In a new series of posts, I will dive into different aspects of the World of Comic Books to get an understanding of the current landscape. In this first post, I am going to examine the possibility of a new Marvel and DC intercompany crossover. Crossovers are an enjoyable event in the comic landscape if done correctly, breathing new life into a property, and often ending decades worth of squabbling over which character is better. Marvel and DC have a natural professional rivalry that has escalated in recent years taking the brawl off the pages and into the theaters. Is it possible both companies can work together to bring delight to the fanbase, let’s find out?
Before learning the future of crossovers, it is necessary to understand their past. The first co-publication between Marvel and DC was the Marvelous Wizard of Oz comic. It was well received and sparked collaboration between in-house characters like Spider-Man and Superman. The peak of the crossovers resulted in Amalgam Comics an imprint shared between DC Comics and Marvel Comics in 1996. Many comic fans may be familiar with that year, as Marvel declared bankruptcy in December, later impacting their cinematic universe, with DC also facing the sting after “The Death of Superman” flooded the market.
In essence, Amalgam was the search for more money after the comic industry reached a desperation point facing challenges from strong new competition (Jim Shooter led Valiant Comics) and over-saturation concerns. Despite the reasoning behind its formation, the imprint produced memorable characters like SHIELD agent Bruce Wayne combining the best part of certain characters from each company. This relationship ended with the conclusion of JLA/Avengers in 2004.
Today, both companies are relatively stable according to Comichron, a leader in reporting the Diamond sales of each comic publisher. However, 2017 marked the first year with a decrease in comic growth since DC’s “New 52” reboot in 2011. Grossing around $522.25 Million for all North American publications in 2017 accounting for a 10 percent decrease from 2016’s sales. With this being the largest drop since 1998, back in the Amalgam era, comics may be seeing the first signs of a troubling trend. The market share is relatively split, as the top ten units sold were evenly split between Marvel and DC. Marvel holds a slight edge in units sold and net market share with 38.3 percent and 36.36 percent compared to DC’s 33.93 percent and 30.07 percent. Marvel’s increased profit margin is attributed to their base price of $3.99 compared to DC’s base price of $2.99.
Despite Marvel and DC collaborating on books until 2004, an incident in 2002 involving current Marvel Entertainment’s Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada may have hammered the final nail in any future collaborations. In an interview with the New York Observer, Quesada unleashed on DC’s inability to handle their own characters, while dreaming about the days back where both companies hated each other. As expected, this spread like wildfire through the comic industry and then president of DC Comics Paul Levitz tried to get Marvel to fire Quesada. With Quesada becoming one of the most influential individuals at Marvel since it makes sense why Stuart Moore said, “the relationship between the companies has not been warm ever since,” in the book Slugfest: Inside the Epic, 50-year Battle between Marvel and DC.
Here’s what Quesada said:
“What the f&# is DC anyway? They’d be better off calling it AOL Comics. At least people know what AOL is. I mean, they have Batman and Superman, and they don’t know what to do with them. That’s like being a porn star with the biggest d%#* and you can’t get it up. What the f&#!?”
Recently, it was shown that each company can get behind a common cause despite the escalated tensions. Last July, the #makeminemilkshake movement broke intercompany barriers after former Marvel Comics assistant editor Heather Antos tweeted an all-female and was subsequently flanked by criticism about politicizing comics decreasing their quality. In a show of support for Antos, the internet was full of fan art as well as Marvel backing their employee publicly on Twitter. DC also reached out through Twitter posting an all-female group shot with milkshakes in tow. Marvel presented DC with an olive branch in the form of a milkshake for two.
While not crossing over with Marvel, DC has placed more of focus on intercompany crossovers with IDW, Archie Comics, as well as fellow Warner Brothers’ property Hanna-Barbera. Connecting with outside companies, DC has paired the Green Lantern Corps with Starfleet and Harley Quinn with the Riverdale crew. These series were well received as they weren’t forced pairings and the story flowed progressed naturally. In part with DC’s initiative to make use of Warner Brothers’ library of Hanna-Barbera characters Booster Gold met up with the Flintstones and Space Ghost sparred against Green Lantern. These issues were met with mixed reception, as some issues worked while others fell flat.
Dan Didio, DC’s Co-Publisher, squashed the idea of any crossover with Marvel during the 2017 San Diego Comic-Con stating that the best way for DC to succeed is to compete with Marvel. He linked that the past Marvel/DC crossovers were a temporary measure due to the comic market reaching all-time lows. In an interesting note, he also stated that the companies don’t have a toxic relationship towards one and other as suggested by other members of both companies. This could either be attributed to Didio wanting to keep an outward appearance or both companies finding a middle ground.
With all the aforementioned history between each company, the likelihood of a crossover between DC and Marvel in the near future is very slim. While it would delight fans of both companies seeing pairings like Superman and Sentry both DC and Marvel are focused on their own characters. Despite the comic book economy taking a slight decline, both companies are in stable conditions, being propped up by Disney and Time Warner, meaning that a future crossover won’t be out of desperation. It is shown that both companies can reach common ground for a certain cause showing the big two can work together. If the perfect storm hits the possibility of a crossover can become a reality.