Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Observations From A Convention Floor: DC Vs. Marvel

For the Fan Expo this year, my LCS was cleaning out their warehouse and found a bevy of overstock from the late 80’s and early 90’s. Separating it into two areas, they were selling for a quarter each or a buck each. Much of these were high quality books, like the Batman issues comprising "A Lonely Place of Dying" or the first 20 issues of the Levitz-era prestige format Legion of Super-Heroes, some things that would normally be sold for well over cover being sold for much less because, well, they had so damn many of them.

There were also two-year runs of X-Factor (in the 1991 – 1993 heyday), a hearty run of Spider-Man 2099 (with Peter David signing at the Con, I have to wonder if he was faced with an overwhelming blast from the past as a result), and a whole heap of Avengers. As people caught onto the quality and condition of the books in the bin, it was like a piranha feeding frenzy.

One of the things I found interesting was seeing how people approached these bins: it was DC versus Marvel.

I noticed that the bulk of the feeders were gathering either all DC or all Marvel books. Most people looked to be about my age or slightly younger (25 – 30-ish years old), and I’m sure they were trading on a lot of nostalgia in picking up those books. One guy said “I’m picking up all those books I sold for profit years ago,(including a copy of X-Force #1) this is awesome.”

The same goes for people buying vintage comics, the expensive stuff on the wall. There were DC collectors and Marvel collectors (also Dell collectors and Gold Key collectors), and I’m pretty certain they’re also trading on nostalgia in buying up the old books, remembering what they had lost from their childhood.

I grew up a DC kid. DC Comics Presents was (and remains) one of my favourite titles. Most of the books I read growing up were from DC. I had an odd issue of Uncanny X-Men or ROM here or there, but I cared about Superman and Flash a heck of a lot more than Colossus or Mr. Fantastic. But I don’t know why, really. I wonder what it is about each universe that draws us to them, and divides us as fans? Is it that Marvel fans relish in the tangible while DC fans like the fantasy? Marvel’s always been more “real world” heroes and settings while DC’s opted for opulent fake cities and grand-scale super-beings, but is that what does it? Or is does it come to your first encounter, if Spider-Man gets you first, are you a Marvel fan, and if Superman strikes your fancy, it’s DC for you? Or was it the friendly (and sometimes not-so-friendly) pullpen fueds between the two publishers that swayed your decision?

It’s a curious thing, and it’s interesting how long it lasts. We invest ourselves in these universes, and as much as I enjoy reading X-Factor, Daredevil, and Runaways, I’ll read Final Crisis and 52 and all the DC epics long before World War Hulk or Secret Invasion. It’s just where my allegiances lie.

Honestly, though, is either publisher better than the other? Is either universe actually superior? They each have their plusses and their faults, and which you prefer is a personal choice. The debate about which is better will rage on in comic shops and on playgrounds (and message boards) for decades to come (until one buys out the other and amalgamates, at which point we’ll finally get more Dark Claw, wicked).

So, let’s have some fun. Nova or Green Lantern? Guardians of the Galaxy or Legion of Super-Heroes? What If…? or Elseworlds? Final Crisis or Secret Invasion? DC or Marvel? Which do you prefer and why?


SallyP said...

When I started collecting comics, I was a teenager, and it was Marvel all the way. Then I grew up, and now it's DC. I apologize for screwing with your demographics.

Oh, and Green Lantern all the way.

CandidGamera said...

DC. The DCU is bigger. Epic. Iconic. The heroes are heroes. That isn't to say there isn't ambiguity, but the final nail in Marvel's coffin for me as a reader was Civil War. The Marvel U just isn't a place I want to read about anymore.

I read almost every superhero book DC puts out, and from Marvel, I get Incredible Hercules.

CalvinPitt said...

Marvel. Even now, with my dissatisfaction with the Marvel U. post-Civil War, Marvel makes up at least 70% of what I buy. I think it's because when I started reading comics, it was Marvel Comics of the '80s (Christmas gift) vs. DC comics of the '60s (my dad's comics), and Silver Age DC just doesn't interest me (Sgt. Rock being a notable exception).

