Unless you have been living under a rock, you probably know that superheroes are dominating the world today. Whether it is in comic book stores, TV series, merchandise or movies, there is no denying the fact that superheroes are here to stay. And as any fan worth their salt knows, the world of costumed crime fighters spans two giants-DC and Marvel.
It was DC (then known as National Allied Publication) who set the superhero ball rolling in 1938 when it introduced us to Superman in the first issue of Action Comics. Timely Comics, later to become Marvel, joined the game in 1939 with the introduction of The Human Torch. Since then, both Marvel and DC have continued to release new superheroes such as Batman, the Flash, Captain America and Fantastic Four.
Although initially Marvel struggled to find its footing against the giant that was DC, things changed when a certain Stan Lee began taking Marvel to new heights with the introduction of The Fantastic Four in 1961, followed by The Amazing Spider-Man a year later. Even though both companies were vying for the same market, there was not much open rivalry between the two.
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Battle Of The Behemoths
This soon changed as both companies began to battle it out for the larger share of the pie. Over the years there have been a lot of shots fired between the two camps, some notable instances being:
- DC and Marvel were involved in a long-drawn-out battle over the rights to the name Captain Marvel. Ultimately, Marvel emerged victorious, and DC was forced to rename Billy Batson’s alter ego as Shazam (both characters debuted on the big screen in 2019).
- Both publishing houses have published parodies involving the characters from the other camp, with notable mentions being Marvel’s Not Brand Echh, and Inferior Five, DC’s jibe at the Fantastic Four.
- When Jack Kirby left Marvel after a spat over credit sharing, he went over to the DC camp and took a dig at Lee by creating a villain called Funky Fisherman who uncannily resembled him. Legend has it that Lee was so deeply hurt by this that he ultimately changed his own appearance.
These are only a few examples from many. Interesting to note is that in spite of their battle for market dominance there have been many collaborations works in which the heroes from both houses were pitted against each other or teamed up to fight common enemies.
The Live Action Saga
DC was the first to foray into the live action territory with the TV series featuring Superman (1952-1958), Batman (1966-1968) and Wonder Woman (1975-1979). On the silver screen Richard Donner’s Superman (1978) was a massive hit and is still considered a milestone in superhero movies. This was followed by Tim Burton’s Batman (1989). The new millennium however, belonged to Marvel as it launched a massive hit with Bryan Singer’s X-Men (2000), followed by Sam Raimi’s Spiderman Trilogy. DC soon followed with Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, which achieved both critical and commercial success. But ultimately, Iron Man (2008) ushered in the new era of superhero movies by establishing the MCU, which will culminate a decade long journey in 2019 with Avenger’s: Endgame.
The recent performance of DC at the movies has been rather inconsistent. While Aquaman(2018) was a hit(raking in over a billion dollars), Justice League(2017) failed to impress. In contrast, DC’s TV series such as The Flash and Arrow have done much better than the Marvel series such as Agent Carter.
We all love superheroes. All of us have our own favorite hero and camp. While both companies have had their share of successes and failures, this has only propelled them to create more and more mind-blowing stories. Recently Marvel Headman Kevin Feige commented that there was no real rivalry between DC and Marvel. But as we fan know, history speaks otherwise. Both houses have given hit comic books as well as movies. And while the debate over which hero is better, and who will ultimately get the upper hand will continue, one thing is for sure:
Ultimately it is the fans who are the real winners.