Masters Of The Tooniverse: 15 DC Vs. Marvel Cartoon Memes

In all of comics fandom -- perhaps all of geek fandom -- there is no greater rivalry than the one between the camps of Marvel and DC Comics. This is one of those bitter rivalries that helps no one -- if you love one and hate the other, then you’re missing out on some fantastic comics, whichever side of the fence you fall on. In comic stores and online forums across the globe, however, the battle between “who would win” or if Wars (be they Secret, Civil or Infinite) beat out any given Crisis still rage on, despite the futility.

The quality of various media released by both companies definitely doesn’t help promote a truce, as there are some areas where Marvel is better, and some where DC reigns supreme. While most would agree that Marvel’s recent big screen output has been superior to that of its Distinguished Competition, DC’s Rebirth comics have been more critically praised than Marvel’s Legacy initiative. Where the battle becomes too tight to call is on the animation front. Are DC’s regular movies better than Marvel’s TV shows? Is Batman: The Animated Series better than the X-Men equivalent? To help settle the debate, CBR brings you the best DC versus Marvel Animated Universe Memes!

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When Marvel and DC fans battle over who is better, the standard arguments raise their ugly heads: when it comes to movies, “Marvel is better.” A look at the video game world and you’ll hear “DC is best.” This meme implies that DC’s animated output is better than Marvel, but either way, the debate about which comics universe is superior will perhaps never be resolved.

The reason these arguments continue to happen is perhaps because sometimes it’s too close to call. The nature of comics is pretty cyclical, and sometime Marvel is better than DC, other times it’s vice versa. DC has had some great success with its animated movies that stick fairly faithfully to the source material, but Marvel’s animated shows are wildly successful with kids, so who’s really to say?


You could be a “Marvel Zombie” or a “Batmaniac,” but one thing that’s certain is the two companies share a pretty unique relationship. There’s more than enough room on comic book shelves for both, of course, but for some fans only one can rule the roost. Would one succeed without the other though?

Without the direct competition in the superhero genre, it’s arguable that neither Marvel nor DC would have reached the giddy heights that they’ve each ascended to at one time or another. Without Marvel’s original Secret Wars we may not have had Crisis on Infinite Earths, and despite its word to the contrary, Marvel definitely took its recent Legacy cues from DC’s Rebirth. Perhaps their relationship is a lot like brothers in that sense; always competitive, with very different personalities, but ultimately with more in common that either of them would like to admit.


There are many differences between Marvel and DC. Most argue that on the surface DC is a lot darker than Marvel, whereas Marvel has a reputation for more grounded, flawed, street level heroes like Spider-Man or Daredevil. A big difference pointed out in this meme is the attitude towards kids being put into the line of fire.

Obviously Batman has a long history of having a young ward as his crime-fighting partner Robin, but this clip seems to imply that Captain America doesn’t agree. Let’s not forget, however, that Captain America used to have a kid sidekick too, fighting through World War II with James Buchanan Barnes, aka Bucky. Perhaps he’s forgotten that, or perhaps he’s had a change of heart since, you know, Bucky was seemingly killed in the line of duty (at least before he was brought back as the Winter Soldier).


Perhaps the greatest opening credits sequence in the history of television, Batman: The Animated Series made sure to start every episode in the best way possible. Instantly recognizable and effortlessly iconic, the sixty second animated sequence is famous for not actually including the name of the show anywhere in its runtime.

It didn’t need to, of course, because it introduced the man, the hero, the sheer concept of Batman better that any title card ever could. It distilled the very essence of The Dark Knight so that as soon as you see it, even if you’ve never heard of the World’s Greatest Detective, you’ll understand his whole deal. This meme plays on the imagery so that fans will see straight away what’s being homaged. Can Marvel fans claim to have any opening theme that compares? (We can already hear you typing X-Men Animated Series into the comments.)


If there’s one thing that superheroes pretty much across the board have in common, it’s a tragic origin story. It doesn’t affect them all the same way, but whether you’re looking at Marvel or DC comics, you won’t have to search far before you find a hero motivated by a tragedy in their past.

Spider-Man and Batman, each arguably the most iconic hero from their respective universes, both had their history marred by grief. In Spider-Man’s case it was the death of his Uncle Ben by the criminal that Peter Parker could have stopped if not for his hubris. For Batman of course, it was the death of his parents, murdered by Joe Chill in Crime Alley as they left the theatre, leading to him vowing eternal vengeance on that “superstitious and cowardly lot.”


None of us want to be reminded of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. What was expected to be the start of a new series of origin movies (remember the one with Magneto that was talked about for a while?) flopped hard when the quality of Wolverine’s outing proved to be a low point for the entire franchise.

What’s worse is that it did a real disservice to Deadpool. It seems hard to imagine now, but there was a while when The Merc With a Mouth’s only big screen appearance was as a weird bald villain with his mouth sewn shut. You could argue that if it weren’t for that terrible appearance Ryan Reynolds wouldn’t have been as motivated to produce the outstanding solo effort, but even if that is true, was it really worth sitting through that awful movie?


Sometimes we’re reminded about how awesome it would be if Marvel and DC put their differences aside and had crossovers more often. There was a time -- decades ago now, unfortunately -- that the comic book universes would cross over a lot more often. There were two miniseries where the Justice League met the Avengers, and multiple smaller series that saw individual characters like Batman and Daredevil or Superman and Spider-Man clash.

There was even an entire line of comics that merged the two universes together into a single world called Amalgam, where characters were smashed together into brand new creations, like Darkclaw (Batman and Wolverine) or Super Soldier, a mix of Superman and Captain America. Would the animated universes be the perfect place for them to merge for the first time in years?


