Marvel vs. DC. It’s a rivalry older than time itself. Well, maybe nothing that dramatic, but this rivalry has spanned years of multiverse-shattering and internet-breaking tales and big crossover events. Each publisher has had plenty of moments to shock its audience, from the death of Superman and the rise of Dark Phoenix to Crisis on Infinite Earths and Civil War. Both publishers have pushed so many big stories over the years that it’s hard to pick one as better than the other. Ultimately, that decision comes down to the fans, who almost always prefer one company and stable of heroes.
No matter which team you choose, both Marvel and DC’s archives are an embarrassment of riches. There are just so many big stories. And while talk about comic books used to be reserved for passionate debates at your local comic book shop, things have changed quite a bit in the age of the internet. Yes, people are still debating, but now they’re able to react to a book in real-time, tweeting or chatting on forums. Both Marvel and DC now have the ability to break the internet. DC has done so quite a few times with things like its Rebirth relaunch, while Marvel has been breaking the internet with its cinematic universe and more.
15. THE STARFIRE SCANDAL
The changes to classic Teen Titan character Starfire were symptomatic of the larger issues that plagued DC’s New 52 relaunch, which turned many of the publisher’s biggest characters into grittier or more sexualized heroes. In the hands of the New 52, Starfire turned into a character with barely enough clothes to make the cut of what could be and couldn’t be shown in a mainstream comic. But what DC hoped would be a transformation into a sex symbol for Starfire soon caught the ire of fans who thought the publisher had gone completely overboard with the character.
Many fans felt that Starfire had turned into a character that was constantly objectified by her male comrades. They felt that a Teen Titan, a character who’s supposed to inspire younger readers, should be heroic and not a girl in a bikini who practices free love.
14. MCU PHASE ONE CULMINATES WITH THE AVENGERS
It seemed too good to be true: after several movies starring many of Marvel’s greatest heroes, including Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and the Hulk, it was time to bring them all together for a team-up movie. While we sort of take big superhero event movies for granted these days because there are so many — Justice League is out now, after all — The Avengers was a HUGE deal back in 2012. It proved that a movie studio could create a cohesive universe of movies that told separate stories and also spoke to each other.
The announcement and success of The Avengers, which was directed masterfully by Joss Whedon, broke the internet to say the least. It also set the foundation for Hollywood’s current era of cinematic universes. If it weren’t for The Avengers‘ success, there might not be a DC Extended Universe at all.
13. CAPTAIN AMERICA JOINS HYDRA
What could be more fitting for 2016 than a Nazi Captain America? That’s exactly what happened under the guidance of writer Nick Spencer and artist Jesus Saiz. Through a convoluted process of reality altering shenanigans at the hands of Kobik, Steve Rogers, the most patriotic superhero of all time, was suddenly Hydra’s greatest enforcer. Even the Red Skull must have done a spit take when it was revealed in Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 that Rogers had been a Hydra double agent all along… well, if it wasn’t his plan the whole time (even if it did backfire).
The following months saw Captain America, Agent of Hydra, consolidating his power and leading the organization. His ultimate goal was to create a world in Hydra’s image, taking over the United States and then the rest of the planet. This outraged Cap fans to say the least, especially since the book was happening at the same time as the contentious Presidential Election.
12. JASON TODD IS BACK FROM THE DEAD
If the internet had been in every home back in 1988, then “Death in the Family” would have completely shattered the web with its big climax: the death of the second Robin, Jason Todd, who’d come face to face with the maniacal Joker and lost big time. The death of Jason raised the stakes for Batman comics. After all, killing off one of the most popular heroes in Gotham City is no small task. When Jason died, everyone thought he was dead for good.
Of course, that was before DC decided that death was bogus and everyone could come back to life in comics. In 2005, Judd Winick and Doug Mahnke brought back Jason as the second Red Hood, a vigilante like Batman but who wasn’t afraid to use lethal force to get the job done. The reveal that it was Jason under the hood completely rocked the internet.
