DC vs Marvel outside the comics

Is it just me, or has DC been much more successful over the years in getting its characters transferred into other media? Off the top of my head, DC has:

Batman, with at least one movie serial, one live-action TV series, six live-action movies, at least four animated series, at least three animated movies;

Superman, with radio shows, serials, four live-action series (including Superboy and Smallville); five live-action movies (including one in production now), numerous animated theatrical shorts, at least two animated series, and hell, even Krypto the Super-Dog has his own show;

Wonder Woman, with one live-action series and a movie in production;

Flash, with one live-action series;

Captain Marvel, with one live-action series and a movie in production;


Justice League;

and I’m sure a lot of other stuff that I’ve forgotten about. And a lot of that was pretty high-quality stuff. Notable exceptions of course (Superman IV: The Quest for The Perfect Tan and Batman and Robin Grow Nipples for example) but overall a varied, quality and hugely successful run.

Contrasted to Marvel, which has scored some successes recently with the Spider-Man and X-Men movies but by and large hasn’t put out the quantity or quality of product that DC has, and has produced some of the more wretched comic-related material in existence. The Fantastic Four cartoons with H.E.R.B.I.E.? The first FF movie, deliberately made awful since it wasn’t going to be released? The original Marvel Super Heroes shows, which were largely stills of comic book panels? The live-action Spider-Man series from the 70s? The Doctor Strange, Captain America and Nick Fury TV movies? The only Marvel character that’s come close to a DC-level of success is Spider-Man, with two live-action movies, one live-action TV show (which wasn’t good), and four animated series (one of which was the fairly dreadful Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends).

Not meaning to kick off a Marvel vs DC war (although that could be fun I suppose) and I’m sure I’ve both left off some DC stinkers and some Marvel gems (feel free to list your favorites if you must). But it does seem like DC has the hang of producing and marketing quality projects and Marvel doesn’t. Any thoughts as to why that might be?

Well, DC did have a few decades’ advantage over Marvel, thus no thrilling radio serials featuring merry mutants or friendly neighborhood wallcrawlers.

Marvel’s recent films benefit from coming about in an era where comic book characters are garnering more respect in other media, and so benefit from better, more serious and faithful treatments.

Plus, since sometime in the 80’s (?), DC has been part and parcel of a huge media company (Time Warner), which can use DC characters freely, although sometimes a bit TOO freely (Catwoman).

I think we need to pit these against each other:

Superman III
Superman IV: The Quest For Peace
Batman Forever
Batman and Robin
Super Friends
Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman
Justice League (unreleased TV pilot)
Super Heroes Roast
The Batman (new animated series)


Captain America (Reb Brown)
Captain America (Matt Salinger)
Punisher (Dolph Lundgren)
Punisher (Tom Jane)
The Hulk (Eric Bana)
Blade: Trinity
Dr. Strange
Nick Fury
Generation X
Spider-Man (MTV animated series done in CGI)
Spider-Man (Nicholas Hammond live-action series)
Fantastic Four (Roger Corman movie)

Plus, during the time that DC was getting a lot of these characters in front of people, Marvel was being variously bought, sold, filing for bankruptcy, losing their distributors, etc. Basically, Marvel has been a badly-run company for many decades, and only since Avi Arad took over has it been run with anything approaching competence.

Well, your other examples notwithstanding, DC’s success really boils down to Superman and Batman. Those are iconic, utterly larger-than-life characters; as Frank Miller said, Superman and Batman are the Gods; everyone else is a Hero. They represent two opposite poles of “goodness” (the virtuous, do-the-right-thing approach of Superman vs. the turbulent vigiliantism of Batman) and so are suitable for endless reinvention and reinterpretation. That has a down side, too, namely that these two characters’ alter egos, Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne, are at best rather dull creations, at worst outright ciphers. I know the creators of the recent Batman animated series (not the new one, the good one before that) explicitly took the position that Batman was the “real” identity and Bruce Wayne was the “cover.” And when did you last see a Superman cartoon that really delved into Clark Kent’s personal life?

Marvel’s creations are less iconic, but more subtle. I would argue that many Marvel heroes’ alter egos, particularly Peter Parker, Matt Murdock, Tony Stark, and Logan to name a few, are so well-developed that they are interesting characters in their own right, and good stories could be told about them without even resorting to super-heroism. Marvel heros are effective as they are because of the contrast of their idealized “heroic” selves and their imperfect, struggling “normal” selves. That kind of characterization is time-consuming and takes a lot of skill and vision to get right; truthfully, it just isn’t suited to the typical half-hour superhero cartoon (though I think MTV’s Spider-Man series was a good try). I’ve always thought that a Daredevil series done in the style of Spawn, with good animation and the time taken to really bring out the characters, could be a big hit. Marvel’s management, though, keeps trying to fit its characters into big, generic Event Movies, and for the most part the characters just aren’t suited to that form.

Well, The Incredible Hulk had his own TV series and, lately, a movie, and Captain America had a bunch of (many of them, admittedly bad) movies and cartoons.

This is a little off topic, but does Marvel own the rights to The Phantom, Mandrake the Magician, and Prince Valiant? For some reason, I’m thinking they released comic books with all three characters, and all of them have appeared in non-comic form.

I’d argue that the Hulk has also been successful with a TV series and movie, but I’ll concede your overall point; DC has done better than Marvel in media crossovers.

I think DC’s big advantage is Batman and Superman. They are basically franchise players who lift up the whole team. Without these two main stars, the field would be level and Marvel characters like Spider Man, the Hulk, and the Fantastic Four would outperform the DC second tier like Wonder Woman, Flash, Captain Marvel, etc.

