Marvel Comics’ superheroes spend much more time in their civilian clothes than the superheroes of the DC Universe, but what does this signify?
The Marvel Comics spirit DC Comics Universes have plenty in common – worlds full of various superheroes who save the worlds of their respective continuities – but fans frequently feel the need to point out their differences nevertheless. Some are quite easy to spot while others are more opaque in nature. But a major difference has recently revealed itself in the form of just how much time DC characters spend in their civilian clothing: little to none.
The company known today as DC Comics did not coalesce immediately; the trio of Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman were all created by different creative teams in different universes (such was the case for multiple DC heroes for many years, including the Flash and Green Lantern as well). For their part, Marvel always used a shared universe as a key organization principle; while Avengers # 1 debuted in 1963, the characters were aware of each other years before. But Marvel also prioritizes the civilian elements of the characters’ lives much more than DC.
Recent events in both the Avengers and the Justice League books often require the teams to assemble at meetings – but the DC characters tend to spend a lot more time in their superhero outfits than their Marvel counterparts. This is especially noticeable in the Justice League series; even when characters have no need to appear in their suits, they wear them all the same. Occasionally a practical reason emerges (they just came back from a battle or are about to start one), but the Marvel heroes wear their civilian attire whenever they can.
This serves to indicate that Marvel’s characters have interesting civilian lives; for many, being a superhero is a part of their identity and not their identity as a whole. Superman and Batman are rarely seen without their suits while in recent Spider-Man books, Peter Parker spends more time in civilian clothes than in his Spider-Man outfit. Fans note that while Marvel tells stories about ordinary people becoming extraordinary (Kamala Khan living a normal life until her Inhuman powers are activated, for example), DC tells narratives about extraordinary people facing the ordinary (Superman raising a son).
Marvel’s approach serves to humanize the characters much more than DC; readers relate to Steve Rogers’ struggles much more than Wonder Woman’s (while both have superpowers, one began life as an ordinary person while the other was born on a magical island). The time spent in civilian attire is simply a side-effect of this approach, but it is more visually noticeable than the other differences between companies. Marvel Comics spirit DC Comics are close competitors, but there is a reason why the former is currently more popular than the latter.
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