I prefer DC.
Thirteen year old me would be flabbergasted by that statement. Never in a million years would I have ever thought that I would like DC more than I like Marvel.
Here's the thing about Marvel, and I'm sure many will disagree: there became a point where their need to be relevant, to be the "real world" got in the way of their own universe. Instead of embracing what they were, they constantly attempted to graft on to the world around them. That was a winning philosophy in the 60s and even in the 70s, but by the 80s it no longer made sense and, to be honest, Marvel had stopped doing it. That's why the New Universe was created.
Sad to say, but I think it was 9/11 that ultimately led to Marvel wagging the dog. From that point on, real world issues became a focus for Marvel comics even if that focus made no sense. It would eventually lead to Civil War and the beginning of Marvel's relentless stream of events.
DC has never had to concern itself with, well, being "with it." It's never been "with it." I mean, don't get me wrong, they made the effort. Bob Haney alone brought more hip lingo to the comics than an army of writers. DC tried to play Marvel's game on a regular basis and almost always failed. But the fact that they failed meant that no one expected it from them. DC was never going to be the cool comic book company and it took them decades to figure that out.
What DC had was scale. DC was where epics lived. That was their bread and butter even if they didn't realize it. DC had legacy. It had fictional cities. It had history. It was able to fully embrace all the insanity that shared superhero universes create.
Since it was a part of a large corporation (unlike Marvel until they were bought by Disney a few years ago), it often seemed like DC didn't care about sales. They were much less focused on chasing trends, it seemed, at least post-Crisis. Before 1985, they'd spend twenty years trying to come up with way to be more like Marvel. But after Crisis, it seemed like cooler heads prevailed, at least for every character but Superman.
Even during the extreme 90s, DC tempered their books with the Vertigo line, not to mention Helix, Impact, Milestone, Paradox Press, and even Pirhanha Press, which was still publishing books at the beginning of the decade. DC's output has always been all over the place in both content and format.
And this began not long after Crisis on Infinite Earths. For example, in October of 1987, besides their traditional superhero comics, DC published Doc Savage, Hellblazer, a mature readers Question, Sgt Rock, the Shadow, Silverblade, Slash Maraud, Sonic Disruptors, mature readers Swamp Thing, Underworld, and Wasteland. You are probably going to have to Google most of those because they're not superhero comics, they are genre expanding experiments that DC has done regularly for decades. And all of this was after Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns.
DC has never gotten the credit they deserve for pushing the medium forward, for taking chances on new concepts. Marvel had Epic, a line which didn't last long and hasn't been around for years. Every attempt at restarting or reproducing Epic has sputtered. But DC just keeps trying to the point of insanity, really, as their bottom line surely can't take so many failed comics.
I don't think it would be hyperbole to say that Marvel saved superhero comics. Even as I'm writing about my preference for DC, I want to make it clear that Marvel is vitally important and has published some amazing comics. I would not be the person I am today if it weren't for Spider-man and the X-Men. I would rather have Strikeforce Morituri and the Squadron Supreme on a desert island with me than The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen. Marvel introduced me to Eflquest. I love Marvel Comics (although not much of what they're doing now).
But DC is iconic and it's a role they've embraced, often because they've paid the price when they don't.
The New 52 made more of an effort to "ground" DC's characters than had even been done post-Crisis, when DC was theoretically trying to make itself more like Marvel. But the post-Crisis DC maintained the iconic qualities of the characters, even if creators attempted to make those characters somewhat more relatable. The post-Crisis DCU also attempted to merge pre-Crisis elements, pulling an Earth-2 Justice Society into Earth 1's history, for example. The New 52 made no efforts like that. It was to be a brand new start.
It did not go well. And, as should have been no surprising, DC's return to form has been a roaring success. Superman is Superman again and all is right with the world.
I am a sucker for fictional cities and there is no clearer line drawn between Marvel and DC than this one. Marvel has always hung its hat on being a reflection of the "real" world, so it doesn't have fictional cities (in America, at least, as the Marvel U. seems to have no problem with fictional countries).
I love Gotham. I love Metropolis. Hell, I love Opal City, Keystone, Central City, Star City, Coast City, Hub City, Fawcett City, Smallville, etc. I love them all. I love that they are based in our reality, but they are so much more. I love the maps of the cities, I love the stories that are built around these cities, and I love the characters that are dedicated to these cities. Nine times out of ten, a character who is connected to a city will win me over.
There's a lot of flexibility to a fictional city, a lot of room to flex creative muscles. Using fictional cities has also allowed DC to expand its characters beyond a single city. Marvel chose to locate itself in the real world and since the majority of Marvel's early creators lived in or around New York (where Marvel is located), that became the default location for their superheroes. It ends up being limiting, although I doubt it's a problem for most people.
I'm also a sucker for historical fiction and DC's cities have nothing but fictional histories.
And since these aren't real places, DC can (and often does) do drastic things to their cities, like destroying them and (sometimes) rebuilding them or grow a star shaped forest in the middle of them. No Man's Land is a fantastic Batman story, but it couldn't exist if the Caped Crusader fought crime in New York City.
If I remember correctly, Stan Lee was anti-sidekicks, an understandable stance if your goal is to make your superhero universe at least a little realistic. Putting a teenager in danger as a sidekick makes zero sense, but superhero comics don't usually adhere to sense. Captain America has never really had a sidekick since he was frozen in ice, yet Batman has had 5 (suck it up and finally admit that Stephanie Brown was a Robin, DC, you punks).
DC has a long history of teen (or younger) sidekicks, nearly as long as their superhero history itself. Those two things combine to create the perfect scenario for legacy characters.
Legacy characters can be problematic, I admit. Their existence suggests the passing of time, something corporately owned superheroes just don't do. But seeing characters age and evolve is one of my favorite things in comics and it happens very rarely. This is why I loved the original Earth-2 so much.
Legacy characters also allow DC to expand their lines organically. The original Robin grows up and becomes Nightwing and he gets his own book. Sidekicks get their own book and adult former sidekicks get their own book. And prior to Flashpoint, the original generation of heroes got their own books.
It's also a good (but largely untapped) option for modernizing depictions of characters. In theory, the current Robin has Middle Eastern ancestry, although you'd never know it from the comics. There was even a girl Robin! But, again, you'd never know it from the comics. Earth's Green Lanterns are a Latina and a Muslim! Kid Flash is black! Aqualad is black and gay! Blue Beetle is Latino! It's almost like superheroes are starting to reflect society or something.
All of that can happen without changing the characters that old white guys hold so precious.
The mere implication of legacy also means that DC has to at least move time forward a little bit, which has given us to of the greatest characters in recent memory: Damian Wayne and Jon Kent. Your mileage may vary with regards to the characters themselves, but Superman and Batman being fathers is everything I could have ever asked for. This is particularly true for Superman, given he's a responsible father figure.
Marvel will always hold a special spot in my comic book loving heart and it pains me to see the state they are currently in. But even if/when they finally turn it around, DC will remain my favorite.