11. DC KILLS BATMAN (MORE THAN ONCE)
DC has teased or brought about the death of Batman quite a few times in the last decade. The publisher first made headlines in 2008 when Grant Morrison announced his “Batman R.I.P.” story, which you would think would have killed off the Dark Knight, but it actually didn’t. Confusing, yes, but Batman did ultimately “die” a little while later in Morrison’s Final Crisis crossover.
The event saw the Caped Crusader face off against Darkseid, who sent the Dark Knight into the past, much to the surprise of fans, who thought he was dead, with Dick Grayson taking over as Batman. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo killed off Batman again in “Endgame,” which saw the Dark Knight face off against the Joker for the “final” time. There was no winner in their fight to the death and both men were crushed by a cave in at the end of the story. DC fans went berserk.
10. CYCLOPS KILLS PROFESSOR X
Unlike his death in X-Men: The Last Stand, Professor X’s demise in the “Avengers vs. X-Men” storyline is pretty epic. When the Phoenix Force returns to Earth, it possesses Cyclops, Emma Frost, Namor, Magik and Colossus, turning these characters into the dreaded Phoenix Five. The Phoenix Force-possessed group sought to build a new Utopia for mutantkind, which caught the attention of the Avengers, who didn’t trust the mutants. This led to a war between the two groups that culminated in one of the most tragic deaths in Marvel history.
In a last ditch effort to defeat Cyclops and Emma Frost, the Avengers, along with Professor X, face the possessed mutants in a climactic battle that ends with the death of the X-Men leader. This was a very big deal at the time, since Professor X had always been such a big staple of Marvel Comics.
9. SPIDER-MAN REVEALS HIS IDENTITY DURING CIVIL WAR
There’s a long history of Peter Parker revealing his true identity to people. In fact, it’s a miracle that it’s a secret at all. You think the switch between Clark Kent and Superman is obvious? At least Kal-El doesn’t go around telling everyone he meets that he’s the Man of Steel. Peter on the other hand? He can’t keep a secret to save his life. The time he did it during Marvel’s Civil War event was by far the one covered most by the media.
When he decided to team up with Iron Man against Captain America’s team during the fight over the Superhuman Registration Act, Peter did something very bold (and stupid). He went on live television, took off his mask and revealed who he really was. There was no reason for him to do it, either. Yikes, Spidey!
8. PETER PARKER DIES
Marvel has killed off Peter Parker quite a few times. We’re not exactly surprised when a new death of Spider-Man story pops up. We know Pete will be back eventually. In 2011, Brian Michael Bendis decided to kill Spidey once again in a heroic last stand against the Green Goblin and the Sinister Six. The result was Spider-Man heroically saving Aunt May, Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane from certain doom while being mortally wounded in the process.
Spider-Man died in Mary Jane’s arms, but not before realizing that he’d been able to make up for Uncle Ben’s death. He tells his friends that he was glad he had a chance to save them. Peter’s death in the pages of Ultimate Spider-Man would allow for the introduction of Miles Morales, another fan-favorite Spidey.
7. SUPERMAN DIES (AGAIN)
Back in the early ’90s, it was a very big deal when DC killed Superman. The “Death of Superman” story was a huge success and the media was all over this huge moment in DC Comics. It’s greatest hero killed by Doomsday? Wow. On the other hand, 2016’s Superman #52 didn’t quite feel as epic. After all, New 52 Kal-El’s death felt more like a return to the old status quo of a smiling Superman as part of the Rebirth relaunch than a tragic moment.
The pre-Flashpoint Superman had returned to take his place as the one and only Man of Steel. Still, Superman’s death is always a big talking point on the internet. His demise was also a fresh start for Superman comics, which were due for a bit of a refresh anyway. The new Superman debuted in the blue and red tights just a few weeks later.
6. BATGIRL SLEEPS WITH BATMAN
Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s The Killing Joke is not as popular a book as it used to be. Sure, it’s the definitive Joker origin story that most other storytellers use for their own tales about the Clown Prince of Crime, but the implied rape of Barbara Gordon by the Joker has earned the ire of many contemporary fans. That’s why the decision to sexualize Barbara even further in the animated adaptation of the story wasn’t such a hot idea.
