DC and Marvel Comics, despite the adult audience they've attracted over the years, are first and foremost, companies that write comics for younger folks. Kids. Teens. Young adults. Call them what you will, but people under the age of 18 remain a vital demographic for comics.
It seems only natural that teenagers would become core components of comic lore. From teenage Peter Parker to Dick Grayson, age twelve, younger people have provided a vital role in comic history. But who did teens better? DC or Marvel?
While it is impossible to compare every teenage hero in DC and Marvel, it is possible to compare and contrast the most noteworthy. When looking at the epitome of teenage superheroism, who does it better? It's DC vs Marvel. Which teenage hero will come out on top?
10 Damian Wayne Vs Riri Williams
There is an immediate temptation to give Riri this victory, if only to spite her haters. From the moment these two characters were announced, people came out in mobs to hate them. "Batman can't have a kid! A twelve-year-old can't get an Iron Man suit!" And then came the more problematic hate thrown Riri's way. The racism. The sexism. The elitism.
But the problem is this: Damian, from square one, was a defined character with a distinct personality and internal conflict. From square one, this DC teenage hero had a defined relationship with everyone around him. Not so with Riri.
Riri Williams as Ironheart is well on her way to becoming a main Marvel superhero. Damian Wayne, however, needed no transition.
DC: 1 Marvel: 0
9 Superboy Vs X-23
Both are genetic tests based on the genes of vastly more well-known heroes. Both have a huge chip on their shoulders. Both are killing machines.
But both of them face vastly different conflicts as characters. Kon-El has to learn how to find his place in the world -- his own distinct identity. Born from the genetics of Kal-El and Lex Luthor, he has quite the identity problem to deal with, but one with a lot of support.
Laura, on the other hand? She has a vastly more disturbing upbringing, and, over the course of her arc, has had to unlearn a vast amount of traumatic and horrifying lessons her fight for survival taught her. This makes her far more interesting to read.
DC: 1 Marvel: 1
8 Donna Troy Vs Spider-Gwen
Both are characters whose backstories are constantly in flux. It is very tempting to argue, though, that Spider-Gwen is the more popular character. After all, she is incredibly popular. She's appeared in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. She's in the Marvel Rising cartoons. From the get-go, she has been insanely popular.
But that said, Donna Troy has a storied and complex history as a member of the Teen Titans. She has been reinvented and reinterpreted so many times over the years that the re-imagining of her plot and character history is an element of her arc. Yes, Gwen Stacy is a beloved entry in the Marvel superhero canon, but Donna Troy maintains the edge here.
DC: 2 Marvel: 1
7 Static Shock Vs Iceman
For many fans, Iceman is more well-known as an adult. In the '80s, '90s, and '00s, he established himself as one of the most powerful heroes in the Marvel Universe. Thanks to time travel, Iceman's teenage self came to the future, and challenged his adult self -- most notably about his repressed homosexuality.
That said, Static Shock was, for many teens growing up, the first representation of a black superhero. Most kids in the '90s didn't know about Black Panther or John Stewart (though they'd meet him soon after Static Shock started). For many, Static was one of THE best characters around. He also embodied what it meant to be a teenager in the late '90s.
So choosing between these two teenage superheroes feels a little like blasphemy. However, Virgil Hawkins, while a great character, never forced us to reevaluate years of continuity in as effective a way as Bobby Drake. Iceman wins this round.
DC: 2 Marvel: 2
6 Wally West Vs Miles Morales
Both of these characters had to fill in the shoes of a far more storied and legendary character. Comparing Miles Morales and Wally West to another may seem like night and day, but people forget how big a deal it was when both Barry Allen and Peter Parker died. Both thankfully filled the roles in superbly well, becoming beloved icons in their own right. For many, Wally West and Miles Morales are their Flash and Spider-Man.
However, what made Wally West such an interesting character was the legacy he had. He was a sidekick, then a Titan, and then grew up to be a full-fledged superhero. The problem with Wally is, once Barry came back, Wally sort of lost his identity. Miles Morales, however, only got more compelling as a character once he realized there were more Spider-People out there. He was interesting from the moment he appeared, and stayed relevant over time. This is so obvious that recent appearances of Wally West, such as in the New 52 and The Flash TV series, tried to make him more interesting by taking elements from Miles's characterization instead.
As tough as it is to say, Miles wins this round, if only for the longevity and distinctness of his character.
DC: 2 Marvel: 3
5 Raven Vs Magik
Both are magical, almost demonic, heroes in charge of incredible dark power. Both are sort of loose cannons, who, more than once, caused incredible horror to be unleashed upon the world. But pairing these two teenage heroes seems unfair, since almost immediately it is clear who will win.
Yes, Illyana Rasputin is a great teenage hero and sometimes villain. Yes, she is unforgettable. But Raven is so much more. Everything Illyana has done, Raven has done better.
DC: 3 Marvel: 3
4 Starfire Vs Jubilee
Both of these characters are infectious balls of light and joy that bring happiness to those around them. One of them is an alien. One of them is sometimes a mutant -- and sometimes a vampire. But both are incredibly memorable characters.
Jubiliee, however, never took center stage the same way Starfire did. Nor did she ever become popular in other media like Starfire did in the Teen Titans cartoon. So this time, Starfire, despite all the good Jubilee has done over the years, wins.
DC: 4 Marvel: 3
3 Beast Boy Vs Kamala Khan
Sadly, this is another case of very similar, compelling characters being pitted against one another. Both are shapeshifting heroes with a great zeal toward life. Both are widely beloved heroes in their own right.
But there's something so immediately lovable about Kamala Khan. She isn't just a teenager. She's also a fan. A fan of heroes she grew up with. Fans reading her identify immediately with her character. Beast Boy makes for a compelling presence on the Teen Titans cartoon, but, beyond that, he isn't as distinct as Kamala. While it seems blasphemous to place such a new character above the seasoned Titan, Marvel's teenage hero wins this round.
DC: 4 Marvel: 4
2 Barbara Gordon Vs Kitty Pryde
Both of these heroines are iconic. Kitty Pryde represented teenagers in an intimate way during the '80s. We got to watch her mature and grow up over the course of countless intense trials. She had little power, but made the most of it. In many respects, she's one of the best-written characters in comic history.
But in regards to character arcs in general, Barbara's transition from teenage side-kick full of wide-eyed optimism to the brilliant strategist Oracle, only to return to her roots as Batgirl is incredible. She remains one of the most beloved heroes around for a reason. She proof you don't need any powers -- or even the ability to walk -- to be one of the best heroes around.
It's hard, but Barbara gets the edge.
DC: 5 Marvel: 4
1 Dick Grayson Vs Peter Parker
This is the inevitable final showdown. Of all the teenage superheroes in the Marvel and DC universe, none are more iconic than Dick Grayson and Peter Parker. Nightwing and Spider-Man.
It is tempting to hand this over to Spidey. He is an icon. But let's give Dick his due. Dick Grayson went from a sidekick to his own hero. He knew he stood in Batman's massive shadow, and made a name for himself. He led the Teen Titans. He took on the cowl and cape himself. He is, for all respects, so much more than "just Robin." Many regard Dick Grayson as the heart and soul of the DC universe. He embodied teenage rebellion.
But Peter Parker is Spider-Man.
And that's huge.
No other hero is as determined as Spider-Man. No other hero has the deck stacked against them like Spider-Man. Nightwing became a hero after being trained by the best, with all that money could buy. Peter Parker did it all on his own on a freelance photographer's budget. And he did it all not out of a drive for vengeance, but because he knew it was his responsibility to make the world better.
The answer is obvious: Spider-Man.
DC: 5 Marvel: 5