Growing up, I have always been a huge comic book fan. I still remember how amazed I was when I flipped through an issue of Super Powers, my very first comic book. Now that I’m fully grown, I still love anything and everything that has to do with comic books. I don’t have any problems if my iPad is out for repair or if my Internet connection is down. I grab a few comic books from my stash, and I’m good.
It’s hard to imagine the movie-making landscape without superhero movies. Since the 1990s, movie companies have been continually dishing out comic book properties on the big screen. Caught in the thick of it all are the two biggest comic book publishers today: DC and Marvel.
Where It All Started
Everything began with Superman’s debut in the very first issue of DC’s Action Comics in 1938. With the public’s warm reception of the Man of Steel, DC dominated the market with their continuous releases of superhero after superhero with Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, and all the other DC superheroes we grew up with. ;
In 1961, Martin Goodman wanted a piece of the superhero action and started Timely Comics, which eventually became what we now know as Marvel Comics. He hired his wife’s cousin, a brilliant and energetic young man named Stan Lee, to write a few stories for the publishing company. Along with creators Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, Lee took some of DC’s concepts and gave it his twist by humanizing the characters. From this, we got characters like the Fantastic Four, The Human Torch, Namor the Submariner, and Spider-Man.
Since then, the two biggest publishers have been trying to outdo one another in hopes of getting a more significant share of the market. With DC getting a very early head start, Marvel had a lot of catching up to do, but eventually, they did.
Over the years, the race between the two publishing giants has been quite legendary, just like the tales they tell in their titles. But historically, the one who took the bigger risks always got ahead of the competition. Most of the time, DC spearheaded things while Marvel played catch-up, especially when they transitioned to other forms of media such as radio, television, and movies. But as we all know, Marvel eventually caught up and is now enjoying its success in the film industry.
Marvel now has the upper hand, but with hits such as The Dark Knight Rises, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Joker, DC is not taking it sitting down. And fans all over the world are eating it up.
The Reasons Why DC and Marvel Are Keeping the Rivalry Going
For the longest time, many hardcore fans have been at each others’ throats about which comic book company is better. There were a few events that allowed both companies to work together (Superman vs. Amazing Spider-Man in 1976 and the DC vs. Marvel crossover event in the late ‘90s), which gave fans the battles they’ve all been longing for. However, these are the mere exceptions to the rule because both companies would still rather outdo each other, in friendly competition, of course.
The question now is, why would the two competing publishers add fuel to the fire started by fans?
Just like any other business, DC and Marvel are in this to make money. The rivalry they have is good for their business.
The comic book industry is similar to sports, in a way, that fans will root for the team — in this case, the superheroes — they grew up with and had emotional ties to. And as long as there is enough competition going around, fans will give their all-out support to their favorite brand.
As stated earlier, the one who usually took the bigger risks stayed ahead of the game. Anytime one of the two got ahead, the other one desperately did their best to catch up. This type of competition is healthy for both companies as it made them more intentional in improving the quality of their output.
Better storylines were crafted. More impressive artwork were produced. Books hit retail on time. Even the jump to both the small and big screens were attempts at outdoing one another.
The competition might be friendly between both companies, but it was also fierce. In the end, the ones who got the most out of it are the fans.
As I sit here in my workstation typing this out, I am surrounded by action figures and reading material related to the comic book industry. The consumers are given not just quality stories to follow but also other merchandise they can enjoy.
Toys, apparel, headwear, coffee mugs, books, and almost anything you can think of that comic book characters can be printed on have been consumed voraciously by both loyal and casual fans.
Take, for instance, the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. Before its explosion, only hardcore fans were familiar with characters like the Guardians of the Galaxy, Scarlett Witch, Vision, Winter Soldier, and Black Panther. But now, they have become household names, thanks to Marvel’s brilliant marketing strategies and their tenacity to overcome challenges.
DC’s Extended Universe is fast-tracking its strategies and development as those who are in charge are learning from their mistakes and are making the necessary adjustments in hopes of stealing some of MCU’s thunder and, ultimately, a share of the market.
While these two titans battle it out toe-to-toe, one thing is for sure: the comic book industry is not dead. It has only taken a different form and adapted to the times. And who is the ultimate winner of this feud? The fans.