Do Marvel Villains Offer More Possibilities?

One of the strangest elements of any comic book writing is the treatment of villains.  Of course villains can be some of the strongest characters in all of comics, but generally speaking the villain has to be written to the hero and not vice versa.  In writing the villain to the hero though, certain problems can arise, namely that of power levels.  When Lex Luthor is occasionally written as an adversary to Batman, it is rarely Batman agaistn Lex in a superpowered suit, rather it is dark and scary Batman sneaking around and confronting Luthor some place.  In rare cases a Batman villain might transfer over to a more powerful hero.  In one of my favourite Wonder Woman story arcs ever, the Joker is called in to take her down and he does quite effectively (for a while anyway.)  Conversely the Joker versus Superman usually results in the Joker mysteriously having constructed some sort of super powered robot so that he can avoid confronting him directly.  Or as another example, most of Green Lantern's enemies are so based on power ring like powers, that it is not as easy to apply them elsewhere.  Incidentally this is also what happened to Doctor Light, a quite powerful hero, who was reduced to a sort of joke villain for the Teen Titans.  This is just DC though, and I am not sure that the same holds for Marvel.  Marvel's villains tend to be of the same general threat level across the board, regardless of hero strength.  It is kind of hard to debate that Iron Man is stronger than Spider-Man.  Spider-Man himself might generally be considered stronger than Daredevil.  However, a Daredevil villain such as Bullseye is still quite a match for Spider-Man, and a Spider-Man villain such as Doctor Octopus (as seen in the recent Fix Me story arc) is still a decent threat to Iron Man.  Doctor Doom shows up regularly just about anywhere in Marvel books and generally the hero and him are a decent match.  So does this make the lineup of Marvel villains better, and I mean that not on a case-by-case basis but rather as a whole?  Well I would say yes, I think DC's villains are more iconic, but Marvel had more of a mixed bag to throw at heroes and to spread around.  Part of this is the dynamics partially of what makes DC popular, but at the same time a lot of potentially good stories involving their heroes go untold. 
22 Comments
22 Comments
Posted by cattlebattle

I think DCs heroes are just to powerful honestly, I mean a lot of them (more famous names) fly around space and smite space abstracts, Then, we're suppose to believe guys like Metallo and Gorilla Grodd are suppose to be a match for them....I'm not saying that Marvel doesn't do the same thing ...they do. Just not on as frequent than DC does

Edited by Timandm

Uh oh... You're making me THINK... As as my wife would say, "I haven't had enough coffee yet for the magic to happen." LOL! I love that woman... She's brilliant.

THIS topic/question actually requires a good bit of thought. I LOVE THIS! I'm going to get back to you on this one... As geeky as it sounds, I'm thinking a math model is in order here.

@cattlebattle said:

I think DCs heroes are just to powerful honestly, I mean a lot of them (more famous names) fly around space and smite space abstracts, Then, we're suppose to believe guys like Metallo and Gorilla Grodd are suppose to be a match for them....I'm not saying that Marvel doesn't do the same thing ...they do. Just not on as frequent than DC does

I actually don't have a reply to this. It's just SO FREAKING RIGHT, I felt like quoting it...

Posted by cyberninja
@cattlebattle said:
I think DCs heroes are just to powerful honestly, I mean a lot of them (more famous names) fly around space and smite space abstracts, Then, we're suppose to believe guys like Metallo and Gorilla Grodd are suppose to be a match for them....I'm not saying that Marvel doesn't do the same thing ...they do. Just not on as frequent than DC does
This
Posted by RazzaTazz
@Timandm: Sure, I look forward to it.  I agree that part is the power discrepancy,but that doesnt mean that some villains could not bridge the gap somehow.  It could also be that DC villains are sort from different genres
Moderator
Posted by FadeToBlackBolt
@cattlebattle said:
I think DCs heroes are just to powerful honestly, I mean a lot of them (more famous names) fly around space and smite space abstracts, Then, we're suppose to believe guys like Metallo and Gorilla Grodd are suppose to be a match for them....I'm not saying that Marvel doesn't do the same thing ...they do. Just not on as frequent than DC does
Marvel have FAR more telekinetics and reality-warpers. DC has the higher strength and speed scale, but they also only tend to fight people who are fast and strong.  
 
