DC and Marvel, the “Big Two” of comic book publishing, are bitter rivals – or are they? Certainly, that’s what their respective fan bases would have you believe. Take a closer look at the behavior of both publishers, and it becomes clear that the competition between them is more friendly than acrimonious.
Need proof? Look no further than the sheer number of Marvel-related Easter eggs hidden in DC stories over the years. Hardly the actions of writers and artists with an axe to grind!
This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Not only did virtually every writer and artist at DC grow up reading comics by Marvel, most have since gone on to work for both publishers. As such, they tend to have as much affection for the Marvel Universe as they do for DC, and express this through subtle references sneakily woven into their stories.
It’s not just comics creators doing it, either. The creative team behind the “Arrowverse” – DC’s shared universe of TV shows – has been getting in on the act too, with shout-outs to Marvel cropping up in several recent episodes.
With this in mind, here are 20 Marvel Easter Eggs Hidden In DC Stories.
20 Professor Stein Offers To Make Jax Spider-Man
When Professor Stein reveals that he’s devised the means to give Jax arachnid-derived superpowers in Legends of Tomorrow, the resultant name checking of Spider-Man feels suitably organic. That said, when the pair go on to discuss webhead’s full range of powers, things do start to seem a bit surreal. Luckily, just as proceedings threaten to tip over into true Easter egg territory, the show’s writers introduce a humorous twist.
As we all know – thanks to the classic 1960s cartoon theme song – Spider-Man “does whatever a spider can,” which includes wall-crawling, web-slinging, lifting great weights and more. Unfortunately for Jax, however, all Stein is able to offer him at this stage is Spidey’s adhesive abilities, leading the dejected hero to label himself “The Spectacular Sticky Man”!
19 Green Lantern And Doctor Strange – Neighbours?
When Kyle Rayner assumed the mantle of Green Lantern from Hal Jordan, it represented a major overhaul in the series’ mythos. Many familiar elements were jettisoned – and that included the Coast City setting, with Rayner starting out his superhero career in Los Angeles before moving to New York City.
Renting an apartment in Greenwich Village, Kyle quickly becomes lost looking for his new digs at 175 Bleecker Street. Fortunately, he bumps into one of the occupants of 177A Bleecker Street – Wong, sidekick to Marvel’s Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Strange!
Helpful soul that he is, the enlightened monk escorts the rookie Green Lantern to his doorstep, even managing to sneak in a groan-worthy allusion to his mystical master in the process. It’s a cute gag that’s sure to elicit a smile from readers familiar with Strange’s fictional address, without being so overt that it confuses more casual readers.
18 Killer Frost = The Incredible Hulk
We’ve already established that Marvel characters like Spider-Man are a known quantity in the Arrowverse reality – albeit in the form of fictional characters (which is pretty meta). This made it far from shocking when Felicity Smoak dropped the name of Marvel’s angriest resident in the “Girl’s Night Out” episode of The Flash.
After Iris West’s bachelorette party devolves from a night of frivolity into a superpowered brawl between Killer Frost and Amunet Black, chaos ensues.
Caught up in the carnage, and at a loss for any better way to describe Caitlin Snow’s transformation into her vicious Killer Frost persona, Felicity remarks “You’re like the Incredible Hulk!” It’s an apt description and a funny shout-out all rolled into one, and not distracting enough to pull viewers out of the episode.
17 Fire At The X-Mansion!
The training ground for each successive generation of X-Men, Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters – colloquially known as the X-Mansion – is well-established as being situated on 1407 Graymalkin Lane, Salem Center, in Westchester County, New York.
So when a very familiar-looking lavish estate goes up in flames in a 2011 issue of Teen Titans, and the location of the blaze is said to be Westchester County, we can’t help but draw a connection!
Backing up this theory is the fact that the writer of the story in question, Scott Lobdell, is a former X-Men scribe. It seems like Lobdell was keen for a fresh start when taking over the reins of a new superteam, and what better way than to literally torch his past?
16 The Old Gods Of Marvel Make Way For The New Gods Of DC
In the annals of Marvel Comics’ history – heck, comic book history in general – artist Jack Kirby is a big deal. Kirby co-created the vast majority of Marvel’s stable of characters, including Captain America, the Hulk, the X-Men and Fantastic Four, and his creative partnership with Stan Lee is practically the “Lennon/McCartney” of the medium.
