Good and evil. Nike and Reebok. McDonalds and Burger King. NBC and CBS. Pepsi and Coke. Fox News and CNN. Star Trek and Star Wars. Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse. The Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins. Microsoft and Apple. Democrats and Republicans. Mac vs PC. Marvel and DC Comics. Competition is everywhere. It is inevitable. In the words of American evangelical author Nancy Pearcey, “competition is always a good thing. It forces us to do our best. A monopoly renders people complacent and satisfied with mediocrity.” For example, the current cesspool of mediocrity that is intravenously administered to us from the WWE. Wrestling has no real competition and I feel that the creative team and ultimately Mr. McMahon have no real competition to try to make a bigger and better product, thusly we are left with a lackluster result. The Monday Night Wars in which the top professional wrestling brands in the 1990s, the WCW and WWE, were fighting for brand and individual Monday night show’s supremacy caused the greatest era in wrestling to be forged. Alas we are not here to talk about wrestling again; I want to discuss something that is as equally important to me: comic books (and more specifically, I am referring to the new found popularity of the Comic Book Movie Universes).
Comic books spawned out of our innate love for Comic Strips or as you might know them ‘the funnies’. Dell Comics creator started to see the popularity of the comic strip and decided to circumvent selling the comics just inside the whole newspaper and make more money by taking the comic strips, folding them up into the roughly the same size of our standard comic books and slapped a 10 cent sticker upon them. Thusly, the “Famous Funnies” comic book was born. Detective Comics did something revolutionary when they introduced a comic starring just one character: Superman. A character created by two Jewish immigrants, who in 1938 ushered in the Golden Age of comics. Detective Comics (commonly known as DC comics today) asked artist Bob Kane to create a new character to compete with Superman. “The World’s Great Detective”, “The Dark Knight”, “The Caped Crusader” or as Billionaire Bruce Wayne’s secret identity: Batman swung his swift sense of justice into the scene in 1939. At this time over 2 dozen comic book companies were fighting for supremacy and most used Superman or Batman as their template. Out of the great depression and into a time of war, a character by the name of Captain America came swinging his fist into the face of Hitler in 1941 thanks to Marvel Comics predecessor Timely Comics.
By the early 1940s more than 90% of America’s youth between the ages of 7-17 was rushing to news stands across the country to buy comic books; while 1 out of every 4 publications sent over seas to soldiers during WW2 were comic books. Even though Captain America lost his steam after the war, comic books weren’t all lost. Soldiers returning from war wanted to read something more. Crime and suspense books replaced the top rack popularity of the super heroes of old and it wasn’t until 1960 when Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Flash, and other DC characters became members of a little organization known as the Justice League. This started our obsession with ‘superhero teams’ and fueled a competitive force to flow by the time 1961 rolled around when then writer-editor for Marvel, Stan Lee, changed the comic book industry forever when he created an even bigger reader base. Fantastic Four #1 was released in November of 1961 and showed a different side to comic characters. The human vulnerabilities and emotions of the characters fueled their popularity. The human appeal was even further felt in the character who premiered in August 1962 issue of Amazing Fantasy: Spider-Man. The costumed, crime fighting teenager quickly became popular amongst youth due to Peter Parker’s (Spider-Man’s alter ego) problems. His teenage angst, flung amongst the ever present danger around his New York City home. Down the fictional road from Spider-Man’s New York home, stands the Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters in Westchester County, New York. In 1963 we are introduced to Professor Xavior and his mighty X-Men in The X-Men #1 comic book. We are introducted to Professor X and his team: Angel, Beast, Cyclops, Iceman and Jean Grey. Despite the introduction of the Comics Code Authority in 1954, this comic book approval code didn’t slow down comic book’s popularity to continue rising.
Comic books had been on film, TV, the radio, cartoons and in the comic book realm by the time the late 1970s rolled around; it was time for a rejuvenation of Superheroes on film. Captain Marvel, Batman, Captain America and Superman had all had movies in the 1940s but with the advent of new technology it was time for a big budget film. The popularity of Star Wars had proven that fantasy and science fiction was the popular wave to ride upon, 1978 saw the true big screen introduction to Superman. Many sequels followed and even Batman saw his time on the big screen in 1989 when Tim Burton rolled up his sleeves and introduced a whole new world of children to the Caped Crusader. Many comic book movies were made in the years following the new Batman movie and it fueled the big screen’s love for comic book movies. Batman and its many sequels, The Shadow, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, The Crow, and Spawn continued to wet our comic book whistle but it was not until 1997’s Men in Black and 1998’s Blade that film studios saw the films as legitimate power houses. The X-Men movie in 2000 and Spider-man in 2002 were some of the largest blockbusters of all time. Comic books were selling more and more and movie companies were shelling out movies for us to enjoy. The X-Men and Spider-Man sequels, Hulk, Hellboy, Ghost Rider, Iron Man, Captain America, The Watchmen, and The Dark Knight trilogy were all fueling the comic book fire. Comic books and comic book characters were cool again.
The competitive nature of the industry is causing us to have a better and better movie going experience. Competition leads to increasing innovation. If Marvel were the only player in the field, they wouldn’t have as much motivation to continue making a better and better product. And thankfully with DC and Marvel running neck and neck with their respective properties, we are reaping the benefits of their rivalry. The Sci-Fi /action movie genre is a crowded market but thankfully Marvel and DC are succeeding by not doing what everyone else is doing. With the DC’s new Batman vs Superman movie fighting for supremacy against Marvel’s newest X-Men, Doctor Strange, and Captain America movie in which we shall see almost all the members of the Avengers. This healthy competition encourages change which will distinguish the brand from the other. This Comic book movie universe is more powerful than it ever has been and I look forward to buying my bucket of popcorn and large Coke to enjoying the results of a competitive product.
Love, Peace and Chicken grease,