With the rise of the comic book movie as a more than viable genre that sets box office records seemingly at will, the rivalry between the two biggest publishers of comic books and superheroes, Marvel and DC, has been taken to another level. Many level-headed people would say there is no rivalry because true fans of the four-color set should just be happy to see characters and story arcs brought to the screen credibly but the overheated rhetoric on and offline says differently. I’m not one of those even-tempered fans because I am loudly and proudly a partisan and will jump into any scrum be it message boards and comic book shops if I feel my horse is being disrespected. This essay in fact is in support of the DC/Marvel rivalry.
Let’s get this straight; I know that the movie studios who own the rights to these characters are not as invested in drawing battle lines as the fans are because their fight is first and always with the box office. That’s the way it should be because if these movies lose the war against the box office then the rapid production of CBM’s will slow down to a trickle. The knowledge that studios have no problem damming up the flow of the movies is why comic book fans up until recently would plunk down the price of admission to support the films of a rival publisher. It’s not much of a stretch to say if fans of the Batman hadn’t come out with other moviegoers to support Bryan Singer’s first X-Men movie that Warner Bros. would not have green-lighted a new version of the Caped Crusader as re-imagined by Christopher Nolan after the franchise fell off a cliff with Joel Schumacher’s BATMAN & ROBIN in 1997.
That’s where the détente ends though because fans of the rival houses even if they like the movie from the opposite publisher feel they are duty bound not to be too effusive in their praise because they think they are being disloyal to one for the other. The applause a DC fan may have for IRON MAN has to be qualified with “It’s good for a popcorn flick” while a Marvel zombie will say that Heath Ledger’s Joker was the only worthwhile performance in THE DARK KNIGHT. Both movies may be the greatest chronicles ever put on film since CITIZEN KANE but the bias is so strong and deep that mouths would fracture if unqualified adoration were even given to the opposing house.
To those on the outside looking in, even to those on the inside looking around, this kind of fandom makes no sense but honestly I revel in it. To ask a Marvel adherent to wear a Superman t-shirt could well cause her to puke while a devotee of DC would call you everything but a child of God if you tell them THE AVENGERS is the pinnacle of superhero moviemaking. Yes, Virginia, the bias is just that deep and heaven help you if you try to make that twain meet. And honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
When I don’t have my head in a book, comic or otherwise, or my fingers on a keyboard, I live and die with the Philadelphia Eagles of the National Football League. I bring that up as an analogy to show those level-headed comic book fans who ask why there is a Comic Book War that they need to save their breath. I, as an Eagles fan, would never root for the Dallas Cowboys because the bile rises in my throat as I even think about it. It’s naïve to even ask a fan of a particular team or rapper or movie director to switch hats and go over to their adversary’s side. People have their preferences and as long as they keep their hands to themselves then let them swear undying fealty to one or the other.
So cry havoc and let loose the dogs of war because there are only two kinds of people in this world, Marvel fans and DC fans. Let the verbal artillery fly because this is a war that’s been going on for over fifty years and hopefully it never stops because steel sharpens steel. I’ve picked my side, what’s yours?
–Jason O. Logan