5 Reasons DC’s ‘Elseworlds’ Curbstomps Marvel’s ‘What If’


DC’s Elseworlds and Marvel’s What If are two of the most well-known names in the alternate reality arena. Here’s why we believe Elseworlds is a million times better.

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Elseworlds Has More Iconic Storylines

The Dark Knight REturns The Golden Child Comic 2
The Dark Knight Returns

There’s no contest here. DC Comics’ Elseworlds tales explore story arcs in a way no Marvel What if story arc ever has. Because of its risky gambles, Elseworlds has failed on multiple occasions. But many a times, taking those risks paid off. We never would have gotten stories like Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns or Kingdom Come if not for DC taking those gambles. Marvel does have some pretty iconic arcs but they do not even begin to come close to how iconic DC Elseworlds story arcs are. Every comic book reader worth his or her salt would second this. DC does way better when it comes to alternate story arcs.


Legendary Characters That Stood The Test Of Time

Kingdom Come

The Kingdom Come Superman ended up so famous The CW network roped him in during an Arrowverse crossover arc. There’s also the Female Joker. We are not talking about the Flashpoint Paradox here. The Female Joker we are talking about is from the Elseworlds miniseries – Thrillkiller. In this arc, Batman never becomes Batman. Instead, Bruce uses his traumatic experience of seeing his parents being killed to become an officer of the Law. Bruce literally become the World’s Greatest Detective. The onus of vigilante guardianship of Gotham falls on the shoulders of Batgirl and Nightwing. Bianca Steeplechase, the Lady Joker of this universe, causes quite a stir. You may not remember Captain America 1983 or when the Marvel bullpen became the Fantastic Four. But you will always remember these iconic DC alternate reality characters.

Elseworlds Has Much, Much Better Artwork

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The Blue Amazon

This is one of the primary reasons comic book readers prefer DC over Marvel when it comes to alternate reality arcs. The Elseworlds tales take cues from expressionist movements. This makes the artwork twice as fun to watch. It literally turns a comic book into a true work of art. One of the earliest attempts at using this tactic was when they created a German Expressionist inspired trilogy. The three issues – Superman’s Metropolis, Batman: Nosferatu, and Wonder Woman: The Blue Amazon is still heralded as milestones and cherished in the comic book industry. This is just one of many examples. The artwork in Elseworlds takes the cake fair and square. Marvel’s What If issues do not even come close.


It Quit While It Was Ahead

Dark Joker DC Elseworlds
Production Halted In 2003

Another reason why DC keeps beating Marvel in comic book sales is because they know when to get out of the gamble. Elseworlds was going strong for a number of years. Then suddenly in 2003, DC ended the series. The comic book giant still publishes many one-off story arcs but never under the Elseworlds label. The post Elseworlds alternate reality arcs have not been that great, so to speak. That’s why fans consider Elseworlds the benchmark of alternate reality storytelling within the superhero genre. Marvel’s What If on the other hand published it’s latest tale in 2018. There are rumors of a new What If mini-series in the works at Marvel HQ. The limited issue charm starts and ends with DC’s Elseworlds tales.

Larger Storylines With Bigger Stakes

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The stakes were always higher in Elseworlds tales because there was always the threat of things spilling over to the Prime universe. It has actually happened in the DC Universe. The Kingdom Come sequel – The Kingdom, ended up using characters from more than one universes. Things are always confined in Marvel’s What If story arc, mostly to one single universe. That luxury does not exist in Elseworlds tales, which makes reading them twice and thrilling.



Written by Bibhu Prasad Panda

With a Bachelor's in Engineering and a Master's in Marketing and Operations, Bibhu found a love for writing, working for many different websites. He joined FandomWire in July 2020 and worked his way to his current position of Content Strategist. Bibhu has been involved in operating and managing FandomWire's team of writers, diversifying into varied, exotic fields of pop culture.