DC vs. Marvel: Settings

The age-old debate continues to rage—which is better? DC or Marvel?

This is the third post in my DC vs. Marvel series. In the previous posts, I talked about heroes and villains, and secondary characters.

Today, it’s time for one of my favorite subjects. Settings.

futuristic planetsCharacters 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.

DC Settings

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

Alternate Realities

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?

Times Relived

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.

Fun stuff.

Marvel Settings

New York City

New York City SkylineTo this time-honored location for superheroes to shatter glass and villains to wreak enough destruction that the costs would make Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne go bankrupt, I say one thing…

*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.

Our World

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?

The Verdict

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.


DC vs. Marvel: Settings — 6 Comments

  1. Loving this series Zach!!! I’m a DC guy- That’s what I grew up with. However, I think Marvel has got the upper hand in films, and DC probably needs to stick to the TV series which I think they’re doing very well. I also like the Earth 2 Concept going on right now in Flash…

    • Thanks, JJ. 😀

      Yep, I agree. Marvel rules the film world, but DC’s doing a much better job with TV shows.

  2. I’m torn. I like the familiar in the extraordinary that you see in the DC world, but I also like the extraordinary you find in the familiar in the Marvel world. They both have their place. I edge slightly toward the DC world just because the possibilities offer so much scope for expansion, and because I’m a fan of alternate realities and parallel universes and hidden worlds existing amongst us Muggles.

    As far as NYC, I couldn’t agree more. Seriously, how many times has the city been decimated by some alien or supervillain? All I can say is that those NYC construction workers must be paid well and work overtime to put the city back together in time for the next disaster. 😉

    • That makes sense, Yaasha. And yes, alternate realities and all that is fun stuff for sure! 😀

      Haha, the overuse of NYC as a major setting is one of my top pet peeves when it comes to Marvel films. Sooo old. Those construction workers should be as rich as Tony and Bruce by now. 😉

  3. Interesting, I never really thought about the different settings before. They both share so many similarities, it never occurred to me that the settings are pretty different.

    I do think I agree that the DC settings are a bit more imaginative and creative… for all the reasons you pointed out. Cool idea for a series of posts, comparing/contrasting Marvel and DC.

    • Yeah, it’s interesting to see the comparisons and then contrasts between the settings.

      I’ve been enjoying the series so far. I had the idea awhile back, since there always seems to be a debate over which franchise is better. Combining it with the releases of Batman v Superman and Civil War was the perfect excuse to actually do the series. LOL

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