Thursday, March 21, 2024

DC and Marvel, What kind of Guy?

 Given my history (and my tattoo) people identify me pretty quickly as "You're a DC Guy."

The problem with that is, currently and for a while now, I am reading more Marvel Comics than DC books, and watching more Marvel movies and shows than DC ones.

I've been raving about how good the Marvel movies and shows have been throughout the life of the MCU. Meanwhile, the fact that I haven't gotten around to Aquaman 2 is probably all that needs be said on that type of media for DC. (Though I have high hopes for James Gunn's output.)

But its through the comics where, in spite of purchasing less,  I can still say I'm a "DC guy."

Yes, I am buying way more Marvel Comics than DC. They are doing better with current stories, their reprint lines of old stuff are more consistent, accessible and available, and they regularly bring back top creators to revisit character's they've had successful runs on.

And don't get me started on cross overs. I am following DC's Dark Crisis, or whatever that never ending saga is called. I could not describe the story or even tell you what else I need to read to finish it, assuming it doesn't spin into an entire new universe... again.

However, when I do read DC books, they have a much stronger emotional resonance. They engage more powerful emotions and leave behind stronger feelings, and not only from reading a good story. 

I think it all has to do with the legacy and generations ideas I touched upon in the Blue Beetle review.

Yes, I know... 
It's a huge surprise that I couldn't restrain myself from going into those ideas in more detail.

Anabelle gives me a hard time for talking about Wally West far too often as the only sidekick that took on his mentor's role. And it seems like whenever I haven't read DC in a while, its a well written Nightwing story that brings me back into the fold.

Those sidekicks were viewpoint characters when I was a kid first getting introduced to superhero comics and cartoons. They remained so, because they had an "age up" when I was in college. DC's use of Icons and keeping the Justice Society connected to World War II really delineates their generations.

Marvel has great stories and characters, but keeps their timeline sliding all over the place as part of keeping those characters and their adventures relevant to today. Yes Captain America is tied to WWII, but his "sleep in the ice" keeps getting longer and longer. Originally he lost less that twenty years. Many folks he knew would have still been alive. Reed Richards and Ben Grimm were originally World War II Vets, Tony Stark was originally injured in "Vietnam" before the war, and Frank Castle started as a veteran of that war. All of that has been changed to keep the characters up to date. (Which makes the reason the Fantastic Four wanted to fly into space get weirder and weirder as time passes.) I think even Nick Fury's ties to World War II have become a generational, not an individual, thing now, and he started in a war comic. Honestly, with all the sliding Marvel does with their timeline, its tough to tell how old Peter Parker is supposed to be. Yet whether he's a high school student, freelance photographer taking college classes, graduate student, scientist or teacher just starting out or established, with or without a family, the core character works as do the stories of conflict between his responsibilities as a hero and a regular person set in today's world. 
Maybe that's why they need an entire Spider-Verse to contain all the versions of him.

Because of DCs structure, even with a sliding timeline, the generations stay more locked in place. 

The Justice Society did form during World War II, they are members of the greatest generation, and we just keep ignoring how big the gap keeps growing between them and "Modern" characters. 

The Justice League are Icons. They're the go to group of Archetypes. They're the ones that established the current state and rules of Superheroing. From the positive side, they're the ones the younger heroes look up to and want to emulate. From the Negative side, how some of them handled prioritizing their careers saving the world over raising their children (sidekicks) led to later conflict. They are the Baby Boomers.

That puts the original Teen Titans group as my group, Generation X, and the way DCs narrative changes happened, they all "Grew up" and took on new, adult, identities that better reflecting their personalities while I was doing the same thing going through college.

That means those characters remained the "point of view" characters from when I was a kid, through when I reached adulthood. They have the luxury (being fictional- as my Dad would frequently point out) of freezing their age at that point, which both my knees and back agree would be vastly preferable to our current state. However, the way they are inspired and connected to the older generations, while acting as support and mentors to the younger generations still resonates a great deal. 

Wally West (yes, Anabelle here it comes) is THE ONLY SIDEKICK that went on to fulfill his mentor's role, and surpassed him in many ways, including years with the name, and power level. But that isn't the biggest draw of the character for me, because I'm a softy. Flash stories are frequently built around the idea that no matter how fast one can go, it never feels like there's really enough time to be with loved ones. There's always a romance element with the Flashes- Jay and Joan, Barry and Iris. However, Wally and Linda's tale is an EPIC romance. Their love has pulled him back from being lost in the speed force (no other Flash has that happen) and reunited them after reality itself has been rewritten more than once. Not only that, but they have moved forward into having children, making connections to their stories even stronger as I got older.

Then there's Nightwing. Dick Grayson and I basically grew up together. Batman was one of the first superheroes I knew, on TV and in comics, and Robin the Boy Wonder was right there with him the whole time. When I switched over from collecting all Marvel to DC comic books in college, it started with a Nightwing appearance cover of Batman which marked Dick coming back to the Bat-family. Nightwing when written correctly as having ties with pretty much all superheroes is proof that being raised by Bruce (with Alfred, of course) can create a healthy individual. Having been the premier sidekick with years of experience, he's got bonds and respect from the older heroes, something I connected with from being a weird and over-read kid who could talk to adults from a young age, and from knowing all kinds for pop culture trivia I should be "too young to know." He also became a "big brother" figure to the later Robins and many of the other younger (Gen X and Gen Z) characters, due to his having been through it all as a kid hero. I found myself in that same role, both in my family, but also with groups of younger friends in high school, college, and frequently at work now as the hires skew younger.

Aside- I'm finally on board with the Nightwing/ Batgirl romance. I originally felt like connecting with Starfire showed more that he was his own person, but he really is part of the Bat-Family. With the ret-cons making him and Babs much closer to the same age, it feels way less weird than back when he was like her little brother when I first started reading comics. 
When I was little, comic books showed he was still in high school while she was running for congress. 

The rest of the Original Titans also are reflections of people I'm familiar with. We all know folks who've reinvented to be their true selves later in life after many lifestyle and career changes, like Donna Troy. 
Or troubled kids who found a way to a structured career or program to work through it and became reliable adults with families, like Roy Harper. 
Or those who may seem completely different on the surface, but are the same friends we knew in the past, like Garth.

Yes, the volume of stories and characters at Marvel that catch my interest are much larger these days.

But as far as emotional resonance and having that really good satisfying feeling after reading a comic book...
I'm still "A DC Guy."

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