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5 Things Marvel has on DC
A quick note
This article is a response to my own "5 Things DC has on Marvel." I had originally intended it to be "5 Reasons DC is Superior to Marvel" but I re-thought myself after I realized both companies have their flaws and advantages.
1. Stan "The Man" Lee
I will admit I've said some pretty not-so-nice things about Stan Lee in debates regarding the merits of DC over Marvel. Things like how he didn't really have on original thought in his head and everything he created was a reaction to an already established DC trope.
The Fantastic Four, and later the Avengers, were merely a response to the already established Justice League of America over at DC. But basing the FF on the four ancient elements brought in a modern setting was a stroke of genius and also led to the introduction of Galactus and The Silver Surfer (paving the way for Marvel's cosmic epics).
Spider-Man. While most people consider Peter Parker to be one of Lee's most original creations, I speculate that something like this was going through his head: "Well, they have Batman. He's really popular. Lots of people are afraid of bats, what else are people scared of? Spiders! They're scared of spiders! Spider-man!" Like I said, speculation, but whether it's true or not, Spider-man is as instantly recognizable as Superman in pop culture.
I also feel like he kind of screwed over Jack Kirby, but Kirby got the short end of the stick at DC on a few occasions as well, so perhaps we'll just let that lie.
But whatever the criticism, at the end of the day, Lee can be viewed as almost single-handedly creating a universe as rich and vibrant as any in fiction and became a household name in the process.
I'm going to leave his obvious megalomania and narcissism out of it.
2. The cosmic mind of Jim Starlin
DC's Lanterns, Legion of Super-heroes and New Gods notwithstanding, no one does cosmic like Starlin.
He took the relatively obscure character Captain Marvel (an alien soldier not to be confused with Fawcett's [later DC's] Captain Marvel, a.k.a. Shazam!) and made him a permanent fixture in the Marvel universe, teaming him with the Fantastic Four, the Avengers and just about everyone else in the Marvel pantheon. Then he killed him. Not spectacularly; not in a fight for the fate of the universe. No, he gave the good Captain (often called Mar-vell, his Kree name and a way to avoid confusion with Shazam) cancer. In "The Death of Captain Marvel," a book-length epic of facing mortality when one is nearly a god, Starlin humanized a good chunk of the Marvel scientists.
Yes, Dr. Strange is a top physician and Sorcerer Supreme of this dimension. Yes, Reed "Mr. Fantastic" Richards can build a rocket ship out of spit a string and open portals to alternate universes. But can the greatest minds humanity has to offer find a way to cure their friend's cancer? No. Things just got real folks.
On a side note, "The Death of Captain Marvel" is considered to be the first mainstream example of a graphic novel.
But the dear Captain was just the tip of the iceberg. The Adam Warlock and Dreadstar books were as epic as any ever printed and the former brought us Gamora of the Guardians of the Galaxy.
He also created Thanos the Titanian (a race of god-like beings living in a subterranean complex on the moon of Saturn, later retconned as a race of Eternals). Anyone paying attention to the current Marvel cinematic universe knows who I'm talking about.
On a side-note, the Eternals were simply Jack Kirby's Marvel version of the New Gods, but that's neither here nor there.
Thanos the Mad Titan
3. Marvel addressed social issues first
Without a doubt, one of Marvel's biggest properties is the X-Men. A disparate group of primarily teenage mutants (or Homo Superior, the next step in man's evolution as some would have it) living in a private boarding school and fighting crime and galactic menace in between studies or teaching, The X-Men and their affiliated groups are "feared and misunderstood" by the world around them.
The theme of prejudice is explored in every facet of the mutant books. People fear them because they were born with powers and often monstrous forms. Preachers call them spawns of Satan. They are burned as witches, experimented on like lab rats and used to commit foul deeds by people who claim to care for them (I'm looking at you, Magneto!)
Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby during the height of the Civil Rights Era, the X-Men and mutantkind represent a minority mistrusted by those around them simply by being born. Instead of skin color, it was powers and abilities that set them apart and caused their vilification.
But has saving the universe on countless occasions done anything to change people's minds? No, nor has the existence of a black President or leading scientist in the form of Neil DeGrasse Tyson made certain folk any less racist.
Neil DeGrass Tyson: smartest man in America
4. The Marvel Cinematic Universe
For the purposes of this article, I'm going to disclude Sony's Spider-Movies (although I must admit I LOVED the first Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire film) and Fox's X-Movies to concentrate on their interconnected Iron Man/Avengers/Thor/Captain America/Guardians of the Galaxy celluloids distributed through Paramount.
Though some of the sequels (Iron Man III: what a stinker!) didn't live up to their predecessors, the MCU as a whole is turning out to be an odyssey of unparalleled dimensions. From the Nazi-bred terrorism of Hydra to the machinations of Thanos, the MCU is consistently releasing films full of humor, action and (almost) rock solid story-telling.
DC has yet to accomplish such heights, although the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight series came close and the forthcoming Justice League story arc promises to give the MCU a run for its money. Literally (and I do mean literally, not figuratively as literally has been watered down to mean).
Time will tell, but for the moment, Marvel has the lock.
5. Civil War
Though it's long over, the Civil War story arc that encompassed nearly the entire Marvel Universe was unprecedented in its scope and, again, its addressing of issues such as government overreach.
Basically, the heroes of Marvel were at war over what essentially came down to privacy issues. A government program spear-headed by Tony "Iron Man" Stark was instigated to force all masked adventurers to divulge their secret identities and make themselves pawns of the administration.
Captain America was vehemently against it, stating that secret identities were necessary in many cases to protect the spouses and other family members of heroes who had put away dangerous criminals.
Battles ensued, debates were waged and, in the end, they killed (for a time) the spirit of the country, Captain America. The entire storyline addressed underlying real life tensions and indelibly changed the landscape of comic books permanently.