The Rise of the Second Tier Heroes

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I’ve been reading comics pretty steadily since the mid 1980′s or so.  Through Junior High, High School, College, and into my notionally adult years.  I enjoy superheroes. I always have.  And through the vast majority of those years, I liked DC Comics better than Marvel.  There was a history to the world, a richness, a complexity of relationships that I didn’t quite see in Marvel.

It’s been a lot of years, and a lot of things have changed at both companies, even their histories within their comic universes.  And, of course, Marvel has had a series of fantastic movies that build a complex world and show their characters very close to the comics selves.  DC, on the other hand, has done a lot of bad movies, but some good tv shows.  Of course, Marvel is getting into that act too.

But Marvel has been doing something else that has really impressed me, and is nearly the perfect opposite of DC’s apparent strategy.  Marvel has launched a lot of new titles.  And while yes, a lot of them have been Avengers or X-Men spin-offs, many haven’t been.  Obscure characters like Iron Fist, Moon Knight, and She-Hulk have gotten their own books.  Black Widow, while a lot higher profile since the Avengers movies, has never been a headliner, and even she has her own, very enjoyable book.

DC, on the other hand, seems to want every book to have either “Super,” “Bat,” or “Justice League” in the title.  They have shown very little interest in developing their lesser known characters.  Worlds’ Finest, which had been about Power Girl and Huntress, was even changed so that it’s now about the Earth 2 Batman and Superman.

Sure, not all the experiments have worked.  She-Hulk is about to be cancelled, but that’s another story.  But Marvel is letting the fans enjoy second- or even third- tier characters in books of their own, not just in big teams where they compete for “screen time” with everyone else.  Sure, Marvel is doing some things that I believe are passing gimmicks, like the new female Thor, or Sam Wilson graduating from Falcon to Captain America.  But I like both those changes, temporary though I believe them to be, and it’s something a bit different.  It’s not endless variations of their two most popular characters.

Both Marvel and DC have big changes coming, and they may well be about to completely change their respective universes again.  There’s no way of knowing what that will do to many of their titles.  But right now, I give Marvel a lot of credit for taking chances with some of their characters who aren’t stars.  And I wish DC would do the same.

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