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Off My Mind: Marvel & DC, Why So Many Similar Characters?

Does it matter that characters have similar powers?

Often it seems people ask "Do you prefer Marvel or DC?" While I'm not sure why it has to be one or the other, there already are several similarities between the two. Have you noticed how many similar characters there are? Do these similarities make a difference? Are the publishers being inspired by each other or is it just a matter of there being a finite number of superpowers creators can use?