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DC vs Marvel – Who is Most Giving with Their Licenses?
August 15, 2015 By Brad Young
In the grand scheme of epic comic book world battles there is one face off that gets the juices flowing more than any other. It’s not Superman vs Batman or Captain America vs Captain Britain, it’s a whole universe vs universe battle. It’s the two goliaths of comic book fantasy, DC vs Marvel.
For generations now devotees of the rival publishers have fought over who reigns supreme and ultimately there’ll never be a true clear winner as each firm has given so much to the world in which they operate, and it could even be claimed, invented. Even still, that doesn’t stop there being comparisons and battles waged year in year out, and anyway, why would we want them to stop?
So rather than pick out whose characters are the more developed or which publisher can boast the greater readership figures, I’m going to be looking at where their valuable character licensing has been used and how successful it has been in each instance. It’s DC vs Marvel in the battle of intellectual property!
The Two Comic Book Giants – A Brief History
Founded within five years of one another DC (1934) and Marvel (1939) sprung up towards the end of the Great Depression and started publishing stories set in fictional universes that seemed to broadly reflect the general bleakness of the times. DC were the first to achieve a true hit with global appeal after the appearance of Batman in a 1939 issue of Detective Comics (from where the DC name comes). Meanwhile it wasn’t until the 1960s that Marvel really took off as the comic book royalty it has since become, with the unveiling of the Fantastic Four in a 1961 comic of the same name.
Now owned by two of the largest entertainment operations on the planet (Marvel as a subsidiary of Disney and DC coming under the Time Warner umbrella) the two companies have dominated comic book sales ever since and to this day remain the powerhouses of a genre that shows no signs of waning in its popularity.
Key Characters – Who Owns Who?
Some of the most popular DC creations include:
The Justice League
Meanwhile Marvel can boast the following famous comic book characters and teams:
The Fantastic Four
So where have they appeared?
Outside of print the characters above, among many others, have been featured everywhere from Hollywood blockbusters to tins of biscuits and their likenesses command great respect as well as great fees to those wishing to license them. But which company has the greater number of commercial successes with their popular franchises?
To date movies set within the Marvel universe number 42 in total, with a further 15 in production or development. Some of their bigger hits include six X-Men movies, five Spider-Man flicks and a whopping 12 films featuring members of the Avengers.
For DC there have been 22 major cinema releases featuring their popular characters, with another ten currently in development. Of these movies, over half have featured their two most popular creations: Batman (8) & Superman (6).
So in terms of their screen success, it is Marvel who lead the way with almost twice as many movies as DC, and arguably more box office hits too, with the likes of recent Oscar nominated movies such as Guardians of the Galaxy, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Iron Man 3 and The Avengers all capturing the public’s imagination.
DC’s record is perhaps more patchy with the critically acclaimed Christopher Nolan Batman reboot trilogy and the original two Superman movies sitting alongside stinkers such as Batman & Robin, Supergirl and the latter two Superman movies from the original Superman series.
It’s probably fair to say that Marvel have won this battle although DC are far from beaten and with the likes of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman and Justice League Part One on their way they’ll be hopeful of making up ground on their rival.
There are a staggering 131 games set within or tied to the Marvel universe, going back as far as the early 80s with the original Spider-Man game released for the Atari 2600 right the way through to the crossover hit Lego Marvel’s Avengers released this year on current gen consoles such as the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
By contrast DC lends its name to just 73 different video games however their earliest title, Superman, for the Atari 2600, predates Marvel’s earliest video game spin off by three years. Furthermore, much like with Nolan’s Batman movie trilogy, it can be argued that no comic book franchise has been as successful, both critically and commercially, as the recent Batman Arkham series which began with Batman: Arkham Asylum in 2009 and culminated in the current gen smash Batman: Arkham Knight.
So whist Marvel may have the quantity, no game they’ve ever been associated with has come close to the quality of the recent Batman Arkham games and for this reason I’d have to award the win to DC.
Possibly the most enduring moneyspinner for any brand the size of these two dominant forces is its merchandising capacity. And when it comes to the merch, neither disappoint.
As you might expect figurines, both of the action toy variety and those which are intended purely for decorative purposes, have been knocked up for every single comic book character you can imagine. Even lesser characters such as Captain Britain, who’s hardly known for his popularity, have been given the figurine treatment.
Whilst Star Wars might lead the way when it comes to aged mint condition rare action figures holding tremendous value today, it is Batman and Spider-Man who are the two most collectible characters from the comic book world, and if you’re lucky enough to have one such figure from the 60s or 70s you may just find that moulded plastic bad boy is worth more than you thought! With Batman representing DC and Spidey on team Marvel, I make that one apiece.
So there you have it, Marvel have the films, DC have the video games and both companies are bossing the merchandise. So how does that effect the result? Well I’m afraid to say there’s nothing between them. Marvel vs DC is a draw! Sorry guys.
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