…and I shall shed my light over dark.

A few days ago, The Matticus Kingdom sent us to pick a side in the intergalactically-renown Tug Of War.  This battle is to answer the question — Which universe of superheroes (and villains) is superior: Marvel or DC?

My plan was to go rogue with this question and indulge in one of my spasms of nonsense, much like I did in the last battle— but it turns out, I have a real opinion on this.

I know many of my readers don’t geek, especially not in the direction of comic books, so I double appreciate those going on this little thought journey with me. I think it’ll tell you a bit about what makes me tick.

To choose my side with the proper care– I decided to ask myself who lived up most to the things that make comic books matter. So, firstly:

Why do comic books matter?

Comic books matter because they are catalysts for belief.  They teach an imagination that stretches every word and possibility into a legacy.  They remind us of the cosmic dance between action and consequence, and the eerie silence of inaction, and the ever-unsettled imbalance of justice.  Comic books are odes to the flaws that push us to greatness, and the greatness that trips us up.  They are about good and evil– and how our role affects which of those two outpaces the other.

It’s the concept of “our role” that landed me on Team DC.   You see, Marvel is about the heroes– and DC is about us.

Comic books do matter.  We all need to borrow our strength, sometimes.
Comic books do matter. We all need to borrow our strength, sometimes.

The Invisible People of the Marvel’verse

In the Marvel’verse, you know there’s a school that welcomes and teaches mutants.  You probably recognize them, you might know their names, and if you’re looking– you will find their back stories.

But where are we in that story?

Where’s the brave little cafe owner who puts up a sign that says “Mutants welcome”, even in the face of judgement from her neighbors and risk of eviction?  Where’s the parent who, in an effort to protect their mutant child, stands face to face with someone far more dangerous than they could ever hope to be?  What’s their name? What’s their back story?

The truth is, other than the faceless angry mobs and the side characters needed to run the White House and such facilities– there isn’t much mention.

This is true for Spider-man, too.  I’ll buy into the idea that Peter’s aunt has no idea what’s happening– but where’s the nosy neighbor?  Where’s the scene where the neighbor tells everyone that he was at her house helping garden, just to save him– and in a blinding instant, Peter realizes he’s been protected by her all along?

Yeah, it isn’t there.

The Real and Flannel-Clad Heroes of DC

DC comics on the other hand– despite their many logical flaws and perhaps overly-powered super beings– are rife with stories of real human courage and heroism.

There are many times when Batman’s safety is ensured by a small child.  There are many moments where regular humans return a life-saving favor and pull Batman out of icy river banks, and help him hack the enemy systems.

You probably know the names of the people who work alongside Superman, or his alter-ego Clark Kent.  They don’t have super powers, but they are often the fulcrum of the story.  We’ve seen Martha Kent go toe-to-toe with the biggest bads in the whole galaxy– all the while wearing flannel, and being a mom, and having her own complex backstory and love.

The New52 Superman is a blogger.  His landlady also kicks serious butt.  As expected-- go DC!
The New52 Superman is a blogger. His landlady also kicks serious butt. As expected– go DC!

The Lantern in All of Us

Of course, the real winner in this argument is Green Lantern.  You see, Green Lanterns aren’t born into their super power.  They aren’t bit by radioactive spiders, or limited to the United States or even earth.  Green Lanterns aren’t always white, or male, or human, or brown, or tall, or thin, or loud, or quiet, or short.  They are just bearers of an important piece of technology– a ring.  They are chosen for their worthiness.  What they do with the power is up to them and with the guidance of good– they very often use it to save lives.  Sometimes, they don’t make that choice– but that’s the imbalance of justice for you.

Green Lantern is a wonderful story of possibility.  It’s a story that asks us if we’re living lives worthy of the ring.  It’s a reminder that even the most worthy of candidates need the guidance of a good village, because fear so easily leads to hate.  It’s a tale of every day heroes, fear in the face of power, and consequences of greatness.  Most importantly– they were just like you and me before the ring.

Maybe they’re cops, bankers, bloggers, or crafters– but they’re all important.  They all have names and backstories, and so do their neighbors, teachers, parents, and friends.

They are worthy because they all have the makings of a hero inside them.
Just like you.