Compare Darkseid to Thanos. Thanos gets a different reality-warping device every week. How do you win against that?  
 
Darkseid may be more powerful than Supes, but if the Martian, Superman and WW hit him enough, he's going to feel it.  
 
Thanos could just wish him away. The same for the Red Skull who has acquired the Cosmic Cube on multiple occasions. 
Posted by tim2081

It comes down to characterization; and you're right, Marvel villains aren't written to any specific hero anymore (at least not the good ones).They are generally their own characters with their own motivations; and can easily switch sides to work with the heroes. A lot of Marvel's villains have become heroes at some point, and some heroes have shown villainous tendencies. So having power shifts to compete with a specific hero wouldn't make as much sense, because sometimes the line is blurred as to who is the hero, and who is the villain (like Civil War and WWH).

Posted by SC

I think its the psychological aspects of the characters, then having a good writer play characters to their strengths. I think there could be some great Superman/Joker clash ups, but would require Joker testing Superman's morality and ethics. So you might end up with an issue with not much fighting or action. Sort of how like Bullseye might be able to exploit Spider-man's humanity. So I ultimately see this as a writer thing, plus maybe having to delve into aspects of characters they are not traditionally established as/in. 

Moderator
Posted by cosmo111687

I think that the main reason why there's less crossing-over of villains, and other characters, between books in the DC Universe stems from the fact that it's main characters were created by a number of different people across many different eras and genres and it wasn't originally conceived of as a shared universe from the onset. For example, although Scarecrow operates mainly by fear and Sinestro operates mainly by fear, Scarecrow can't really be a member of the Sinestro Corps (permanently, anyways) because Scarecrow stems from a universe that draws it's inspiration from pulp-serial noir detective stories and psychological thrillers while Sinestro draws his inspiration from science fiction and outer space adventure stories like Buck Rogers and Star Trek (frankly, Sinestro has more in common, conceptually, to the Marvel universe than to Scarecrow). They're both too grounded in their respective corners of the DC Universe for them to plausibly mix and intermingle. Marvel, however, was mostly created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee in the 1960s and so there's a lot of cohesion, aesthetically and conceptually, between their characters making it feel more plausible for characters to cross-over into each other's stories without it feeling too absurd (by comic standards).

Posted by Timandm

Okay... So... I've been thinking about this... (No really, I have.)

I think the following two points sort of bring out the the important points:

@cattlebattle said:

I think DCs heroes are just to powerful honestly, I mean a lot of them (more famous names) fly around space and smite space abstracts, Then, we're suppose to believe guys like Metallo and Gorilla Grodd are suppose to be a match for them....I'm not saying that Marvel doesn't do the same thing ...they do. Just not on as frequent than DC does

@FadeToBlackBolt said:

@cattlebattle said:
I think DCs heroes are just to powerful honestly, I mean a lot of them (more famous names) fly around space and smite space abstracts, Then, we're suppose to believe guys like Metallo and Gorilla Grodd are suppose to be a match for them....I'm not saying that Marvel doesn't do the same thing ...they do. Just not on as frequent than DC does
Marvel have FAR more telekinetics and reality-warpers. DC has the higher strength and speed scale, but they also only tend to fight people who are fast and strong. Compare Darkseid to Thanos. Thanos gets a different reality-warping device every week. How do you win against that? Darkseid may be more powerful than Supes, but if the Martian, Superman and WW hit him enough, he's going to feel it. Thanos could just wish him away. The same for the Red Skull who has acquired the Cosmic Cube on multiple occasions.

They are both SPOT ON... (There's me trying to use English vernacular.)

