So I came to a conclusion the other day, DC is right. As an outsider to the big two, it’s obvious to me that DC is going in a better direction than Marvel these days. That isn’t to say DC doesn’t have it’s own problems, because it surely does. But, DC is handling it's heroes and universe better than Marvel. Specifically, DC isn't crushing itself in continuity like Marvel these days.
When I describe myself as an outsider to the big two that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped reading comic books. I haven’t stopped reading books, if anything, I’m reading more than ever. The difference is I am reading foreign material and smaller publishers. And I’m reading these types of stories because I’ve been forced out of the market. I've been forced out by continuity run amok, primarily by Marvel, and to a lesser extent by DC.
I believe as someone who's no longer consumed by the weekly floppy mania, I can evaluate the situation better than a random semi-rational, likes to complain and vent, fanboy, blog poster who might have bashed DC just last week.
To start, both DC and Marvel have pretty diverse, non superhero offerings. Each possesses strong kids lines, with DC marketing the Cartoon Network material, while Marvel has their Marvel Adventure line. Marvel recently started the Soleil line and has been doing the Classics Illustrated material. DC has Vertigo and Wildstorm. In this aspect, both companies are doing very well.
But, it really comes down to the superhero. As much as I want to believe it otherwise, capes, cowls, and continuity are still king in the marketplace. And, this is where DC wins. The DC core heroes are Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. When I check out DC books related to their core, there are 5 books I need to get purchase to get back into the mainstream. There are two Superman books, two Batman books, and one Wonder Woman book. That’s a nice manageable number of books to return to the primary marketplace.
On the other hand, Marvel's core heroes are Spiderman, X-men, and Avengers. If I were to look at all the books from Marvel's core, Spiderman has 4 books, Avengers have three, and X-men has at least two depending on how you count. Since two of the core heroes are teams, it could be argued that books like Wolverine could be included too. That means, as a minimum investment, I have to buy 9 books just to enter the Marvel Universe. If I want to capture see all the heroes on the team, I'm in the low teens.
And this is why comic books have so many problems attracting new readers. Because continuity has run amok and you can’t just read one comic book to get a story anymore.
Marvel has only aggravated the problem with their crossover “events.” I've complained many, many times about the number of titles tied into Civil War and Secret Invasion. In fact, I’m due for a complaint about Dark Reign. Let’s examine the Avengers. There are now three core Avengers titles every month. That’s Dark Avengers, New Avengers, and Mighty Avengers (or whatever) just to read about the team. And that doesn’t even count any of the spin off titles such as Initiative. It also doesn't count all the titles that are titled "Dark Reign." If I wanted to read that story, I would be purchasing over 20 titles a month. That's an absolutely ridiculous price of admission to get into the core universe.
I’m not saying that DC doesn’t have problems with it’s titles but at least the DCU is accessible. What happens in Superman pretty much stays in Superman. What happens in Batman/Detective pretty much stays there too. Sure there are big events but I can still get a good Batman story with having to read the big event. The new Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman weekly might not be the best book on the stands but at least it's self contained for the most part. I can read that and enjoy it. Enjoy being relative but at least it's a single, self contained, group of heroes.
The trades market isn't any better. I recently read the Iron Man: Five Nightmare trade. It was terrible! There were so many references to Civil War, Secret Invasion, and everything else that anyone not close to the storylines wouldn't have understood it. On the other hand, the Batman Casefiles by Dini was perfect. It was self contained. It was entertaining. I could go back and read that book in five years and still enjoy it. The Iron Man book will most likely suffer because I won't understand, or remember, the subplots in five years.
Again, I’m not saying that DC doesn’t have it’s problems, but based upon ease of entry then I have to give the edge to DC. And, if I wanted to give someone books to read, I would give them DC with it’s less restrictive continuity long before I would give them Marvel books.