Superheroes are dominating pop culture. Everyone knows who Superman and Spider-Man are. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is the highest grossing film franchise of all time, with a worldwide box office revenue of $22.9 billion, according to Statista. The DC Extended Universe made much less — $5.78 billion — but still places 11th, and the Batman series alone is in ninth place.
Where did these powerhouses come from? Both franchises got their start in comic books, the true origin of all modern superheroes. Standalone comics began as reprints from newspapers in the early 20th century, but that all changed in the summer of 1938 with the debut of Superman in Action Comics #1 and the beginning of the “Golden Age” of comics.
Flash forward to 2021, and tens of thousands of comics are available digitally, accessible from your computer, phone or even your gaming console. The forefathers of superheroes, Marvel Comics and DC Comics, each have their own service offering all their generational comic content online: Marvel Unlimited and DC Universe Infinite.
The services are comparable in the amount and excellence of content. Marvel versus DC is an ageless argument, and it’s completely up to personal preference — though I have to say, the villains in DC’s universe are much more compelling.
[Review: “What If…?” fails to live up to its premise]
Marvel Unlimited and DC Universe Infinite have nearly complete libraries of their respective works, and it’s super fun to read these iconic stories and see the art that has inspired our generation’s superhero mania.
Whether you’re reading the very first Deadpool comic or starting the fantastical DC Dark Knights: Death Metal series — where Wonder Woman has a chainsaw — there is endless entertainment on both platforms. You can’t go wrong with either choice based on simply comic quality or quantity.
The first problem with having access to thousands of comics is figuring out where to start. It can feel very overwhelming, so each service has ways of making its content more manageable.
Marvel has “reading lists” while DC has “collections,” but both organize select comics into succinct categories by character, plot or even writers and artists. Both also promote comics related to recent film and TV releases. Shang-Chi, for example, marks the front page of Marvel Unlimited while Harley Quinn and The Suicide Squad are highlighted on DC Universe Infinite. Adding these organizational groups to your library makes the immense amount of content seem more palatable.
The features offered are unsurprisingly very similar. Both allow users to add content to their own library for easy access. Both let users download content for offline reading on iPhone apps. Both can display comics page by page or panel by panel. All in all, the services are indistinguishable — except for a few major variances.
First, there’s a price difference. DC Universe Infinite is $7.99 a month, while Marvel Unlimited is $9.99. Trust me, that $2 a month is a huge difference, not only to your wallet but also to the intuitiveness of the platform.
Marvel Unlimited is significantly more user-friendly on an iPhone. The interface isn’t as clunky as DC’s, and the search function is a godsend. On DC Universe Infinite, there’s simply a search bar, and results are grouped by collection, series, storyline and more. The user is left scrolling through tons of irrelevant content just to find what they want.
[Review: “Shang-Chi” rises above the average origin story]
On Marvel Unlimited, browsing is much more refined. Filters include character, series, release dates, creators and even relevant plotlines. Those results can then be sorted by title, age or newness to the digital format. Instead of having the user page through different sections of the virtual library, Marvel does all the work.
It’s paramount to have an efficient way to navigate through libraries this massive. DC fails in this category, and Marvel’s superior user interface may well be worth the extra $2 a month.
But overall, I think both platforms are underutilized products. It’s definitely worth the money — whether you choose Marvel, DC or both — to have access to this much entertainment if you’re interested in the superhero genre.
They easily pay for themselves as I’ve seen single, physical issues of comics go for around $15 to $20, and they only take about 10 minutes to read. Not to mention getting your hands on some of the rarer editions is almost impossible — an original copy of Action Comics #1 sold for $3.25 million.
Comics are the synthesis of art and story. Dazzling to the eye and the mind, they can engage readers in a unique way, and superheroes are unique symbols. They represent the best of humanity in extremes — strength, intelligence and selflessness. Now you can read about them in between classes, before watching them on the big screen or to spark your own creativity. With DC Universe Infinite or Marvel Unlimited, the ability to fly is that much closer.