Alright, so the truth is, I like ’em both– but I really needed a good geek out, so– TEAM DC!  I suppose we’ll let the Kingdom’s official counters have the final say.  If you’re with me, or even if you’re with Marvel– grab your Lantern ring and cast your vote by writing a supportive post, or by voting via comment over at The Matticus Kingdom: http://thematticuskingdom.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/the-return-of-the-official-matticus-kingdom-tug-of-war/

Don’t forget to check out the other posts:

If you knew for sure that your neighbor was a superhero, at what cost would you keep their secret?


  1. Very awesome. Glad to have you on my side! 😀

    Seriously, I do like both, but it came down to the little details.

    I suspect some don’t know the whole Green Lantern story beyond the movie, so hopefully that opens some eyes. (and, to show my super dorkiness, I have a Star Sapphires shirt but it seems to have disappeared).


    1. Yep, a side needed to be chosen! 😉 I love the Green Lantern storyline– it gets weird and tangled, in typical DC fashion, but it’s such a unique and important angle. It’s the one I love kids to read!

      Also– a Star Sapphires shirt is awesome!


  2. Very well thought out and empowering Rara. I would expect nothing less. I on the other hand let my delusions of grandeur and megalomania make my decision for me. Don’t worry though, I will be a just and benevolent ruler. My first order of business will be treats for everyone, be it nightcheese or snickers. 🙂


  3. Even though we disagree on sides, I love this post!
    Another reason comic books are important I discovered as a child. My best friend struggled to read and hated her reading books from school. So I read my comics with her and she managed much better because the pictures helped with context. Later I had a friend whose daughter was dyslexic and was upset that the rest of the family geeked out on Discworld which she couldn’t manage to read. So, remembering my best friend, I got her the comic versions (“graphic novels” if you must) and she was able to follow the stories and join in the conversation.
    So in summary – comics are amazing!
    PS I am not claiming this will work for anyone with dyslexia, but I know it did for my friend;s daughter.


    1. 😀 I liked all arguments, on all sides– even the coin flips and outfit-choice ones. Everyone is awesome, and so are comics. I really think there is no wrong answer here. 🙂

      I know many stories like yours– both dyslexia, and other learning strugglers, often find a home in the geek’verse simply because information is presented in many unique formats. 🙂 It’s just another bonus of an already wonderful medium! 😀


  4. Excellent argument.. I never really thought about the sides til now. I guess I am not a total geek. I do enjoy comics and graphic novels very much. Go Team DC 🙂


  5. Oh dear. I knew we’d disagree over this, even if we won’t fall out. Let’s take the X Men. Their saviour (small pun here) is Xavier; he acts in loco parentis, protects them even though he himself is confined to a wheelchair. The Fantastic Four. Ben Grimm is a vulnerable, as human, as all get out. Spidey? Horribly vulnerable, all too human.
    And I’m sorry but Green Lantern? He isn’t a superhero. he just isn’t. He’s a sanctimonious moraliser, and quite the dullest characters in the dull pantheon of DCworld.
    And the only time DC had an artist of the sheer genius of Steve Ditko was when he was staffing for them.


    1. If we haven’t fallen out at this point, Duncan, I can’t imagine what would make it so. 😀

      Xavier has superpowers, as does Ben Grimm, and Spider-Man. Their parents, wives, friends, neighbors, local small business owners, etc, barely have any impact in the story. Certainly nothing deserving of it’s own story line. They SHOW humanity and vulnerability, of course– but probably only to compensate for the lack of real humans doing real, small but noble, acts of humanism. 🙂

      There are so many different ways to define “superior”. I’ll give you the artist bit, 🙂 but I didn’t factor art, dialogue, finances, social issue reformation, or legacy– each of those would return a different result. 🙂

      As to Green Lantern– whhaaaa? All superheroes are sanctimonious. It goes hand in hand with ultimate power– which is why I put so much import on showing small-but-real human acts of heroism. We’ll have to agree to disagree on the dull! 🙂


      1. Surely the whole point of superhero stories is that they’re about super heroes. They’re not about the little acts of human courage of ordinary folk, they’re about superpowers.
        I think the art comment I made is a valid one, because the sheer dynamism of the illustrations helped forge the characters.
        He’s still the dullest character ever put in a DC comic.
        No, we haven’t fallen out yet, so it’s not going to happen now.
        I amy just be poking my stick in your ear, but you’ll never know. Haha


  6. If you knew for sure that your neighbor was a superhero, would you keep their secret?

    Sure, it’ll be great keeping that secret, they would have your back in tight situations.


