Marketing Strategy

28th April 2016

Marvel vs DC, the super battle of the brands

by Gordon Greenan, Web Developer

Coke vs Pepsi, McDonalds vs Burger King, Team Jacob vs Team Edward, all timeless battles waged through the ages and never to be decided. There is, though, no greater battle fought by such (super) powerful adversaries than Marvel comics vs Detective comics.

These two giants have been going at it since the 1930’s, first in comic books then on TV, video games, movies and just about any kind of t-shirt, jumper, hat, slippers and pyjamas that you can fit in your wardrobe.


I’ll be honest, I’m OBSESSED with comic books, I have been since I was able to read fluently. Making my Spider-Man die-cast figure fight countless battles against Action Man and Ray Stantz from Ghostbusters. Spider-man always won.

Comic books weren’t as readily available then as they are now but I managed my fair share, once every few months I would acquire a new issue from the newsagents around the corner from my grannies. The wait at times was unbearable. Almost as bad was the wait for the Saturday morning X-Men cartoon in the 90’s (that theme tune though!). Each issue, show or make-believe figure fight left me wanting more, desperately eager to find out what adventure Spidey or Batman was up to next.

Fast forward, erm…some years and now I read at least one comic book a day and I’ve seen almost every single cartoon, tv show and movie the two brands have to offer. I have t-shirts, boxer briefs (get back ladies!), funko-pop vinyl figures and a half finished marvel themed tattoo’d arm thrown in for good measure, Yet I still yearn for more. Admittedly I’m a comic geek and I conceded a long time ago that I’m addicted but not everyone holds such passion and gusto for the medium and its never ending flood of, well, everything. That brings me to three big questions. Who wins? Is it all getting too much? Will it ever?

Analytical data thinkers Assemble!

Being a web developer I obviously love the net and with it the access we have to analytical data and the trends that data reveals.

Lets have a look at some Google trends data, specifically what was searched for most on Google, and see if we can answer the first of those big questions i posed earlier, who wins?

If we compare the overall popularity of each brand and how that popularity has shifted since 2004 we see a steady rise in Marvel interest with a sharp spike at the end of 2012. DC’s interest on the other hand remains pretty much the same over the past 12 years.


Focusing on Marvel for a moment, primarily because the data presented to us for the marvellous Marvel is the most sporadic and intriguing. Each time there is a major spike in the brands interest it conveniently coincides with the release of a movie based on a marvel character. 2004 – Spider-man 2, 2008 – Robert Downey Jnr’s Iron Man, 2012 – Avengers Assemble. You get the idea.

Whilst DC released movies such as Christian Bales Batman Trilogy, not that much more interest was generated for the DC brand. That specific trend seems to be consistent for them. What we can most likely take from that is that DC don’t attach themselves as a brand to the movieverse to the extent Marvel do. They focus more on the brand of the character e.g you’re not likely to see the title ‘DC comics Batman’ whereas ‘Marvels Avengers’ is much more common place.

To try and further cement that theory of DC’s focus being more on the specific character rather than them as a brand, lets have a gander at what a Batman vs Marvel trends comparison looks like.


Well would you look at that, the Caped Crusader, the Dark Knight, the Bat, smashes Marvel with a heafty KAPOW! It’s a steady battle at times but those three large spikes for Batman coincide with, yep, you guessed it, the releases of, Batman Begins, Dark Knight and Dark Knight Rises. We don’t see those spikes at all in the Marvel vs DC comparison.

Movies are undoubtedly what peaks the most interest for Marvel and DC and the characters/creations under their sizable umbrellas but lets not forget the merchandise. The t-shirts, baseball caps, computer games, mugs, pyjamas etc, will also have a major impact on the data we‘ve looked at.

I also did some other random comparisons on clothing and general merchandise, not much showed for the overall company brands, Marvel being the bigger hit for sure.

Then I got more specific and compared Batman, Spider-man, Superman, Iron-man, etc. Batman, yet again, won most of the interest battles with Spider-man in second.

I could spend years comparing company against specific characters or character against character (and believe me, I’d be happy to!) and I’d get different results each time.

However as an aside, Marvel has made 45% more revenue than DC for movie releases overall whilst Spider-man makes $1.3 billion p.a. retail sales compared to Batmans rather un-heroic $434 million. Bruce Wayne would be VERY unhappy to know he’s been beaten in the money stakes by a socially awkward school kid. These figures don’t have any sway in the online interest data but it still suggests that most interest comparisons would see Marvel win 9 times out of 10.

Social man? Super media? Superman?

Google trends give us some great and wide info but it’s just a peak through one looking glass. If we look into another one, say, social media (since that’s a fair size these days!) I think it goes a long way to answering at least one of the questions this article asks.

Check out this awesome infographic by online marketing and SEO researchers SEMrush.


There are some staggering numbers in amongst those. Marvel has 3.2 million followers on twitter, 669 million views on YouTube and 21 million likes on Facebook!! DC has some decent numbers too but they don’t touch Marvel in terms of social following and exposure. Remember, these channels are about awareness and fan engagement with the brands, not direct sales of merchandise or movie tickets so in terms of Marvel brand awareness, they’re HUGE!

These figures go a long way to answering who wins the head-to-head brand battle with Marvel HULK SMASH-ing DC with a social media infinity gauntlet!

Holy ‘I don’t know’ Batman!

So we’ve looked at trends data and some sales numbers and the results are, well, inconclusive in so much as determining if the comic book universe will ever get too much for our mortal world. The versus battle is a little more conclusive.

I honestly didn’t really think I’d find a definitive answer but the steady growth in interest for all things ‘comic book brand’, coupled with Marvel and DC having multiple movies rostered through until 2020 (we’ve seen what that does to boost interest, social following and undoubtedly profits) mean that I can honestly say I don’t think it will get too much. Certainly not in the next 10 – 15 years anyway, possibly not ever and this comic geek hopes it doesn’t.

I ruddy love comics and all that comes with them and so it seems does half the worlds population now.

The characters and stories Marvel and DC have created and re-served in many different media formats are astonishing, they pull you in, bring you joy and there is something for everyone. Mums and dads, little toddlers, geeks, Harley Davidson-riding, tobacco chewing men, you name it, they’ve got it.

There are a million and one reasons why both brands are so popular and those reasons will be different for each person. I’ll leave it up to you to ponder why you love specific elements or all of what Marvel and DC have to offer because of course, you do.

As the great man Stan Lee once said “Excelsior!”

Gordon Greenan, Web Developer

Marvel vs DC, the super battle of the brands