Looking back on 50 years of comic book history, Reed Tucker unleashes his story of the ultimate cosmic combat where punches and fights and battles were not limited to the four-color world of super-heroes and god-like deities, but instead happened between the editors and creators of the two biggest and best of comic book champions: Marvel and DC.
Slugfest: Inside the Epic, 50-year Battle between Marvel and DC meticulously compiles hundreds of interviews and creates a narrative for the fanboy ages that is as entertaining as it is sometimes embarrassing. Similar in scope to Marvel Comics: The Untold History by Sean Howe, Slugfest parallels the rise and fall and rise and fall again of these titans of industry. Tucker gets into the moving parts of both offices, the reigns and fiefdoms established by editor-in-chiefs, and their constant bickering and one-upmanship. However, Tucker’s seemingly Marvel-slanted bias is underlying in the narrative.
Throughout Slugfest, Tucker constantly places the stoic and established DC up against Marvel, who is eternally portrayed as the scrappy underdog. Even when Marvel finally becomes Number One in the industry, these two motifs never change in the book, even though, as a fan of comics in the eighties and nineties, such a paradigm shift did indeed happen. DC Comics, properly recognizing the success of The Dark Knight Returns, and Watchmen, and Swamp Thing and Sandman, jumped full-force into adult-oriented comics and completely owned that particular market, a fact that Marvel was never able to accomplish, as industry-recognized awards can verify. Slugfest glances over such details, presenting instead overall company sales percentages.
Naturally, as a comic book fan, there are many points where the book could have gone deeper, from Jim Shooter’s firing at Marvel to DC’s acquisition of the Charleton Comics line, how the creation of Image changed the status-quo for creator-owned series, and the wrangling of established writers from outside the industry. The largest slight missed in Slugfest is that of the fan’s perspective. As a fan and one-time avid reader of both companies, I never bothered with what was the top-selling comic and who reigned the charts. I cared about the actual product. And for a long time in the late eighties and into the nineties, there was a constant every fan knew: Marvel had the artists, but DC had the writers. DC was the place if you cared about a story and a character’s arc, while Marvel zombies were delighted with eye-candy spectacles. After all, DC never released a swimsuit special. Right?
Slugfest is a fun, recommended read, and completely relevant for today’s market where, the comic titles themselves be damned, Marvel dominates the cinema, yet DC TV is, well, scrappy and entertaining. Tucker’s account of it all is a treat, well establishing the fact that the true victor of any such conflict is the fan, who can watch the combat unfold, the sparks fly, the punches thrown, and read stories that remain yet untold.