Although DC and Marvel are both successful in their own right, the Distinguished Competition should take a page from the House of Ideas – literally.
There are so many wonderful things about both DC Comics and Marvel Comics. Both are titans of the industry and have provided fans with historic characters that have stood the test of time and evolved alongside the world. However, if there was one edge Marvel might have over DC, it is their use of a recap page. Before every story, Marvel gives the readers a brief summary of who they’re reading about, as well as the events that led up to the current issue. This creates a jumping-on point for less informed readers, making any Marvel comic more accessible.
In contrast, DC does not do this at all, relying on the title character to give context to the readers about what has happened thus far. Both groups have their reasons for setting up their comics this way, but perhaps the time has come for DC to consider adding their own recap pages given their extensive history and sometimes rebooted timeline of events.
How Marvel Makes Its Comics More Accessible to Readers
The benefits of a recap page not only inform the reader about what events took place in the issue before, but it also provides subtle references for them to go and research for greater understanding. One example is Secret Invasion #3 (by Ryan North, Francesco Mobili, Jordie Bellaire, and VC’s Joe Caramagna). It provided a recap explaining how Tony Stark is working alongside the Skrulls behind the back of Maria Hill, thus setting the overarching story of the issue. It also names several characters and groups that readers might want to look up for further contexts, such as Maria Hill, who is less prominent than Iron Man.
This in turn could entice fans to look up more comics featuring said characters. This helps Marvel turn a profit while fans get their fill of classic comics they may have missed due to not being informed. All-in-all, it is a useful tool for comic readers to keep up-to-date without having to spend too much money on other comics just to catch up. Of course, from DC’s perspective, this actually does a disservice to the writers.
DC Should Start Using Recap Pages
An interview from 2011 with former co-publisher of DC Comics, Dan Didio, revealed that he contemplated the use of recap pages at one point. However, he found it to be “lazy writing” as it deprives readers of the opportunity to read the story themselves and gain a greater understanding of what’s happening without a spoiler for previous issues they missed. This is an understandable point of view, as a recap page would rob fans of the chance to experience the previous story fresh. The only problem with this is that DC has a lot of stories to cover. They have been around for eighty-nine years, and each character has a history typically stretching back decades, and often the timelines can change due to reboots caused by their various crises.
One cannot gain a full understanding of what led to the present without understanding the past, and while a recap page could never cover nearly a century of storytelling, it would provide more context. For example, Batman #131 (by Chip Zdarsky, Mike Hawthorne, Adriano Di Benedetto, and Tomeu Morey) starts with Batman remembering how he was stranded on another Earth at the hands of Failsafe. It makes sense for him to try and recollect what happened, but it doesn’t provide context for why Failsafe did such a thing. This also wastes precious page space for writers when an in-story recap might not be necessary. There is a lot of ground to cover for any character, but a recap page might make it slightly easier for the reader to follow along, and their enjoyment is ultimately what matters most.