Slugfest: Inside The Epic 50-Year Battle Between Marvel And DC by Reed Tucker (book review).

October 6, 2017 | By | Reply More

The title of Reed Tucker’s book, ‘Slugfest: Inside The Epic 50-Year Battle Between Marvel And DC’ gives away the subject matter. For those across the pond, this is a reprint of the De Capo Press book first release so this is aimed at the UK audience.

You might think you know all about the rivalry between National Periodicals/DC Comics and Marvel Comics from the 1960s onwards, but this book also explores a lot of the detail and various other shenanigans of oneupmanship.

For DC Comics, the management couldn’t understand the appeal Marvel got. Looking at how they looked at their rival’s covers and thinking it was more red on the covers to cover captions showed they didn’t look at the content. I now understand why there were some months Marvel ran green covers because Stan Lee wanted to show it had nothing to do with colour. Objectively, it all started when Stan Lee was planning to leave Marvel to become a novelist, he wrote the stories from a nothing to lose perspective and just to please himself. Fortunately, he found a tone that readers enjoyed and, as we say, the rest is Marvel history.

A lot of the emphasis is on looking at how DC Comics were caught wrong-footed and not understanding the change in market forces, ie the readership was growing up and wanted something more relevant to their lives. In the UK and from my own experience, you grew out of one stage of comics and you moved onto the next. UK publishers never expected you to stay a reader beyond a couple years before you moved up an age group. If we were still reading comics by the time we were 9 or 10, we’d hooked into the American comics. They were pricier but for much of the time they had complete stories. This is largely why when Marvel UK did their reprints but not necessarily having complete stories per issue and in black and white, their readers quickly moved to the original American version when they found they could be bought easily over here. The American comicbook scene was slightly different. You might start with Archie Comics and then DC Comics. Marvel suddenly became the next step up when it inadvertently targeted a more adult albeit college grade audience.

Something Tucker doesn’t note is that apart from DC rarely crediting their creative staff, they also did it to themselves as well. The infamous ‘editor’ than an exact name was hardly going to endear readers to get to know them. When I was young, it felt impersonal. If anything, Stan Lee just broke down the barriers by doing the reverse of what was then accepted as the norm and got it right. Even today, I suspect people would be hard pushed to name all the original editors at DC Comics during the 1960s let alone which comics they edited.

The rivalry between the two companies didn’t always sweep down to the creative side, although I wish I had some more insight in how ‘friendly’ poker nights drew in some people who you wouldn’t necessarily thought of as getting together.

Seeing the problems again of how getting the two companies together to cross-over their characters in the Treasuries at the time and give equal measure to each was never going to be easy. I like the fact that Reeder noted earlier little touches the creative teams did that got under the radar of their editors. About the only thing he missed was the X-Men having the Shi’Ar Imperial Guard as Legion Of Super-Heroes lookalikes and that DC lost their nerve or rather those involved didn’t want to chance some X-Men lookalikes.

In many respects, as this book reveals, it was DC Comics editors who pushed their rivalry more than Marvel and got soured by it who took it as a bit of fun at the time. Compared to some of the bitchiness that goes on today, as revealed later in this book, it was pretty mild in comparison. I wish Tucker had examined corporate rivalries a bit more just to show it’s a normal state of affairs in America that we rarely get exposed to over here.

Something that is easy to observe is that no matter how successful Marvel was in comicbooks, this translated less than favourably when it came to TV and films. Well, until the late 1990s and the advent of CGI and now you can’t get away from them. Just goes to show it’s all a matter of having the right materials to make it happen. My late Mum never really understood my interest in comicbooks but tolerated it and watched the 2002 ‘Spider-Man’ film and suddenly understood the attraction which was a surprise.

I’m less familiar with what was happening between the Big Two after the 1990s when cost dropped me out of comicbook reading. Being in the UK, tends to keep me away from the in-fighting. I do remember making a comment that with the bagged Spider-Man # 1 comic that if no one ever opened them, it could be ‘Mille The Model’ inside for all the difference it made. About the only thing Reeder missed out on was the holograms on the covers of the X-Men titles.

The last two chapters deal with the present day situation with film and TV representation and stops short of the latest ‘Wonder Woman’ film. I did find it odd that there is very little reference to the ‘Watchman’ film as this is largely why Warner entrusted director Zack Snyder with making the darker ‘Batman Vs Superman’ film.

His summing up of the differences between the two companies media products makes sense. DC Comics through its parent company Warner can adapt their characters to the medium they want to attract. Marvel’s universe has a cohesion that means if you want to get the whole picture (sic), you need to know something about but not necessarily have watched some of the TV series as well as to tie into the films. You would have thought that would keep both companies apart.

If there is a flaw in this book, I wish Reeder had made some observations himself about the various situations. Granted he gets a lot of information from a lot of different people in the industry but it is often their analysis than his own.

Nevertheless, this is an important and only book on the subject and if you have an interest in comicbooks then should be on your read list. The early chapters stirred a lot of memories for me as you can see from my own analysis above. I came away from this book thinking this is getting down to becoming a school playground fight now. Like with the various implosions both companies have had over the years, they really need each other to be reasonably successful, more so should the public get fed up with the super-hero film or having the market saturated with them or get fed up with the rivalries squabbling or all three. At the end of the day, it’s the product not the rivalry that counts.

GF Willmetts

October 2017

(pub: Sphere/Little Brown. 286 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £14.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-7515-6897-4)

check out websites: www.littlebrown.co.uk and www.reedtucker.net


Category: Books, Comics, Superheroes

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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