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  1. #1
    Mighty Member Electricmastro's Avatar
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    Default When did Marvel become DCís biggest competitor?

    While DC (formally National Allied Publications) started publishing comic books in 1935, starting with New Fun #1, of course, it was their Action Comics series that helped DC achieve considerable success, and Marvel (formally Timely Comics) was then founded shortly thereafter, having started with Marvel Comics #1 in 1939. While Golden Age DC had their most successful big three of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, I don’t think that Golden Age Marvel’s most successful big three of Human Torch, Sun-Mariner, and Captain America is quite as comparable. It would probably be a better comparison to compare Fawcett with DC, as Fawcett’s Captain Marvel was apparently so popular, that he outsold Superman in popularity for a time, so would it be more reasonable to posit that Marvel more likely became DC’s biggest competitor in the 1950s or 1960s?
    Last edited by Electricmastro; 01-13-2020 at 07:42 PM.

  2. #2
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    Definitely in the 1960s. In 1960, Dell might have still been out-selling DC. By 1970, Dell was no longer a factor, DC was #1 and Marvel #2. When DC jumped from 15 cents to 25 cents in 1972 while Marvel went to 20 cents, Marvel outsold DC for the first time.
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  3. #3
    Mighty Member Hybrid's Avatar
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    Mid-'60s up the '70s, I believe. Marvel was marketed as the "cooler" universe for that generation, as opposed to DC being old hat. They had huge advantages at the time that helped separate them as opposed to just being a generic superhero brand, and why DC had to adapt to say relevant.
    • The first was the consistent continuity, with all books not only having a continuous story from issue to issue, but they all took place in the same world as each other. Contrast DC, which were basically just one and done serials with no continuity themselves.
    • Speaking of which, the shared universe. The fact that characters and elements appeared across multiple titles and anything could happen also made Marvel feel more like a real world. In DC, crossovers were a special event. In Marvel, this happened all the time, and completely organically.
    • On the topic of the "real world", the Marvel Universe didn't make much use of the "fictional city" set-up standard at the time, and instead used primarily real world locations. The biggest one of course being New York City. This gave Marvel a sense of being a "real" setting, just one that happened to feature superheroes.
    • When it came to "real", there was also the real people angle, in that many of their heroes struggled with every day life and much focus was put on the man behind the mask, rather than what was in front of it.
    • Also, the comics pushed the boundaries of what could be done back then. Fantastic Four had a monstrous teammate, and no secret identities, and they fought with each other while holding petty grudges. X-Men tackled racism in the form of mutants. Spider-Man routinely failed at living a life because of his superheroism. Daredevil had to deal with being blind. Hulk struggled with both himself and the outside world. Black Panther was the first headlining black superhero, and fought racism, in a time that was less enlightened.
    • The characters weren't gods. In DC, many of their characters are high-level powerhouses that could tank nukes, and thus there was often no challenge. Marvel characters were decidedly lower in power, instead being in the more mid-range area (something that DC still lacks). This gave a sense that they were human, and as such they could struggle, and it was thus easier to introduce more characters this way.

    All of this seems standard now, but Marvel had all of this and DC didn't, making them stand out as something new and different. That was the point where Marvel not only matched DC, but surpassed them, and DC for the first time had to change to match the competition rather than enjoy the top spot without effort.

  4. #4
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    In the 1950s and moving into the 1960s, Dell Comics (published by Western Publishing Co. and distributed by Dell under their imprint) basically ruled the roost, with DC as runner-up. In 1960 the ten comic books with the highest paid circulation were:
    #1: Uncle $crooge (Dell)
    #2: Walt Disney's Comics and Stories (Dell)
    #3: Superman (DC)
    #4: Superboy (DC)
    #5: Mickey Mouse (Dell)
    #6: Batman (DC)
    #7: Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen (DC)
    #8: World's Finest Comics (DC)
    #9: Looney Tunes (Dell)
    #10 (tie): Action Comics (DC) and Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane (DC)

    In 1965 Dell comics (which by then were distributed under the Gold Key imprint) placed only one title in the top ten (Walt Disney's Comics and Stories at #10), Archie placed its flagship title at #7, and the other 8 slots were all filled by DC titles. In 1969 Archie titles were at #1 and #5, a Marvel title (Amazing Spider-Man) was at #7, and the other 7 slots were all DC books. Marvel didn't begin to be a real rival to DC until the 1970s.

  5. #5
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    Marvel Comics was distributed by Independent News for most of the 1960s and that corporation was part of DC (National Periodical Publications). IND. restricted how many titles that Marvel could put out, so they never dominated the comic book racks the way that National or Western (Dell, later Gold Key) could do. And Marvel was mainly limited to a few genres at any one time. Not as many genres as what National offered. Back then, until the Batman TV show, super-heroes weren't such a huge draw but DC had lots of other genres that were selling well--like romance and war.

    In 1968, Cadence Corporation took over the distribution of Marvel, which allowed Martin Goodman to put out many more titles. By the early 1970s, they were offering lots of titles (some reprints) just to have a lot of product on the racks. But I think what really helped Marvel beat DC (despite the departure of Jack Kirby) was how they fooled DC into changing their regular price. This was a deal that a few comic book publishers agreed on--DC, Marvel, Archie and Harvey--that they would all go up to 25 cents in 1971 (but offering more pages per issue). However, Marvel only did this for a couple of months, before cutting the page count (back to 32) for only 20 cents. So although DC was offering more content for 25 cents, they seemed over-priced and Marvel was the cheaper option--but given the long lead time, DC couldn't change their price until into 1972.

    Nevertheless, while the super-hero comics were not doing as well as they had, DC's mystery comics (aka horror) had a strong appeal for readers and I think that's what sustained them (along with the war comics) in the early 1970s. But by 1973, you can see Marvel really starting to eat their lunch.

    The coup de gr‚ce would come later, when the mom and pop stores went out of business and mass market sales dropped. Marvel appealed to the teens and twenty-somethings that frequented the specialty shops that sold comics for an eclectic fanbase (some of these stores had been head shops)--whereas the traditional kinds of comics that DC produced for little kids and Mr. and Mrs. Middle America no longer were available in the regular mom and pop stores.
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  6. #6
    DC Comics Forum Mod The Darknight Detective's Avatar
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    Marvel was definitely #2 as early as 1966 when the The Marvel Superheroes first appeared and #1 by the late '60s.
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