DC does indeed have a plethora of villains who are just off the charts powerful.. Doomsday is a perfect example. He's got fanboys in here who will tell you Doomsday can beat the entity of death itself. No, I'm not kidding. I'm serious... Doomsday, Darkseid, they android that copies EVERYONE'S powers... etc.. And DC has it's share of super heroes to counter them...

Now, Marvel, on the other hand doesn't have quite so many heroes or villains like this... So, what do they do? They take it up a notch.

Franklin Richards - Creates entire universes and new realities

Legion - Rewrites all of reality with a thought

The Scarlet Witch - Alters reality on a planetary level

We don't see Franklin or Legion or Scarlet Witch flying through space at hyperspeed, smashing into planets.. But they don't have to. They just 'think' that planet out of existence... Oddly enough, we still see these characters struggling during fights on what we might call a "normal" super hero level when they could simply 'think' the problem solved... I think it's Marvel's way of "having it's cake AND eating it too."

So, it seems both DC and Marvel have the UBER COSMICALLY POWERFUL BEINGS, but Marvel tends to use them (IMO) as a Deus Ex Machina type of mechanism. Is that better? I don't know...

Posted by RazzaTazz
@Timandm
Don't become one of those guys that writes responses longer than the blogs themselves, I already have one of those :P 
 
You raise some good points, thus with the most powerful characters ignored in a certain way, it makes the rest of the playing field more equal in Marvel
Moderator
Posted by tim2081

@Timandm: You also have to consider that Marvel Cosmic is separate from Marvel Earth. Starting with Annihilation and going through The Thanos Imperative, there weren't any Earth based characters participating in cosmic events; they weren't even aware of it. So the Earth heroes get to avoid a lot of the cosmic level threats like Thanos. Likewise, characters like Silver Surfer, Nova, and Quasar rarely (if ever) visit Earth, so they won't be fighting Earth villains. It helps keep everything leveled out.

Posted by Timandm

@RazzaTazz: LOL! Well, it's YOUR fault... You made me actually "think." :-)

@tim2081: Good point. Course, Quasar is a member of the Avengers at the moment, isn't it? I don't recall seeing him in the current stories but Captain American did ask him to join, and I remember reading a Spider-Man Quasar team-up where they talked about being Avengers. But I do hope they keep the Cosmic entities separate from what goes on with the rest of the Marvel universe. While I think things like Annihilaiton Wave are interesting stories, they don't hold my interest as much as the street-level super hero stories... When something becomes so VAST it becomes difficult to relate to...

Posted by tim2081

@Timandm: Quasar isn't currently a member of the Avengers, but he may have been at one point. I prefer some of the cosmic events because there's less "star power"; meaning A-list characters get preferential treatment over less popular characters.

Posted by Timandm

@tim2081: I had gotten Nova confused with Quasar... Nova apparently is a member of the "secret" Avengers, but I don't know much about him.

Posted by Dhor

I think that Marvel is overuses the reality warping thing. i mean it`s just plain stupid to create characters that can "alter reality" and make believable fights. I just hate all Cosmic cubes and other itemes that are just idiotic. Sure DC have it`s share of Villans that are very powerfull but at leat they have limits.

Posted by SC
@Timandm:  Those are great points! I think, another distinction between Doomsday (see Marvels the Fury), Darkseid (see Thanos) and Amazo (see Jubilee uhm...), to Legion, and Scarlet Witch types (and you can add in Mad Jim Jaspers too - Hello, I'm Jaspers. Jim Jaspers. Mad Jim Jaspers. Actually, you can call me 'Mad'. Ha ha ha ha ha ha! I made you. I made everything, actually. I made the sky. I made the tiger and the lamb... I put the bop in the bop shebop shebop and the ram in the rama lama dingdong! I made the stars and the cockroaches...the trees, the winklepicker shoe... Well, I don't remember making that! 
 
