Chronicling The Rivalry Between Marvel And DC With Business Wars’ David Brown

by James Ferguson

Every comic book fan knows of “The Big Two.” Marvel and DC are two titans of the industry and they’ve had a rivalry that dates back decades. The podcast Business Wars from Wondery recently highlighted this rivalry over the course of a six-episode series. I had a chance to speak with host David Brown about this particular business battle.

James Ferguson: How does the rivalry between Marvel and DC stack up against the others featured in Business Wars like Nike vs. Adidas and Netflix vs. Blockbuster?
David Brown: It strikes me as similar in ways to Nike vs. Adidas because they are the dominant two brands in the industry, and there has been several instances of important people crossing enemy lines in both series. In Marvel-DC, the biggest defection is signature artist Jack Kirby. At one point, once Marvel learns Kirby is planning to leave for DC, three menacing members of Marvel publisher Martin Goodman’s family surround Kirby and pressure him into finishing the current issue of Captain America before leaving. [*Editor’s note: This event allegedly took place, but cannot vouch for the source of this story.]
Marvel struck back when Jack Kirby’s DC ideas were leaked to them by an inker. Coincidentally, when a DC employee was giving intel to fan outlets and Marvel, DC executives flushed him by creating a fake idea called “Blockbuster,” which was a line of 500-page comics.
JF: What was something that shocked or surprised you while creating this series?
DB: Just as Blockbuster might have been able to acquire Netflix before it became a juggernaut, as the first Business Wars installment explains, DC could’ve stopped Marvel back in 1962. Their veteran writers were swiping magazines and comics from an adjacent business office and bring books published from the companies that would soon become Marvel. But the DC publisher scoffs at the idea of even thumbing through the them, let alone considering absorbing the companies. Twenty-two years later, fledgling DC is coming to Marvel about a collaboration.
JF: Is there anything you would have liked to include in the podcast that just didn’t fit?  After reading Reed Tucker’s book, Slugfest, the comic book crossovers come to mind. 
DB: As with any series where the rivalry is back and forth for more than 50 years, some will have to be left on the editing floor. However, the Business Wars production staff and writers did an excellent job of capturing all of the necessary and juicy details in the series.

JF: Through ups and downs on both sides, what is it about Marvel and DC that you think has allowed them to stand the test of time and become such pop culture juggernauts?
DB: They have been able to reinvent themselves, and they’ve done it with great content. Often times, it came from people who did it for both sides. For instance, Marvel was not wildly successful at the start with their character ideas. It wasn’t until Stanley Lieber, who used the pen name Stan Lee so as not to sully his reputation producing mediocre comics, talked with his wife about how to create better comics. She told him to take some creative liberties and write comics he would want to read. The result? The Fantastic Four.
The full six chapter series chronicling the rivalry between Marvel and DC is available now, along with a special bonus episode with interviews with writer Reed Tucker and actor Jason Mewes. Business Wars is currently telling the story of the battle between Nintendo and Sony.

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