A lot of mainstream fans don’t really grasp that Batman isn’t a lone figure, but the patriarch of a whole Bat-family. He’s not often portrayed as such in any of the big screen movies he’s in (the closest was 1997’s Batman and Robin, strangely enough), but at this point in the comics, Batman has no fewer than four active Robins, not to mention Batwoman, Batgirl and more that work to protect Gotham City.

The animated movies have done a great job of reflecting this. Son of Batman adapted Grant Morrison’s introduction of Damian Wayne, and Under The Red Hood explores the fate of Jason Todd. Perhaps the more faithful adaptations or the relative freedom that the format allows, but the animated movies have had a far better track record of exploring the wider DC universe than their big screen counterparts.


There’s a sense that if you zoomed out on this meme, you’d find a lot more heroes lined up waiting to brood. It figures that Batman would be front of the pack, but Spider-Man hasn’t indulged in some rooftop brooding since the early 2000s. The animated version of Spider-Man is always more upbeat anyway, unless you count the ‘90s cartoon, which a lot more angsty.

Daredevil is the only character of the four shown here to not have received a proper animated outing of his own, though he did make several appearances in other shows. Todd McFarlane’s Spawn was an HBO animated series that ran from 1997 to 1999, with Keith David in the starring role. It lasted three seasons and a total of 18 episodes, and while a sequel has been in production since 2009 nothing has appeared yet.


Okay, this one's not really a meme. And it's not really comparing Marvel and DC. But it is a hell of a hilarious moment! Not only has Batman got his entire Bat-Family to help him out, but he’s also a member of the Justice League, and something the animated movies always seem to convey is the idea that Batman suits a team dynamic. Moments like this help to illustrate that when it comes to fighting crime, Batman rarely works alone.

One thing that the various animated series have as well as the animated movies is exploring the wider Justice League teams, and Batman The Brave and The Bold introduced many fans young and old to dozens of characters that rarely get shown in cartoons. Characters like Robotman, Big Barda, Kite Man and Star Sapphire all appeared in the team-up themed show, joining Batman to fight the villain of the week. Can any Marvel show claim to have covered such a wide variety of characters on any of their shows?


No one told the DC Universe about Edna Mode’s golden rule: No Capes! The hilarious fashionista from Pixar’s The Incredibles insisted that the popular superhero style choice brought with it nothing but danger, with Edna showing Mr Incredible many examples of capes getting caught in tornados or swept up into the jet engine of an airplane.

The cape has never really shown to be an issue for the likes of Batman or Superman, the former using it to brood or create a more dramatic entrance, the latter using it as an iconic symbol of hope; a flag of sorts, almost. It wouldn’t make for good comics to see Batman get his cape caught in doors or on a nail in the wall, but it is surprising that it doesn’t happen more often. Luckily, because he's Batman, he is prepared.


The 1967 Spider-Man animated series is a treasure trove of memes. If you search for Spider-Man memes on Google, almost all of them are snapshots taken from that show. The 52 episode run from 1967-1970 contained many strange and unintentionally ridiculous moments, and hard-working meme-makers have pounced on some of the funnier moments.

Not to be outdone, DC has brought its own meme material to the table, and a quick search for Batman memes shows that the majority of those are from the seminal Batman: The Animated Series from 1992. There aren’t as many funny moments to steal from on that show, as the quality of the animation was leagues ahead of the ‘60s Spider-Man show, but there is gold to be found in those meme hills!


The eternal debate will rage on regarding who the greatest Robin is, and for the most part it depends on what era you were introduced to the character. Fans who grew up in the ‘80s love Tim Drake the most, preferring Dick Grayson in the more familiar role of Nightwing. Looking beyond that, people may prefer Jason Todd for his flawed, damaged Robin, or more recently Damian Wayne who people may like because he’s the son of Bruce Wayne.

Those who followed the continuity of Batman Beyond, however, will know that Bruce Wayne has another son -- Terry McGinnis, aka the titular character in Batman Beyond. His true lineage wasn’t revealed until an episode of Justice League Unlimited, where it was revealed that Bruce Wayne’s DNA had overwritten Terry’s father Warren’s, meaning that Bruce was technically Terry’s real father.


Again, not necessarily comparative or a meme, but Batman ‘66 holds a special place in millions of fans' hearts, so it was amazing and somewhat unbelievable news to hear that it would be returning with some of its original cast to record an animated feature film! Called Batman: Return of the Caped Crusader, the movie saw Adam West and Burt Ward reunite as the Dynamic Duo, with Julie Newmar reprising her role as Catwoman.

The film was a brightly colored nostalgia trip, with a sequel called Batman vs Two-Face being just as fun, and it was partly due to moments like this from the first film, where Newmar’s Catwoman pokes fun at the ending of The Dark Knight Rises. The end of Christopher Nolan’s famous trilogy was a little anti-climatic for some fans, and it seems like West and Ward’s Batman and Robin couldn’t agree more: “Holy Unsatisfying Ending!”


X-Men: The Animated Series was many fans introduction to comic books. If you’re of a certain age, catching the show on TV was just a gateway to the X-Men comics, and then onto the wider Marvel universe. The show celebrated its 25th anniversary recently, which means that the fans who grew up watching it are old enough to be making their own comics now. You can see its influence in books like X-Men 92, which is a direct continuation, of sorts.

Its influence as a piece of comic book pop culture cannot be overstated, and while it's nowhere near as serious or as celebrated, it’s Marvel’s equivalent to DC’s Batman: The Animated Series, itself influential on the fans and creators of the Dark Knight. Both shows prove that the respective animated universes of these comic book powerhouses are important, relevant additions to the zeitgeist.

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