Is the mental and psychological state of the characters, which true, could be something that helps fuel the plot, but I think also counts as being a defining aspect of the character? Then there is story balance and focus as well. Most stories that usually have the Fury usually have Mad Jim Jaspers in it as a counter balance. Children's Crusade going on right now, has Wanda's power and ability loosely defined but we aware that she has a crux of sorts. Oh, Quasar use to be a Avenger, and Nova was a Secret Avenger, but not so anymore. Those are good points too (and a bit ironic that Nova is no longer apart of the team) 
Moderator
Posted by Timandm

@SC said:

@Timandm: Those are great points! I think, another distinction between Doomsday (see Marvels the Fury), Darkseid (see Thanos) and Amazo (see Jubilee uhm...), to Legion, and Scarlet Witch types (and you can add in Mad Jim Jaspers too - Hello, I'm Jaspers. Jim Jaspers. Mad Jim Jaspers. Actually, you can call me 'Mad'. Ha ha ha ha ha ha! I made you. I made everything, actually. I made the sky. I made the tiger and the lamb... I put the bop in the bop shebop shebop and the ram in the rama lama dingdong! I made the stars and the cockroaches...the trees, the winklepicker shoe... Well, I don't remember making that! Is the mental and psychological state of the characters, which true, could be something that helps fuel the plot, but I think also counts as being a defining aspect of the character? Then there is story balance and focus as well. Most stories that usually have the Fury usually have Mad Jim Jaspers in it as a counter balance. Children's Crusade going on right now, has Wanda's power and ability loosely defined but we aware that she has a crux of sorts. Oh, Quasar use to be a Avenger, and Nova was a Secret Avenger, but not so anymore. Those are good points too (and a bit ironic that Nova is no longer apart of the team)

I LIKE Mad Jim Jaspers! A part of me is a little disturbed that I can actually follow his logic... hmmm...

I hadn't thought about it till you said all that but... They're all insane, on some level, aren't they? Well, not Franklin Richards...Not yet anyways... Legion - Insane. Scarlet Witch - Insane. Mad Jim Jaspers - Sane in an insane universe. What's up with that?

Posted by SC
@Timandm:  I love Mad Jim Jaspers. Other reality warpers try and warp the planet to his fitting, he just wants to turn white wine to red. Its red wine he wants... not white.. ah that's much better. Claremont was going to use him a lot more around Uncanny X-Men 200, which would have been great but some behind the scenes Marvel UK stuff (involving Alan Moore) sort of set that back. I really want to see Jaspers and Jamie Braddock (Psylocke's reality warping brother who wears a smaller thong than her) just join the X-Men and kick it. I mean.. sure they might end fights faster than Legion... or they might just be playing Connect Four and Twister whilst half their team is slaughtered...  
 
Insane... on some level yes, I think what is up with that is uncertainty... they are extremely powerful, and some of them are bad guys, but thing is, you don't know what they want and if you do, you don't really know how they will go about doing it - so there is that unpredictability. Thanos might shock heroes now and then, by teaming up with them, but you won't see Thanos randomly break into a song and dance routine? Or wonder about which one of his personalities is asserting itself? I think this is interesting because it sort of harkens back to a character like Spider-man VS Bullseye? Spider-man might feel safe but Spider-man has to second guess whether Bullseye will aim at him on random people on the street. (Bullseye being a bit insane but not that powerful)  
 
Interesting though yeah. I think a lot of DC characters have it in them as well at the writers discretion *smile*
Moderator
Posted by Edenstar

