Published Sunday May 6, 2012
Yeah, yeah, yeah, “The Dark Knight” is the greatest superhero movie of all time . . .
I’m still more excited about “The Avengers” than “The Dark Knight Rises.”
I’m more excited about the Spider-Man reboot than the Superman reboot.
And way more excited about the next X-Men movie than every other anything ever.
I’m just a Marvel person. Whenever there’s a choice between Marvel and DC Comics, you can make mine Marvel every single time.
(Even when I was 5 I would have picked Hulk Underoos over Wonder Woman. Without hesitation.)
Traditionally, Marvel and DC have been the Coke and Pepsi of the comic book world. (Or the Pepsi and Coke, I’m not trying to pick any fights here.)
Also traditionally, outside of the comic book world, nobody much cared about their rivalry.
That isn’t true anymore. Comic book culture — nerd culture — is, more than ever, mainstream culture. Marvel versus DC isn’t a conversation that Kevin Smith and characters on TV’s “The Big Bang Theory” have down at The Android’s Dungeon Baseball Card Shop.
Marvel versus DC is what’s happening at every movie theater all summer long.
And I’m rooting for Marvel.
In this and all things.
Though, honestly? I’m not sure why I still care. I don’t read comics the way I did in my 20s, when I bought every title even vaguely associated with the X-Men. These days I’m down to one Marvel comic a month.
Jason Dasenbrock, co-owner of Legend Comics on 52nd and Leavenworth Streets, says people like me can’t help but take sides. It’s just how we were raised.
“As our generation grew up,” says Jason, 38, “we were loyal to characters and to companies.”
You were a Batman person or a Spider-Man person. (Or an X-Men person.) You chose your allegiance, Marvel or DC.
It isn’t that way anymore, Jason says, especially with younger readers. The Internet has made it easier for people to find out about smaller comics companies — and much easier to keep track of their favorite creative teams. “People identify themselves as fans of creative teams instead of companies or characters.”
So you’re a Spider-Man person, but only as long as Dan Slott is writing him and Humberto Ramos is drawing him.
Marvel and DC have become less relevant — though not completely irrelevant — because there are still plenty of 30- and 40- and 50-somethings buying comics. People with deep-rooted Marvel-DC affiliations.
And there are still plenty of people of all ages who believe that the Marvel and DC universes are really different.
I talked to Omaha fans of both companies for this column, and it was interesting to me how everyone agreed on how the two worlds were different, at least generally speaking.
Marvel is more realistic. Its heroes are more conflicted. The stories are more complicated and cynical. It isn’t wall-to-wall gods and monsters.
Whereas in the DC universe, things are more black and white. Heroes are heroes, good is good, evil is evil. People spend more time in tights, less time walking around whining about how hard it is to be a superhero.
Marvel and DC fans don’t really argue about this. What they argue about is which is better.
For me, real is better. Complicated and conflicted is better. Some of my favorite issues of the X-Men are when the team members just hang out around the X-Mansion trying against all odds to have normal lives.
Dave DeMarco is with me.
“I like my characters to have real problems and to be good people,” says Dave, 34, another co-owner at Legend Comics.
“One of the things I like most about Marvel is that I’ll read a Spider-Man book, and it’ll be two-thirds Peter Parker trying to get to work on time. I can’t remember the last time I saw Clark Kent in the comic books.”
Every little kid loves Batman and Superman, says Marvel fan Joel Ballard, 33. “And I still do. But I’ve always thought the Marvel characters had more character.”
Spider-Man is a regular guy. He’s got money problems. A sickly aunt. A bad boss. You can identify with Spider-Man. But Superman? As Dave puts it: “He’s a god who hangs out here.”
Well, exactly, says Lee Kolb, 40, manager at Ground Zero Comics at 50th and L Streets. Kolb has read both sides of the superhero divide over the years, but right now he prefers DC.
“In DC, the superheroes are superheroes,” Lee says. “They’re larger than life.”
Gary Beck, 45, a lifelong DC fan, says that DC characters embrace their fates. The whole universe is less dense and tormented.
“I think they’re more optimistic. It’s always been more positive, as far as I’m concerned. Superman is the ultimate Boy Scout.”
All of the Marvel angst can get old after a while, Beck says. “I’m still an X-Men fan, but it just seemed like the same storylines over and over again. Okay, we get it. People are biased, people don’t like mutants.”
It’s worth noting that this “DC is optimistic and old-fashioned, Marvel is gritty and cynical” argument falls apart at the movie theater. The biggest DC franchise — Batman — is an extremely gritty, “dark” take on the character. And the Marvel movies have made characters like Iron Man and Captain America way more fun than they are on the page . . .
Though the Marvel universe is already pretty fun. Traditionally, it’s a much wittier place to be — teeming with smart alecks. While Batman and Superman stand around looking stoic, the ultimate Marvel character, Spider-Man, never stops cracking wise.
Which is, for me, the best reason to read Marvel.
Give me angsty, messy and funny over stoic, heroic and brave every ever-lovin’ day of the week.
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