The rivalry between DC Comics and Marvel Comics stretches back decades. Stan Lee intentionally fomented fan sentiment against what he referred to as the “distinguished competition” from the earliest days of the Marvel brand, and to great success. The rivalry between their modern media counterparts, DC Entertainment and Marvel Studios, is still in its early days, but the battle has heated up to a fever pitch this spring with the back-to-back releases of DC’s Batman V Superman and Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War.
It seemed that Marvel had won that particular battle before it even began, with the flood of negative reviews which cascaded across the internet in the days immediately following the release of Batman V Superman. There were, of course, spurious accusations that Disney (the parent company of Marvel Studios) was “paying critics”, with some fans even going so far as to launch a Change.org petition to prevent the House of Mouse from doing just that. These accusations lacked the critical component, however: evidence.
Yesterday, in the Comic Book Nerds Are Hot group on Facebook, poster Glen Barnhart dropped the following image in a conversation which appears to provide the first piece of solid evidence that there is an organized effort to generate negative fan perception of the DC Entertainment brand.
The image show identical anti-DC comments posted to three separate Facebook groups by three separate accounts. The comments match exactly, right down to the grammatical errors. Investigation of these profiles shows that they are all fairly recent creations, none older than 2014, and all have their posts set to private. Apocryphally, as someone who is a member of many of these groups, I can state that it has been weeks since a day has gone by without the account controlled by Sunny Singh (one of those shown in the image) posting at least two anti-DC articles and several pro-Marvel articles.
In politics, this approach is referred to as astro-turfing, where interested parties fund or otherwise materially support seemingly grassroots interest groups. Media is in no way immune from this phenomenon, with evidence of astroturf efforts abounding over decades and taking on new strength with the advent of social media.
None of this is concrete proof that Disney themselves are behind the effort, but it does prove that there is a concerted effort to skew fan sentiment against DC Entertainment and, as in any investigation, one must ask “who benefits?”
With Fox’s X-Men: Age of Apocalypse now beginning to receive the same critical treatment as Batman V Superman in advance of its release, one must wonder if every super-hero film not released by Marvel Studios will be targeted in this manner. In the end, the only people who will benefit from this are Disney shareholders.