Captain Marvel also brings up another point. Back in the 30’s and 40’s, DC was just one comic book company among many others. However when those other companies started to fade out in the 50’s, DC was there to step in and buy up their characters, like Captain Marvel, Plastic Man, and the Blue Beetle, all of whom were originally characters with other companies. To return to sports analogies, DC loaded their team with all-stars while Marvel is playing off the regular draft.

Does Stan Lee help or hurt Marvel? Granted he has been around forever and he does deserve some of his iconic status, but is it too much? There was a show on The Travel Channel IIRC, called A Superheros Guide to New York. He told some interesting stories, but most of the time he rambled on about stuff that didn’t really seem to fit with the theme of the show.

Stan Lee helps, in the same way that Frank Perdue helped Perdue. He’s an icon of the industry, a larger-than-life character. He’s not going to write anymore stories (I hope), but he breathed life into the medium and arguably was the first real-life marquee name. He’s one of the best things Marvel has going for it; he’s living history. All comicdom will mourn his passing, but it will be a big blow to Marvel, and they should have something big planned (similar to how newspapers keep obits of important people on hand) when he passes.

Hey now! I think both of these were good. Well, Lois and Clark was OK, by no means spectacular, (and the last season really went to crapsville) but overall it was good. Not as bad as Superman IV, but at least on par with the early 90’s Spiderman cartoon (which has reruns on Toon Disney and is not as good as everyone seems to remember it. The anmimation is worse than the X-Men cartoon from the same era, and the stories aren’t as engaging.)

And the CGI Spiderman? You may not like the style (I did,) but the stories and voice acting were good. It could have been as good as as praised as the “Clone Wars” series on CN (especially since they both did the same thing, used an animated series to fill in the gap between two movies,) but fell short, party because MTV was in charge, and thus had to make it “cool” and “extreme,” and partly because…well, ok, maybe it was just MTV.

But getting to the point of the OP, yes, DC does (overall) seem to be more successful than Marvel in mediums outside the comic book. However, with a huge upsurgance in Marvel films, both good (X-Men and Spiderman) and bad (Elektra, Punisher) and from what I can tell medoicre (Fantastic Four, The Hulk) maybe there is a chance to get some more animated series on par with Justice League (I would KILL for a new X-Men cartoon with today’s animation standards.)

Yeah, but Marvel is winning in the nifty song part of the extra-media challenge

Spiderman, Spiderman,
Does whatever a spider can
Spins a web, any size,
Catches thieves just like flies
Look Out!
Here comes the Spiderman.

Is so much better than the craptacular

Nanananananananana Batman!
Nanananananananana Batman!

Compare the lovely 90’s opening theme to Batman the Animated Series to that of the Spider-Man show of the same era - which consisted of too much electric guitar, and a synth voice saying “Spider-Man Spider-Man. Radioactive Spider-Man.”

Unlike with other acquisitions, D.C. acquired Captain Marvel from Fawcett as the result of a lawsuit. The courts agreed that Captain Marvel was nothing more than a knockoff of Superman.

In recent years, Stan Lee has been involved in exstensive legal battles against Marvel and its subsidiaries for shares of royalties resulting from Marvel motion picture ventures. Somehow I doubt that Marvel is consulting him often for artistic contributions.

I was looking at volume and quality. Spider-Man has two solid movies and at least one solid animated series, which is why he struck me as being the only Marvel character that approaches the success of any DC character. (The Hulk also had an animated series)

Feh. No other super hero music will ever approach the fabulousness that is the Wonder Woman theme song. DC wins that hands down in perpetuity.

You’re completely neglecting the japanese side of things. The Captain America and Spiderman japanese shows had critical influences on later developments over there.
For example, the Spiderman Sentai was the first show to show fighting a bad guy at human size… and then fighting him again at giant scale in a giant robot.

Okay, it’s not Shakespeare, but it leads directly to the modern Power Rangers.

Marvel and Stan Lee Settle All Outstanding Litigation

The litigation never stopped them from working together, in the limited capacity Stan does work nowadays (mostly as a spokesman). This isn’t an uncommon occurence in the corporate world.

There were two Hulk cartoons, actually, although the earlier (60s) one would be hard to call ‘animated’.

The 60s version was more or less a barely-animated comic book. It had its charms, but was no Spiderman. (And the theme song…‘Doctor Banner, pelted by Gamma Rays…’ shudder)

The 90s version was in UPN’s cartoon block. I don’t remember it well, but it wasn’t good.

As to the OP…

DC’s head start is clearly part of it.

Then there’s their stable of characters - absolutely huge, due to the various characters and companies they’ve bought out over the years - although this has the rather humourous result of DC owning both the original and the rip-off in a couple cases.

Then there’s the fact that DC’s characters are much more suited to cross-media adaptation. More visually interesting, on the whole, more fitted to established forms, etc.

Another factor is that I’ve always found DC series to be more episodic (is that even a word) than Marvel series. Marvel series are much more likely to have characters crossing over between titles and extensive and evolving back stories. DC characters have relatively static backgrounds and are more self-contained. So it’s easier to pull a DC character out of one medium and put him or her in another one.

Let’s not forget that Stan Lee is no longer exclusive to Marvel; in addition to doing some work for DC (such as the “Imagine if Stan Lee Wrote _________” series, where Stan re-intents Superman, Batman, etc.), he’s also done non-big-two work such as Stripperella with Pamela Anderson.

wolfman. The so-called “craptacular” Batman song has the advantage of such sublime simplicity that I can teach a roomful of kindergarten students the lyrics and melody with just one exposure.