A crossover between Marvel and DC Comics may be the ultimate dream come true for comic fans, but according to one major DC executive, a Marvel team-up isn’t just unlikely… fans shouldn’t want it to begin with. For newcomers, or even recent fans of the big two comic publishers, it may be hard to believe that the companies ever combined resources and characters in world-shattering event stories. But for comic fans of the 1990s, it’s a level of cooperation and camaraderie that no longer seems possible. Not on paper, and never on the big screen.
The truth, as most level-headed comic consumers recognize, is that the rivalry between DC and Marvel is largely a professional one. Maybe not always ‘friendly,’ given past disputes, but not as bitter as some fans choose to make it. So why is it that they refuse to put Superman against Hulk, Wonder Woman against Thor, or the rest of the Justice League vs The Avengers, given the headlines the events would certainly attract? According to DC’s Co-Publisher Dan Didio, the crossovers of the past may be fondly remembered by fans – but he sees them as a sign of weakness, not strength.
DiDio isn’t the first notable comic voice to speak to the unlikeligood of Marvel/DC crossovers ever being repeated, usually based on the corporate desire to claim profits, not share them. And when the consumers assume that the two publishers have grown to despise eachother in the current era of cutthroat superhero shared movie universes, cooperation is easily dismissed.
When asked at SDCC if DC and Marvel have truly agreed to a fight to the death, DiDio explained why DC wants to outsell Marvel whenever possible, but why that desire (on both sides) is good for the medium as a whole:
It’s not that we’re mortal enemies – it is competition, if you want the truth. It has to be. As we say, ‘the more we compete, the better off you are.’ It means that we’re trying harder to make our books better so you come to our books rather than Marvel books. That’s what the competition is all about. Between the two companies, we still are the industry leaders. There’s a lot of companies out there, a lot of great books being created. But we really have to lead by example.
The fact that DC’s main goal is tipping the sales in their favor, and not the competition’s may be seen as the real reason crossovers won’t be popular ever again. Why boost sales with a marquee crossover, one could ask, if half the money helps out the competition? From the Marvel side of things, comic writer Brian Michael Bendis (creator of Ultimate Spider-Man and Marvel’s following Ultimate Universe) previously explained why fan expectations also make crossovers a hard sell.
In short, when DC heroes fight Marvel’s, fans want a winner. Which is why past crossovers hinged on DC and Marvel merging heroes into a new “Amalgam” version, or teaming up against a third party.
But take the money out of the equation, and there are still reasons DiDio views a Marvel crossover as ground he’s not eager to revisit. Those events may seem fantastic in hindsight, but they remain a symbol, DiDio warns, of desperation, not cooperation:
Honestly, I looked at Marvel/DC crossovers as the last resort… Because at that point the industry was in bad shape. Each company felt that they couldn’t support themselves, they had to work together to create a product that created enough energy and interest for the fan base at the time. I would rather put that creative energy just in our characters rather than working on a story with Marvel characters.
And the shame of it, honestly, is there were certain things created in that mix-up, that mash-up, that were quite exciting but can never be revisited again without the cooperation between the two companies. At the end of the day, all that does is homogenize us. Marvel has a very distinctive point of view, DC has a very distinctive point of view, and I think we should be playing to our own strengths [rather] than worrying about playing to someone else. And I think, hopefully, all you guys win because of that.
DiDio’s point rings true for those who know the history of comic book publishers in the 1990s, but extends beyond business into what such ‘events’ reveal about creativity at the time (or the lack thereof). By now most of DC’s leadership has acknowledged that as good an idea as their New 52 Reboot may have been, the marketing buzz of reimagined heroes eventually gave way to lagging sales and enthusiasm from fans. The recent DC Rebirth was their solution, celebrating their heroes instead of twisting them for attention, and dropping prices instead of inflating them through one event after another. It’s worked so far, which means – just as DiDio explained – the ball is in Marvel’s court to challenge (cue Secret Empire, Legacy, Generations, and so on).
The core of DiDio’s appeal to fans isn’t all that different from the ones offered by DC and Marvel movies. Audiences may play favorites, but Marvel regularly states that DC Films doing things differently and succeeding, and vice versa is best for everyone involved. DiDio’s argument against homogeneity and support of different companies pursuing their own creative visions is just as applicable to films as comics, as well. When competition is fierce, inventive, and ambitious, its the fans who benefit the most.
Even if it means a DC/Marvel comic crossover is about as likely as a Justice League/Avengers movie battle. At least, we should all HOPE that remains the case, for the sake of the heroes and their creators.
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