Long before comic book movie adaptations were blockbuster Hollywood franchises, there were rivalries: Star Trek vs. Star Wars, Sega Genesis vs. Super Nintendo, WWE vs. WCW, Microsoft vs. Apple, and the Red Sox vs. the Yankees, to name a few. However, in recent years, pop culture entertainment preference has become an increasingly violent battleground – where PlayStation and Xbox owners fire mean-spirited insults back and forth in an ongoing war for console bragging rights, and the decades-old playground question of DC or Marvel has turned into a bitter fight for shared superhero universe supremacy.
Where fans used to engage in playful debate regarding who would win in a battle between Batman and Iron Man, enthusiastic DC and Marvel faithfuls are now mired in a grueling fight to defend their favorite comic book (and movie) characters from opposing viewpoints. Of course, there are plenty of would-be peacekeepers caught in the middle, asking:
“Can’t we all just get along?” “Can’t we all just enjoy both?” Yet, the fanboy war rages on.
Without question, the tone of the rivalry, as expressed in Internet comment threads, has left plenty of room for improvement (specifically an increase in politeness, patience, and overall understanding of subjective opinions) but that doesn’t mean the rivalry is a bad thing for fans, production studios, or theater owners; in fact, here are four reasons why the DC vs. Marvel rivalry is actually good for the superhero movie genre.
1: Competition Drives Innovation
The most basic, and obvious, reason the DC vs. Marvel rivalry benefits the superhero movie genre is that competition, by nature, raises the bar for all competitors. While some fans will, without question, see and enjoy both DC and Marvel films, there is a significant chunk of the moviegoing public that (due to lack of free time, interest, or funds) will be less egalitarian in their ticket purchases.
Fans on either side might scoff at the idea, but those familiar with the last 15 years of superhero films could chart a clear interplay between DC and Marvel movie properties – as each side (along with third-party studios that own standalone characters) attempt to up the ante and attract new viewers.
In 2004, Sony made Spider-Man one of the hottest film properties in Hollywood and, shortly after, Warner Bros. answered Marvel’s colorful web-slinging adventure with a gritty take on The Dark Knight in Batman Begins – only to see Iron Man set the stage for a budding Avengers movie universe two summers later. As a result of their ambitious attempt to translate the interwoven storylines of the printed page into live action, it only took four years for Marvel (and Disney) to secure a spot as one of the top movie franchises around the globe – inspiring DC to initiate plans for their own team-up heroverse.
Fans on both sides can debate the pros and cons of Marvel and DC’s past and upcoming film slate, as well as whether shared universe characters should all get origin films before a team-up, but there’s no question that this back and forth between the comic giants, along with their parent studios, has continually raised the bar in spectacle (as well as overall quality) for the genre as a whole.
In an effort to ensure their own heroes’ place in the pop culture spotlight, DC and Marvel have needed to be creative – and, while fans tear each other apart online, that creativity has turned superhero movies into a multi-billion dollar industry. Beyond just a bigger roster in subsequent hero team-ups, the need to show audiences something different has driven studios to invest in comparatively risky properties and ideas. Genre stories within the larger superhero shared universe (Guardians of the Galaxy), villain team-ups (Suicide Squad), and even cross-medium narratives (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) have entirely reinvented what viewers can (and should) expect from big and small screen entertainment.
Fans may credit one side more than the other, but the innovation didn’t occur entirely in a DC or Marvel bubble – as both learned from past mistakes and successes within the genre. The result? Whether a viewer prefers DC over Marvel (or vice-versa), the entire genre has become more innovative, dynamic, and exciting through the studios’ efforts to woo fans to their next product.
2. Spirited Debate Makes Fans Knowledgable
Plenty of superhero enthusiasts grew up reading comics but with so many books to choose from, across multiple publishers, for the better part of a century, few fans actually possess an encyclopedic knowledge of the medium. Often, perception of a particular hero or storyline is based on the one or two best-known versions or pop culture staples – entirely ignoring (intentionally or not) some of the best iterations that devoted fans of any particular book would hold in especially high esteem.
For that reason, the ongoing debate between DC and Marvel fans has the potential to improve appreciation for characters and franchises – plus encourages new readers to give select books a shot. Some moviegoers might poke fun at the prospect of an Ant-Man or Aquaman movie, but most top-tier characters have been modernized or altogether reinvented over the years – changing with the times (and as a reflection of current social issues). Updated versions of characters like Aquaman or Ant-Man, among others, offer genuinely fun (and even badass) stories that are a far cry from either character’s campy origins.
As a result, when skeptics poke fun at DC or Marvel in an effort to corroborate their own personal preference, there’s an opportunity for edification and recommendation – where knowledgable fans can actually inform detractors of stories they might legitimately enjoy. Even if the actual parties engaged in the heated exchange can’t agree, eye-witnesses and onlookers are sure to learn more about the heroes and villains at the center of the debate – leading to an overall better understanding and appreciation for characters that would otherwise be deemed unworthy of viewer/reader time (or money).
Five years ago, few moviegoers would have ever believed an oddball team of space outlaws (including a talking raccoon and a humanoid tree) would be one of Marvel’s biggest box office successes. Yet, creative vision from director James Gunn helped put Guardians of the Galaxy on the pop culture map – cementing Rocket and Groot as fan-favorite heroes for a new generation of comic readers. Even though it’s movies driving interest in comic characters, regardless of comic book sales, it’s clear the values and tales of personal sacrifice depicted on the printed page are still relevant.
Although the primary delivery method has changed (from print to film), the DC vs. Marvel debate continues to raise awareness for characters on both sides of the rivalry – re-igniting interest in old favorites while introducing potential new fans to up and coming movie icons (with a storied past chronicled in comic book pages).
NEXT PAGE: DC and Marvel Cash In
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