How do two companies control such an enormous slice of the pie? By bumming everyone out. In recent years, Spider-Man has killed Mary Jane with his carcinogenic spidersperm. Batman has become a single parent. Captain America and Iron Man are hashing out national security issues by hitting each other in the face while rounding up unregistered superheroes and sending them to a Gitmo-style prison camp after a superpowered September 11, 2001. The once cheerful Elongated Man saw his wife raped, then burned to death. And the new Batgirl [sic] is an evil, lesbian junkie. No wonder Superman has spent the past year with his forehead buried in his hands, weeping softly.
…With names like “Infinite Crisis,” “Identity Crisis,” “Secret Wars,” “Civil Wars,” “World War Hulk,” and “World War III” their comic series have become an inaccessible haze of wars and crises only a true believer can follow.
In order to shoehorn 70 years of comics into one universe, DC Comics has had to invent over 30 different Earths, causing so much confusion that they eventually destroyed them all in the 1980s (“Crisis on Infinite Earths“) and then recreated them all in 2005’s “Infinite Crisis,” which ended with Superboy punching reality so hard it broke. Fans love this kind of insular, self-referential story partly because familiarity with these details is what separates insiders from outsiders and insiders have their privileges.
Pretty trenchant analysis, for a short piece written for a general audience.
Luckily, “comics” as a field has completely outgrown such bullshit. We can quite easily spend thousands of dollars every semester on great comics that feature neither super-rape nor esoteric “continuity” handshakes.