Panel Wars Marvel vs. DC
By Andy Doan
August 29, 2009 - 05:47

With the first day of the Fan Expo under our belts Herve and I were able to sit down to talk about a few of the events of the day. Specifically the open discussion panels by DC and Marvel. After participating in each back to back we found it hard not to compare the two companies based on the contrasting elements.

DC held a panel titled “DC Nation” featuring Sr. VP Dan Didio, Len Wayne, Ethan Van Sciver. The format was an open ended Q and A about all things current in DC.

Across the hall Marvel hosted their hour long discussion title “Marvel: Dark Reign”. This panel opened with a short presentation featuring cover shots from upcoming issues and a brief run down of each title. CB Cebulski, Tom Brenner and Arune Singh then took questions from the crowd for the remainder of the time.

The first obvious difference was with the rooms. DC crowded two hundred and fifty people into a small dark room. Marvel on the other hand had a large brightly lit room but only managed to fill a third of the seats. I realize that the room assignment had nothing to do with the publishers it just seems necessary to mention due to the other obvious differences.

The Marvel discussion seemed to be a bit more formal. Mostly from the way that the panelist managed the topic. The DC room was  caught up in a free flowing conversation lead by Dan. There may have been method to the madness of Mr DiDio but it seemed that focus changed from one character to another with an organic flow.

It might be prudent at this point to mention the make-up of each audience and how widely they differed. Members of the DC group brought up questions about nature of their favorite characters. Comments about what works and doesn’t work with titles flowed back and forth. It was a level playing field with the audience and the panelists having equal control of the room.

Marvel on the other hand seemed to run more of a one way conversation. Audience members asked questions mainly about the direction of specific story-lines and rarely about the nature of characters. The panelists offered the same “Wait and see” response to almost every question.

Why are such differences worthy of note? It became the first thing we started talking about as soon as we walked out of the second panel because of the historic dynamic of these two companies. Both companies have polarized a large percentage of their fan base over the years. Both companies produce a distinct product within an identical media. DC and Marvel for better or worse are locked in a Pepsi and Coke like relationship ‘till death do them part’.

Where the DC panel seemed more family like and warm I believe it may have been a mask for a deeper dysfunction. The vibe of the DC group may have been a cover up for the lack of impact the titles have been having over the past couple of years. They openly discussed character dynamics rather than specific story details because the current story-lines are less fulfilling lately.

Marvel fans on the other hand only asked “what’s next?”. Recent cliff hangers and foreshadowing have so successfully captured their attention that character potential is being realized and less of a concern for them.

I’m willing to admit that the main difference might actually be the profile of each of the arranged discussion. The DC group may have naturally been more lively due to the fact that Dan DiDio himself lead the group. The Marvel group on the other hand was in the hands of one of their PR guys. This explanation would leave me wondering why the Marvel room didn’t spring to life as Joe Quesada took to the stage during the last 10 minutes of the session.

The difference between the companies may be real or imagined. Identifying elements of their culture and trying to determine how it translates into the final product is hard enough to do. The contrast between these two major publishers adds a value that may be greater then the sum of their parts. I’m looking froward to observing more of those differences as the Fan Expo continues.

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