Questionable Friday: Those Interchangeable Mainstream Comics

Our question comes from a true n00b this week, Mel, who asked me: "So is Batman Marvel?"

Fellow geeks, you've heard this one before, or one very similar, have you not? Is such and such Marvel or DC? To most people, I dare say a superhero is a superhero is a superhero, and there's no real distinction between the two main producers of superhero comics. Even for movie goers, there might only be the vaguest sense that Marvel Studios and the WB handle separate properties (and Marvel has to split its universe with Fox). Can't Superman hang out with the X-Men? Have any of the Avengers ever faced the Joker? The short answer is no, but the long answer, which would pedantically have to include a meticulous indexing of every Marvel/DC crossover ever published, would be yes. The deeper down the rabbit hole you go, the more confusing the issue gets for the layman.

Because the real answer is another question: Does it really matter? Legally, there's certainly a distinction, but there are a lot of characters that would be in the public domain if these companies weren't in the business of lawyering up every time Mickey Mouse or Superman was in danger of slipping out of their grasp, and THEN where would we be? Well, we'd be in the same position a lot of super and pulp heroes published at smaller houses are now. The Spider can meet the Green Hornet or completely ignore other heroes published by Dynamite and do his own thing. Different companies can publish different takes on Sherlock Holmes and no one cries foul.

So imagine that.

Don't like DC's current take on Superman? Well, check out Mark Waid's version over at Thrillbent, or his Golden Agey team-ups with pulp heroes at Dynamite, or whatever. I'm not saying that would be better. If Superman had been in the public domain to be used in any configuration this century, we might not have had Irredeemable or Captain Ultimate or, well, name your favorite analog. The grand comics canon would be poorer for it.

But I'm getting off the path here. Back to Mel's question: "Is Batman Marvel?" I'll say yes because OBVIOUSLY he teamed-up with such Marvel heroes as the Punisher, Daredevil and Captain America.
And I'll say yes again, because thanks to the Squadron Supreme, Marvel has its own version of Batman:
But I'll also say no because legally and technically, he's a DC character. What's NOT a reason I'd say no is any notion that Marvel and DC heroes are somehow different thematically, or in feeling. They used to be. Not so much anymore.


Zundian said...

I think Batman does not qualify as "Marvel" (especially lately) because he doesn't have everyday problems that you can relate to, at this point he is just a force of nature.

Possibly the MOST Marvel character that DC had was Ted Kord as the Blue Beetle. He was basically Spider-Man as a (middle-aged) adult and continued to be until his death.

LiamKav said...

Doesn't the new Blue Beetle count as well, since he's (also) essentially Spider-Man?

I'd actually say that Marvel and DC are more distinct at the moment than they have been for a while, if only in their top-down approach. Marvel is going for a "get a name on a book, let them do what they want with it" approach, whereas DC is going for a "editorial controls all whoops did we say someone was going to be writing a book sorry we meant someone else who are you talking about we've fired them tsk bloody women eh?" approach.

Siskoid said...

You're proving my answers are "questionable" ;-).

I think you could argue any side of the issue. Blue Beetle was Ditko's Spider-Man clone over at Charlton, so obviously, built on a Marvel paradigm. DC's ongoing Marvelization in the hopes that it will turn into Marvel Movie Money is hit and miss (mostly miss), but it's hard not to look at the New52 and not see a bad parody of Marvel made by lots of folks who made Marvel a parody of itself in the 90s.

Is Marvel correspondingly more DC-ized? Not sure, but the power levels of certain heroes have approached DC levels of inhumanity (pun not intended) in books like, for example, Iron Man.

Matt Celis said...

They both suck 99% of the time so what difference does it make? Read Archie instead. They're doing all kinds of interesting stuff these days.

Siskoid said...

Afterlife with Archie for the win.

Jeff R. said...

Nah, Firestorm was DC's most marvel character. Ronnie Raymond starts off as the mirror universe Peter Parker, then substitutes in for Rick Jones in the Hulk's Origin, and it doesn't get less Marvel from there forward...

Jason Beatty said...

I always felt that Moon Knight was Marvel's answer to Batman....

Siskoid said...

Ha! That's how I described him that very Friday to somehow who asked while I was showing off my Lego Marvel unlocked figures!

Egyptian Batman with a split personality. Sort of. It's not quite as pure in concept as Batman, but I think that's because so many people have tried to differentiate him with limited success.


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