Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Can Apples Be Compared to Oranges?

You've heard the old saying, "You can't compare apples with oranges", right? The phrase tends to lend credence to more than just fruit. As I've sat and read the opinions of online comic book fans I believe more and more that this statement also works for the comic book industries big two companies: D.C. and Marvel.

Sure there are surface similarities as both have over a sixty year history of ups and downs that include high profile characters that have become American Icons, like Superman and Spider-Man for example. However when you examine those histories as well as the characters that inhabit each universe, I think you'll find that the similarities stop there. Trying to convince me that Marvel and D.C. are the same is as hard as forcing me to believe that apple pie taste the same as orange duck.

D.C. relies heavily on its rich, colorful history. Their main themes seem to be legacy, history, and family, which is usually brought out in extraordinary events that threaten not only their universe but hundreds of others as well. Look at the list of characters that D.C. has who have been around in one incarnation or another for close to three quarters of a century now: Green Lantern, Flash, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Black Canary, Hawkman, The Atom, The Sandman, and the list goes on. Characters that came not only from D.C. but their sister books at All-American Comics as well. The interaction between the heroes have, for the most part, always been that of a huge family reunion when they get together. Granted my family has never had to fight off a hoard of para-demons or undead family members who came back thanks to crazy Uncle Nekron, but the idea is there. These heroes have been around forever, supporting each other through thick and thin.

Where as D.C. relies on the larger than life events, Marvel has always been known for looking out the window's of their office and seeing the grim and gritty of the real world around them. The House of Ideas have always tried to ground their characters in as much reality as is fit for a medium that includes shape changing aliens and Norse Gods that hover over small towns in Oklahoma (leaving the phrase "There are only two things that come out of Oklahoma, steers and queers, obsolete). With every major and minor even that falls in the Marvel Universe there is always a real life analogy that can be found. The most obvious being the bigotry and intolerance that run through the X-Men books. But recent events like Civil War and Dark Reign came at a time when America found itself heavily divided over a government that appeared to be running the country without regard to the fundamental laws and rights that their forefathers had established two-hundred and some years ago.

So looking at both of these companies I find it interesting when fanboys shout that one sucks over the other. I can't see it that way. There's good books and lousy books in both universes, but fundamentally they are two highly different flavors. It's one thing to say I love apples and everything that can be made with them, but I've never developed a true taste for oranges. It's another to shout out: "Oranges rule and apples suck donkey dicks." Just like food, comics are subjective to the taste of the individual reader.

Well, except for those readers who like the taste of liver. Let's face it, Liefeld sucks.