5 Forgotten Times Marvel and DC Trolled Each Other Hard
Sometimes, superhero comics contain surprisingly deep messages about topics like race, politics, spirituality ... or the fact that the rival company sucks ass. That last one is more common than you'd think. Here are some impressively petty messages delivered through stories about righteous demi-gods saving the universe.
DC Made Their Own "Fantastic Four" When Marvel Couldn't Use Theirs
For a while there, Marvel treated the Fantastic Four exactly as you'd treat a cheating ex-lover: they deleted them from group images, avoided mentioning them in social media, and even stopped making t-shirts with their faces (always the saddest part of a breakup). All because a rival studio had the film rights to the characters, and why bother making comics if they can't serve as 32-page ads for your movies? For the art? Hahahaha.
That's why, in 2014, after 53 years of nearly uninterrupted publication, the Fantastic Four comic was cancelled. Some Marvel creators weren't happy about this and made their characters wonder where the hell the Fantastic Four went. The answer: to DC, sort of.
In 2017, while the full Fantastic Four cast was still off-limits to Marvel creators, DC announced a new series called The Terrifics starring the most FF-esque characters they could find on Wikipedia's "List of DC Comics characters" page. Instead of Mr. Fantastic, the leader is Mr. Terrific, another humble super-genius who, believe it or not, was not invented just for this (in fact, his name is older than Marvel itself). Terrific doesn't have stretching powers, but DC made up for it by including Plastic Man, who also fills the Human Torch's "hotheaded practical joker" spot. Instead of The Thing, there's Metamorpho, another ugly brute with an emo heart, and the obligatory hard-to-miss female member is Phantom Girl, who has invisibili-- sorry, intangibility powers.
Like the FF, the Terrifics become a reluctant super-team after a shared accident. Eventually they fight Dr. Dread, an obscure DC villain who has suddenly started dressing exactly like Marvel's Dr. Doom, give or take some shoulder fur.
Discounting group shots during 200-character crossover events, most of the Terrifics had never appeared together before; Phantom Girl isn't even from the same century as the others (they created an identical ancestor for this). The creators weren't shy about the Fantastic Four influence. Writer Jeff Lemire said the comic would have a "classic FF" vibe, while artist/designer Doc Shaner tweeted and then deleted this:
The Terrifics ended up coming out in February 2018 ... one month before Marvel announced that the real deals were coming back (just in time for Disney to gobble up 20th Century Fox, bringing the FF movie rights to Marvel Studios). This year, The Terrifics came full circle by also getting cancelled, albeit after only two years instead of 53.
Marvel Trolls DC Via Variant Covers (And Deadpool)
Variant covers are a noble comic book tradition that exists for the very specific reason of squeezing money out of completist nerds. But, in recent years, Marvel has started using them for an alternate purpose: trolling DC when they do something dumb. In 2012, for example, DC released not two or three but 52 different goddamn covers for a single Justice League of America issue. Well, we say "different," but they were actually just the same image with various state flags Photoshopped on it. You just know there's a collector with OCD out there who had to drive around the country for this half-assed crap:
In response, Marvel offered readers a much better deal: a single X-Men cover featuring Deadpool accompanied (and getting pooped on) by every state's official bird, plus a bunch of random ones to take the number up to 53. One more than DC's flags. As Marvel put it in their press release, "That's like 52 (+1) state variants for the price of one!" "No need to worry about purchasing individual covers to get all 53 beautiful birds." In other words: go suck 53 beaks, DC.
Another time, DC pissed off both fans and creators by renting out the bottom half of their comics' pages to Twix ads starring former boy band member Nick Lachey, presaging an awful future in which readers have to install physical pop-up blockers to read Batman.
This time, Marvel responded by having an ad for a fictional candy rudely take over the bottom half of a Deadpool cover, to the anti-hero's shock and disgust. They even got a celebrity of comparable stature to Nick Lachey (former MMA champion Josh Barnett) to appear in the fake ad, just to make the joke more authentic.
More recently, DC defied a decades-old convention when they started selling new comics on Tuesdays instead of Wednesdays, and some people got very upset, because there aren't enough real problems going around this year. Marvel piggybacked on the controversy by putting out a bunch of variant covers with nothing but a logo and the words "ON SALE WEDNESDAY" on them. At least this means that DC's state flag Photoshops are no longer the laziest variant covers ever made.
Man, what would Stan Lee think of Marvel using covers to mock the Distinguished Competition? He'd probably love it, since he once bragged about doing the same thing in the '60s.