DC heroes seem too powerful, and the stories just seemed too weird for my taste. Plus, I like when the hero's do-gooding causes conflict with their personal lives, and I felt Marvel does that better.

There are DC titles (Booster Gold's one) and characters (the Ray, for example) I like, there's just a lot more of each in the Marvel Universe.

Devon Sanders said...

As a kid, Marvel brought me to the dance but DC keeps me in it.

lou said...

I honestly cannot say I'm one way or the other. I loved the Marvel characters first thanks to the Marvel cartoons from the 90's, but it was Teen Titans in 2003 that got me reading comics regularly.

I think I'm in love with DC's characters more than I actually like how they've been used recently. Most of DC's books just okay except for Geoff Johns' titles and a few others. I personally feel like the writing at Marvel is much better than DC.

Jon said...

When I started out, my first loyalty was 2000AD :p That got gradually more expensive, so I migrated to Marvel. Not for any reason in particular (atleast not that I recall), I just picked up a few titles, saw ads for other things in those, and it grew from there.

Now I'm all grown up (well, maybe I should just say "older" ;)), and I lean more towards DC. I think I buy just as much Marvel as DC currently, but I care about the DC as a whole a lot more. 95% of the Marvel universe I wouldn't touch. Too much angst. I like the legacy aspects of DC, and that the heroes seem more interlinked; everyone has a mutual respect for each other, a sense of history.

ChrisM said...

Devon and Sallyp hit it right on the head. I grew up on Marvel but switched over to DC.

Both companies have had creative ups and downs through time.

Marvel's space opera is awesome-all of the Annihilation Conquest titles, hands-down beat a lot of the big DCU space crossover books (although Sinestro War was good).

But DC has AWESOME bad guys. And you can tell who they are-the Grant Morrison Darkseid, Geoff Johns' Rogues Gallery, SINESTRO!!

and Marvel has...Iron Man?

Evan said...

Sorry if this screws your demographics, but my preferences have been more cyclical.

As a wee kid I was huge on DC. I remember falling in love with the Legion, Flash and Supergirl when I was six and stuck in a body cast with nothing to do but read. I was hooked on DC, until a couple years later saw a year-long batch of stories kill Flash, kill Supergirl, kill my favorite Legionnaire. I felt betrayed and stopped reading comics.

Then I picked up a random X-Men comic (back when there was only ONE X-Men comic): Uncanny 176 (which given my utter distaste for Cyclops, is a little ironic that the honeymoon issue for him and Maddie would draw me in to Marvel), which got me reading a few more X-Men comics--and Kitty Pryde made me stick around, but all the back issues and fall in love with comics again, where I remained loyal for years.

A few more years passed, Kitty was becoming a more and more unrecognizable caricature of herself in Excalibur as Claremont began to forget how to write compelling character-driven stories; Cyclops was busy being a family-abandoning, wife-killing douchebag and a one-two punch of event crossovers took out my favorite New Mutants to pave the way for Cable, Rob Liefield's superfluous pockets and the fun died again.

And then a friend handed me the first ten issues of Giffen's JLI, and the first issues of the "five years later" Legion and I was a DC Man again, and of the then-new DC it was Tim Drake and Jack Knight that kept me in and helped hold me there for quite a while.

Then there came many a DC event, loved by many, that I felt pissed on my childhood love for the Silver Age AND my love for Tim Drake, Marvel was still pretty garbagey, and I got to be done with DC and Marvel simultaneously for the first time ever.

See, I consider Vertigo a different entity than DC, and it was Vertigo series that were keeping me in comics almost solely on their own for a few years there.

Lately, I've been finding the storytelling to be better crafted over at Marvel. I'm not enjoying the various Crises in DC; I hated the existence of House of M, Civil War, Secret Invasion, etc...but find the writing is of a more gripping nature at Marvel right now than I do at DC, so I've cycled back to that corner again.