My job mostly involves sitting in my bed drawing pictures. So, ever since I wrote:
Old D&D = DC
New D&D = Marvel
I've been sitting here drawing and wondering what exactly that means.
Helpfully, right after I wrote that, James Mal posted about these two comics:
Now, if you knew absolutely nothing else about them other than their titles and (not even seeing these covers) I said "Hey, buddy, you wanna read 'Kamandi: The Last Boy On Earth' or 'Devil Dinosaur' I bet you'd probably say "Devil Dinosaur".
Why? Because you know it is going to be about a fucking dinosaur--maybe even a devil one. And that is cool. Whereas all you know about Kamandi is he's a boy, and if the fact that there's a boy is--by itself--enough to make you want to read something (which is, by the way, creepy), then why not choose from one of the innumerable comic books with more than one boy in them?
Now, of course, this little experiment gives Kamandi short shrift because, really, Kamandi isn't just about a boy, it's about this crazy fucking mutant animal Kirbyfuture in which he lives, full of Communi-Bears and Mao-Tse-Tigers. View its genius:
About now you're wondering what the fuck my point is. It is the following thing:
Here are two comics, they are by the same guy (Jack Kirby) they are from roughly the same era (the '70s--when everything was primitive and hairy and DC and Marvel were almost indistinguishable) but one's DC and one's Marvel. And--perhaps just coincedentally--the "Which would you choose based on the name alone?" question points up the difference between DC and Marvel.
The Marvel Comic is about an awesome mutant weirdo, the DC Comic is about a place where there are awesome mutant weirdoes.
DC Comics--like Old School D&D--are more about the world being interesting, whereas Marvel Comics--like new D&D--are more about the characters being interesting.
Marvel characters--as is commonly remarked--had way more personality than DC characters. The Silver Age Green Lantern and Flash were--as people--nearly indistinguishable. But DC characters always inhabited distinctive worlds. Superman, as a guy, is just a really nice guy (zzzzzzz)--but he had the Phantom Zone and the Bottled City of Kandor and Braniac and Luthor and 1000 kinds of Kryptonite and girlfriends whose names always started with "L" and a Fortress of Solitude and a million other wacky concepts. Batman--while by no means personality-free--was, shall we say, a simpler and more mythic sort of gritty badass than Marvel's Wolverine--but Batman played the straight man against the expressionist-noir funhouse that was Gotham City and its glossy parade of psychotic giggling theme villains. Batman needs Gotham like a 1st level human fighter with a sword named Ed needs a kobold-blighted, Alice-In-Wonderland-inspired labyrinth stuffed full of twisted deathtraps designed by a sadistic wizard.
Marvel characters--on the other hand--all lived in New York City. Their villains and adventures were often only half as important as their own personal problems (take a look at the recent Hulk and Iron Man movies: clearly nobody at Marvel told the filmmakers "if you're gonna use the Hulk, you gotta have The Leader"--there's no iconic "go-to" villain--or environment--for either character. Whereas you knew Superman and Batman were gonna fight Luthor and the Joker). They were always meant to be a little more "relatable" and human and "real" and so the stories were more about them than where they went.
This is like the old RPGs vs, the newer ones: do your players want to be amazing things or do they want to see amazing things?
And now we come to a commonplace: Marvel Comics (which were the hip new kids on
the block in the '60s around when DC Comics were turning 25) are edgier and more realistic than DC Comics. And more popular.
The DC universe grew out of a company producing stories for little kids about shit like Wonder Woman fighting a giant communist egg with a prehensile mustache. The Marvel Universe grew out of a company producing stories for teenagers in high school about a teenage Peter Parker in high school.
So Marvel was more relevant, real, hip, etc. On the other hand, ever since the '80s, postmodern geniuses like Alan Moore, Grant Morrison and Keith Giffen seem to be much more at home in the DC Universe--and they seem to embrace the total bugfuck lunacy of it. Moore made a Green Lantern that was a fucking planet--hell, Grant Morrison even brought back Egg Fu.
