Which is best: DC or Marvel?

In the comics battle between Marvel and DC, which juggernaut comes out on top?

By Christopher Borrelli Tribune reporter
Graphics by Chad Yoder Tribune graphics

Around this time last year during C2E2 -- the busy, sprawling Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo held each spring at McCormick Place -- we spoke with the heads of DC Comics and Marvel Entertainment. We told them that, because we're curious, we would soon be bringing up an age-old question, a schoolyard tussle without a satisfactory answer.

The question: Which is better, DC or Marvel?

Their eyebrows raised, they chuckled nervously -- or was that condescendingly? See, there may be many comics publishers now -- Image, Dark Horse, IDW -- but DC and Marvel have never loosened their grip on the comic book zeitgeist, the pop cultural ear. Certainly, they're still the two largest exhibitors at this year's C2E2, which begins 11 a.m. Friday. And so, with all of this in mind, we put together a poll of 25 questions and sent it to an assortment of Chicago comic book fans, comic book store owners, artists and writers. And then we waited.

The results, detailed below, were not intended to be definitive. We would not pretend to think we have answered what has been for many, for many decades, an existential conundrum. But it was fun.



Question: Which is better (right now, companywide,books, movies, etc.): DC Comics or Marvel Entertainment?




When did you know one was better than the other?

Marvel: "When Marvel stopped leasing their titles to the highest bidder and started caring about their movies, toys, games, etc." - Earl Geier, artist

Marvel: "That's a funny question. I have always been a Marvel girl. My father instilled the love of Spider-Man in me. But, in all honesty, Marvel right now has put out better movies, better comics, has better characters and seems to care more about their fans than DC does." - Ariel Atkins, First Aid Comics in Hyde Park

Marvel: "2000? X-Men movie? For sure in 2008 with Iron Man movie." - Josh Baker, fan

Marvel: "With my first Conan comic at the ageof 10." - James Nurss, First Aid Comics in Hyde Park

DC: "Batman #1 (New 52) by Scott Snyder." - Paolo Mortel, fan

DC: "Since I was 8 years old. But I largely think your favorite publisher is based on your favorite character." - Jeffery Smith, Chicago Nerd Social Club

DC: "When I first started reading comics, I was all over the place because I was trying to experience it all. After a year of my reading, I focused only on DC books because I liked their heroes and stories better." - Justin Rodriguez, G-Mart Comics


Historically, when were DC and Marvel at their peak (pick a decade)?


Marvel, 1960s: "The '60s belonged to Marvel; Stan Lee re-revolutionized superhero comics with Fantastic Four #1." - Eric Garneau, of The Nerdologues

DC, 1970s: "It was goofy, and I love that." - Joshua Steward, fan

DC, 1980s: "I think we feel those (DC) writers' influence the most right now. Of course, the DEATH of Superman in the '90s had everyone reading comics. I saw kids I never saw reading a book with that." - Kevin Reader, founder of The Nerdologues

DC, 2010s: "Technically, I think DC was really at its peak when it launched the New 52. That move is something that has NEVER happened before -- relaunching an entire line at #1 while simultaneously entering the digital market is a MASSIVE achievement. Marvel attempted to duplicate the feat but totally had to low-ball it in order to not seem like they were copying DC after basically pooh-poohing what DC did." - Terry Gant, Third Coast Comics

Marvel, now: "I think Marvel might be in their peak right this moment, this decade. Their lineup is pretty extraordinary. Bendis, Waid, Ennis, Aaron, Gillen, Gage, Simmonen, Hickman and other creators are doing great things." - Gavin Rehfeldt, Graham Crackers Comics



Who does better with comics?

"Marvel, although not by much. They handle issues of gender/racial inclusiveness slightly better than DC (see: Starfire & Lois Lane). The fact that the X-Men were conceived as a running metaphor for racial prejudice and examining issues of racism and discrimination puts Marvel ahead of DC in examining real world issues through comic book writing." - Michi Trota, Chicago Nerd Social Club

"It's such a matter of taste! Marvel is better with realistic characters and real-world resonance. DC is better with archetypal escapist fantasy and is generally more willing to take big risks." - Matt Fagan, Brainstorm Comics




Who has handled a real-world issue well?

"I really liked the recent Batman issue where a character dealt with gay-bashing and bullying. There was no fanfare, no spectacle, just characters standing up for themselves in the face of bigotry, and it was handled beautifully." Pat Loboyko, artist, G-Mart Comics



What is the best series ever?





Who is your favorite comic book artist ever?

"Best artist ever is Jack Kirby. His mind just had no limits and he had no interest in setting any. Much of the comic book aesthetic we enjoy now is the result of his brain running amok in the '60s."- Alex Wilgus, G-Mart Comics


Who is your favorite comic book writer ever?

"Probably Grant Morrison for the sheer inventiveness of his work. Always challenging, fresh and clever. Even his missteps are fascinating, and I love him for it." - Pat Loboyko



Who does better with movies?


"Christopher Nolan's 'The Dark Knight' is one of my favorite movies ever, but on the whole, Marvel has a stellar plan for building their universe through films that DC could learn a lot from." - Eric Garneau





Who would win in a fight, the DC universe or the Marvel universe?


Marvel: "Wolverine and Deadpool would just keep healing themselves until everyone else was dead."- Mary Ralph, G-Mart Comics

Marvel: "Marvel has a Hulk."- Matt Fagan

Neither: "Oh, puhleeze. I don't ever want to hear that again."- Earl Geier

DC: "Gods are never contested, therefore DC wins."- Anthony Tucciarone, fan

DC: "Thor would give him a good fight, but in the end, DC has Superman. They win hands down."- Eric Garneau