Whilst comic books appear to have gained a certain amount of legitimacy amongst mainstream audiences over the last decade thanks to Hollywood's obsession with everything 'super heroic', many still don't truly understand the difference between the comic world's two major players.

DC and Marvel comics have both been around since the 1930's and together amount to around 65% of the total global comic book sales and yes, they both focus primarily on heroes with superhuman powers, but that's almost where the similarities end.

DC and Marvel are two quite different beasts and have, over the last 80 years, amassed two sets of very different and very loyal fans, each of which would argue to the death that their chosen publishers are the definitive “Home of the Superhero's.” Here we'll be discussing both and coming to our own conclusions about which house truly deserves that title.


Marvel began life in 1939 as 'Timely Publications' and did not gain the 'Marvel' moniker until the early 60's, when the company then known as 'Atlas Comics' decided to name their brand after a series of comics they published throughout the 40's. Most of Marvel's iconic characters, including Spiderman, The Fantastic 4 and The Avengers, were created by editor-in-chief Stan Lee, a man now widely regarded as a genius and the “Godfather of Superheroes.” He has had a cameo in every single marvel film from X-men to Avengers and Spiderman. He even wants to get in on upcoming Batman vs Superman movie! Together, writer Lee and artist John Romita Sr took comics through a golden age and helped to redefine the medium, which had (by the 1960's) become saturated by throw-away 'humour' comics. See some of our fantastic range of costumes here.


Formed in 1934, the name DC comes from the initials to the company's popular 'Detective Comics' series, the same series that saw the birth of most of the brand's most popular characters, including The Flash, Aquaman, Green Lantern and of course, Batman and Superman. Whereas most of Marvel's output was helmed by Lee, DC used a variety of writers and artists, each of which gave their works a more unique tone. The company's popularity increased substantially in the 60's thanks to the Batman TV show, which subtracted much of the comic's trademark darkness for camp and sly humour. Still, the show gave the Batman name a huge boost and helped those who would have otherwise steered clear of the medium discover the DC world for themselves.

Darkness vs Light

One of the most common distinctions fans make between Marvel and DC comics (and subsequent movies) is that Marvel tend to favour a slightly lighter tone, whereas DC delve into deeper, darker terrain. This is especially true of DC's 'Vertigo' imprint, which was created to house the company's more 'adult' material. It wasn't until the 80's and 90's that 'adult' comics (which some preferred to refer to as 'graphic novels') really started to make an impact though, with genre-shattering stories such as Neil Gaiman's 'Sandman' and Garth Ennis' 'Preacher', until that point DC was very much a strict superhero house. Of course, that's not to say Marvel hasn’t ventured into the shadows from time to time. Imprint's owned by Marvel, such as 'Icon Comics' and 'MAX' specialise in 'R Rated' stories such as 'Kick Ass' and 'The Punisher' and are just as mature as the material found on DC's Vertigo imprint. They even have a very dark Marvel Zombies set of comics (or graphic novels) written by Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman, these explore a universe where most of the major players such as the avengers, wolverine and Spiderman have all turned into Zombies with a insatiable hunger for human and mutant flesh!

At the Movies

What with Disney's (relatively) recent purchase of Marvel, there are now more movies in development than ever before and DC are doing their very best to play catch-up. Marvel's 'Avengers' raked in a staggering $617,291,916.00 at the box office and that's before factoring in DVD and Blu-Ray sales. DC's 'Dark Knight', however, whilst being the superior film in the eyes of most movie fans, took $567,532,897.93. Of course, to argue that DC should feel in any way deflated at these statistics would be a fool's errand, but it still reveals a slight advantage on Marvel's part.

This is largely down to the way Marvel has positioned all of its recent films as part of the same “Cinematic Universe.” So characters introduced in earlier films are utilised in a minor capacity in other films and vice-versa. Of course 2012's 'The Avengers' was very much where this idea came together, with most of Marvel's biggest names (Thor, Iron Man, Hulk and Captain America) coming together in one gloriously daft, deliriously massive summer blockbuster. Marvel will be spinning the same trick again this summer with 'Guardians of the Galaxy', a film based on the comic series of the same name that takes the superhero genre and melds it with fantasy and science fiction. It's essentially Star Wars with a sense of humour, fitting considering Marvel and Star Wars both now sit under the all-consuming banner of Disney. The universe doesn't end at the cinema either, thanks to Joss Whedon's 'Agents of Shield', a show which ties the mythology together in a weekly, procedural show. Fan reaction to AOS has been mixed (to say the least), but the general consensus is that it picked up dramatically in its final brace of episodes, thanks to the manner in which its plot-lines synced up with the recently released 'Captain America 2' movie.

Whereas Marvel are gearing up for 'Phase 3' of their cinematic universe with Avengers 2: Age of Ultron gearing up, DC is just now setting up Phase 1 of their own. As with Marvel's Agents of Shield, DC is setting up their own network TV show in the shape of 'Gotham', a detective drama featuring a young commissioner Jim Gordon and a very young Bruce Wayne. It's a bold idea, and one which looks set to forego the Marvel offering in lieu of something a little more 'grown up'. As befits the DC name! With their movies, however, DC has a lot of catching up to do. Whilst Christopher Nolan's incredible Batman trilogy was a thing of critical and commercial wonder, it was also very much it's own standalone achievement. With the upcoming 'Batman vs Superman' leading to 'Justice League' movies and then the major players of that getting their own standalone films, DC is looking to bring its disparate worlds together, which should (if The Avengers box office results are anything to go by) prove to be very lucrative indeed for them and very entertaining for super hero fans. They are even bringing some of their darker stories to the screen too, with shows based on the notoriously bleak 'Preacher' and 'Hell-blazer' comics now in development and a Sandman film on the horizon. Marvel might hold the advantage now, but don't count out the dark knights!

It's Only a Game

Another avenue that's been explored by both publishers has been video games, with arguably the most successful offering from either being the superb ' Batman Arkham' games from Rocksteady Games. These games operate outside of the movies and the comic books, inhabiting their own world, albeit one with more than a few not-so-subtle nods to the extensive source material. They worked because they were not only well put-together games, but because of  the great storytelling, cast and pacing reflected the Batman universe in a way that fans and newcomers alike could enjoy. Conversely, Marvel properties have not been as well served by the gaming industry, though the recent 'Lego Marvel' crossover was an unexpected delight! See more great superheroes costumes here.


Ultimately, the DC vs Marvel battle can only end with one satisfying result; enjoy them both! Both publishers have created some of the world's most memorable characters and memorable stories and it would be incredibly sad for any fan of the medium to miss out due to brand loyalty. These are timeless tales, no matter what your medium of choice and the best part is; there are still countless stories left to be told by these genuine cultural marvels! Thirsty for more? Then why not take a look at our fabulous infographic here