What Comic Book Rookies Should Know About The Differences Between Marvel And DC

Marvel vs. DC Comics: It’s a war that has been raging for decades, and one still being waged today in theaters and on TV. Daredevil‘s second season premiered last FridayBatman v. Superman releases wide this Friday, and we can barely go a week without a new X-Men: Apocalypse or Suicide Squad promo. But what are the real differences between Marvel and DC? They are both rich comic book universes with an abundance of material, but there are a few elements that separate the characters from one another. Of course, these aren’t strict guidelines for every superhero, but it’s interesting to examine the creative differences found in how both comic book publishers tell their tales.


The worlds in each superhero story are vital to their protagonists. The reason why the Avengers or the Justice League or anyone else keep fighting the good fight, day after day, is because they are fighting to protect their city, their planet, or their universe.

There are distinct differences between the worlds of DC and Marvel, though, specifically in whether or not they take place in fictional locations. In Marvel, the good guys are usually fighting for cities that we know. They’re more grounded to reality in that aspect, Asgard aside. We see New York City and Washington, D.C. threatened and destroyed, not some fantasy cities.

On the other hand, DC generally sticks to fictional worlds for its heroes to protect. Metropolis and Gotham are synonymous with its defenders, and Flash is out there racing around Central City. This allows the characters to exist a little further from reality and can let Christopher Nolan shoot in Chicago and Pittsburgh as much as he wants.

The Gift/Curses of Powers

How a superhero deals with his or her powers is always a major plot element. In Marvel movies, powers usually get treated like a curse, whether in extreme, form-altering cases like The Thing and Maggot or characters like Spider-Man, for who’s often burdened by his responsibilities both as a superhero and as Peter Parker.

In the DC Universe, abilities are generally more of a blessing. The characters are called to action and do their best to embrace it. But this also has something to do with where their powers come from in the first place.

How They Got Their Powers

The origin story is a critical part of every superhero’s journey, regardless of comic book universe. It’s what sets them on the path to use their powers for good over evil. In DC, many characters are born with their abilities or develop at a young age. It’s something they live with and an inherent part of their idenitites. Superman, Supergirl, and Wonder Woman never had a radioactive spider bite them or a barrel of radioactive waste transform them. Even those who come to their powers by accident (like The Flash and Green Lantern) or are inspired to take up the cause out of thirst for justice (like Green Arrow and Batman) are still treated as godlike figures. And it doesn’t get more godlike than Dr. Manhattan, who actually decides to become a god at the end of Watchmen.

On the other hand, the Marvel folks usually go through freak occurrences to become superheroes, save for some exceptions like Thor. Being that the characters are more grounded in a realistic setting, their stories and powers seem more grounded, as well.

The Tone of Their Films

In the hands of Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder, the DC films as of late tend to be extremely gritty and moody. Sure, there’s some humor peppered in, but their successful films are darker than the Marvel counterparts, although that might change with Suicide Squad.

In contrast, Marvel characters easily lend themselves to humor. Deadpool and Guardians of the Galaxy proved that you could have a superhero movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously and could be classified as a comedy first and foremost. You also have the king of witty geek humor, Joss Whedon, behind the first two Avengers.

While no one can definitively say that one comic is better than the other, it’s clear that both Marvel and DC offer uniquely compelling superhero stories that have something for everyone.