DC Published An Entire Special About How X-Men Comics Are Stupid
DC's nutty and brilliant Doom Patrol show is largely based on the comics written by Grant "My Name Really Should Be In The Credits" Morrison. Every issue of Morrison's Doom Patrol is full of surrealist concepts and wildly original ideas you'd never see in a mainstream comic ... except for his Doom Force special, which is full of muscular people holding giant guns and delivering brain-numbingly stupid monologues. So, exactly what you'd see in a mainstream comic back in the '90s, especially if it had an "X" in the title.
That's because the entire 50-page special was made for no other reason than mocking the X-Men when they were in their most steroid-abusing, teeth-clenching phase. For starters, the cover made fun of Marvel's gimmicks by putting "WHICH ONE OF THESE HEROES WILL DIE?" inside a big arrow pointing at a specific character (who does end up dying).
Doom Force members include Scratch (like Wolverine, but with more kitchen utensils instead of just knives), Crying Boy (who causes bad things to happen to his enemies by crying), and Shasta the Living Mountain (who can turn into an actual, full-sized mountain). The issue was drawn by various DC artists doing their best/worst impression of infamous X-Force artist Rob Liefeld, which means excessive lines, impossible postures/anatomy, and skimpy outfits that defy the laws of physics.
At the end of the issue we're told that Morrison has already created dozens of characters with names like Blender™, Diaphragm™, Toboggan™, or TM™ to be used in future Doom Force comics ... but sadly this was the first and last one. It wasn't the only Marvel piss-take in Morrison's Doom Patrol, though: the main series had Beard Hunter, a blatant parody of the Punisher who murders beards instead of criminals (the show turned him into a completely different character, except for his hatred of facial hair).
Morrison ended up writing the real X-Men a few years later. Either Marvel had a sense of humor about the parodies, or they're too dumb to realize they were about them.
Marvel Releases Similarly-Named Comics At The Same Time As DC Events
Back in 2004, DC hired Brad Meltzer, a serious author of big-boy novels without drawings in them, to write a special event series called Identity Crisis. DC spent months hyping up the comic and drilling it into fans' heads that it would be key to the future of the DC Universe. Then, after DC had made sure everyone knew to look out for this comic ... Marvel went and published one with a similar title during the same months.
Identity Disc is about six Marvel villains looking for a disc with the identities of every Marvel hero in it. Normally a series like that would have Sinister Six in the title, but for this one they decided to go with the name of the story's MacGuffin, which is like if Pulp Fiction was called The Magical Glowing Suitcase. This could be a coincidence, but it happened twice in the same year: also in 2004, DC hyped up a new adult series called The Witching by author Jonathan Vankin, and Marvel pulled an old unused miniseries they'd had rotting in a drawer for three years, renamed it Witches, and put it out on the same month.
Even Marvel's animated arm got in on this game. In 2010, they collected a Wolverine and the X-Men story arc called "Foresight" in a DVD titled "Final Crisis." There are no episodes called "Final Crisis" in that show, but that was the name of DC's 2008-2009 crossover event. Which, to be fair, could have used a little more Wolverine in it, although that's true of most works of fiction.
But DC did get their revenge for these name-related shenanigans. While Marvel was publishing their Secret Invasion crossover event in 2008, DC decided to reprint a 20-year-old series of theirs called Invasion for the very first time, adding the subtitle "Secret no more!" It's unclear what the uncovered secret is supposed to be. That DC hates Marvel? That's common knowledge by now.
Thanos' Creator Likens Marvel To A Mountain Of Trash (In A Marvel Comic)
The work writer/artist Jim Starlin did for Marvel in the 1970s ended up making millions for the company through characters and concepts like Gamora, Drax, the Infinity Gems, or, oh yeah, Thanos. Unfortunately, it looks like Starlin wasn't having such a great time working for them back then, and it showed in his work. As in, he literally showed it in his work, with some creative liberties.
In an issue of Strange Tales by Starlin, a villain traps the hero in a dimension ruled by alien clowns as part of a plot to break his spirit. The head clowns are named Lens Tean and Jan Hatroomi, which are anagrams for Stan Lee and Marvel art director John Romita. Their job is making sure everyone in this dimension looks nice and generic (and is played by someone named "Chris," ideally).
Clown versions of other Marvel staffers are shown torturing a former editor who refused to conform and began to question "the way things are" (read: the types of comics that make money). This part looks like a circus troupe recreation of the passion of Christ.
The hero then learns that the clowns are building a giant tower of trash that keeps collapsing every so often -- just like Marvel in the '70s, when they went through five head editors in two years and no one knew what the hell they were doing. But, somehow, a few diamonds always end up mixed in between all that garbage. Meaning Starlin's own comics, presumably.
In the end, the hero decides he'd rather go insane than conform to this system. As for Starlin, he's had a decades-long on-and-off relationship with Marvel where they keep screwing him somehow (mostly in Thanos-related projects) but he keeps coming back, which certainly sounds like the definition of insanity.
Top Image: Warner Bros. Television Distribution