So @paulisaverage contends that Marvel is better and lately I'm inclined to agree. Marvel Studios is releasing multiple well-received movies and tv shows per year, and they own the top-grossing franchise of all time. Their competitor, DC comics (owned entirely by Warner Bros.) has been struggling to catch up. But does that mean that Marvel is empirically better?
Okay, it's impossible to determine which is 'better'.
Sorry @paulisaverage but it's all a matter of opinion. It's kind of hard to be objective towards something you're really passionate about. But are there places where fans can find a consensus?
Let's look at the most popular heroes and see how they measure up to one another. From DC we have Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. Certainly some of the most iconic characters. From Marvel, we've got Iron Man, Spider-Man, and Black Widow. Maybe not as historically iconic, but certainly making waves right now.
I think any 90s kid will remember Batman: The Animated Series. Marvel's major heroes couldn't really compete at the time. And even though I was probably too old for it, I watched Teen Titans religiously. Now though? Aside from the much-lauded Nolan Batman films, the DC cinematic universe hasn't been as dominant as Marvel. Gritty hyper-realism is awesome, but it can't compete with the sheer volume of market saturation Marvel has right now.
Both are late on diversity, and I've been ready for more female and nonwhite heroes since forever ago, but in my opinion Marvel has been doing moderately better (Agent Carter and the upcoming Black Panther film are certainly a start). And that's just in the films. In the comics, we have Kamala Khan, Miles Morales, and America Chavez (among others). Frankly, they're both slacking, but I'll take what I can get in that department.
Personal choice: Marvel
I'll go with the flow on this one. Marvel has struggled for a while, but they've been working to give their characters new relevance today. DC has made the same attempt, but with less variety, to their detriment.
I am so salty about villains. I'll admit it. I unabashedly love Batman's rogues gallery: Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, The Joker, Bane, Two-Face, Harley Quinn. Lex Luthor, Slade, Darkseid, whenever I saw these villains I felt like they presented a very real threat. They were terrifying, in the most thrilling way.
Those are the names that scared the stuffing out of me as a kid. From Marvel? I'm kind of fond of Magneto and Loki, everyone's problematic faves. But overall, I'm not very invested in Marvel's villains. It's kind of hilarious to think about Captain America punching Hitler in the face, but (and I'm going to sound extremely pretentious here) it lacks complexity. Venom is usually depicted as a killing machine, and The Goblin always felt like a less interesting version of The Joker to me.
Personal choice: DC
Arlene Sorkin and Mark Hamill's voice work on Harley and the Joker is going to haunt me for the rest of my days.
We all know money talks. And unlike personal opinions, financials are objective. Right?
Financially speaking, Marvel films are making more than DC. However, Marvel Studios hasn't been responsible for any of the recent Spider-Man or X-Men films because they had to sell the rights to those characters to avoid bankruptcy. Not only is DC stepping up their game next year with multiple releases, but they've been far more popular with critics (for whatever that's worth). It means they're far from out of the game.
Verdict: They're both still competitive
Sure, Marvel has been killing it. And they've got a lot of momentum. I fully expect to see DC catching up very soon.
What about fandom?
Aka the people that actually consume this media in the first place. This is a really difficult thing to quantify, because fans interact with media in so many different ways. Sure, you could count the number of cosplayers at any con, but how will you know whether or not a fan's choice between The Joker and Iron Man came down to which costume was easier to build?
I'm going to be unscientific and use fanfiction. Archive of Our own is the newest player in fanfiction hosting sites, but the community is going strong. And with the exception of a few archival projects, most of the works posted there are new, which means we can get a good idea of what's popular right now.
And there's a pretty clear forerunner there. There are 131,030 works tagged in the Marvel universe, and only 40,130 in DC (as of July 14th, 2015 at 12pm EST).
Personal Conclusion: The Marvel fandom has no chill
And I love you.
Part of me feels like I should stay neutral. After all, DC and Marvel have both weathered economic recessions, World Wars, and film catastrophes. Clearly both companies are doing something right. Right now Marvel has me, but I was a loyal DC fan for two decades. When the balance shifts, it's not a bad thing. It just means everyone is going to up the ante, and create even better stories.
It's like when you're at the office pot luck. You brought a cake, only to discover someone else also brought cake. Don't stress about it. Because all anyone at the office cares about is the fact that there are TWO CAKES.