  7. Love that question! If I found out my neighbor was a superhero I’d be trying my best to keep it a secret, I think I’d let my housemates know though!


  8. When I was a kid I was more interested in sailing across the landscape on black beauty or hanging out with Nancy Drew but this post has me thinking we all have a bit of inner geek hiding inside, it’s just all a matter of degree.


  9. Your reasoning is amazing. The thoughts that people have for choosing a side are just pure fun to read and learning new ways to look at our own geekdom is pure joy. Glad to see another DC supporter and loved your post.


  10. Maybe DC is better at highlighting the ‘normal people’ of its universe, but Marvel doesn’t completely ignore them. During the Marvel Civil War story, they had a book called Frontlines, which was about the reporters covering the story. They, too, had to decide which side to support. One of them even got arrested by SHIELD because she wouldn’t give up the heroes who were fighting registration.


  11. Rara- I love the abandon with which you through yourself into everything-
    you have a formidable 10 year old on your side- I will post his support on my blog for Team DC, and Matticus will reblog it- and he is honored to be with his beloved Rara


  12. Excellent post! One of the reasons I like Astro City is precisely because it explores the idea of normal humans living in a world of superheroes. I’m not sure I agree DC does a better job than Marvel at including “us” into the storylines. The people have stood up for Spider-Man plenty of times, and also hated him thanks to JJJ. Regular people stopped the Civil War when they finally became fed-up and stared down Captain America, making him realize that even if he had the moral high ground, he was hurting the very people he was trying to help. Mary Jane, Aunt May, S.H.I.E.L.D agents, Marvels (which shows the history of supers through the eyes of a photographer and how they affect “normal” people. There are plenty of examples on both sides.
    But the photo of the DC brands being used during chemo damn near made me change my mind on its own! Well-done, worthy adversary, well-done. I look forward to a day when we are on the same side 😀


  13. Team DC support noted. And, because you stuck with the comics solely and did not allow the influence of movies and TV to sway your logic and reasoning, I’m awarding team DC another 1,000 pulling points.
    Put your will into it DC roper pullers. Perhaps you will topple Marvel after all.


          1. No, definitely not.
            I actually think I’ve given the DC camp more extra points than the marvel camp. That will need to be corrected, of course, before I do the finally tally. Or will it? I don’t know. Maybe I’ll just let the silliness reign.


            1. Sounds like a plan to me. Silliness reign o’er me.

              (listening to The Who right now if anyone gets that lame reference)


  14. I’m a self-confessed comics geek from way back. I have to say, I thought your insight into the importance of comic books in terms of what they teach us was brilliant. I think of them as the modern day version of greek mythology , which were always ripe with the the consequences of greatness. I also have to say Im a total Team Marvel guy (sorry). I agree that the Marvel universe tends to fall short on the backstory category, and that DC’s Green Lantern is the best because of it’s inclusion of all people and races, from our planet and beyond. That said, I have always had a hard time connecting with DC heroes because, aside from GL, they are rarely the “common man.” Superman is from another plant; Batman is a billionaire, etc. Growing up, I read Marvel because I felt like, at any moment, that could be me. I was also drawn to the complexity of the villains in Marvel comics. They were often tragic, living with a curse that came as a result of an attempt at something for the greater good.

    What I can say about both Marvel and DC is that they have enriched or lives in ways many people don’t realize, not only as entertainment, but in helping us to understand the difference between good and evil in a dynamic way, and also how the difference can be a very thin line.

    Yep, Im a geek 😉


    1. Marvel started the whole notion of the flawed superhero, while DC, being established earlier, got hobbled a little more with the Comic Code Authority. It’s my understanding that comic books have a foundation in the detective pulp fiction genre, and with the moral fervor of the post WWII years, that’s what brought on the notion that superheroes should be father figures: Superman and Jimmy Olson, Batman and Robin, and so on. Yes, Captain America had Bucky, but most of the Marvel lineup didn’t get quite as saddled with the whole notion that superheroes should be moral guardians.