When he jumped ship for DC in the early 1970s, it was also a pretty big deal. True to his bombastic style, Kirby kicked things off with a literal bang. The first chapter of his New Gods saga opens in the closing moments of Ragnarök, with the so-called “Old Gods” dying in planet-shattering battle.
So where’s the Marvel Easter egg here? Well, it’s heavily implied that the Old Gods are actually the Marvel versions of the Asgardians Kirby developed over at Marvel. That’s right: Kirby started his new, DC-based mythology by literally destroying Marvel’s!
15 Chameleon Boy: The Original Spider-Man
A member of the Legion of Super-Heroes, Chameleon Boy is (as you’ve probably deduced) a shapeshifter. Using the antennae on his head, he’s able to scan living organisms or inanimate objects and assume their form – and this obviously encompasses the entire Animal Kingdom.
So it is that, after scanning a spider, our once guy morphed into a gigantic version of one of the eight-legged critters. The realization that he has effectively turned himself into a literal “spider-man” (or at least, “spider-humanoid”) isn’t lost on Chameleon Boy.
On the contrary, the Legionnaire takes a moment to break the fourth wall, directly addressing readers to assure them that – as the character created first – he’s been emulating arachnids far longer than Spidey. Talk about setting the record straight!
14 Wait – The DC Multiverse Contains The Marvel Universe?!
Assisted by his robotic companion Skeets, Booster Gold currently acts as a Time Master, actively safeguarding DC’s timeline from those who would seek to tamper with it. During a recent mission depicted in Action Comics, an offhand remark by Booster suggests that his efforts aren’t limited to just DC’s multiverse – apparently, he’s keeping an eye on Marvel’s many realities too!
Booster first jokes that he should refer to Skeets as “Jarvis”, a nod in the direction of Iron Man’s human butler in the Marvel Universe. He then quickly corrects himself, stating that an AI version of Jarvis applies to a different "timeline".
Taken together, these comments suggest that not only is Booster aware of Marvel’s numerous timelines and realities, but strongly hints at them being part of the DC multiverse (at least on some level).
13 “Deadpool” Acknowledges His Roots In Superman/Batman
Marvel’s Deadpool was famously inspired by DC villain Deathstroke – not only are their outfits similar, but both are highly effective assassins. This connection wasn’t lost on co-creator Fabian Nicieza, who christened the Merc with a Mouth “Wade Wilson”, a sly wink at Deathstroke’s secret identity, Slade Wilson!
Although Deadpool has since developed into a character distinct from Deathstroke, writer Joe Kelly touched on the madcap assassin’s derivative roots in 2006’s Superman/Batman annual. Kelly – who previously penned Wade’s solo comic book series – presented readers with an anti-matter incarnation of Deathstroke clearly based on Deadpool.
This unnamed doppelgänger is a hyperactive chatterbox like Wade, and also possesses a healing factor and costume virtually identical to his Marvel counterpart. Hilariously, a running gag throughout the issue sees the anti-matter Deathstroke repeatedly trying to refer to himself as “Deadpool” – only to be cut off before he can finish!
12 Robin Recommends Spider-Man For A Photography Gig
In case you needed any further evidence that the feud between DC and Marvel is predominantly light-hearted, consider this – DC superheroes have actually been shown recommending their peers at Marvel for paid work!
Seriously: this is something that happened, way back in Batman #229, published in February 1971. Here, Batman’s partner Robin is offered a gig as a freelancer photographer for a newspaper.
Between his schoolwork and nocturnal crimefighting activities – not to mention his cushy position as the ward as one of DC’s richest men – the Boy Wonder was quick to turn down the job. Proving he’s a stand-up guy, Robin recommends someone else for the role – none other than Peter Parker, better known as Spider-Man, and an accomplished photographer always hungry for work.
11 Wolverine And Doctor Doom R.I.P.
The JLA run by Grant Morrison and Howard Porter represents a high point in the Justice League’s history – a return to a “big guns” team roster and high-stakes storytelling. Early on, Morrison and Porter introduce us to the Hyperclan, who manage to unseat the JLA as Earth’s premiere superhero team.
