The most bruising battle in the superhero world isn’t between spandex-clad characters; it’s between the publishers themselves. For more than 50 years, Marvel and DC have been locked in an epic war, tirelessly trading punches and trying to do to each other what Batman regularly does to the Joker’s face. Slugfest, the first book to tell the history of this epic rivalry into a single, juicy narrative, is the story of the greatest corporate rivalry never told. It is also an alternate history of the superhero, told through the lens of these two publishers.

Slugfest will combine primary-source reporting with in-depth research to create a more fun Barbarians at the Gate for the comic book industry. Complete with interviews with the major names in the industry, Slugfest reveals the arsenal of schemes the two companies have employed in their attempts to outmaneuver the competition, whether it be stealing ideas, poaching employees, planting spies, ripping off characters or launching price wars. Sometimes the feud has been vicious, at other times, more cordial. But it has never completely disappeared, and it simmers on a low boil to this day.

The competition has spilled over to the even the casual fans, bisecting the world into two opposing tribes. You are either a Marvel or a DC fan, and allegiance is hardly a trivial matter. Perhaps the most telling question one can ask of a superhero fan is, Marvel or DC? The answer often reveals something deeper about personality, and the reason is wrapped up in the history of both companies.

DC was around 5 years old when Marvel was founded in the late 1930s and few if anyone could predict how these 2 companies would one day shape the world. The war between DC and Marvel is well documented not only between the companies but its fan base for decades. The recent moves by Marvel to take over the movie and tv show industry has only heated it up by bringing in a whole new level of interest from a group that can’t recite lines, characters and plot lines from the comics. If you were ever curious to learn about the companies, the rivalry that has captured the attention of millions and the creative force that has impacted fans across the globe then this is the book you want to read.

Reed Tucker provides tons of details with great quotes from editors, artists and writers who talk about their time with the comic legends and how it affected their lives.  We get an inside perspective from respected names in the industry that at times feels like we could be in the pub listening to some juicy gossip over a pint thanks to the way Tucker writes with ease and familiarity.

They copied one another, stole from each other, pushed each other to hit new creative heights, and reflect the culture/events around them to create stories and characters to help society deal with the world. Through their successes and failures they extended the life of comics from being something only for young kids to being an interest even adults wanted to share. Tucker showcased all this through business and historical lessons that were easy to follow to the point you could see this book being used in a classroom.

It hasn’t all been massive success as we learn about the struggles they faced to the point they nearly decided to ‘share’ intellectual property which would have given every fan their dream – too bad money overrules fan dreams. He did touch upon how the rivalry has moved to film and included tidbits on some of the newer additions.

If you’re a fan or even just a bit curious you should check this out because Tucker did an excellent job in research, writing and presentation. It was often difficult to put down as he has this way of making these two giants seem more like complex, intriguing characters in an all-out battle rather than companies carving out their space on an economic landscape.

Thank you to Netgalley and Da Capo Press for allowing me to review this!

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