      1. That’s absolutely true. There’s a terrific public television documentary, about 3 hours long, that goes through the whole evolution of the comic book. It talks about the CCA and how Stan Lee basically went against it when he had a character deal with alcoholism. I can’t remember the name of the documentary, but I’m sure it would be easy to find — and well worth watching if you haven’t seen it already.


        1. Yep, I’ve seen it– it’s pretty awesome. Very nice catch, by the way; that’s pretty much the source I’m referencing!

          The particular bit that you’re referring to was about when Harry Osborn, son of Norman Osborn (the Green Goblin) descended into drug addiction, actually. I think Stan said that they couldn’t run the story with CCA approval, and so they decided to run without it.


          1. That’s right! And the result was… nothing. They realized the CCA had no real authority. DC soon followed suit, and the world of super hero story lines has never been the same. Thank God…


  15. I know nothing of comics, but if I had to vote on what I read here, I’d totally agree. And I went back and read your chicken post, and that was truly great writing. I haven’t been by to visit in awhile and I had definitely missed having a little Rara in my life. Many hugs to you!


  16. Rara, Earth 52 Superman brought us that horrible abomination of a movie known as Man of Steel.

    It’s also with this Earth 52 reboot that DC writers decided that Clark Kent should be shamed by Lois leaving his love for her unrequited– instead of being married to her, as he previously was. He looks like a cuckold now, by comparison. For shame, Jim Lee, for shame… he left Marvel (he generated a lot of interest in the X-Men as an artist) to be DC’s Chief Editor for this? That’s not counting that Cimmorene is upset that DC has now made Wonder Woman and the other Amazons more war-like…


  17. Reblogged this on You've Been Hooked! and commented:
    As a fellow writer I have to say this of Rara’s work: This is just plain brilliant.
    As a lifelong nerd I have to say this of Rara’s work: Why don’t comic book scribes strive to emulate to her brand of brilliance?


  18. Apart from Superman (and later, Watchmen), most of the comic books I read growing up were horror and sci fi episodics. I can’t really root for one side over the other here.

    What I can do is say that I love your endorsement of comics. Some of my favorite memories from childhood were family walks down to the comic book store, where my siblings and I would get a dollar apiece to spend on sale comics. Back then, that meant ten whole comics!

    Those comic adventures cultivated a love of reading and a certain idealism that have come in handy to my siblings and me over the years. They shaped us for the better, so that I was super excited to buy my son his first comics a couple months back. He is too young to read them, bur reading them together now will hopefully be the fond preface to years of his own comic reading ahead.


  19. I.love.this. And not just because we share support for DC. You just have this way of making things universal, of making things relatable, of making things important lessons…even fun and silly tug-of-wars about superheroes. And this: “Comic books are odes to the flaws that push us to greatness, and the greatness that trips us up.” Brilliance. They are are modern mythology which teaches us about humanity through their archetypal hero-journeys. And now my inner English teacher is totally geeking out 🙂


    1. Archetypal hero-journeys… *melts* Please, please, come read more of my blog, pretty please? I’m writing as fast as I can about this sort of stuff! (Not just comic books, but movies, my own personal life…)


  20. What a beautiful piece; I will never look at comics in quite the same way again. I love the idea that the stories of superheroes like Batman include the strength and compassion of (other) humans.


    1. I have also never read one…let’s run away in shame holding hands – we’re not alone! Rara – thanks for this. After 36 years, I’m finally going to check this whole comic book thing out, especially Green Lantern!


  21. Hrmph! I’m not “liking” this post because you sided with DC. Marvel obviously is the better comic series. DC’s heroes are too cutesy and docile for me. For kids up to maybe 12 years old they are ok but Marvel’s mutants are wins for teens and adults. They have grittier back stories and their battles are epic with a lot of internal twists and turns. DC’s just like…yay Batman! n yay Superman! Dun dun duuuunnnnn. Meh!


    1. One of my Marvel favorites is the Silver Surfer, and Stan Lee himself noted that college age kids (my parent’s generation, if I understand right) were reading the title.

      I’ve devoted a series of posts about how Norrin Radd follows Joseph Campbell’s idea of the Monomyth/Hero’s Journey, so yes, I do agree that Marvel did take paths that encouraged older readers.


