When I was in my MBA college, in our strategy class we were given a case study by possibly the world's greatest strategy guru. Yes I am referring to Michael Porter's iconic "Coke Vs. Pepsi: The 100 year War".
In the comics and superhero verse, the rivalry between D.C. and Marvel comics is quite similar to Coke and Pepsi. In stature these content powerhouses are owned and operated by colossal behemoths like Warner Bros. and Disney. In between them they control close to 85% of the superhero and comics business on the planet!
Marvel Studios has done over $16 Billion plus revenue in theatres alone globally in less than a decade. Thats almost a $750 million per movie. This almost gives a minimum 3x return on each film investment.Marvel's first movie was a Spiderman film in 1970's which had lukewarm response. D.C. Entertainment's licensing revenue hit $4.5 Billion in 2017. D.C.'s first film to come out as a motion picture was Superman in 1978. Marvel was defunct and near dead twice in its history bailed out by billionaire Ronald Perlman and Ike Perlmutter.
D.C. is home to iconic to characters like Batman, The Joker,Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Cyborg, Green Arrow, The Flash and many more all time favourites. D.C. is also a bit older than Marvel in existence. Started off has Detective Comics, D.C. has been propelled to heights because of an army of top rate writers and illustrators like Bob Kane, Frank Miller and many more iconic artists and creators. The most distinct feature about D.C. is that all its characters are largely not palatable to the family audience. Most of them have troubled childhoods and have become darker shades of themselves as life progresses for them. D.C. has championed the Dark comic book hero with sinister versions of its superheroes as well. EG. The Dark Knight for Batman. D.C. is essentially a pure comic book publisher which happens to be in the TV/ Film business as well. D.C. is owned by the Time Warner Group and has been a major contributor through its animated films universe as well as motion pictures as well. Today on T.V. one can see "Krypton", "Smallville", "Green Arrow", 'Gotham", " The Flash" as successful spinoffs.The TV Shows bring close to annual revenue of $1.25 Billion In the motion picture space D.C. took its first big leap when Michael.E.Uslan and Benjamin Melniker bought the movie rights to Batman and produced the first ever motion picture in 1989 with Tim Burton as Director. Since then over 10 Batman films have been produced grossing well over $7 Billion. This included Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight trilogy" and the new Batman Vs Superman, Justice League films as well. D.C. also has possibly the greatest villain ever written for comic books....The Joker.
About Marvel Studios
Marvel is the destination for characters with insane superpowers and a vast variety of heroes catering largely to the family audiences alike. Marvel unlike D.C. has had several ownership changes right from its initial founder Martin Goodman to the seesaw ride under the wings of Ronald Perelman and Isaac Perlmutter to Disney who has built it from a local comic book publisher to a multi billion dollar revenue business.
The Bellwether steps of Marvel
Marvel's central strategy is to develop characters based on fables and legends. Its main character Ensemble "The Avengers" is inspired largely by King Arthur and The Knights of The Roundtable. The key which makes Marvel what it is today is that it makes a family its main focus consumer group. It panders to Mom,Dad and the children themselves. Unlike D.C. which too caters to kids but Marvel implants specific devices for kids into its narrative. Whether its the Rocket Raccoon in the "Guardians" films to a teenager "Spiderman". There is a strategic push to get kids to engage with these characters. Couple this with a robust licensing program and you have a double whammy ! Due its dynamic and evolving ownership, Marvel has roped in a super aggressive management which is into revenue maximisation from the word Go! Especially after Marvel Studios CEO Kevin Feige ideated the concept of an Ensemble like The Avengers onto the big screen which includes all top Marvel superheroes.
THE DC FAUX PAS Due to the $3 Billion odd revenue from the Christopher Nolan "The Dark Knight" trilogy films, Warner and DC thought that Nolan should lead the effort for the Superman and Batman reboot. Fresh from the success of "300", Zack Snyder was bought in to helm the "Man Of Steel" project by Nolan and WB.This where an inflection point in the DC UNIVERSE happened. Nolan's films although were mega box office winners but were largely made and created for the adult viewer due to the comic books dark/noir content and they way they were packaged. It was almost Nolan turned the chocolate boy into a mature and discerning crusader against evil with very complex personal issues."Man Of Steel" did well at a global box office cume of $668 Million on a budget of $225 Million. But the problem was that these monster budgets were'nt repeating "The Dark Knight"magic. On the other hand Marvel's both "The Avengers" and "Iron Man 3" polled more than $ 1 Billion each at the box office! The writing was on the wall, Marvel was launching one film after the other for the family audience and augmented that with a huge global licensing consumer products program with the Disney might and distribution. To Be Continued............