Of course, all is not quite as it seems, and the Hyperclan are unmasked as a bunch of dastardly White Martians bent on world domination. Although it takes a deductive genius like Batman to figure out the Hyperclan’s true nature, astute readers twigged something was up when the “heroes” began taking down supervillains.
Among the evildoers to receive a death sentence, two seem out of place – mostly because they belong in the Marvel Universe! In a nice touch by Morrison and Porter, corpses resembling Doctor Doom and Wolverine (who, as a hero, sticks out even more) are visible among the deceased.
10 Armageddon For Captain America, Spider-Man And Thor
Set over a decade into the DC Universe’s future, Kingdom Come offers a dystopian vision of things to come. In this grim world, the do-gooders we all know and love have been superseded by a new generation of heroes, barely distinguishable from the villains they’ve mostly eradicated.
Hope arrives in the form of Superman, who emerges from self-imposed exile – bringing many of his former crimefighting colleagues with him – to teach these violent upstarts the meaning of truth and justice.
Just from this brief description, you can tell that Kingdom Come is a mostly somber affair.
Thanks to the incredibly detailed artwork by superstar painter Alex Ross, it’s also a super-fun Easter egg hunt, too!
Alongside the many shout-outs to DC history tucked away in every other panel, there’s also some love for Marvel – during the final battle, Captain America, Spider-Man, and Thor are (just barely) visible amidst the melee.
9 The Fantastic Four Make An Artful Cameo In Top 10
Top 10 – which charts the trials and tribulations of police force operating in city where everyone has superpowers – is a comic book Easter egg extravaganza! Aided and abetted by artist Gene Ha, legendary comics scribe Alan Moore doesn’t just tell a wildly inventive, gripping story – he also ensures almost every single page is chock-full of references to comics history.
Admittedly, the majority of these shout-outs are DC-related (which makes sense, given Top 10 was indirectly distributed by the publisher).
Moore and Ha squeezed in a few cheeky nods to Marvel along the way.
Of these, one of the most obvious is a Picasso-style painting that any Fantastic Four fan would be happy to hang on their wall, as well as a minor subplot involving Galactapuss – world-devourer Galactus’ feline counterpart!
8 Booster Gold And Blue Beetle Have A Heart-To-Heart About Iron Man
By now, we’re comfortable with the fact that Booster Gold is up to speed on Iron Man – but believe it or not, his BFF Blue Beetle also seems to have intel on Tony Stark, as well! The Beetle’s knowledge of Shell Head comes to light when he and Booster engage in yet another pointless tiff, this time debating whether heroes can suffer from heart conditions.
When Blue Beetle refers to “that guy in the armor” during the argument, he’s obviously alluding to Iron Man, who originally relied on his high-tech suit to keep a fatal heart injury in check. Interestingly, Booster retorts that Iron Man is a comic book character – suggesting that (at this stage of his career at least), he’s never made contact with the actual Marvel Universe before.
If you’re going to copy anyone, you might as well copy the best. This certainly appears to be the logic adopted by the Suicide Squad, when, in an ill-fated attempt to come up with a rallying cry, they end up stealing one already popularized by the Avengers.
Ultimately, good taste prevails, and “Suicide Squad Assemble!” never catches on – with one team member going so far as to label it ridiculous (inadvertently dissing Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in the process).
The Marvel mimicry doesn’t end there, though. Later in the issue, a victorious King Shark wryly exclaims “Imperious Shark” as he stands astride a fallen enemy. This echoes “Imperius Rex,” the words screamed by Prince Namor whenever he charges headlong into the midst of a pitched battle.
6 Earth-8: Home Of The Retaliators
The DC Universe is actually a multiverse made up 52 separate universes, each with their own unique version of Earth. While most of these alternate Earths are populated by different spins on DC heroes, Earth-8 boasts characters who more closely emulate the inhabitants of the Marvel Universe!
As seen in the 52 mini-series – which reintroduced DC’s multiverse, after it had previously been written out of continuity – and Multiversity line of comics, Earth-8 is home to the Retaliators. These costumed adventurers have intentionally been modelled on the Avengers, as have fellow super teams the Geno-Men and the Future Family (inspired by the X-Men and Fantastic Four, respectively).
Not only do the heroes of Earth-8 resemble their counterparts at Marvel, they mimic their behavior as well.
