Everyone loves a superhero. Their unique mix of superhuman powers plus regular human emotions and flaws makes them relatable and fun. They’ve been captivating audiences, first in periodical comic books and now in big-budget motion pictures, for decades.
One of the major draws of superhero stories, other than the characters, is the many interlocking storylines prominent in the universe in which the hero lives and operates.
However, as every comic book fan knows, the word “uni-” verse doesn’t really apply here since superheroes live in one of the many comic book universes that writers and artists willed into existence, but let’s leave the metatalk for another time.
DC vs. Marvel: An Age-Old Rivalry
The two most popular comic book universes are by far DC and Marvel. They are the realms of the most well-known and beloved superheroes, and their storylines are infamous. With both founded in the 1930s (DC in 1934 as National Allied Comics; Marvel in 1939 as Timely Comics), they are also two of the oldest comic book studios in the world, making it only natural that they are such rivals in the comic book space.
However, as is often the case when there are two major players in a genre of literature or art, there is also a major debate as to which one is better. As always, there is little agreement as to which one really is superior and opinions are held onto strongly, so there’s little chance of changing someone’s mind.
As a result, one of the best ways to settle this debate is to look at the people and find out who has more fans. If nothing else, that will prove which one is more popular.
Furthermore, by studying this state-by-state and determining which universe and hero each one prefers, we can get a clearer idea of which one has the biggest following.
DC vs. Marvel Comics
One other possible way to resolve the DC vs. Marvel question is to look to the characters themselves. In 1996, recognizing an opportunity to use the rivalry between the two studios as an advantage, DC and Marvel released their first-ever joint comic book, known as DC vs. Marvel Comics.
In this series, two brothers, both gods who personified each universe, learned of the other’s existence and challenged one another to duel to determine who was superior. The loser’s universe would cease to exist!
The two brothers sent heroes from their respective universes to battle one another. While the writers decided many smaller battles, five of the most important were decided by readers in a vote.
Marvel won three out of the five battles decided by readers (Spider-man beat Superboy, Storm beat Wonder Woman, and Wolverine beat Lobo, but Superman beat the Hulk and Batman beat Captain America) yet this did not prove decisive in the duel.
Instead, a new character, Access, who could cross between universes, merged the two of them, which led to the creation of a new series in which superheroes from one universe existed with the traits of heroes from the other universe, bringing DC and Marvel closer together than ever before.
However, while interesting, this series did little to resolve the debate on hand about which universe is the most preferred.
Recent and Planned Comic Book Movies
In the early 1990s, both DC and Marvel, looking to survive in a changing industry, began investing in film and television, and now it’s by far the most important aspect of their studios.
Since 2015, more than 20 movies have come out of both studios, including true blockbusters such as Aquaman (DC), Avengers: End Game (Marvel), Wonder Woman (DC), Black Panther (Marvel), Batman v. Superman (DC), and many more. If we go back to 2000, the number of films produced is unimaginable, with many series receiving several reboots and spin-offs, a symbol of their popularity.
As a result, with so many movies out there, we thought one way to help decide which was better was to look at which films have performed best in the box offices over the past twenty years.
Here are the top ten
Marvel dominates this list with nine of the top ten spots, but DC has a strong presence in the next ten, and many of its movies outperformed all but a few of the films on this list in domestic box office sales. This suggests DC could be more popular in the United States but that Marvel has more appeal around the world, exposing a new layer to this already heated debate.
The Most Popular Comic Book Universe in Each State
If battles between the most powerful heroes of each universe and the always powerful indicator of box office sales aren’t enough to settle the debate about which comic book universe is better, it’s time to “look to the people and see what they say.
A nationwide (or perhaps worldwide would be better) survey has never been conducted, but we thought it would be more interesting to look at how preferences varied among states.
Here are the results:
Somewhat surprisingly, considering how things have played out in the box office, DC beat out Marvel 32-15 (four states couldn’t decide, and we included the District of Colombia, bringing the total to 51).
Some interesting things to note about the results:
- California and Texas, the two largest states in terms of population, both prefer Marvel.
- New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, the next four largest states, all chose DC, suggesting that overall DC may be the more preferred universe.
- Just one year earlier, the tables were completely turned. Marvel was the preference in all but 14 states, and of those 14 states, five, including Florida, couldn’t decide.
- DC headquarters are in California, which preferred Marvel, and Marvel headquarters are in New York, which prefers DC. However, the year before, this was the exact opposite.
This year’s survey results seem to indicate that DC is the winner, but if we take into account how different things were just one year earlier, it’s hard to trust the public’s opinion. It’s quite likely they are swayed easily by the latest movie to come out.
For example, last year, in 2019, Avengers, which as a series ranks as the top-grossing comic book movie of all time, was released and was immensely popular. With no such releases this year, people have flipped back towards DC.
This could all change next year, suggesting that both universes are loved equally.
The Most Popular Comic Book Hero in Each State
Some interesting things to note about this survey:
- Superman, a DC character, is the favorite of the most amount of states – eight chose him as their preferred hero.
- Supergirl (DC) and the Hulk (Marvel) tied in second place for most states at seven.
- The next two were Thor (Marvel) and Batman (DC), followed by Black Panther 4.
- In total, a DC hero was the favorite in 36 states as compared to 13 for Marvel (plus the District of Colombia, which preferred Black Panther)
- One state – Utah – couldn’t choose a favorite here. Results were tied between Captain America (Marvel) and Iron Man (Marvel)
- Seventeen states chose a hero from the opposite universe than the one they said was their favorite when asked to choose between DC and Marvel.
- All four of the states that couldn’t choose between DC and Marvel chose a DC hero as their favorite.
- Five of the sixteen heroes chosen are female characters.
Once again, the data is all over the place. DC certainly has a slight edge, but given the volatility we’ve seen with voter preferences, it remains difficult to declare a clear cut winner.
Deciding Between Marvel and DC
If you’re unsure which universe you prefer or which hero you like best, don’t worry. You’re not alone. The data we’ve collected here about people’s preferences in the different states doesn’t produce a conclusive result, but it does tell us what costumes you’re most likely to see the next time the kids in your neighborhood set out trick-or-treating.
In the end, to decide which one is better, just ask yourself which one is your favorite, and don’t pay too much attention to what anyone has to say about it.