The world of comic books today is dominated by “The Big 2”, Marvel Comics and DC. Here’s a thumbnail on each.
Main heroes – Spiderman. Iron Man. The X-Men. Wolverine. The Incredible Hulk. Captain America. The Avengers. Thor. Punisher. The Fantastic Four. Daredevil.
Big Idea/Foundational Concept: Superheroes are human beings just like us, living in our own tensive, complicated world and struggling with the same issues we face (like family, self-identity, commitment, discrimination, disability, government, anger management and loss).
Early History: The company now known as Marvel Comics began as “Timely Comics” in 1939. During the war its superhero stories, which featured among others Captain America, quickly caught on. After the war interest faded for a time, then exploded again in the late 1950s, early 1960s with the resurgence of Superman at DC Comics. Duirng this era editor-in-chief/writer Stan Lee, working usually with popular artist Jack Kirby, created most of the major characters and conflicts still found in the Marvel Universe today. Lee also came up with endless slogans and gimmicks to fan reader interest, including the idea of teasing upcoming storylines and offering space for reader mail.
Last Big Brand Storyline – Secret Invasion. Aliens with the ability to look and act like human beings have secreted themselves into every level of the world. Once the heroes discover them, can they be stopped?
Next Big Storyline – Dark Reign. The heroes overcome the aliens, only to find in that a very bad guy posing as a reformed hero is put in charge of all of them in the aftermath.
Marvel has a healthy lead in market share.
Main Heroes – Superman. Batman. Wonder Woman. The Flash. Green Lantern. Aquaman. Green Arrow. The Justice League of America (i.e. the Superfriends).
Big Idea/Foundational Concept – Heroes represent our ideals; they call us to our best selves.
Early History: DC Comics got its start as “National Allied Publications” in 1934. In 1937, NAP published “Detective Comics” (DC) which in 1939 began printing stories about a man who dressed like a bat in order to frighten criminals. One year earlier, NAP started Action Comics, which presented the adventures of Superman, a superhero born on another planet. After interest in superheroes flagged in the late 1940s, editor-in-chief Julius Schwartz overhauled its linchpin characters, in some cases completely recreating the backstory of the character, to great success. His work revived the comic book superhero industry. Schwartz also introduced the concept of a superhero team, and in the 1960s imagined an alternate reality version of the different superheroes called “Earth 2” that became the basis for fundamental concepts in the DC Universe today.
Last Big Brand Storyline – Final Crisis. The DC Universe’s version of evil incarnate, a cosmic being known as “Darkseid”, takes over the universe and overcomes the human spirit. Tag line: Evil Wins.
Upcoming Storyline – Darkest Night. Dead superheroes are resurrected to form an army of the dead which attacks their friends and family.
Jim McDermott, SJ