Do Marvel and DC really copy each other? It’s been noted that they seem to have a lot of ideas in common these days — Cap and Bats having similar seeming deaths and resurrections, similar zombie focused events followed by the dawning of new “lighty brighty” movements — Brightest Day and the Heroic Age. But is it really so? Over at Newsarama,
Troy Brownfield investigates the phenomenon in a piece called “From Blackest Night to Necrosha: Dispelling The Copycat Myth”, so you know he doesn’t quite buy i:

It happens every few months. A new storyline or new direction gets announced, and some fans will inevitably say something to the effect of, “Hey! Company M copied that from Company D!” or vice versa. Granted, there are probably going to be times at any level of entertainment when one story or real-life event inspires another. Several, even. However, there’s a certain point surrounding these kinds of assessments that fails to take one basic fact into account: it takes a loooong time from conception to execution before any issue of any comic hits the stands. We’re going to take a look at the notion of the Copycat Myth, including speaking with creators regarding their take on the idea.

Brownfield’s argument is that it takes so long to create a comic book – or God knows, an event — that such things can’t quickly be set in motion. Which makes sense as far as it goes. But then how do you explain this:
Heroic Age
and this:

Jla 44 Cvr Solicit Jpeg
So you’re telling me that the new Avengers featuring Gorilla Man and the JLA featuring Congorilla is sheer coincidence? YOU expect me to believe that comic book writers love giant apes? Come on now. Next, you’ll be telling me they like Dr. Who.

Robot 6 had some good thoughts on the Heroic Age image by the way.


  1. Superman / Wonder Man
    Justice League / Fantastic Four
    Who’s Who / OHotMU
    Crisis on Infinite Earths / Secret Wars

    Long time? If the team is right, one month to produce, one month to edit and print. Previews works two months ahead, so if Company X learns about a long range plan from Company Z, they can quickly plot a story and then dialog the story once the pencils are done. Lettering is done concurrently with coloring.

  2. Hello, all.

    Torsten: I allowed within the piece that there are such things as imitations, direct homage, etc. We know those things happen. I’m largely talking about events that have story seeds stretching back years (like Blackest Night). In fact, the first piece of set-up for Crisis on Infinite Earths came along in New Teen Titans #21 in July of 1982, years before the actual event started (though Wolfman, who wrote both, was already researching and plotting). Crisis was also announced at a con years prior to publication, and was promoted with an early house ad that called the event “DC Universe: Crisis on Infinite Earths”. The DCU name was later dropped. Secret Wars, on the other hand, had more to do with being a toy line tie-in, as was DC’s Super Powers.

    And to Heidi: I did write a bit at [email protected] about the proliferation of talking gorillas on big-time teams ( My conclusion? Some team books can just be improved by talking gorillas.

    And incidentally, I hope you enjoy your new place. Believe me, switching landlords can be a pain in the ass.

  3. Going back even further (long before the direct market), there’s occasionally been speculation that Marvel’s X-Men were somehow a copy of DC’s Doom Patrol inasmuch as both series are about teams of outcast superpowered characters. Given the timing of both series’ debuts, that similarity has been chalked up to coincidence too, although Arnold Drake apparently had some doubts about that…

  4. In other news, Captain Marvel has a cape, can fly… just like…

    The utterly inbred quality of modern superhero comics that makes them unintelligible to all but 40 year old comic book guys (takes one to know one…) is far worse than a few plotlines.

    Groth & Gerber’s classic interview where Gerber said that the comics creators of 1978 (or so) had virtually Comics Code approved imaginations nailed this.

  5. Here we go again – blame it on old white guys. There is more than enough evidence that all demographics are getting into comics: old/young, new readers/returning readers, male/female, white/black/asian/hispanic, etc etc etc. Super-hero comics are just as easy to understand as any other form of entertainment. What you are really jealous of, is that those “40 year olds” haven’t lost their ability to remember what it was like to be blown away by those images on the page that captured their imaginations as kids.

    In other words – get you heads out of the sand people. Which is worse, the people who enjoy their comics? Or the people that read comics and make fun of others JUST LIKE THEMSELVES?

  6. I know that Hank McCoy is supposed to be very feline lately, but his pic up above looks more like the apish version. So Marvel’s got two apes? Top [i]THAT[/i] DC!! (Actually, Gorilla Grodd is pretty unique as Marvel doesn’t seem to have any psychic gorillas. Maybe they’ll put Xemnu on the fast track for the psychic hairy being spot…)

    One way Marvel lags is in the prominence of any of their female characters. I count 3 DC heroines (with a possible 4th there in the center) on that cover to their Black Widow. Whither Spider-Woman? Invisible Woman? Storm?

