounds to me that the issue isn't one epicness vs relatability but one of realism. Not in the existence of superheroes, but in the way they'd be regarded or treated by the public. So it's not the heroes themselves, it's the world that's relatable.
@Dire Bare was pretty on point about that, I think. It's the difference between looking up at Mount Olympus, or finding out that Joey down the pub is suddenly bullet-proof.
 

Marc_C

Solo Role Playing
I mostly agree with @Dire Bare, but with Hell's Kitchen TV shows DC has managed to create relatable characters such as Dare Devil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and The Punisher. Teen Titans is also grounded in reality.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
It depends on how much of the characters publication history you look at. A lot of characters- even (especially?) major ones, get rewritten. Multiple times.

The original Supeman literally leapt, and didn’t fly. Some versions of the character could literally fly through the hearts of stars and move planets by himself. Thor was NEVER like that., despite being the Asgardian god of strength, etc.

Flash? Breaks the time barrier in almost every incarnation. Quicksilver, not so much. There’s this panel:
1615931459877.jpeg


Quicksiver never- nor any other super-speedster from another publisher- makes claims like that.

So, yeah, DC has a tendency to have more epic built into their characters at some point.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
So it's not the heroes themselves, it's the world that's relatable.

For me, not so much.

The thing with heroes the power of DC's main stable is... with power that high, their emotional lives are not terribly relatable. Their lives as people becomes alien to us.

Now, the world being plausible is an aspect of this - if the world just generally says, "Yay! You're the bestofthebest! We loves you always!" all the time, that will set us up for an emotional experience we can't really understand very well.
 

MarkB

Legend
So it's not the heroes themselves, it's the world that's relatable.
It's also the world that is more relatable. And that is intrinsic to the settings themselves. DC heroes like Batman and Superman exist in fictional rough-analogues of real-world cities, Gotham and Metropolis being the most famous. Marvel heroes exist in real-world locales, a fair number of them being found in and around New York city. They feel more grounded in reality because they exist in real places that people have visited or seen in movies.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
It's also the world that is more relatable. And that is intrinsic to the settings themselves. DC heroes like Batman and Superman exist in fictional rough-analogues of real-world cities, Gotham and Metropolis being the most famous. Marvel heroes exist in real-world locales, a fair number of them being found in and around New York city. They feel more grounded in reality because they exist in real places that people have visited or seen in movies.
Only New York though? Maybe it's different for Americans, but I wouldn't recognize any other American city. I can't believe that the difference is simply that most Marvel heroes operate in a single city though.
 

Parmandur

Legend
So, let's not 'edition war' over our favourite billion dollar multinationals. But I wanted to zoom in on a particular difference I've seen repeated over and over for years.

"DC characters are more epic. Marvel characters are more relatable."

It's a comparison which is repeatedly used. Is that actually true though? What do you think?

Superman more epic than Thor?

Flash more epic than Quicksilver?

Hawkeye more relatable than Green Arrow?

Darkseid more epic than Thanos?

Scarlet Witch more relatable than Zatanna?

Generally, I feel like they have very similar characters (of course they do -- they spent decades copying each other).

I wonder if it's literally down to Marvel's biggest property is Spiderman (relatable) while DC's is Superman* (epic). Is that why the comparison keeps getting used?



*Well, Batman I guess. But he's not epic.
I wouldn't say "epic," but I would say that originally thatDC characters were more often archetypes playing out big tropes while Marvel characters were more often characters ( at least since the Fantastic Four started). For an example from your list, it isn't that Hawkeye is "more relatable" than Green Arrow, but Green Arrow is "Robin Hood, but in the Modern Age, but still with the tights and bow" whereas Hawkeye is a former circus performer informed by a complex series of soap opera background events and relationships...though in the end they are both crime fighters wearing ridiculous costumes who are very good archers ( a primeval power fantasy).

This got messy after the 80's, when DC hired all the Marvel writers they could and had them change everything with Crisis on Infinite Earths to follow more Marvel approaches to character.
 

Ryujin

Hero
Only New York though? Maybe it's different for Americans, but I wouldn't recognize any other American city. I can't believe that the difference is simply that most Marvel heroes operate in a single city though.
Given how many of the superhero shows are shot in Vancouver or Toronto, Canada, I don't think many Americans recognize many American cities either ;)

'Oh, look! It's a skyline shot of Chicago!!" Next shot has the CN Tower in the background :ROFLMAO:
 

FitzTheRuke

Legend
Only New York though? Maybe it's different for Americans, but I wouldn't recognize any other American city. I can't believe that the difference is simply that most Marvel heroes operate in a single city though.
It's all of these things. Marvel's characters had real-world problems and "feet of clay" while DCs were impossibly impressive. Marvel's existed (for the most part) in real places (yeah, mostly New York) while DCs cities had aspects of real places, but were also fantastical.

This is historically true - and still "feels" that way, most of the time.

There's a reason you're questioning it now though: Marvel quickly became more successful than DC, so DC tried to "Marvelize" their characters, making them more flawed and relatable (and generally less powerful). More recently, writers started to go crazy amping-up Marvel character's powers. (I think they were foolish to do so - now you have Spider-Man healing as fast as Wolverine used to do, while Wolverine can regenerate from a nuclear blast. It's a disservice to the characters, IMO.)

So yeah, they're closer than ever before. It's still generally true that Marvels are relatable and DCs are epic, though. Which isn't to say that you can't make your DC characters more relatable (you're better of if you do) nor can you not find epic moments for your Marvel characters (but that shouldn't be done by making them overpowered, IMO.)
 

DonoZen

Villager
Here is a montage of a few different ideas I've run across over the years and combined the best parts, and don't remember at all where I got these points but they totally reflect the difference, in my opinion.


"The main differences between the two universes of DC and Marvel is a kind of inverse logic,
in that DC’s characters are more God-like but in the guise of humans, whereas Marvel characters
are more human but given God-like superpowers.

DC’s heroes are endowed with almost immutable virtue, whereas Marvel’s characters are often thrown
into the superhero position by accident and still deal with their all-too-human condition.

DC generally utilizes fictional locations for its heroes such as Metropolis (for Superman),
Gotham City (for Batman) Central City (for The Flash) and Coast City (for the Green Lantern).

On the other hand, Marvels heroes are usually fighting for cities that we know.
They’re more grounded to reality in that aspect. We see New York City, Washington, D.C.
and San Francisco threatened and destroyed, not some fantasy cities."


Stan Lee said himself he created the heroes to be exactly that from the start to be relatable.
 

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