Written by Brian Azzarello, the film takes Barbara’s arc in The Killing Joke and adds a creepy love story with Batman to boot. There’s even a sex scene between Batman and Batgirl on a rooftop and shirts come off. The way this was handled was controversial to say the least. It’s no wonder fans and critics were outraged online.
5. THE GODDAMN BATMAN
Frank Miller and Jim Lee on a new Batman book set in Miller’s Dark Knight Universe? Seemed like a really solid idea back in 2005, but the execution was a bit muddled in the end. In fact, Miller’s grim take on Batman didn’t quite strike a chord with readers the third time around. Just look at the dialogue in the panel above. It’s really no wonder why All Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder is one of the most parodied Batman stories ever created.
“The goddamn Batman” line still sends shivers up many readers’ spines. Not only does Bruce sort of kidnap poor Dick Grayson, but he also treats him more like a soldier than a son and is verbally abusive. Their relationship is, at best, questionable throughout the book. There’s also that one scene where Dick calls the Batmobile “queer.” Not a good look.
4. DC’S NEW 52 RELAUNCH
Back in 2011, DC had a brilliant idea to boost sales and streamline its continuity so that new readers could jump on board. The publisher decided to reboot their entire line and bring all ongoing series back to #1, which means that you could pick up a new Batman #1 or Superman #1 from your local comic shop. It was the first time the publisher had rebooted its universe on this scale and with a plan to release 52 books a month!
To put it lightly, DC’s plan was pretty ambitious and not all of it worked. In fact, some fans think the New 52 might have done more bad than good. Still, you can’t deny how much attention DC got for this reboot, which gave new readers a clear jumping on point.
3. DC FORBIDS BATWOMAN FROM MARRYING MAGGIE SAWYER
Although DC really wanted to push bold new stories and status quos on all of its heroes during the New 52 era, the publisher wasn’t very excited about Batwoman marrying Maggie Sawyer, which would have made them the first married lesbian couple in mainstream DC comics. When DC told Batwoman co-writers J.H. Williams and W. Haden Blackman that they couldn’t marry the two women, they decided to leave the publisher.
Even though DC cited the decision as being part of a wider mandate against married heroes in general, it was a huge scandal in the comic book world that many fans thought showed just how old-fashioned and conservative the publisher still was. Williams and Blackman’s exit was a big deal and even caused some fans to boycott Batwoman, which was one of the most popular DC books at the time.
2. MARVEL STOPS PUBLISHING FANTASTIC FOUR BOOKS
You don’t really have to think too hard — and you definitely don’t need Reed Richards’ IQ — to figure out why Marvel just completely quit on the Fantastic Four. 20th Century Fox owns the movie rights to the team and the studio is not willing to share the characters with Marvel for its cinematic universe. So, if Marvel can’t put the Fantastic Four in a movie, what does the studio do? Stop giving 20th Century Fox free promotion!
Although the Fantastic Four stories leading up to the team’s cancellation — Jonathan Hickman’s Secret Wars event was especially good and involved quite a bit of the team — were delightful, it didn’t stop the team from being shoved to the side in order to stick it to Fox. At the time of this writing, the Four still haven’t come back to comics, though that seems to finally be changing soon.
1. DC’S REBIRTH RELAUNCH
2016 was an interesting year for the comic book world. One of its biggest events was a new DC relaunch called Rebirth, which would see DC’s classic heroes sort of turn back to the way they were before the New 52 relaunch nuked their backstories. But this wasn’t a reboot. Rebirth was more of a tonal restructuring that brought back legacy characters and re-established classic origin stories.
The obsession some people had with the mysterious Rebirth when it was first announced bordered on mania. Fans and outlets speculated for months about what Rebirth might be. They were worried that this might be another continuity reboot, but it was soon revealed that the relaunch was just a much-needed course adjustment. It turned out to be a great way for DC to freshen things up!
Can you think of any other time DC or Marvel broke the internet? Let us know in the comments!
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