  7. You’ll notice that most of the characters in the Heroic Age – save Hawkeye and the monkey — have movie exposure. There’s a Black Widow movie coming up, something that can’t be said for other Marvel HERoines.

  8. Fans tend to focus on or exaggerate similarities, while ignoring differences. DC didn’t have a “Civil War,” “Secret Invasion,” or “Dark Reign” event. Marvel’s “Heroic Age” promo will be, in practice, less the opposite of “Dark Reign” than business as usual prior to “Civil War.” Even if Bendis, for example, wanted to change his style of writing, he couldn’t. That would be difficult for anyone.


  9. One indication that the Heroic Age might not be quite what people expect is the use of the Corruptor in NEW AVENGERS #61. Bendis writes him as a pervert who uses his mind control power in, um, unsavory ways. At one point, he tells Bucky, “Kiss the gun, Captain. Kiss it.” He tries to record Bucky killing Steve Rogers with his gun, but the plan fails.

    At least one blogger caught the fetishistic use of the power, but most reviewers and fans who haven’t read fetish fiction will miss it.

    Later in the issue, Mandrill uses his mind control power to dominate Spider-Woman.

    Bendis has used mind control before, most notably with the Purple Man in ALIAS, so he’s probably very much aware of how mind control is used in fetish and B&D fiction. That approach to characters isn’t going to disappear in the “Heroic Age.”


  10. C’mon, folks – Marvel and DC have been ripping each other off since the 1940s. The “long time” excuse in various areas regarding this concept has always been nonsense, since BOTH companies take almost exactly the same time to do anything, anyway. Plans overheard at a golf game or party quickly make the gossip circuit, be it sales figures or printing plans.

    I’ve been around the bush often on this point, with Mr. Evanier and many other sage observers of the scene, and I always end up with the same result – WAY too many (dozens upon dozens) near identical moves with individual hero characters, super teams, plots and promos – you name it – to be coincidence.

    Yet still many (no doubt because they think it might negatively affect their career), seem to remain in denial on this. But let me also add that for many decades both DC and Marvel also worked out of the same damn New York building! Geez, what more does any rational mind need to make the obvious conclusion there?!

  11. I actually think at this point both of the “Big Two” companies are in the Nostalgia Mining business. They crack open their vaults and start looking for a good vein to pull out and sell to the folks who are still buying. The fact that they’re both turning to “happier, more heroic superheroes” as a selling point is precisely because they’ve got their Nostalgia meters out and have become convinced that “happier, more heroic superheroes” are what people want to buy now. They may be right, though I have my doubts that the writing crews at the Big Two are actually able to play heroic superheroism straight. Part of me thinks that they’ve been spending the last decade reproducing the rhythms of the 90s – a turn to the grim and dark at the beginning of the decade then a shift to a nostalgic look back at the Silver Age at the end of the decade. Maybe they figure things move in cycles and they’re trying to control the cycle for a change. The problem is that the shift at the end of the 90s was an organic one, as writers who wanted to write superhero heroics straight got more popular and became the direction setters for the line. This seems more manufactured and less organic. (Or perhaps I’m just more cynical now than I was 15 years ago).

    So no, I don’t think that this is a case of direct copying. I think this is more of the Big Two trying to figure out what’s going to sell next and both hitting on the idea of building up the heroes again (possibly with an eye towards another “turn to darkness” in another decade – oh comics, where would you be without the endless recycling of everything). I think direct copying DOES happen though, but the lag time is a bit longer and the copying is a bit more obvious in that it’s direct plot points rather than “overall theme”. For example, I think that the Norman Osborne stuff going on in Marvel right now is a direct copy of the “President Luthor” storyline that DC did a while back. It’s Marvel pulling a “hey, we can do that story better than DC did”. Similarly I think that the Blackest Night crossover is DC copying the seemingly endless Marvel Zombies books. Because they looked at it and said “hey zombie superheroes – we can do a story better than Marvel did with that”.

  12. I can’t believe this is still a debate. as to whether they’re copying each other. The denial seems to stem from people who spend a lot of money buying the event books from the Big Two or creators who don’t want get fired by admitting to some level of plagiarism

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