In the history of pop culture, there may be no bigger direct rivalry than the one between the original home of the superhero, DC Comics, and the company that redefined the genre, Marvel Comics.
The storied history of this four-color conflict was examined by Reed Tucker in his entertaining and detailed book Slugfest: Inside the Epic, 50-Year Battle Between Marvel and DC in 2017, and now in 2021, Tucker’s examination of the strife has made it to the small screen as a new Roku Channel documentary series.
We spoke to Tucker about the adaptation and the never-ending struggle between the two comic giants in this exclusive interview.
How did your book get transformed into a documentary series?
Reed Tucker: After I wrote the book it got optioned by the Russo Brothers company and they began to do what they do. It was originally set up at Quibi, and when Quibi folded, they were bought up by Roku.
How much have you been involved in the making of the documentary?
Tucker: I am a consulting producer on the show and I primarily helped with some of the interviews, but the directors and producers did 99% of the work.
Are you happy with what made the cut from your book?
Tucker: Definitely. Since each episode is 10 minutes long, which was the format that Quibi attempted to do with all of their content, the stories had to be finite stories, fun anecdotes that explore the history of the rivalry. They are all done in one tales and the format allows them to have the energy of a movie trailer.
What is your personal history with comics and how did you become a fan?
Tucker: Comics were much more around when I was growing up in the 1980s. You could find comics at your local drug store or convenience store. But the one that really grabbed my attention was Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns. If not for that book, my interest would have waned, but comics were changing in that era. You had Watchmen, Elektra Assassin, that were more sophisticated stories than the ones that were previously available. They reeled me in at the exact right time.
Your book looks at many of the creators at each company who “fought” on both sides of the battle between Marvel and DC, and you also included the important writers of the 1970s who often go overlooked who kept Marvel going throughout that decade like Steve Gerber, Steve Englehart, Jim Starlin.
Tucker: Yes, and they were among the first generation of fans who wanted to be in the comics industry. The original group of creators from the Golden Age of Comics wrote and illustrated comics because they didn’t have opportunities elsewhere. They did it to pay the bills. People like Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, Starlin, and the others idolized those original writers and artists and wanted to build on the stories that they grew up on. This is also where continuity starts to get built in the comic universes, and it was because of those fans turned creators.
Slugfest covers all aspects of the battle between Marvel and DC, but were there chapters that you wish you were able to include in your book?
Tucker: There was so much more I wanted to include, but when you have a certain word count that you have to stick to, it makes it difficult. I had to cut between 20,000 and 30,000 words. If I could add those chapters, I would have liked to look at the films, television, and animation more.
Speaking of the films, Spider-Man: Now Way Home was just released and became the second highest grossing weekend for a movie of all time, as Marvel (and Sony) continue to strike it rich with their characters. Why do you think that DC has had such a difficult time over the past fifteen years of replicating this success?
Tucker: Marvel has their very tightly woven shared universe, and DC tried to do the same, but after the Snyderverse fell apart, it seems like they are trying to give filmmakers more leeway with telling their stories. With DC, their movies and TV have broader tones and moods based on where they are. The CW shows have a certain sensibility which is different from things like the Joker or Matt Reeves upcoming The Batman and it is the same with the cartoons or with things like Wonder Woman.
Do you feel that DC fans feel a bit resentful of the disparity?
Tucker: I think they feel depressed about it because DC has the characters to do what Marvel has done, but Warner Bros can’t seem to figure out how to do it. Hopefully, someone comes along who has the vision to make it happen.
Slugfest debuts on the Roku Channel on December 24. Tucker’s book of the same name is available at finer book stores everywhere.