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Marvel's Plethora of Team Books VS DC's Individual Books

The Big 2 like to do things somewhat similarly, but one place they differ is team books. Why does Marvel have so many while DC sticks with individual characters?

It's been brought up time and again that Marvel has very few female-led titles and, as a counter-point, DC is comparably heavy with them. A closer look at the shelf reveals something unusual, however: Marvel actually has very few individual hero books at all. They have nearly twenty separate titles dedicated to the X-Men and the Avengers while DC has nearly ten dedicated to Batman alone (nevermind his extended...family? Helpers?) In fact, well over half of Marvel's catalog consists of team books while DC is the exact, polar opposite. Is there any rhyme or reason to this and is there any way to break the mold?

Pictured: four current solo books

This is going to read a bit more like a historical analysis rather than an editorial one because there is one single simple answer: DC Comics began as a series of solo books, many of which weren't even under the same publisher letalone the same universe. Marvel's books, on the other hand, with some notable exceptions, take place in the same universe and did (essentially) from the start. Spider-Man would websling across the New York skyline in a Daredevil book, the Fantastic 4 would help out Professor X's X-Men if they ever had a scientific query and Dr. Strange ministered mysticism for Earth's Mightiest Heroes, but DC united their universes fairly early on, so it goes deeper still. Those aren't just random examples, either any of the above names out of thin air (okay, a few of them were, the point still stands!), Fantastic 4 and X-Men were two of Marvel's first giant hits and both of them, particularly Fantastic 4, set the stage for Marvel as having family-oriented teams. The FF see each other and themselves as a family (the First Family of Marvel in fact) with Reed and Sue being mother and father to the ever quarreling children of Johnny and Ben.

== TEASER ==
Spin-offs having spin-offs within spin-offs! BWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

And if there's something mainstream comics do well it's stick with an established formula. Which can't simply be laid at their feet as if there's one thing comic book fans (in general, not you guys. You guys are fine) have been shown to absolutely resist: it's change. And not to deflect from DC, but seven (SEVEN) of their active titles, two of which are their much vaunted female-led books, are directly tied to Batman. Batman is such a massively powerful force in comics today, his spin-offs have spin-offs (Barbara Gordon in Birds of Prey, Batman Inc spinning out Batwing etc, etc), but if you take away the near-galactic gravitational field that is Bats, you're left with a landscape that is a great deal more homogenized than its Mighty Marvel counterpart. As another point: Marvel's team books tend to be more even-handed with their characters' fame and exposure than DC's, which has enormously helped them get multiple film franchises off the ground while DC still struggles to get more than one. Additionally: many of Marvel's attempts at breaking out team-based characters have met with failure (both Hawkeye and Gambit had short-lived solo books before their current ones, and ubiquitous X-Man leader Cyclops has never had a successful ongoing series, for instance).

But we're getting off on a paragraph long tangent, and it's getting awfully editorial in here, so again if we look at the historical context: DC acquired two of the most famous, popular, highest selling and, until very recently, highest grossing solo superheroes in history. And while Marvel has dabbled in team-up books, DC's Finest have been paired fairly consistently since their first crossover decades ago. And there's something more "legendary" to DC's characters than Marvel's more psychologically realistic ones, so it only makes sense that they'd be able to stand on their own more effectively since history and tone appear to be on their side, but how can the molds be broken? Spin-off books have proved unsuccessful just as attempts to create new teams seem to flounder (Justice League: International had to shoehorn Batman onto the roster just to get any attention at all and STILL only made it a year). The latter, at least, has an obvious solution: teams that make sense.

Pictured: Batman and Company

Batman barely has any business on the Justice League, let alone its international counterpart. A book that saw mild success, however? Batman and the Outsiders. A team of street-level, mostly untrained, volatile superheroes that need a stern guiding hand, but that would, unfortunately, just be another Bat-title at that point (look who got top billing, after all). But it illustrates the theme well: if a single character is going to be used to bolster numbers on a team book, they should ideally fit within a leadership role on that team.

If a perennial teammate is going to go solo, however, something else needs to happen: it needs to accomplish the same thing as above, but in reverse. Avengers: Solo was an interesting idea and executed relatively well, but it didn't really matter who was filling the shoes of the lead character, though again, Hawkeye now has his own, solo series and look at what it does: focuses on his life outside of the team, and even outside superheroics.

Likewise Gambit's solo series is focusing on an aspect of his life that is often underutilized in the team books: Gambit's role as a stealth operator and thief. Where it lost the thread of the plot, seemingly, was when it veered away from that, making Gambit into an almost Nathan Drake-like figure. In order to let a team-based character spread their wings, they need a story that is crafted JUST for them, a story that you couldn't see anyone else in, and using that as a springboard to give them their own identity separate from the team, but still letting them be a part of that team's events and goings on. The solution, ironically in both cases, is to focus on the opposite of what you should be going for in their "primary" books.