Yes, Marvels were more rational and serious and mature*, but then how immature do you have to be to turn to a medium based on 32-page installments of bubbles of fortune-cookie-length text squeezed into pictures designed to be easily legible at 3 inches tall in mechanical reproduction for your dose of rational, serious, and mature? Maybe try a novel--I hear they're getting pretty good these days.
The idea that DC is, in a larger sense, less "mature" than Marvel seems to be the same kind of argument that'd suggest that the guy who just sits and watches Star Trek and thinks it's fun to watch is less "mature" than some guy on scifitalk.com who thinks that Star Trek would be way better if the relationship between Kirk and Yeoman Rand was explored with more realism and depth.
And herein lies the game comparison:
Yes, the new games make a hell of a lot more sense. I appreciate how newer versions of D&D have you making a Reflex Save to avoid explosions rather than making a Save Vs. Rods, Staves, And Wands to avoid explosions, I like that if you have a 13 in something that's always a +1 instead of having to consult a chart with percentile dice and chances out of 6 every time I roll a 13 for an ability. I like the fact that the newer games provide a way that I can build any kind of character I want with enough patience and x.p. rather than telling me that cause I'm a wizard I can't hold a sword. This all lets me get real into the character and the world and makes me feel like it's real and I'm actually there the same way that knowing Captain America wears stars and stripes for a reason I can understand makes him easier to believe in than Wonder Woman, who is a Greek chick from mythology (sort of) who wears stars and stripes (on her bustier and briefs) for no reason that has ever made sense to anyone.
But then again-- why not have a hot chick in a star-spangled stripper costume tying up fucking giant ants with a magic rope? That fucking rules. And so then again I appreciate the way that the old game (written for adults, by adults--though illustrated by wacky amateurs) seems to know it's a fucking game and if you want to do something hip and cool and grown up, then you might want to do that in a few hours, because right now all us adults have decided to sit down and play a fucking game about elves and so there's no reason we shouldn't just admit to ourselves that that's what we're doing and go ahead and next time you say "Demogorgon" have Demogorgon show up riding a glowing crystalline flail snail made from babies because you said his name one too many times and that he might as well zap you with a ray that sends you to a dimension where the Bugbears are all named after anagrams of dead comedians while psionic manta rays chew on your face and sing showtunes and everything is fluorescent orange because that would be rad.
So yeah. I can see both sides of it. I have as many Daredevils as Doom Patrols in my closet--which is good, 'cause a good DM doesn't get to decide what kind of funnybook s/he's running--the players do, and mine are all over the map:
Satine's a Marvel girl, all the way. Her rogue is dead--killed by goblins who talk backwards--and it's a big deal. She was in love with that character and it's dead as Jean Grey--she wants to roll on the "Random Personality Traits" table for her new character and play it like she means it. She wants to know who this 2nd level Monk is and why, exactly, she's chosen Crushing Lotus Strike. Connie, on the other hand, rides in pig balloons, makes friends with manticores, and jumps in an underground river of rusted black goo just to see what's in there. And I get the feeling she'd be doing it no matter what character she was playing.
So, yeah, that's what I think about that.
"Be awesome vs. See awesome". There is time for both, but some people vastly prefer one to the other.
(Re thinking this, years later, I'd say "Do awesome"--or at least "Do Interesting"--is something they have in common. Would you rather the awesome thing you do come out of how awesome you are or how awesome the thing you ran into is?)
* I do not want to have to point out the same obvious point over and over here, so please do note this is all relative. Obviously Marvel's "maturity" and "realism" (like the "realism" of any kind of D&D) is relative to the average level of realism in a typical DC comic--that's all. Also obviously: Marvel and DC comics are more like each other than they are like any other thing on earth, just as different RPGs are more like each other than they are like any other kind of game.
Also, dude, I don't know what kind of comics you like, or why, but trust me when I say I know that you don't have to read certain comics to like a certain game or vice versa. Whatever combination you like, I believe you in advance.