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The Marvel/DC Conundrum

| August 18, 2014

Daily Dose-peach



A lot of people– new creators and fans both–complain about Marvel and DC. They often do it loudly. They also do it wrongly. I know this, because I used to complain, too.

Here are some simple facts:

In America, Marvel/DC are the face of comic books. If it is old, it is often venerable. And Marvel/DC are also ubiquitous. Although some may hate to admit it, Marvel/DC are the core reasons that many of today’s creators get into comics. They want to create a hero as ubiquitous and enduring as the heroes they grew up with. They want to see their creations adapted to other media. (They want to see their creations outlive them, but that’s a morbid thought, so we won’t dwell on it.)

The creators that stick with it will often try to go up against the behemoths, and once they realize that there is no way for them to win, they either give up, or veer into other areas of creation. And by other areas, I mean finding either other genres to publish outside of the superhero.

Marvel/DC sucks all the air out of the room when it comes to the superhero. Every superhero comic you produce is actually going up against them, first, foremost, and always. Just look at any of the monthly numbers to see which companies dominate the list: Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse, and usually in that order. When you break it out into superhero comics only, you get Marvel and DC, and any other company is a distant third.

And then you want to try to publish your own superhero comic in the face of that.

The first instinct is to rail and complain. It happens. You want to be able to get your comic to the masses, and you want to do it now. So you rail at “the system”. You feel that there’s solidarity and “rightness” because there’s more than just your voice. This is, however, false.

Without the combined efforts of Marvel and DC, there is no American comic book industry. They have the unenviable position of being the leaders of an entire industry, and being resented for it. If either one of them were to falter and fail, the other side might see signs of their own demise, and if they both go away, then the comic industry goes with it.

Marvel and DC makes it possible for Diamond to let weakly selling titles to float on. Why they are able to distribute comics at as low a price as they do. Without Marvel and DC, Diamond more than likely also goes away, and there’s not another distributor reader to step in and fill the void. This also means that comic shops would become extinct, because other titles don’t sell well enough to pay the bills.

This pushes comics into being an underground hobby, pursued only by the most hardcore of both readers and creators. Yes, we can all wish that Marvel and DC told better stories, that they stopped rehashing the same six stories over and over again. We can be disgusted with their business practices (because they’re the big corporations and we’re the underdogs–but sometimes, they have to do things they would rather not have to in order to protect their business). But we cannot forget that they built the comic book realm into what it is today.

And comics, as an adaptable medium, is worth billions of dollars. So, love to hate them, or hate to love them, they’re needed to let comics thrive .

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Category: Columns, The Daily Dose

About the Author ()

Steven is an editor/writer with such credits as Fallen Justice, the award nominated The Standard, and Bullet Time under his belt, as well as work published by DC Comics. Between he and his wife, there are 10 kids (!), so there is a lot of creativity all around him. Steven is also the editor in chief and co-creator of ComixTribe, whose mission statement is Creators Helping Creators Make Better Comics. If you're looking for editing, contact him at for rate inquiries.

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