DC versus Marvel.
Sox versus Yankees, Trojans and Greeks, Montagues and Capulets, Lakers versus Celtics… There have always been, and will always be, great rivalries and feuds, and they serve as inspiration for everything from great literature to juvenile twitter rants.
However, things are different in the world of business. As much as some CEOs may dream of having a monopoly, the reality is that not only is hegemony bad for consumers, it’s bad for companies. Competition keeps prices down, as well as inspires and drives creativity. Apple needs Samsung parts, but the Korean giant needed the kick in the backside the original iPhone gave it, and the constant need to one-up each other is what drives each to make the best products they can. Smart business is about beating your competitor, not erasing them.
Fans don’t see it that way.
Winning isn’t enough. Capitulation isn’t enough. When you’re hard-core, it isn’t enough to see your beloved (insert your obsession here) win—you want their (supposed enemy or rival) to lose and better yet, do so spectacularly.
The German term for it is “schadenfreude,” the satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else’s misfortune. All too human, but nonetheless not something worth celebrating about our species. I’ve been there. I’ve felt it on both ends of the experience, particularly in sports, as a fan and as a participant. The healthiest rivalries feature enormous amounts of respect. The rival exists as an equal against whom you measure yourself. There’s an inherent balance in these relationships, more “Yin and Yang” than “Oil and Water.”
When it comes to comic fandom, the reality is that the big two need each other. They feed off each other and grow together. If one of them is using up all the oxygen in the room, eventually both will wither and die. That’s before we even take the many smaller publishers into account as well.
Over all, Marvel’s films have been better and have outperformed DC’s. Though some in DC’s camp have trash-talked a bit, it’s doubtful execs at Marvel/Disney look at the numbers for Justice League and smile. Of course they want Thor (and Coco, for that matter) to beat the League at the box office, but if the latter film’s gate is very low, it’s troubling for the industry. Fans need to wake up and recognize this: It’s in everyone’s vested interest that all these films be well made and perform accordingly. It’s also all right to actually want to see both companies’ films, as well as to want them both to succeed. A scan of message boards, YouTube videos, or a visit to your local comic shop will present a very different reality.
It’s all about picking sides now. Perhaps it’s a reflection of our country at this moment.
Every story, regardless of the topic, resonates with themes of how divided the nation is. “Good” isn’t solely a description of the aesthetic quality of the work; it’s now a loaded term, implying moral value.
Too often, people forget that it’s just entertainment. Every creation doesn’t necessarily feature a hidden agenda—and having a viewpoint and/or a theme to explore doesn’t automatically invalidate a work just because a certain portion of the audience doesn’t like or agree with it. Joss Whedon went to DC, but it wasn’t a repudiation of all things Marvel—he simply needed to get away from Ike Perlmutter‘s controlling ways. Even Kevin Feige finally had to demand that Perlmutter be removed from overseeing the MCU, so toxic was the man’s influence. And all the “DC-only” fans crowing about “SJW Marvel” losing Brian Michael Bendis, should ask themselves how they really feel about one of the supposed main proponents of diversity in comics coming over to play in their sandbox.
The next time you read a twitter rant, or follow a long thread of ever-increasingly nasty fanboy trolling comments on either side of the great DC-Marvel divide, remember this little story.
Those who follow the sport of soccer may know about the intense loathing from both sides in the Barcelona and Real Madrid rivalry in Spain. The games between these two teams stand in for wars that have been fought (and could be on the brink of igniting again) between these two regions, Catalonia and Castile. The few players who have jumped across the chasm that divides the two, become white-hot flashpoints in their rivalry.
In 2000, when the great Portuguese player Luis Figo left Barca to play for Madrid, he became public enemy number one in Catalonia. When he made his first visit to their stadium on October 21 of that year—just recently having been crowned world player of the year—fans were ready.
The noise was deafening, the insults and chants incessant.
Unfortunately, because the player took corner kicks, he was constantly within range of having things thrown at him, and fans took every opportunity to do so. Bottles, batteries, cigarette lighters—and famously, yes, even a pig’s head—were hurled at the man by people who’d worshipped him and chanted his name in adoration only months before.
At no point did he hide. Instead he continued to take corners, demand the ball during play, and even went out of his way to hold it; if not quite showboating, definitely doing his best to showcase his technique and skills…
The fans were incensed.
After what could charitably be described as a testy affair, Barca fans boasted long and hard at the 2 nil win, made all the juicier by the fact that one of “their” two goals had been scored by Luis Enrique, a player who’d changed teams in the opposite direction from Madrid to Barca. But as they leapt and howled and rained debris down on the pitch, not many of them likely noticed all the players hugging and talking after the game. Figo’s former teammates in particular, going out of their way to seek out their friend and share an embrace.
In the end, there are creators, companies and fans.
The creators do what they do because they love it and it’s their job. But their allegiances are to the work and the people they personally provide for. Assuming there’s a philosophical or political alignment based on which company a person works for is a mistake: Creators respect and value their peers (regardless of where said peers work) a hell of a lot more than they do trolls who demean their supposed competition.
The companies do what they do because they’re trying to make money—that’s it. There is no hidden agenda, nor plan to eradicate the other side. Doing so would be bad for business—be it the comic book publishing, movie and TV production, animation, or toy business. Both DC and Marvel want to come out on top, but they don’t want to do it in a world where there’s no one in second place, therefore first place has no value. That scenario would indicate that the industry is about to go extinct.
As for the fans? It’s not worth getting so worked up. It doesn’t make sense to make things personal. You don’t have to be against something just because you’re a fan of something else… there should be enough love to go around. If we keep tearing down everything on the other side of our tastes, soon enough there won’t be anything left to enjoy. Or argue about.