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Posted by Chaos Burn

i like teams because i like multiple characters, i imagine following a single character series would bore me

Posted by JLDoom

I prefer solo books

Posted by NightFang

@JLDoom said:

I prefer solo books

This.

Posted by The Mast

I think the biggest problem with team books is that they end up being a storage space for characters people just don't know how to handle.

Nobody can consistently writer Surfer or Wonder Man, for example. So, stick them in The Defenders and Uncanny Avengers respectfully. They deserve solo series', but if they can't have one, don't have them anywhere. Don't let them become furniture.

Posted by spinningwebs

I prefer solo books, but some teams can be really fun to read. Marvel just has a little too many teams for me most of them containing the word Avengers.

Posted by roboadmiral

I mostly stick with solo books. The team one's can too easily become unfocused with none of the characters getting the necessary attention. They also have a tendency to get a bit tonally mixed up. With solo books you have one character to be fleshed out and a supporting cast specifically tailored to them.

Posted by BigBDawg

@Chaos Burn: It can be, but solo books have their merits too. I also like a very awesome team book where the characters can get more growth and are handled nicely. Like in JLA and Justice League of America before the New 52. Or JSA/Justice Society of America.

Posted by briangsharon

Solo books - because if you do team books... where do you go from there?

When heroes come together it should be something special, something desperate, something monumental.

If you have large groups and stables of supe's then what do you do to tickle the readers interest?

The answer : Endless warring crossovers.

This is why I dislike the Marvel approach. They get many things right, some of which DC should pay attention to, but I am just not interested in watching a yearly royal rumble of super heroes. It loses its impact in the long run and waters down your product.

Case in point, the biggest crossovers in the DC universe since the new 52 have been :

H'el on earth

Death of the Family

Court of Owls

&

Rotworld

None of which are massive in scale, and typically effect a small segment of the DCU.

Posted by McKlayn

Team books all the way, also one reason i prefer Marvel, it gives you more variety and if DONE Well (which chris C did with X men for so long) you still get alot of character development and attention to the individuals, the Fan Four is another example of a great team who keeps the same roster for the most part which allows them to develop the characters just as well over it's life span

Posted by CircularLogic

The reason Marvel does team books is far simpler than what you've written: It's because of the name attached. When you can slap the Avengers onto something (Avengers Academy, Avengers Arena, New Avengers, Dark Avengers....) or the letter X you are guaranteed that, at least in the beginning, you will attract a certain amount of readers.

Until recently, however, DC only had that success with Batman and Superman. Justice League never sold as high as it did right now, so team books were never profitable. DC has clearly realized Marvel's strategy, which is why JL got the push to the flagship title when the reboot came around, which is why we got JLDark and JLI, and why the new Vibe book's full title is "Justice League of America's Vibe". It's advertising, and this kind of marketing decides what is being put out, creative wise.

Posted by G_Money_Christmas

I like both, but it seems I gravitate more towards solo books (Hawkeye, Batman, Superman, Captain America). I like Justice League, Avengers, and X-Men as much as everyone else, but I think some characters are more fit for solo books.

As much as I love Batman, he doesn't really fit in Justice League. He is a master detective and tactician but him up against Darkseid? Didn't really work for me. Batman just can't hold his own when fighting those powerful villains. He pretty much just stood there in the last couple Justice Leagues, but he is one of the biggest badasses in all of comics when he takes on his own rogues gallery.

I like the X-Men when they're together. I've always known them as a team. The Avengers can go either way for me, together or solo... but some characters, Batman (adding Robin doesn't count as a team) and Spiderman, I prefer them solo.

Posted by Jonny_Anonymous

Nice article

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Posted by Lvenger

I like both but I've been gravitating more towards solo books lately. Justice League has left a bad taste in my mouth.

Posted by evilvegeta74

They both have positives, whatever suits your needs when it comes to comics.

Posted by SynCig

@JLDoom said:

I prefer solo books

Agreed

Posted by SynCig

@CircularLogic said:

The reason Marvel does team books is far simpler than what you've written: It's because of the name attached. When you can slap the Avengers onto something (Avengers Academy, Avengers Arena, New Avengers, Dark Avengers....) or the letter X you are guaranteed that, at least in the beginning, you will attract a certain amount of readers.

Until recently, however, DC only had that success with Batman and Superman. Justice League never sold as high as it did right now, so team books were never profitable. DC has clearly realized Marvel's strategy, which is why JL got the push to the flagship title when the reboot came around, which is why we got JLDark and JLI, and why the new Vibe book's full title is "Justice League of America's Vibe". It's advertising, and this kind of marketing decides what is being put out, creative wise.

