While it’s true that the Marvel Cinematic Universe consistently garners some of the best reviews and biggest box-office takes in the superhero genre, the Disney-owned moneymaking franchise is hardly immune from harsh criticism both by film journalists and movie fans – even those who otherwise enjoy the films themselves. And the most common criticism: The MCU’s seeming disregard for creating truly great villains, instead placing overwhelming focus on the personal growth and inner conflicts of the heroes.

But while this choice of focus does not appear to have hurt the franchise’s popularity thus far, many fans have question whether or not this keeps many of the Marvel films from having genuine dramatic stakes. While our own Rob Keyes visited the Atlanta set of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 in April of 2016 Marvel Studios boss and producer Kevin Feige offered his take on the matter – and threw some subtle shade at the competition in the process.

As part of a lengthy in-depth answer to the larger question of Marvel’s approach to creating villains for their films (and the differing approach being taken to Infinity War nemesis Thanos), Feige touched on a subject sure to raise eyebrows among fans of the MCU’s chief competition at the superhero box-office; comparing (without specifically naming names) the Marvel approach as it originated in the first Iron Man in 2008 with the approach taken by another film released in the same year. Continued Feige:

“In a lot of cases, Ronan, Ronan’s great, Lee Pace awesome job, absolutely serves it, but certainly was there to go up against our heroes and to give our heroes a reason for coming together. And I think it’s, I hesitate to even, in 2008, there are two superhero movies that came out. One focused on the villain, one focused on the hero, and we at Marvel looked at them, like yeah, we focus on the heroes. We don’t mind that. We like that. Please don’t start a flame war. We don’t, nobody wants that. We don’t do that. But, so again, it really always is what serves the story. Loki, great character, serves, you know, in a lot of ways, Thor. Zemo served that conflict between Cap and Iron Man.”

Batman standing in the wreckage in The Dark Knight Why Marvel Studios Focuses on the Heroes

While the Marvel boss clearly wants to avoid causing a ruckus with his comments, most fans are likely to interpret his comments as referring to the Warner Bros/DC Comics film The Dark Knight, which was also released in 2008 and was widely noted for building its plot and marketing campaign primarily around the late Heath Ledger’s posthumously Oscar-winning turn as The Joker as opposed to Christian Bale’s return as Batman. While Feige stops short of outright declaring which approach (if any) he believes to be “better,” his statement makes it abundantly clear that Marvel Studios’ decision to put the development of their superhero characters first is part of a conscious philosophical outlook on their overall approach.

That said, Feige’s attempt to not ouright name the DC Extended Universe as his point of comparison is unlikely to quell fandom debates over whether Marvel or DC’s approach is “best”for the future of the genre, particularly as The Dark Knight is widely considered to be one of the best superhero films ever produced – even by fans who prefer the Marvel films overall. Such debates have raged since the earliest days of the two publisher’s rivalry, and seem to have only increased as both sides jockey for position at the top of the global box-office.

More: Every Guardians Of The Galaxy 2 Update You Need To Know

Set to the all-new sonic backdrop of Awesome Mixtape #2, Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 continues the team’s adventures as they traverse the outer reaches of the cosmos. The Guardians must fight to keep their newfound family together as they unravel the mystery of Peter Quill’s true parentage. Old foes become new allies and fan-favorite characters from the classic comics will come to our heroes’ aid as the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to expand.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is written and directed by James Gunn and stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, featuring Vin Diesel as Baby Groot, Bradley Cooper as Rocket, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris Sullivan, Sean Gunn, Tommy Flanagan, Laura Haddock, with Sylvester Stallone, and Kurt Russell. Kevin Feige is producing, and Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Jonathan Schwartz, Nikolas Korda and Stan Lee are the executive producers.

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