DC vs. Marvel: Heroes and Villains

Today begins a series of posts that will settle the great debate forever. Who rules the comic-book (and movie) universe? DC or Marvel?

Ahem…I’d be a fool of a Took to believe I could truly end the dispute. When it comes to fiction, our opinions are arbitrary. There’s no strict right and wrong. What’s entertaining and compelling to one person won’t be the same for another.

Still, why not wade into the choppy sea of DC vs. Marvel. It’ll be fun, right? Right…? 😮

argumentThe series will be five posts total. Two this week, in anticipation of Batman v. Superman, then two the first week in May to coincide with Captain America: Civil War. The final post will happen after Civil War releases.

What are the topics? I’m glad you asked.

  • Post 1: Heroes and Villains (today)
  • Post 2: Secondary Characters (Friday)
  • Post 3: World-building, including other planets, powers, etc. (coming in May)
  • Post 4: Themes (see above)
  • Post 5: Storylines—the entertainment value (see above)

Like 99.9999% of my knowledge comes from movies and TV shows. Comic book fans, don’t judge. Pretty please? Life is busy, and I only became a geek a few years ago. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

These comparisons are based on what I’ve seen, and may have picked up in snippets from other sources.

Let’s tackle the heroes and villains. (Not literally, of course. It’s always a good idea to remain in one piece.)

Heroes

DC

Batman—Yes, he’s not strictly a hero. He’s a dark knight. Despite his violent tendencies, questionable methods, and above-average brutality, he still counts as a hero for the sake of this post. He protects an undeserving city and fights against impossible odds in the name of doing what’s right.

Superman—He strikes me as bland. Nothing exceptional or special. Sure, his powers are amazing, but he feels too powerful sometimes. As you’d expect from a hero, he has plenty of strong attributes, but on the whole he lacks a compelling character arc or any nuances that would make him feel more real and less like the removed deity he comes across as.

Flash—With neither the tradition nor popularity of Batman and Superman, Flash is easy to overlook. Maybe because he’s so fast. He’s fits the traditional hero mold, but with enough of a unique story to avoid becoming clichéd and uninteresting. An excellent mix of flaws and virtues make him a great character.

MARVEL

Captain America—Captain A is a hero in every sense of the word. He’s as straight as they come, which unfortunately leads into the trap of predictability at times. Every character needs flaws, not only to make them relatable but to stir things up in an intriguing way.

Some heroes should toe the line of seeming perfection—after all, they’re heroes. But it can go too far, and runs the risk of losing the firecracker effect brought by characters such as Iron Man. Captain A treads the line. Some people love him for it. Others wish his flaws were more apparent.

Iron Man—Let’s admit it, Iron Man is one of the most entertaining characters you’ll come across. Swagger, ambitions, egoism. Not your typical hero, but he spices things up like cayenne.

Thor—While he’s physically impressive and imposing, Thor’s character lacks the spark needed to make him dynamic. His personality isn’t memorable. He doesn’t stand out in a stark way like Iron Man does. 😉 However, his loyalty his admirable, and who can’t be inspired by his unfailing love for Loki, despite the fact Thor has every reason to hate him?

Spiderman—Good old Spidey. What kid doesn’t love Spiderman? And with valid reason. He’s one of the most popular superheroes to leap off the page (or screen) and into our imaginations. Brave, kind, compassionate. I could sink a boat with the number of adjectives used to describe Spidey, and since I didn’t hand out life preservers at the beginning of the post, suffice it to say he’s awesome.

THE VERDICT:

I’ll add that when it comes to teams of heroes, there’s no contest. Marvel wins. That might change when we get to see the Justice League in action, but boasting groups such as the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel rules this area for now.

It’s impossible to make direct comparisons, but given the overall list of heroes—their personalities, actions, accomplishments, motives, and so on—Marvel has the edge in this particular battle.

Villains

DC

Joker—Easily one of the best (worst?) villains to tread the landscape of Comic Book Kingdom. His motivations are unique, and with his unconventional approach to villainy, he stands out like a clown in a lecture hall.

Penguin—Life wouldn’t be as interesting without Penguin around to stir it up. What makes him distinct, and therefore memorable, is his lack of physical prowess. He’s not huge or intimidating. He gets by through quick thinking and manipulation, but he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty when necessary.

Zoom—This is one nasty fellow. Some villains boast complex layers, and you’re never sure what to expect. Zoom is different—flat out Bad Dude 101. All he cares about is ruining Flash and stealing his speed. His character may lack nuance, but he’s certainly powerful, and a worthy opponent.

