In the red corner you have Marvel: A comic book company with a rich heritage behind it, including iconic concepts such as the X-Men, Iron Man, and the Fantastic Four — nowadays also a hugely successful cinematic universe!
In the blue corner, you have DC: A comic book company owned by Time Warner with classic heroes such as Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Unlike Marvel, DC has a long history of superhero movies — most notably starring Superman and Batman — but are only just getting into the whole cinematic universe thing.
If you listen to the fans, the two are rivals locked in an epic death-battle to dominate the comic and superhero film industries. In the wake of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, DC fans have unleashed a whole new salvo of insults against Marvel fans. The most common is that Marvel movies are formulaic and unthinking, and these poor Marvel fans have been deluded into accepting subpar action flicks rather than the thoughtful philosophy of Batman v Superman. Incredibly, some DC fans have even gone so far as to claim Marvel's parent company, Disney, was paying critics to write bad reviews of Batman v Superman. Meanwhile, some Marvel fans have actually reacted to DC's latest controversies with a sense of joy.
It's time for the fans to wake up.
Both DC and Marvel have a place of pride in both modern and historic comics. DC may have lower sales figures — Marvel typically dominate Diamond's estimates of comic book sales — but they've got some tremendous characters. Superman is perhaps the single most iconic superhero ever, while their strongest franchise is Batman. Many arcs are critically acclaimed and some of their best writers — such as Scott Snyder — are producing comic book scripts of the very best quality. And just look at the Arkham games!
What's more, DC's cinematic history is something to be proud of. From Christopher Reeves's reign as Superman, to the iconic Tim Burton Batman movies that launched in 1989, DC superheroes have successfully defined themselves on the big screen for generations.
Marvel also has heroes of real note, whose stories have constantly helped to ground superheroes in the everyday. Spider-Man is the most valuable comic book franchise in modern comics, raising more from toy sales than any other superhero. What's more, Marvel is doing it again now with characters like Kamala Khan and the surprisingly popular Spider-Gwen!
From Spider-Man's love life to Chris Claremont's exploration of prejudice in the pages of Uncanny X-Men, Marvel has been a force for real social change. As fears built over the AIDS/HIV epidemic, Marvel used the X-Men's Legacy Virus as an analogy for it and explored those complex issues. Peter Parker was dealing with friends who were struggling with cancer from smoking long before the cigarette industry began to admit the connection.
Although Marvel is a relative newcomer to blockbuster success, since 2008's Iron Man they've established themselves as a force to be reckoned with. They've produced critically-acclaimed hits, often making risky decisions that surprisingly paid off (I remember the skepticism before Guardians of the Galaxy was released).
Here's the best bit: Right now, superhero movies are in vogue. This year we have no less than six superhero films coming out, and the first, Deadpool, proved the diversity and quality of the superhero film genre. The second, Batman v Superman, may have been controversial, but it's effectively launched a whole new strategy in filmmaking for DC and Warner Bros. Even smaller companies like Valiant Comics are reaching agreements with film studios to launch their own superhero cinematic universes.
But with the sheer number of superhero movies there also comes a risk. The risk is that the films will drift into formula and that audiences will become sated; their superhero fix satisfied, they'll move on to the next wave. Marvel Studios, Warner Bros., Fox, and Sony all carry a heavy responsibility. If they allow this remarkable genre of film to become soulless and formulaic or if they fail to produce movies of quality then they risk destroying the genre.
All of which means that I couldn't care less whether you veer towards Marvel or DC. I want the fans to grow up, to realize that a superhero film can be good regardless of which company has made it, and to encourage the studios to make the best films they can. Although my background is more in Marvel, I want the DC Cinematic Universe to be a thing of wonder, beauty, and complexity. I want DC to give Marvel a run for their money and I won't mind a bit if DC take Marvel's superhero crown. If they manage that, it'll just push Marvel to make their next film even better.
Are you a DC fan? Good for you. There are some top-rate comics, DC does brilliantly with their TV series, and their cinematic universe is now good to go. Are you a Marvel fan? Good for you. There are some top-rate comics, Marvel is absolutely killing it on Netflix, and their cinematic universe is setting new industry trends for filmmaking. I'm not going to insult you based on your preference because we can at least stand united in our love of comics and superhero movies.
In the 1990s, the two companies worked together on a miniseries called DC Versus Marvel. In this arc the two universes collided and champions had to battle one another. It led to some pretty cool moments — including the brawl between Superman and the Hulk — but the really interesting character arc belonged to Robin and Jubilee.
The two began a romance, and as the world fell to battle around them, they snuggled up after their brief scrap and enjoyed some quality time. Each found something to love in the other. Needless to say, the ultimate outcome of DC Versus Marvel was effectively a draw, with each company signifying its respect for the other.
I think comic book fans could do with learning that lesson. Just like Robin and Jubilee, fans of the one company will find much to love in the other's universe. Just like that arc, it's better for superhero fans to give a respectful nod to their competition, and simply enjoy the fact that we're now living in the superhero age.
Let's just sit back and enjoy the ride.