DC, without a question.There were several things I liked about this entry. First of all, for someone whose attention span slash reading comprehension has been forever corrupted by many too many PowerPoint presentations, I appreciate lists (as astute readers of this blog probably guessed long ago, given the number of entries that simply turn into bullet point lists). Secondly, gorillas; gorillas are always good. Finally, I liked the fact that Ed—who admits that most of his mainstream comic dollar goes to Marvel—could look at the question objectively and decide that DC comes out on top.
I feel the need to qualify this, though. While I read very few mainstream-type comics, those I do read generally come from Marvel. That said, the question isn't which does one prefer. It's more open-ended than that.
There are many reasons that I would place DC over Marvel.
1. The imprints. Vertigo, Wildstorm, the Cartoon Network stuff... DC offers more variety in what it publishes than Marvel. I'd say DC offers more diversity than the fan-favorite CrossGen comics, because no matter how one dresses up the CG line, it's still heroic fiction. CG will likely never publish anything like Kuper's "The System."
2. The heritage. Hell, perhaps we should bury DC on this one, and not praise them, but superhero comics wouldn't be what they are today (or in any decade) if it hadn't been for Max Gaines' empire. Marvel may have revolutionized the genre, but to throw an analogy to music, there would be no hip-hop without disco.
3. The willingness to take chances. We're not talking Marvel MAX, or Marvel Knights, or even a self-doubting superhero. While DC may have the reputation of being the staid father-figure of the publishing houses, they've got the title for taking chances. The first real female super hero lead. The absorption of other intellectual property (Captain Marvel, Charlton characters, Plastic Man). Giving Alan Moore Swamp Thing. The (overdone in my opinion) gay-bashing angle in Green Lantern (at least they tried). Social relevance in Green Arrow/Green Lantern. The Milestone imprint. Combining the Batman mythos with jazz music for "Batman: Jazz", a little-read but excellent miniseries (and, judging from discussion, I may be the only one to have read it). Taking the iconic American superhero and making him a communist in a time when patriotism is at a jingoistic fervor. Doing revamps before the rest of the cool kids (the Silver Age revolution, Crisis, S:MOS, Batman: Year One, etc.). Hell, taking a chance on Jonah Hex.
4. Titles that hold up long after the first read. Any fool can rattle down DC's best and brightest: Watchmen. Sandman. Transmetropolitan. Preacher. Miller's Batman.
5. Pimping for capitalism. All entertainment mediums do it. DC's more honest. I mean, the theory of putting a gorilla in a burning jail cell to sell comics - priceless.
6. Spreading the word. Yeah, Marvel's had some success with film properties as of late, but DC's been doing it forever. The Superman radio show and serials. The Batman serials. The televised Superman, in various incarnations (the George Reeves version, the Lois & Clark version, Superboy, Smallville). The Max Fleisher Superman cartoon. The Superman films. The Batman films. Hell, the Swamp Thing film. Taking unknown characters (a la Birds of Prey) and taking a shot with them in the competitive television marketplace. The Flash television show. Batman: The Animated Series. Justice League. Teen Titans. Hell, using Batman in OnStar commercials qualifies.
7. Giving Siegel and Shuster "fair" retribution (although, in this sense, "fair" meaning passable, not just) way before Marvel credited Kirby, Ditko or Joe Simon.
8. Giving us the "Marvel Age of Comics". Without DC, we never would have seen the Fantastic Four, as DC printed and distributed Marvel's early titles because of some poor business decisions of Goodman's company.
It would have been too easy to go the route of neither, and instead demonstrate why the smaller publishers make what the "big two" offer look rather silly. Instead, I took the question at face value. While Marvel (at this stage) gets what little money I allocate to superhero fantasy, DC's intrinsic value is higher across the spectrum.