Ever since the two most popular comic book houses in the world first appeared on the scene over eighty years ago, Marvel (who began as Timely Publications in 1933) and DC Comics (who began as National Allied Publications in 1935) have had a long-standing, usually friendly, rivalry. The relationship was generally amiable, with plenty of good-natured ribbing as each publisher took turns poking fun at the other. Occasionally, the two would even collaborate on projects, such as crossover issues and a mashup series published by Amalgam Comics in the late-90s (many of which were featured in our list of 10 Real Marvel & DC Character Mashups).
As most rivalries are wont to do, fans began to form on both sides and would naturally show support for their "team" by doing more than just buying the comic books of their favorite characters. T-shirts, stickers, backpacks, notebooks, games, and toys (lots of toys) were consumed by fans across the globe at a staggering rate. Until the rise of the internet some-twenty years ago, the only other way a humble fan had of aligning themselves with other Marvel or DC fans (besides purchasing those products) was via a BBS (Bulletin Board System) or sending a letter in to a trade publication.
Now that the Internet has given everyone an equal opportunity to voice their opinions, it's not difficult for fans on both sides to quickly find a discussion in a comment section anywhere on the Web. Sometimes (read: most times) these discussions devolve into heated exchanges, but usually they are nothing more than the comic book equivalent of a nerd snowball fight - fun, but rarely ever overtly-violent. However, it seems in this day and age, that is all changing.
As Screen Rant Managing Editor Ben Kendrick so expertly pointed out, Superhero Fandom is Ruining the Golden Age of Comic Book Movies - and sadly, it's true. Moreover, it seems that we've moved beyond the standard hyperbole of "I hate you for liking something I don't/not liking something I do" and "Your favorite comic character/movie/director sucks/is trash/should quit" to something far more threatening and honestly, downright scary.
Recently we had the following comment posted on our site (which has since been removed):
Please die. I hope a lot of people die during the screening of civil war. Massive shootings. For trolling batman v superman. [sic]
There were several other comments to go with that one and, besides being inappropriate, we felt they clearly crossed the line between being an over-enthusiastic comic book fan and into the realm of threatening others with a potentially violent crime (one of the posts was especially threatening). The series of comments disturbed us enough that we passed the information along to federal authorities. Normally, most rhetoric typed out in anger - on this and other forums - amounts to nothing more than chest-puffing and ends with broken keyboards - not threats against society. To be clear, this is NOT the norm... but unfortunately it's feels as if it could, in the not-too-distant future, become that way.
It's also worth nothing that, in the wake of that comment, responders were quick to throw all DC fans under a single umbrella - suggesting that DC fans are "crazy" and "desperate" sociopaths - as if one bad apple defines an entire fandom. Such is not the case, and we've been forced to remove plenty of hate-filled posts from Marvel fans as well. The point here isn't which fandom is crazier or more violent, it's to point out that the Marvel vs. DC rivalry has become more scary than fun.
Some reading this might ask, "Why would you take a threat like that seriously? It's just some idiot behind a keyboard spouting off." Five years ago we would have been inclined to agree with you but, sad to say, we're now living in an era where something like a theater shooting can not only happen, but has actually happened - more than once.
- On July 20th, 2012, a nightmarish event took place during the midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises at the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. Convicted murderer James Holmes entered the theater and opened fire on the audience - killing twelve innocent people and wounding 70 others.
- On January 13th, 2014, an argument over texting transpired between two patrons at a screening for Lone Survivor at the Gove Cobb 16 movie theater in Wesley Chapel, Florida. That argument led to Curtis Reeves (a retired police captain) pulling his firearm and opening fire on Chad Oulson and his wife - killing him and wounding her.
- On July 23rd, 2015, 59 year old John Houser entered a screening of Trainwreck at the Grand 16 movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana and opened fire on the audience - killing two people and injuring nine others.
- On August 5th, 2015, during a screening on Mad Max: Fury Road at the Carmike Hickory 8 in Nashville, Tennessee, police shot and killed Vincente Montano after he attacked theatergoers with a hatchet and pepper spray.
We present these incidents, not as examples on how violent comic book fans could be (none of these shootings were fueled by events in either the comic book or movie industry) but how serious such threats of suggested violence can and must be taken. So where are we going with all of this?
We suggest that maybe it's time for Marvel and DC Comics to once again team up, as they have in the past, coming together as a collective voice and attempt to quell these obsessive, hateful, and apparently violent fans before they get (even more) out of hand.
This wouldn't be new to the either publisher as there have been instances where one studio has backed the other's play. MCU President Kevin Feige once stated about the DCEU:
...as I’ve always said, if they [comic book movies] are all good, the more the merrier. It’s a bad thing for us when one of them is not well received. If we have a good movie, and they [DC Comics] have a good movie, it only helps us. So let’s all calm down.
Of course, neither group is responsible for their fans' actions or words. How could they be? They aren't in the trade publications promoting violence against those who dislike their characters and movies. Nor are they encouraging others to commit acts of violence in their name. Seeing the two studios standing together in this way, in a sign of solidarity, might just be the action that brings some of these obsessive fans to the realization: "It's just a comic book." - a phrase a lot of readers need to remember before they say something that gets them the wrong type of attention.
This isn't about whether Superman or The Hulk would win in a fight or even which movie made more money than the other - ultimately, those are all just silly, meaningless (though fun) conversations. This is about holding ourselves and other enthusiasts to a higher standard of what it means to be a "fan" of comic books, their characters and their stories. Superheroes from all sides ultimately protect the innocent, and if you're threatening violence against those who disagree with you, then you're the villain, not the hero. "Let's all calm down."
Note to our readers: This isn't a discussion about politics or violence in movies, nor is it a debate about gun rights. We've posted this article in the hopes of bringing people together - not highlighting other things for us to fight about. If you want to comment on those other topics, please find a different forum.