Everyone's brought some pretty good points. I think is has to do with the type of universe DC and Marvel are set in. DC was more made up as it goes along. It has a bunch of fictional places (Gotham, Metropolis, Star City) that have their own villains, atmosphere, and heroes. Because of this, each place feels like it's own universe. And because the settings are so different, they're hard to mesh together. Marvel has fictional places (Wakanda) but for the most part, everyplace is communicating with each other. By that, I mean that characters, especially villains, can end up anywhere. Hence, the heroes can end up anywhere. There also the fact that in Marvel, the hero-villain lines are blurred. This lets characters have their ups and downs and develop layers upon layers to them that yield to story-telling. DC's line between hero and villain is a little more defined. With that, it usually takes a gigantic upset in order to change that line. Also, their villains are very iconic in their roles as villains. EX: the Joker. He's noted for being an homicidal maniac and is constantly gunning at Batman. If he started to be turned into an anti-hero, it wouldn't feel right. Then look at Doctor Doom. Doom was portrayed as a villain for a long time, but he was also portrayed as more than JUST a villain. He was also shown to be a man with his own compass of honor, right, wrong, etc. This allowed him to be shifted to a more neutral status. So when he shifted from outright villain, it felt plausible.

In the end, villains have a lot of possibilities but you have to build on them to make those possibilities. Look at Darksied: sure he's a great threat but that's it. There's nothing else to him other than he wants the Anti-life equation so that he can rule all the universe. He's flat as they come, so there's not a lot of possibilities.

P.S. I think having a good amount of Neutral characters helps a lot. Marvel seems to really taken advantage of this while DC doesn't.

Posted by PikminMania

What makes it better for DC is that it is some much more rewarding to see how the "overpowered" heroes lose to these villains. What sounds cooler; Joker defeating WW, or Magneto defeating the X-men?

Posted by Malevolent1

Generally, yes. I think Marvel has always made over the top powerhouse supervillains because they don't want to make it easy on the superheroes. They want the reader to believe the hero barely pulled it off. When you talk about villains like Doom, Thanos, The Destroyer (if propelled by a bad guy like Loki...), Surtur, Mephisto, Tyrant, Terrax, etc...those are some pretty powerhouse supervillains. Except for the Surfer and Thor, I can't imagine anyone having a chance against the aforementioned villains...actually, Tyrant and Thanos are largely out of reach of even Thor and the Surfer...). But that is what makes it so entertaining. You have to have the villain that shows up on the last panel and the reader is like, "Crap, it's "---fill in the blank---!!". Yeah, DC superheroes could do with villains like Tyrant, Surtur and Thanos (although, Anti-Monitor, Doomsay and Superman Prime are no walk in the park)

Posted by Jnr6Lil

@Edenstar said:

Everyone's brought some pretty good points. I think is has to do with the type of universe DC and Marvel are set in. DC was more made up as it goes along. It has a bunch of fictional places (Gotham, Metropolis, Star City) that have their own villains, atmosphere, and heroes. Because of this, each place feels like it's own universe. And because the settings are so different, they're hard to mesh together. Marvel has fictional places (Wakanda) but for the most part, everyplace is communicating with each other. By that, I mean that characters, especially villains, can end up anywhere. Hence, the heroes can end up anywhere. There also the fact that in Marvel, the hero-villain lines are blurred. This lets characters have their ups and downs and develop layers upon layers to them that yield to story-telling. DC's line between hero and villain is a little more defined. With that, it usually takes a gigantic upset in order to change that line. Also, their villains are very iconic in their roles as villains. EX: the Joker. He's noted for being an homicidal maniac and is constantly gunning at Batman. If he started to be turned into an anti-hero, it wouldn't feel right. Then look at Doctor Doom. Doom was portrayed as a villain for a long time, but he was also portrayed as more than JUST a villain. He was also shown to be a man with his own compass of honor, right, wrong, etc. This allowed him to be shifted to a more neutral status. So when he shifted from outright villain, it felt plausible.

In the end, villains have a lot of possibilities but you have to build on them to make those possibilities. Look at Darksied: sure he's a great threat but that's it. There's nothing else to him other than he wants the Anti-life equation so that he can rule all the universe. He's flat as they come, so there's not a lot of possibilities.

P.S. I think having a good amount of Neutral characters helps a lot. Marvel seems to really taken advantage of this while DC doesn't.

2