The constant fight for dominance between the ‘Big Two’ of Marvel and DC is an ever changing and always evolving movement in mainstream comics. Both of these two companies, who once owned themselves but now find that they are owned by larger companies have altered their dynamics several times in their existence. With the current run of books out currently, what does this mean for the fanbase?
Marvel seems to have been on a journey of self-discovery ever since emerging from their almost bankrupt state at the end of the Nineties. The company that is now dominating the visual media as well as the publishing world has made many alterations since the heady days of huge shoulders and balloon like muscles, first came the darker Marvel Knights line and then the Ultimate universe exploded onto the scene promising an updated telling of classic and much loved characters. Since then it has gone through numerous summer events which has changed the status quo more times than readers turned the pages. It took until the early Teens until their books became more diverse and a shift from the nostalgic heroes of old, straight white dudes who fought for truth, justice and the American ideal that anyone can make it. Now it boasts an African American wielding the shield, A woman holding the hammer of Thor, a young Muslim girl selling books by the truck load with Carol Danvers’ old moniker, and soon an African American woman will fill the Ironman suit.
While this evolution of characters is necessary to keep the titles relevant and interesting, Marvel’s inability to sit with an idea for any length of time has made fans jaded to more change. We all knew Steve Rogers would become his old (young) self in time for Captain America: Civil War to hit theatres – so to many, Sam Wilson’s promotion from sidekick to hero seemed pointless. What followed however was a run that sold well and entertained many readers. When Steve did come back we were presented with a world where two Captain Americas could move around and tell different stories. This does raise the question of longevity though. If Steve is back, Will Sam’s book continue to get traction in the All-New All-Different universe which, come the end of the year will see another crop of titles coming out, be they new books or another outing for established characters? Many have talked about ‘event fatigue’ over the last decade but are we headed into a period of ‘relaunch fatigue?’
Across the street, DC have just had their own line wide relaunch. After the much maligned New52 which saw many books being pulled down into the dark and brooding world of the Bat this new direction seems to have brought some colour as well as joy to the big blue machine. While not all of the books have their own unique identity there are more than there had been in the last era of DC books. Now both companies have been riffing off of each other for so long that similarities are inevitable. Marvel had a stand out year after the release of the Fraction/Aja Hawkeye series and has embraced the quirkiness of their characters. DC, while they haven’t gone as kookie as Marvel with their books, they do seem worlds apart from many of their New52 predecessors.
While many may sigh at the thought of buying a whole new bunch of number ones the inevitability of the relaunch is as sure as the sun rising in the morning. The trick to it is knowing your limit and not trying to pick up everything on the shelf. To vote with your wallet and not pick up a book you have no interest in and support the ones you do. Ultimately change is coming much like winter and being willing to bend with the breeze makes it much easier to enjoy your hobby.