I agree with this 100%. I also think that the success of the films have effected the way certain things are marketed nowadays. I would also like to add that having "Avengers" on so many different titles is pretty annoying to me even though I understand the reason for it.

Posted by Cavemold

i prefer solo books because you get more story and learn new things about a charcter in solo book

Posted by Deadpool_9

I like both solo and team books. It really is dependent on the character or team.

I love solo Batman stories, but have never liked him in team books. That isn't to say I only like to see Batman in a book. I love Batman: Hush, for example, because you see many people in Batman's universe, but it is still a Batman book.

For me, team books must have a purpose. I love the Avengers and the concept of such a team. I don't understand the concept of the New Avengers... what role do they fill other than being another Avengers team? Secret Avengers, as an idea, does serve a different purpose from the regular Avengers, so it makes sense to me that they exist.

The difference between X-Men and X-Force is clear because each team fulfills a certain goal/purpose.

I don't like teams for the sake of team books. Team books, that serve a purpose, can be great.

Posted by pspin

I like both, Marvel has great team and solo books and so does DC. The only problem I have with team books is when the same person is on a massive amount of teams, traditionally Batman and Wolverine have this problem, but Hawkeye is well on his way to joining them. At least they recognize Wolverine's many appearances.

Posted by Cafeterialoca

Fun fact, the editor of Marvel says that they're focusing on Avengers, X-Men and Spider-Man only now.

(Though you guys should really check out Fearless Defenders. Just saying, that book is going to be awesome!)

Posted by save.me.now

The article makes an interesting point about Marvels characters being "realistic" compared to DC characters being "iconic". I had never noticed this before but if Cyclops or Kitty Pryde does something dumb my response is something like: "That was bad, but whatever, they're only human". But if Batman or Wonder Woman does something dumb I think something along the lines of : "Impossible! how could this have happened!?"

Even though they're all superheroes DC characters do have that mythical Iconic status that marvel most marvel characters will probably never have. Probably because no one can get a good solo series going to save their life and when they do Marvel cancels it anyway unless it can outsell spider man, x men and avengers.

Posted by Phantim555

I like how DC does it. With their top tier characters like Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman you have their solo titles then you have them in JL so you can see both what the most popular characters are up to individually and then again in their team book. With lesser known characters or slightly less popular characters they are put in team books like JLD, JLA, or Team 7 so that people can look at them and then those characters become more popular or at least more well known.

Posted by The Stegman

I like solo books more, they tend to be more focused on character development, and when another person or group intervenes, the team up is /really/ special. With team books, at least some, they feel messy, by trying to give everyone attention, no one gets any. 

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Posted by save.me.now

Also for the record, I read JLI mainly for Booster Gold.

I also wanted to read the Book for Guy, but that was huge mistake. He's 1000000000 times better in green lantern corps.

Posted by Reignmaker

@CircularLogic said:

The reason Marvel does team books is far simpler than what you've written: It's because of the name attached. When you can slap the Avengers onto something (Avengers Academy, Avengers Arena, New Avengers, Dark Avengers....) or the letter X you are guaranteed that, at least in the beginning, you will attract a certain amount of readers.

Until recently, however, DC only had that success with Batman and Superman. Justice League never sold as high as it did right now, so team books were never profitable. DC has clearly realized Marvel's strategy, which is why JL got the push to the flagship title when the reboot came around, which is why we got JLDark and JLI, and why the new Vibe book's full title is "Justice League of America's Vibe". It's advertising, and this kind of marketing decides what is being put out, creative wise.

I agree with a lot said here.

Posted by ARMIV2

This article just opened my eyes to the whole team/solo issues....issue...

Definitely taking some serious mental notes here.

Posted by derf_jenkins

I don't mind team books at all as long as they do not get too large. If your team is 18 members, that is too much. Fantastic Four, amazing.

Posted by Mr. Kamikaze

I prefer team books, personally, because I enjoy the team dynamic. It's way more fun seeing various characters play off of one another, support, conflict, etc. I also tend to get bored very easily, a team book lets me read multiple characters at once, as opposed to a solo title where I am only focused on one character, ever.

Not to say I don't like solo title, if they are well written and especially if they star my favorite characters (LOVING Aquaman) then I'm all for it. I just tend to gravitate more towards the team book concept.

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Posted by Super_SoldierXII

A few team storytellers stand out for me;

Morrison had a perfect formula on his first arc with the JLA. I have seldom enjoyed a team story as I did his back in the day. The rush in seeing the 'big seven' together on panel is now gone though ... we need spectacular storytelling to engender the same magic. Storytelling that I feel has been lacking in the New 52.

Claremont wrote an X-Men tale containing three dimensional characters replete with distinctive personalities and emotional complexity throughout his 80's and early 90's X-books. His treatment instantly hooked me onto the X-Men, popularized Wolverine, and still stands out as some of the best storytelling in 'X' history.

