Friday, May 14, 2010

Eternal Arguments: Marvel Vs DC

While there are many different comic book titles in print, the bulk of them can be traced back to the Big Two of the comic book world: DC Comics & Marvel Comics. With so much of the comic book world under their influence, it's only natural that the two companies would start some friendly competition. The fans, on the other hand, have (at times) gotten to almost Blood Feud levels over the rivalry between Marvel & DC. It's almost as bad as Alliance vs Horde in Warcraft. As soon as I run into a fellow comic fan, it is inevitable that I get asked which side I'm on Marvel or DC. My answer has inspired reactions from stunned silence, through endless hysterical laughter, to heated argument. Whose side am I on, Marvel or DC?

Both, and neither.

I'm completely serious on this. It has nothing to do with being indecisive or any derivation of the term. The reason I like both comic companies has to do with WHY I read their comics to begin with. Over the course of my life, I have found that people learn a great deal from stories. They tell stories to explain ideas, to teach others, and to have a good time, of course. Comics are unlike any other medium in that they use both visual and written storytelling to convey their meaning which gives them an awe-inspiring level of power and a unique manner in which to USE that power.

I am a logical person. In logic, it is usually necessary to distance yourself from the subject you're examining. You do that by creating constructs of real world objects that have the properties you're interested in studying and then examine how those constructs interact. This is where DC comics come in. The characters there represent people in a world far away from ours and the belief systems these characters express and the resultant consequences are a good learning experience and test for my own personal beliefs.

For example, my favorite comic character, Batman, makes a choice to act like a criminal when chasing criminals, except for one cardinal law. He will not kill. Taking that kind of choice and analyzing it from a logical, and ethical perspective is an interesting intellectual exercise. Can he really be responsible for the future actions of a criminal he didn't kill? Isn't the criminal responsible for his own actions just as Batman is? Can Batman be an agent of good if he commits evil acts such as murder? Is his personal sense of good worth tarnishing for the greater good of society? Can a society be good if that society is made up of such tarnished people? Is a society whose laws repeatedly put proven criminals back out into the population truly worth defending?

These types of questions are best contemplated in the dealings of DC comics. They are separated enough from the real world to make these questions provocative without getting buried in real life details. From these musings one could forge a potent set of ideals that one could live their life by and paint a picture of the world they want to live in. Even if it will only exist in their own mind.

While I am logical, the universe I exist in has a much more powerful logic. Unfortunately, universal logic is more epic in scale and a great deal more vicious than the clean, simple world of human logic. The clash between the cold logic of lofty ideals and the real world's red hot passion is more accurately portrayed in Marvel comics, where people who believe in those ideals and try to live by them are faced with the type of challenges only the real world can dish out. For example, my favorite group of heroes, the X-Men show the world what only an outcast feels. They show the delicate balancing act most people have to go through at some point: controlling their own emotions, while keeping a buffer between the "normal" world and theirs. So many different communities deal with this same balancing act that the X-Men can represent anybody. Think about it. At some point in time, EVERYONE goes through a period of feeling like an outcast in society, homosexuals, minorities, the handicapped, young people, old people, rich people, or poor people. The X-Men can be shown to represent any and all of them. The broad accessibilty of Marvel brings home the issues that Marvel presents in a manner that is just as provocative, but more germane to your immediate life.

You say you won't kill, but what about to save the life of your child? Why stand up and defend humanity when they hate you for what you are and will never accept you? When given power, can you really use it wisely? Why do you care if killing someone takes something away from you, when so many people will be saved by that person dying? Why are you more important than they are?

These types of questions are best contemplated in the dealings of Marvel comics. They are close enough to the real world to make these questions important because they have to be answered in the world we live in. From these musings one could see the effect the ideals one clings to could have on their life and paint a picture of the world they most likely will live in. Even if it's only for a little while.

In the end, both schools of thought are worthy of my attentions, and I find both useful in many wildly varied ways. I love DC comics. I love Marvel comics. I don't place either on a higher pedestal than the other. They are both ESSENTIAL to me, like Yin & Yang, Chaos & Order, Life & Death. Both have their place and both are cherished for what they inspire in me.

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