As a child of the sixties, I was born at precisely the right time to experience the comic-book revolution. Marvel Comics, established in 1961, quickly set the gold standard for comic-books, even though its competition, DC, was decades older and owned the Holy Trinity of comic-book characters.
But somewhere along the way, DC lost the plot, and their comics were dreck compared to what Marvel was publishing.
To fully understand the qualitative difference between DC and Marvel in the sixties, I highly recommend Sean Howe’s superb “Marvel Comics: The Untold Story.”
My take on why Marvel comics were so much better was that while their comics chronicled the exploits of super-humans, it was always the human element of those flawed characters that resonated with readers.
Marvel heroes weren’t squeaky-clean caricatures, and like their readers, they lived in the real world, with real problems.
These days, comic-book spinoffs – TV shows, movies, video games, licensed merchandise – are billion-dollar industries, leaving the medium that spawned it irrelevant to its target audience: children.
Today, Captain America’s most daunting villain isn’t the Red Skull, it’s the Xbox.
It’s a shame more youngsters aren’t experiencing the joy of reading comics, but Disney, Marvel’s current owners, don’t really care. It’s all about the movie rights.
In 2018, Marvel publishes too many low quality titles and has become what DC was in the ‘60s, while DC has upped its game.
Stan Lee was forever a diplomat, always positive in public, but if he was still alive and would speak honestly, I wonder what he’d say about today’s crop of Marvel Comics and the state of the comic-book business in general?
Meanwhile, I’ll hang on to my memories of a time when comic books were meant for kids, and getting engrossed in one was a lot more meaningful than playing a mindless video game, and for that I say, thank you, Stan the Man.