When we first meet them, these super folks have split into opposing factions and are locked in combat – an obvious nod towards Marvel’s Civil War event.
5 The Authority Vs The Americans
As this list shows, DC has a penchant for including Avengers stand-ins in their stories. Although most of these imitations of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes are either respectful tributes or good-natured gags, the Americans arguably represent more of a snide jab instead.
Appearing in the pages of The Authority, this thinly-veiled parody of Marvel’s pre-eminent superhero team features Commander, Storm-God, Tank-Man, Titan, and Hornet on its roster. Yet despite their similarity to Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Giant Man and the Wasp, these guys have little else in common with them – which figures, given they’re violent, amoral thugs!
Yet even with their breathtaking abilities – and equally breathtaking lack of restraint – the Americans turned out to be no match for the Authority. Indeed, it wasn’t long before Apollo, Midnighter, and the rest of the gang had taken their rivals down in typically brutal fashion.
4 The Rutland Halloween Parade Crossover
This one will take some explaining. Every year since 1960, Rutland, Vermont has held a massive, superhero-themed Halloween parade. In 1972, this real-life event was portrayed in a 3-part story in comics published by DC and Marvel, representing the first (unofficial) crossover between the two companies’ characters.
Writers Steve Englehart, Gerry Conway, and Len Wein cooked up a multi-chapter saga taking place in the books they each wrote for the Big Two – Amazing Adventures, Justice League of America, and Thor. By relying on the “costume party” nature of the actual event, the trio was able to sneak background characters dressed as Marvel heroes into DC books, and vice-versa.
Of course, they couldn’t show any fully-fledged appearances by Marvel characters in the DC-published instalments, nor DC heroes in those issues released by Marvel. In situations where copyright would otherwise be infringed, the offending parties were left off-panel and unnamed,
3 The Champions Of Angor: The Avengers From Outer Space
The third and final Avengers pastiche on this list, the Champions of Angor are a superhero team who emulate Earth’s Mightiest Heroes almost entirely – except they aren’t from Earth!
Hailing from the planet Angor – a less than subtle dig at the more angst-ridden nature of the Marvel Universe (“angor” = “anger”) – the Champions have gone through several revisions since they first debuted.
They’ve adopted several alternate team names – the Justifiers, then the Assemblers, and finally the Meta-Militia – and even relocated to a different Earth in the multiverse. Despite these shake-ups and more, the group remains dedicated to fighting against injustice. More often than not, this leads them into direct conflict with their archenemies, the Extremists – who, as you’d expect, are a band of Marvel-inspired baddies.
2 A Zombie Viking Becomes An Cross-Dimensional Pioneer
Harald Jaekelsson is a zombie Viking who plagued Thor in the Vikings mini-series. At the end of this tale, the God of Thunder launches ol’ Harald into space, which is where you would be forgiven for assuming he remains.
Not so, however – as readers of The Authority: More Kev will already know. In this limited series from Garth Ennis and Glenn Fabry, heroes Apollo and Midnighter are waylaid by zombies in a swamp. Among the ranks of the zombies attacking the duo is a fairly uncommon sight: an undead Viking, just like Harald!
Given that the same creative team produced both stories – not to mention the odds of their being two identical zombie Vikings shambling around the combined DC and Marvel multiverse – we’re pretty confident this is indeed Harald, having hurtled straight from one reality into another.
1 The Flash’s Spidey Sense Is Tingling
Of all of Spider-Man’s powers, his so-called “spider sense” arguably makes the least sense. Sure, we can buy a radioactive spider bite making it so that a guy can adhere to walls or raise tremendous weights – but a quasi-precognitive danger detecting ability? It’s a bit of a stretch.
But it's not nearly as much of a stretch as the Flash – whose special gifts are all entirely derived from super-speed – claiming to possess a spider sense of his own! True, Barry Allen is clearly being glib in The Flash episode “Therefore I Am” when he says his “Spidey sense is tingling” – and no doubt in the Arrowverse (as in the real world), this is a common pop culture reference.
All the same, we hope Barry never tries to depend on his own “spider sense” in an actual life-death situation, as this will definitely not pay off for the Scarlet Speedster!
What are some other Marvel Easter eggs hidden in DC stories? Let us know in the comments!