MARVEL

Loki—When it comes to dastardly villains, Loki is a man among boys. He’s so far ahead of his fellow baddies he puts them to shame with his schemes and trickery. His personality, motives, and actions are endlessly fascinating.

Ultron—An interesting character with a strange fondness for making Biblical allusions. Yet he’s not nearly at Loki’s caliber and doesn’t stand out in any magnificent ways that make you beg for more screen time, more movie appearances, more everything. Cool but not memorable.

Thanos—Sure he’s a big blue dude with evil plans, but his character is underwhelming. He’s not insane like the Joker, not a double-crosser with endless surprises like Loki. He’s just there, causing problems, promising destruction, and wreaking havoc. A villain, sure, but one lacking enough complexity to make him compelling.

THE VERDICT:

DC has the advantage here. I couldn’t discuss every villain, but in general, Marvel’s villains have a sameness to them. Nothing that smacks you across the face as potent or terrifying.

DC’s villains aren’t afraid to get down and dirty, and show us the underbelly of corruption. They’re more realized, more worthy of fearing. More deserving the title villain.

Who do you think has better heroes and villains? Why? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Comments

DC vs. Marvel: Heroes and Villains — 4 Comments

  1. I’m going to disagree with Batman being a dark character. He may seem dark, but I have trouble believing someone who refuses to kill is that dark of a character, especially when he’s dealing with villains to really need killed.
    When it comes to villains, I think Lex Luther deserves to be mentioned. He tends to outsmart the heroes, rather than beat them by strength alone.
    The most unsettling villain for me was the Red Hood. (Batman: Under the Red Hood) This guy’s scary because I found myself siding with him. (If Batman had just killed the Joker, none of that film would have happened.)

    I’ve gotten a bit tired of most of the main characters in both universes. I tend to prefer the less well-known characters. (Guardians of the Galaxy is probably my favorite movie in the current Marvel universe.)
    I think DC has the better B list. I’m a big fan of Young Justice and the Green Lantern Animated Series. (Yes, they’re animated and aimed at pre-teens but they’re actually pretty good.) I can’t really think of any good minor characters that Marvel has. (Well, maybe the X-Men or the Guardians of the Galaxy, but I’m not sure they count.) DC has Superboy(who in YJ is much more interesting than Superman since Superboy doesn’t have the full power set) the Robins(There are four I can name) Beast Boy, Aqualad, Miss Martian, Red Arrow, and a bunch of others. Outside the sidekicks, there’s also characters like Supergirl and Razer(a character from the Green Lantern series who I loved.)
    I think overall, DC is doing a much better job of fleshing out their B list characters. Most of Marvel’s TV shows, animated or not, seem to be dealing more with the big name characters, or they’re shows that focus on all new characters. DC seems to have found a happy medium in the animated world, and also in the live action department. (I’m really happy to see Martian Manhunter.)

    I type this out then realize you’re handling secondary characters on Friday. 😛

    • Great thoughts, Jessi. You obviously know much more about the topic than I do. 😉

      Hahaha, yes, secondary characters are coming. I’ll be sure to keep in mind what you said about secondary characters. 😀

  2. This is a somewhat limited list (& no fair having 4 Marvel heroes vs 3 DC heroes). 😉
    I’ve always liked Superman – his overt parallels with Christ make it difficult not to, sorta/kinda similar to ones love for Aslan. I never knew most of the comic heroes/villains until the recent surge of movies/tv shows so Flash is a new one for me but I like him so far. Spidey has definitely been a favorite for a long time, too. Lex Luther is missing from that list of villains, depending on the depiction, he can be quite the nuanced character. (Especially if you’ve seen Smallville.)

    I was thinking the other day about villains and how it seems to be a popular thing to have a character start out as a good guy, best friend even, of the hero and then devolve into the villain. (The new Pan movie is what led to my musing but this is a constantly seen trope.) And while I understand the reasons it is popular, I was thinking how much I prefer the less-popular reversal of the villain to hero – much like Edmund and Eustace in the Narnia series, Zuko in Avatar, etc. And how as Christians who are saved by grace, those stories are the ones which should be more popular to us.

    • I know I left a lot out, but I didn’t want to make the list too long and tedious. 😉 As for 4 to 3…I plead the fifth. LOL

      I haven’t seen Lex Luther other than what’s in the trailers for BvS, so that’s why I didn’t include him. I’m the same with the characters…not nearly as much knowledge as others have, or as I want to have. 😮

      Yes, that does seem to be a trend, and it’s interesting to see the reverse, as you mentioned with Edmund and Eustace.

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