The age-old debate continues to rage—which is better? DC or Marvel?
Today, it’s time for one of my favorite subjects. Settings.
Characters are the lifeblood of the story, and the plot (what happens to them and how they deal with it) makes the story compelling. Yet what is a gripping plot and dynamic characters without a fascinating stage upon which to perform?
That’s where the setting comes in, and with science fiction, the possibilities are nearly endless. How do the DC and Marvel universes handle their settings, and which one is more interesting?
Let’s take a look.
Cities on Earth that Don’t Exist
Gotham City. Star City. Central City. May as well be any major metropolitan area in the US, except they’re fictitious—because why not? This allows the setting to be familiar (cops, office buildings, everyday appliances) while leaving room for creativity in how the details are put together.
It’s unique but slightly unbalancing at times. You feel as if you’re in a created world, yet the characters can jet over to Hong Kong or work with US government agencies.
At the same time, however, it gives the stories a cool twist, integrating our everyday world with one where vigilantes prowl the streets, the League of Shadows wreaks havoc, and
One of the things I’ve loved this year in the Flash is the concept of Earth Two. Almost everything is the same, but there are enough differences to make for some hilarious, intriguing situations. The crossover potential is unlimited, and when characters meet their alternate reality selves, the outcome is priceless.
Not only is it fun to see how the characters in the two realities differ, it’s interesting to see the contrast between the levels of technology and scientific knowledge on our earth versus Earth Two. Almost as if Earth Two, being more sophisticated and advanced, suggests the direction our actual world will head in the future.
And the idea of portals that connect the two realities, allowing travel back and forth? How cool is that?
Time travel is a fascinating concept and adds a delightful layer to a typical setting. Not only do we have the world of the story, but we have doorways into the past, where the world is the same but the characters can view it from a removed perspective.
In such a setting, the Flash can see how his mother died. The team led by Time Lord Rip Hunter can visit any point in history—often with sweeping repercussions and fascinating interactions where the characters can see themselves when they were younger or end up in a western town.
New York City
*cough* BORING! *cough*
I don’t mean to sound harsh, and I get the appeal. Thousands of windowpanes ripe for breaking. Streets crowded with unwary citizens desperate for saving. A concrete jungle of buildings through which the heroes can swing, soar, or swerve with heart-pounding drama.
After a while, it gets old. Older than Gandalf. Please, let’s go somewhere else to see the epic battles play out. Somewhere peaceful and remote. Like Sokovia.
Generally speaking, Marvel stories take place in our dimension, on our world. Common cities, countries, and agencies are present, some in their real-life forms. To our familiar world are added superheroes, shadowy organizations, aliens, and super cool tech.
Combining the familiar with the possible with extraordinary is a brilliant move. This makes the story world more intriguing by twisting our reality just slightly and presenting us with a “What if?” scenario that strikes closer to home since it takes place, in large part, close to home.
The Nine Realms
Other dimensions are cool. This is something I appreciate Marvel doing. The concept of the Nine Realms, of which our universe is only one dimension sprouting off the tree of life, provides endless story material and an ability to explore worldbuilding elements not found in our version of reality.
- The fusion of advanced technology and otherworldly magic
- Rainbow bridges
- Magical weapons
- The deadly Aether
Along with nifty worldbuilding possibilities, it presents compelling themes waiting to be explored.
- What happens when godlike beings come to earth?
- How do people react in the face of unstoppable power?
- Where do the lines between legend and truth blur?
Marvel and DC share many similarities when it comes to their fictional universes. Both of them are awesome and entertaining, sometimes for different reasons and in different ways.
At the end of the day, given what I’ve seen so far in movies and TV shows, the story worlds presented in DC hold a slight edge.
Which universe do you prefer? Why? I’d love to hear your thoughts.