The battle of the two Comic Book giants continues to split fans far and wide…
Batman or Green Arrow? Wonder Woman or Captain Marvel? Atom or Iron Man? Whether you’re a DC super-fan or a Marvel lover, the war between these two comic book giants is getting fiercer by the year. Although it’s always existed in the comic books, even Hollywood has now joined in.
Comic books are niche, they’re seen of as geeky and people who enjoy them are labelled nerds. However, those so-called geeks have taken that name and ran with it. They’ve turned it into something positive, so much so that “I’m a comic book nerd” is almost a proud statement to make. Of course, this was in part thanks to Hollywood. They took Superman, Batman, Iron Man and many other popular comic book characters and threw them on the big screen. Add a huge chunk of money that can pay for CGI, realistic effects and some impressive casts, and you’re onto a winner.
But it’s not as simple as that in the comic book world, it isn’t all about whether a film is successful or not. The two comic book giants; Marvel and DC are equally popular with comic book readers and superhero film fans. ThoughtCowriter Aaron Albert explains why he believes these two are the front-runners: “Marvel Comics has been the top dog in comic book publishing recently, with their well-received high profile events, strong sales, and popular characters,” he says. “The Marvel Cinematic Universe has helped bring in new readers and have kept the spotlight on superheroes as a popular medium. Alongside Marvel, DC Comics is the other of the “Big Two” comic book publishers. They have a bevy of super powerful characters, with near godlike powers that were some of the first that comics had to offer. Their trinity of characters — Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman — are some of the most well-known and iconic superheroes out there today.”
Of course a draw wasn’t good enough for either of these giant publications, so a battle begun. Who could make the most money? Who could gain the most fans? And ultimately, who’s top dog in this prevalent genre?
But, as this war grows, comic book fans are being drawn in. It simply isn’t enough to have a favourite superhero or villain; you must now pick your publisher side. Are you DC, or are you Marvel?
Dave Markowski is the host of Superhero Speak — a podcast celebrating all things nerd culture — and a self-confessed Marvel defender. “Marvel is killing it at the box office with all their films,” he says. “But if Wonder Woman is any indication, DC might start giving them a run for their money at the box office.”
“If Wonder Woman is any indication, DC might start giving Marvel a run for their money at the box office”
According to Box Office Mojo, the top grossing Marvel film of the current Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), is Marvel’s The Avengers (2012), making $623,357,910. This is the highest of all comic book films; however Wonder Woman (2017) was the closest rival from the current DC cinema universe, making $395,674,792.
Tom Roberts is a freelance writer and has enjoyed comic books since he was young. He agrees with Dave that Marvel is currently winning the film war. “Marvel makes better movies now, whereas DC used to,” he says. “But Marvel probably has the edge at the moment.”
William Fanelli of Cinema Blend believes he’s figured out why Marvel is proving more successful on the big screen, and it’s surprisingly all about the superheroes. “Marvel has already proven it can get fans absolutely pumped about superheroes like Iron Man, who only decades ago were looked as almost laughable,” he says. “On the contrary, as of this moment audiences have little faith in DC films other than the ones driven by its two leading characters Batman and Superman.”
That being said, Roberts is on the side of DC when talking about the comic books themselves. “The first comic book I ever bought was ‘Infinite Crisis’ and I’ve been hooked since. Essentially DC was always more interested in the Super whilst Marvel preferred the Man. Marvel have always created flawed protagonists, riven with guilt over things they’ve done, whilst DC has created icons.”
“Marvel have always created flawed protagonists, riven with guilt over things they’ve done, whilst DC has created icons”
DC has always been known as the darker of the two, with more sinister villains such as The Joker and Deathstroke. They’ve blurred the lines between hero and villain, with vigilantes such as Batman and Green Arrow. In a way, this brings more realism.
Diana McCallum is co-creator of the From Superhero network, and she’s a little more conflicted than Tom and Dave with her comic book choice. “I’m probably a little bit more Marvel right now,” she claims. “My absolute favourite characters are DC, but Marvel has created more interesting and diverse characters across the board and I think they do a better job making interesting and understandable event books.”
However, the side she’s backing in Hollywood is much more definite. “In film I’m a firm Marvel girl. DC has made exactly one good movie (Wonder Woman) while Marvel has knocked over a dozen movies out of the park in a beautifully intricate connected universe. The two are night and day in my opinion.”
Jen Yamato of The Daily Beast argues that while DC was busy making box office flops such as Watchmen (2009) and Green Lantern (2011), Marvel were running away with success after success. “Marvel had already successfully launched an Iron Man sequel, three standalones, and its first Avengers movie with designs on an unprecedented, expansive universe of interconnected superhero films. And their long-game strategy paid off,” Jen explains.
What’s certain is that while Marvel is clearly winning in the box office, the fans are much more conflicted. While some prefer DC in the comics, others prefer Marvel in the film world. This therefore raises a new question: Can an underdog Comic Book publisher come out of nowhere and take over the two of them?
Markowski thinks it’s unlikely. “The only company to have a chance to do what these companies do is Image comics. And perhaps with them working on a new Spawn movie it might happen. But it’s doubtful,” he explains.
“The only company to have a chance to do what these companies do is Image comics”
Roberts also talked about Image comics being a potential underdog. He believes that “their commitment to creator control is probably what has allowed them to come back today as the hipster kid’s favourite publisher.” His respect for them is apparent. “They’ve produced some amazing work in recent years, including The Wicked + The Divine, and they’re the only third party publisher to top 10% of sales.”
Although he holds belief in the lesser-known publisher, he doesn’t hold out much hope. “They won’t beat DC and Marvel any time soon, they’ll likely be bought out soon, but they are worth mentioning all the same,” Tom says.
McCallum agrees that there isn’t much hope of any publishers taking over in the near future. “I think there can be successful projects from indie comic book companies and film companies, for example the Valiant Bloodshot movie might do great,” she says. “But in terms of scope and sheer size and numbers it will likely be Marvel and DC forever. Marvel and DC have the characters that everyone knows and will continue to know for decades and will likely always dominate the superhero space.”
If the fans are right, Marvel and DC are here to stay with little to no competition, so we better get used to them. As the popularity, box office earnings, and excitement around comic books grows, the war will only become more intense — Perhaps while the comic giants are squabbling over who’s making more money, a gap in the market is growing for young indie comic creators.
But, Marvel’s comedic, fun and more light-hearted approach is edging them ahead. At a time of political turmoil and impeding war amongst some of the most powerful countries on the planet, perhaps what people need is escapism. DC certainly isn’t going away, especially after the success of Wonder Woman(2017), but Marvel has set the bar so high, will DC ever catch up?