Both Marvel and DC have decades of history and hundreds of characters. This is great if you like to be completely engrossed in a fictional universe, but finding and buying all of these comics can get really expensive, really fast.
Fortunately, both DC and Marvel have made their large collections more accessible through online services: DC Extended Universe (DCEU) and Marvel Unlimited. By paying a monthly or annual fee, you get access to thousands of digitized comics that stretch all the way back to the companies’ earliest releases.
Sounds good, right? Especially if you e.g. is a contributing editor to a book-themed website and needs access to large volumes of comics in order to carry out your work. (If you’ve read almost any of my articles, you’ve definitely seen me discuss and post panels from comics I read through these services.) But if you have not yet taken the plunge, it makes sense to wonder what it costs and how much you get for your money. Hopefully this article will answer some of your questions.
In the next few hundred words, I will review the perks offered by each service, how much it costs, and even compare the two services, all to help you decide which one is right for you – or if you think it’s worth jumping out for both of them like I did!
Note: All comments here are based on my personal experience with the services’ annual subscription options. They also offer monthly and, in Marvel’s cases, annual plus.
DC Extended Universe
This is the more basic of the two services for reasons that I will explain in the next section. While they used to offer access to DC’s TV shows through this platform, all shows have since been moved to HBO Max, so you now only have access to their comics through DCEU.
But as I said, DC has one lot of the comic book history behind, so if you read a lot of comics, you will still get a lot out of the service. This includes stories from the very early days (although the scan quality of these may be a bit unclear) to ongoing titles. Newer editions will generally be available six months after their official release.
I like this service interface much better than Marvel’s: it’s nice and easy to use, and it automatically keeps track of which books you read – just log in and there they are. You can even stop in the middle of a problem and it marks your place so you can jump in again.
Just based on my personal taste in comics, I’ve noticed bigger gaps in DC’s service than Marvel’s, especially when it comes to Silver Age stories. But they still have more good things on than I could even read in a lifetime, so it’s hard to complain (but I do anyway).
Current price: $ 74.99 annual subscription
First of all, because this confused me a bit: Marvel Unlimited is different from Marvel Insider. Insider is a free rewards system that gives you a certain number of points for each activity you perform on marvel.com. Reading a cartoon, for example, is 50 points. You can use these points to purchase digital prizes such as comics, wallpaper and access to exclusive behind-the-scenes videos.
I do not use Insider: As I recall, I only signed up because they kept teasing me about it and would not let me read comics through Unlimited until I did. But hey, if it sounds good to you to collect digital prizes, then what do you have to lose? (If you first sign up for Marvel Insider and collect 75,000 points, you can also get a one-month discount on a new unlimited subscription.)
As for Unlimited, I like it less than DCEU. First, is their user interface a bit awful? Unlike DCEU, they do not automatically save your space in a cartoon. And heaven help you if you try to use their search engine: I just searched for “Amazing Spider-Man 149” and got a lot of rubbish like this.
I usually end up connecting my request to an internet search engine, e.g. “marvel.com amazing spider-man 149.” It works pretty well.
Just going after the comics I have read, I feel like Marvel has better scan quality on very old comics. However, they have also engaged in some honestly ugly repaintings of certain subjects, especially during Walt Simonson’s race on Thor. However, this does not happen that often (again, only based on what I have read).
Current price: $ 69 annual subscription
Which is best?
I will give a cop-out answer and say that it depends on what you are looking for.
Both sides offer pretty much the same service for about the same price, but Marvels is harder to navigate. With DCEU, it’s so much easier to read and search in comics. On the other hand, when combined with Marvel Insider, Unlimited gives you the chance to earn lots of extra points for digital prizes that can appeal to die-hard fans.
Both services add new comics on a regular basis so you always get more for your money. Individual, physical editions of current comics cost around $ 4 or $ 5, so it’s worth the entrance fee if you read more than 14-15 comics a year. Even if you are a dinosaur like me who prefers to read physical comics, it is easy to recognize the value and savings of signing up for one or both of these services.
But really, it depends on whether you prefer to read Marvel comics or DC comics. I imagine it’s the driving force behind most people’s decision. Rest assured that both DC and Marvel will provide you with plenty of reading material at a reasonable price.