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Question
Dear Mr. Sørensen,

My name is Mira and I am an 8th grader from Indonesia, currently working on a website for this annual competition called National History Day. This year, the theme chosen for us is "Exploration, Encounter, and Exchange in History," and my group and I have decided to make DC vs Marvel as our topic. If you dont mind, we would like to ask you to answer some of our questions regarding the topic of superhero comic books.

Here are our questions:

Which one would you say is better - Marvel or DC? Why?
What influence do superhero comics have to the world? How is it significant in history?
What was the idea behind the creation of Marvel’s first superhero - The Human Torch?

We hope we didnt burden you with our questions :)
Thank you very much! and have a great day :D

Answer
Hello Mira,

Thank you for your questions.

1. Whether one likes Marvel or DC best is a matter of individual taste, but personally I like Marvel best. To me, Marvel has the better characters and the better stories, and for me the American archetype of the superhero reached its height with the Marvel comics (comprising a "Marvel Universe"; a great shared world described in thousands of comic books) coordinated by Stan Lee in the period of 1961 to (approximately) 1991. In this "Marvel Age" era, Marvel's impressive world of heroes was expertly interconnected under a unifying editorial vision, first by Stan Lee and later by Jim Shooter. After 1991, the unifying vision of the shared world and the quality of the stories degraded and have never really reacher their former levels. This is all just my opinion, of course. I like Marvel because I think their heroes best define what I call the superhero archetype: a progressive, selfless and morally heroic idealization of a man (or woman), who symbolizes a distillment of all the greatest human values. Such a hero is a symbol of the moral heroism that all humans should aspire to and model themselves after. In general, I think that Marvel's heroes and storylines embody this heroic and human ideal much better than DC's heroes and storylines do.

2. Superheroes are a commercial, American art form, driven by popular taste. The first real superhero was Superman, whose appearance in 1938 became a huge success, thus spawning many other superheroes. I think superheroes are popular because they are admirable characters who fight for good against evil. Humanity has always loved heroes and role models to aspire to, and I think superheroes are some of the best role models ever created. The more we are exposed to stories about superheroes, the more we can be inspired to start behaving like heroes ourselves and help solve the world's problems. So good superhero stories inspire us to create a better world. Historically, since the appearance of Superman, but perhaps especially since the appearance of Marvel in 1961, superheroes have comprised a modern American mythology, which is now getting stronger due to the great superhero movies being shown around the world. Perhaps more people are starting to use superheroes as role models and idols, instead of older kinds of heroes and gods. I think this is very significant and a very good thing, suitable for both children and adults.

3. The Human Torch was first created to be a "science fiction monstrosity" (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Torch_%28android%29); he was just another "pulp fiction" character from an era of science fiction magazine heroes and villains (along the lines of Doc Savage and many others). Remember, at his creation in 1939 there was no company called Marvel Comics; it was a different company, called Timely, which didn't have any tradition of doing superheroes yet. However, the Human Torch was quickly turned into a hero alongside other characters like Namor and Captain America, and used to fight the Nazis in World War II.

Regards,
- Tue Sørensen

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Tue Sørensen

Expertise

I can answer questions about the *contents* of most superhero and sci-fi comics (and also fantasy/sword'n'sorcery like Elfquest and Conan the Barbarian) and also about the writers and artists, but not about the *condition* of your comics (i.e. I will not grade your comics or evaluate their value). I am very knowledgable about American comics in general, esp. Marvel, but also DC and indies. I cannot answer questions about Japanese manga comics, which I know very little about. The majority of my expertise spans from comics published between 1960 and 2000, but if you have questions about before or after those dates, I probably know enough to find the info you need.

Experience

I was an avid comic book collector from the early 1980s to around 2000 (and have still been buying little bits and pieces thereafter), and I still have my collection of 18,000+ comics, incl. some European ones (I hail from Denmark). I have been an active participant in comics fandom; I have written about comics in fanzines, APAzines, magazines and letter columns, and worked briefly in a comic shop (would love to have done that as a career, but here in Denmark we only have a couple of shops, so that opportunity is hard to come by). I have also attempted to write scripts for comics based on my own ideas - projects which I'm still working on.

Education/Credentials
I have studied Biology, English and history at university level.

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