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Meta-Messages – The Great Marvel/DC “You’re Imitating Us” Debate of 1965-67

by  in Comic News Comment
Meta-Messages – The Great Marvel/DC “You’re Imitating Us” Debate of 1965-67

In this feature I explore the context behind (using reader danjack’s term) “meta-messages.” A meta-message is where a comic book creator comments on/references the work of another comic book/comic book creator (or sometimes even themselves) in their comic. Each time around, I’ll give you the context behind one such “meta-message.” Here is an archive of the past installments!

Today, based on an idea by readers Keith Alan Morgan and David B., we look at an interesting back-and-forth between Marvel and DC during the mid-60s…

I did part of this story initially as a Comic Book Legend a few years ago, but I figure I should include it here, too.

Our story begins in December 1965 and the Marvel Comics of that month (the comic I’m specifically using is Amazing Spider-Man #34), where Stan Lee had something to say about how he felt that DC Comics, in his mind, was essentially imitating the Marvel style of doing comics (EDITED TO ADD: Tom Brevoort makes the compelling claim in the comments section that Lee was most likely not even primarily referring to DC Comics, as 1965 was a bit before DC really started to react to Marvel’s success, but rather other companies, like Archie Comics, who had JUST debuted the Mighty Crusaders a few months before Lee’s comments. Harvey had also debuted a new line of comics a few months earlier, as well, but their initial launch was made up of recycled 1950s stories, so I don’t know if that would be what Lee would be referring to – Archie’s superhero line, though, would definitely be an example of what Lee was referring to).

Half a year later, we got the first response from DC, by writer E. Nelson Bridwell in the pages of Adventure Comics #350, where Chameleon Boy transforms into a giant spider…

This outraged one comic book fan, so he actually wrote in to Stan Lee to, in effect, tattle on DC. Stan Lee answered the letter in the letter pages of January 1967’s Amazing Spider-Man #47…

Finally, Bob Haney got one last dig in on the whole “imitation” debate through Batman in the Summer of 1967’s Brave and the Bold #74 (I addressed this one in its own Meta-Messages a few years ago, but I think it is helpful to include it here for contextual purposes)…

Funny stuff.

If you readers at home have a suggestion for a future Meta-Messages, feel free to drop me a line at

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