  22. I loved this Rara! I’m not a comic book person (unless you include the Archie comics!) so I couldn’t ‘pick a side’ but this was a completely different perspective for me on comics and the stories behind them. It actually makes me want to read some now!!


    1. Archie Comics can always be included, Daile. Our whole little family adores them. The most fun thing I remember was opening up a Digest and saying, “Oh wow, I remember that story as an individual comic I collected once.” And the writers are doing some FUN stuff with them… like Archie’s Weird Mysteries, the newest Afterlife with Archie, Return to Riverdale, and some others I’m forgetting. Right now, I’m reading about the New Crusaders, and the Fly in that lineup is a JACK KIRBY character. (Jack Kirby is a Marvel Comics legend, m’kay? 😉 )

      Personally, I do NOT sell Archie comics short, whatsoever… they’ve got a rightful place in my book even if comic book fanboys pooh-pooh them as juvenile reading. The company’s doing some cool stuff.


  23. I have to point out a very serious flaw in the operating procedures of the Guardians of the Universe.

    They administer the Green Lantern Corps, right? So they select who they think is worthy of wearing a power ring? Why would they ever allow a HUMAN to be a Green Lantern? (And yes, I know that Abin Sur gave the ring to Hal Jordan as he died, so it was more like an emergency improvised decision, but still: the Guardians allowed it.)

    Humans don’t even know that alien civilizations exist, much less understand the intricate relationships between various species. Giving a human a weapon with virtually limitless power, and then telling him he needs to police a sector of the galaxy, seems extremely irresponsible.

    Imagine you went in to one of those Amazon Rain Forest tribes that had never experienced contact with the outside world. Imagine you grab a villager at random and tell him: “Hey, you look worthy, so listen up. There is a huge world with billions of people and cultures you’ve never even dreamed could exist, as well as technology beyond what you could even begin to understand. You are now in charge of it. Here is a stealth bomber. Use it wisely.” That’s pretty much what the Guardians do all the time.


  24. Aww! It’s too hard! I love them all. Been such a geek ever since I crawled up to my dad while he watched Batman and Robin tackle and punch with orchestral sound effects and graffiti-like visuals of what their punches and kicks would sound like. I have wondered if these were the precursors to close captioning for the hearing impaired later on.


  25. First, I would like to congratulate you on tackling such a controversial topic in such a graceful manner. I feel like I know people who would get in knife fights over this stuff.

    I will cut only with my words. That is to say your words are solid enough to need to use sharp language in order to effectively counter your argument. I do strongly disagree with you.

    Though perhaps DC features more real human beings helping out their superheroes along the way, and that is all well and good, what I think has been overlooked is the successful way in which when you look closer Marvel superheroes ARE us. Have you never felt like a mutant? On the outside? Unable to fit in with the rest of the population? Needing to turn to others like you for support? And Peter Parker, the perfect example, just a simple biogeek, overlooked, on the outside, made special only by a simple spider bite, still dealing with every day human things, like making the rent and taking care of his family and getting the girl. He is us empowered! He lives by his very human sentiment taught him by his heroic (entirely human) uncle, “With great power comes great responsibility.” He gives hope to every geek out there that even though we’re better with algorithms than relationships, we can still kick ass in our own way.

    … I’ll stop now because I could write an essay. But thank you for this post. I totally respect your opinion and think that much of it is valid. I just don’t want Marvel to be reduced to fluffy, other worldliness, as I think it contains some of the most real human content I have ever read. Spiderman taught me to be a good human.


  26. Quite the dilema… I haven’t read any comic books since I was in my 20’s, except when my newspaper had a promotion that included copies of the original Spider-Man in each Sunday paper a few years ago (it was so cool because I had never read them). I like both Marvel and DC, I used to read Spider-Man and Superman. I like the Marvel and the DC comic movies too. Please don’t make me choose!


  27. Marvel Marvel Marvel! DC’s been chasing Marvel since 1961, when Marvel introduced the Fantastic Four. DC heroes didn’t even have unique personalities until about 1983. Anything you mentioned as advantages of DC only came about because they were influenced by Marvel. While I see your point in regards to DC’s portrayal of “normals”, folks probably get into comics for the superheroes. Much love for your post, but Marvel Marvel Marvel!



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