Now, depending on your personal opinion - and preferred news sources - it's fairly likely that you consider the recently released Suicide Squad to either be one of the biggest box office hits in years... or a divisive disappointment that's going to fall apart financially any day now. That, after all, is the nature of much of modern internet discourse - we all seem to wind up on one side or another of a giant, gaping chasm of partisan shouting, whether or not we actually want to join in the screaming ourselves.
Love Marvel movies? Well, then you must surely hate Zack Snyder and all he holds dear. Love DC? Well, then you must surely loathe the MCU, and all who sail under her. For many commentators - and commenters - online, you're either with them, or against them. You're Star Wars, or you're Star Trek. You're The Flash, or you're Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. You're The Avengers, or you're Justice League. And if you say you like both, or see flaws in each of them? Well, then get ready to be told you're not a real fan by a faceless avatar on the internet, because that is absolutely going to happen.
To which the only reasonable response is, of course, a superhero dance off...
What, though, if that whole dichotomy - the idea that, say, Marvel and DC are inherently in conflict with one another, and that we have to pick sides accordingly - is just something we're kind of... imagining?
Is It Possible That The Marvel/DC Rivalry Is Actually All In Our Heads?
After all, for most comic-book fans, and the vast majority of movie-goers, there's never been any real distinction between enjoying Marvel and DC comic-books - much as there's never been any iron-clad reason why we couldn't love both Star Wars and Star Trek. Loving The Flash as a character doesn't make it impossible to think that Quicksilver's awesome too - much as growing up reading X-Men comic-books has never stopped anyone from thinking that Batman was bad-ass.
Sure, some kid in the playground might have told you that Superman was lame, and a high-school friend might have argued that Marvel's heroes lack the innate mythology of DC's after their first class on Beowulf, but for the most part, we've all always been free to love whatever comic-books, movies, TV shows and novels that we choose.
The Internet, Though, Has Other Ideas
Now, one of the strangest things about the modern internet isn't the fact that you can order groceries to your house in the time it used to take to put your shoes on to walk to the store, or even all that incredibly niche porn that's inevitably hiding out there somewhere. Instead, it's the fact that - for reasons that experts are still puzzling over - the internet seems to be encouraging us to break off into partisan factions, and to shout past or actively ignore anyone who doesn't share the exact same views as us.
Where once we would have to spend our recess arguing our case (preferably without resorting to shoving), and listening to that Superman-hating kid's point of view, we're now free to click ignore, or to type in ALL CAPS into the internet void, safe in the knowledge that we're unlikely to see or feel any of the consequences of our typed actions. What's more, we now have access to a seemingly endless database of supporting evidence - proof that DC and Marvel hate each other, say, or that Star Wars/Trek is superior to Star Trek/Wars. As it turns out, though...
Most People In The Film And Comic-Book Industries Don't Think There's Really A Rivalry At All
Ask J.J. Abrams what he thinks of Star Wars and Star Trek, for instance, and he's unlikely to tell you that he only likes one of them. Heck, hundreds of people who've worked on one will inevitably have loved the other when they were growing up - because spaceships are awesome, whether they're the Enterprise or the 'Falcon. This is doubly true of Marvel and DC, which have, through their decades of competition, constantly employed people who have previously worked for the other company.
Take Jeph Loeb, for example. Though now the head of Marvel's TV division - and thus responsible for shepherding both Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Marvel's Netflix shows to the screen - Loeb was once best known for winning a whole lot of Eisner awards for his work with DC. As it turns out, though, a history of writing the critically acclaimed likes of Batman: The Long Halloween and Superman For All Seasons hasn't stopped Loeb working with Marvel - or turned him into a DC-hating convert.
Instead, when asked by The Hollywood Reporter whether the recent critical drubbing of Suicide Squad has any impact on Marvel's thinking going forward, Loeb had this to say:
No. It's funny, we actually get asked that a lot... The truth is, they do what they do and we do what we do. I tend to sort of think about it like I'm not sure that people that make medical shows look at other medical shows and go, 'Why is my medical show better than this?'"
In other words? For people actually working for Marvel and DC - professionals who might want to work for the other company one day - the two company's rivalry is just that: A rivalry. They're competitive because they're the two biggest names in comic-books, and in comic-book movies - not because there's some deep-seated grudge between the two of them dating back half a century.
If Marvel and DC are ultimately just business rivals, though, then...
Why Do We All Operate On The Assumption That We Need To Pick A Side?
It's rare, after all, to find a user profile in a geek-themed corner of the internet that doesn't make it explicitly clear whether or not the user prefers Marvel or DC. Is that simply a defense mechanism at this point - a nailing to the mast of our superhero colors in order to gain the security of having other fans come to our defense if others verbally attack us? Alternatively, is it a by-product of the internet's gradual slide into partisan shouting - a symptom of something very wrong with the web around us? Or, perhaps, is it simply that we like picking a team to support - and are happy to ignore the fact that the likes of Marvel and DC (and Star Wars and Star Trek, and countless other 'opposing' properties besides) are actually not mutually exclusive things to enjoy?
Whatever the reason, it might be time for us to shake off the gentle, shackle-less oppression of being told what we can and can't like - and instead come together to read, watch and listen to whatever we damn well feel like, whether it's made by Marvel, DC, or anyone else besides. And, since we're all free to enjoy the vast span of culture (popular or otherwise) that the world has to offer, maybe we can give everyone around us - and on the other end of internet forums and comments sections - a break about what they love, too. After all, someone loving Suicide Squad doesn't mean you have to like it, much as someone thinking it was terrible doesn't mean that you can't think it was great.
It just means you can probably have an even more interesting conversation with each other about it.
Want to read more about Marvel and DC's relationship? Check out:
- The Withdrawal Of THAT 'Suicide Squad' Petition Is A Victory For Movie Fans Everywhere
- In The Wake Of San Diego Comic-Con 2016, Has DC Now Gone "Full Marvel"?
- Can 'Suicide Squad' Redefine Hollywood's Idea Of A Hit DC Movie?
In the meantime, though, what do you reckon?
Do you think we need to leave partisanship behind when it comes to popular culture?