Some of his books were a little too dialogue and monologue heavy, but I sure do miss the days where it took more than 5 minutes to read through content ...

Lately, Remender's run in X-Force has recaptured for me some of the lost magic of yesteryear. Here's hoping it doesn't end with issue #35.

Posted by Alpha

@spinningwebs said:

I prefer solo books, but some teams can be really fun to read. Marvel just has a little too many teams for me most of them containing the word Avengers.

Or Xmen.

Posted by StMichalofWilson

Spin-offs having spin-offs within spin-offs! BWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH

Makes sense

Posted by Shamelesslysupportinaznballers

Why pay $2.99 & up for 1 character when you can get 10 characters out of it?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

Posted by MadeinBangladesh

I like team books but MARVEL overdos them. They are barely any individual books and they are actually so much better than the crappy team boosk like Thor, Hawkeye, Scarlet Spider, Daredevil, Winter soldier, Punisher

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Posted by TimeLordScience

@Lvenger said:

I like both but I've been gravitating more towards solo books lately. Justice League has left a bad taste in my mouth.

This. Johns has really let me down with JL :/

Posted by GBrutality

it's kind of cool what they have been doing with hawkeye is recent years. he's been one of my absolute favorites since i was a kid, so it's great to finally see him universally acknowledged as the competent, wise-cracking, bad-ass he always has been. my only fear is that he's almost in deadpool territory of exposure, and remember about two or three years ago when he was somehow in every book? even the cover for the new ultron event coming out has him dead center as the last avenger. the android is standing on an unconscious hulk and thor, but hawkeye is standing. other than maybe one avengers book and his crazy fun solo series, i hope they just don't kill his likeability the way they almost butchered deadpool's (and they would have entirely if not for remender getting his hands on him for a bit)

Posted by SmashBrawler

@JLDoom said:

I prefer solo books

Posted by cincyducksfan35

I'd love to get an Avengers book but there are so many to choose from that I end up getting none. Meanwhile there is one JL book so I get it. Sorry Marvel

Posted by daredevil21134

I would like more individual books from Marvel

Posted by emilysomers22

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Posted by cameron83

@StMichalofWilson: spin-off-ception,don't wake up....BECAUSE THERE IS ANOTHER SPINOFF!

LAUGH WITH ME SOMEONE.....BWAHWHAHAHWHAHHAHAHA

Edited by cmaprice

"In fact, well over half of Marvel's catalog consists of team books while DC is the exact, polar opposite."
 
Polar opposite of well over half? Well under half? Even so, not sure that phrase illustrates your point as well as you intended.

Posted by Brit

solo is better unless is the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles...

Edited by doordoor123

I actually love team books when they're done right. Very rarely do I see Marvel get one right. Most of the time they get it right, it is in teen books like Runaways, Young Avengers, and Avengers Initiative. Or cosmic books.

I don't consider X-men a team book. I consider it a community book.

Posted by WaveMotionCannon

Great article. Perfectly explained some of the differences between the companies. I prefer team books especially when theyre written well. I enjoy the interaction between teammates in combat and downtime. I grew up on Teen Titans, Avengers, LSH, X-Men etc.

Posted by Red_Robin212

I prefer Solos but I'm all good for team books that are focusing on characters who can't carry their own Solo (Either Quality or Sales wise) but are still good characters.

Classic JLI did this well IMO

Posted by dmkicksballs13

Solo, by far. Team books are starting to become selling points, as apposed to well-written stories. Brian Michael Bendis is the perfect example. Kills it on Moon Knight, Spider-Man, Daredevil, sucks on the Avengers. And with Marvel Now! Why is Captain America on more than one team, the same as Wolverine?

Posted by Danial79

It depends on the characters. My favourite Marvel team book is Wolverine and The X-Men, but would I read a solo title of any one of the characters? Nope. They are all characters I like in small doses. Take Hawkeye for example. I used to like him in Avengers books, but I find his new series boring as all hell. On the flip-side, I love Flash, Green Lantern, and Aquaman, but seeing them in Justice League does little for me because none of them get much "screen time". (If I was a Cyborg fan, I'd probably be crying. He gets even less screen time than the others, but the poor guy doesn't even have his own title to fall back on). Same goes for Spider-Man. ASM is consistently fun, but I see no point in having him on any Avengers team. He occasionally provides some comedy relief, but as a whole, he's more often pushed into the background so the other characters can run the show.

Posted by Squalleon

I Like Balance :-)

Posted by Danial79

I don't actually think the difference is that drastic. I just went through last month's chart, and Marvel is selling 52% solo, and DC, 63%...

Posted by frochez

well over half of Marvel's catalog consists of team books

... which means that nearly half aren't team books...

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