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The Avengers has brought in more money than any other movie this year — more than $600 million domestically. And it's only going to make more, especially with the DVD release this week.
The Avengers features characters from Marvel Comics, but the No. 2 movie of the year was based on a character from rival DC Comics — Batman. It's just the latest skirmish in a long, long, long-running battle between Marvel fans and DC fans.
And If you want to talk Marvel versus DC, there's no better place to go than a comic book shop. Gary Sernaker, a customer at Comickaze in San Diego, describes himself as a proud comic book reader since age 8.
"I started off as a DC, but I weaned myself into Marvel and have been a diehard fan ever since," Sernaker says. "Marvel Comics are really geared for real-life superheroes," like Spider-Man, X-Men, Iron Man, Hulk and Captain America.
"They understand what the real realities would be if you actually had superpowers," he says. "It wouldn't be a panacea — they wouldn't make everything much better, they would probably make your life a whole lot more difficult and complicated, which they do."
That's why Iron Man Tony Stark struggles with alcoholism, for example, and Spider-Man has to speak to strangers when he's forced to use the elevator. Wisecracking humor defines Marvel's characters, whereas DC is marked by a seriousness that has been played up by writer-director Christopher Nolan in his epic Dark Knight trilogy.
And that does appeal to some. Comics fan Corby Kennard, browsing at Invincible Ink in neighboring San Marcos, Calif., prefers DC's iconic heroes over Marvel's guys in tights.
"When you're dealing with Marvel Comics it seems like they're just some people who have super powers and every once in awhile they put on a costume and they go out and do something heroic in some way," he says. "It seems like a lot more soap opera-ish when dealing with Marvel Comics.
But even rival fans Kennard and Sernaker agree: In the film universe, Marvel is kicking DC's butt. After suffering DC bombs like Jonah Hex and Catwoman, Sernaker says, "if there was a case of comic book malpractice, it would be DC."
Green Lantern and Superman also tanked on the screen. Six years after Superman Returns, fan Lucky Bronson is still shaking his head over it.
"It should be inspiring, you know, like, I want to put on a cape or something just for fun," he says ruefully, "which is disappointing, 'cause DC's characters, I think, are 100 times more recognizable than the Marvel characters, but they constantly fail to present to the audience why these guys are cool."
But the Marvel movies make their characters so cool that they can prompt a collector like Craig Van Thiel to reassess his buying habits. "You get a terrific movie ... and then people will say, 'Hey, I'm gonna take a crack at the Captain America comic series or Thor' — even me, I enjoyed those movies so much — 'Let me take a closer look at the Avengers comics lines that I didn't normally collect.' "
Another thing rival fans can agree on: DC and Marvel should be using their superpowers to promote comic books through their movies. With great box-office power comes great responsibility.