Pop Culture Pepsi Challenge1 of 12
If there’s one thing comic book fans love more than reading comic books, it’s arguing about comic books. The same can be said about any genre fans, really. Whether it’s an epic sports rivalry like the Red Sox and the Yankees, or a rock & roll feud like David Lee Roth vs. Sammy Hagar, everyone loves to debate who does it best.
But unlike sports or music, comic books and genre movies often come to real battles. Could Batman beat Superman? Who was the best James Bond? Every fan has an answer, and sometimes even the best of friends can’t agree.
A new demographic mapfrom U.S. Dish shows that state-by-state, fans prefer Marvel to DC – at least according to Google data. With new flames stoking the heated debate, we thought we’d take a look at the biggest debates that are still raging in fandom.
Which side will you choose?
Xbox vs. PlayStation2 of 12
Ever since Sega and Nintendo started the console wars in the mid-‘80’s, there’s been a debate about which system is the superior way to experience video games. Now, the players may have changed, but the game is the same. With Xbox One and PlayStation 4 currently dominating the console market, the battle is as brutal as ever.
Each system has its loyalists, and its detractors, but when you get down to it, the differences aren’t really that pronounced in terms of content. Really, it’s about the overall experience – the interface, the exclusives, and the bells and whistles.
The only real downside is the divide it causes between friends – who hasn’t signed onto a new multiplayer experience only to find out their gaming buddy is on a different network?
A New Hope Vs. The Empire Strikes Back3 of 12
Picking the best Star Wars movie is kind of like a parent choosing their favorite child – especially when it comes down to the original trilogy. But the debate usually comes down to the first installment, A New Hope, or its direct sequel, The Empire Strikes Back.
A New Hope established the entire mythos of Star Wars, introducing all the major players, the Force, the Empire, and the Rebellion. It tells a complete story, while still leaving the door open – obviously – for the expansion of the universe.
On the other hand, The Empire Strikes Back took the first film, and turned it on its head. It’s Empire that brought depth and emotional resonance to the Star Wars saga, re-forging the core rivalry between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader as a redemptive arc between a father and son. It brought real tragedy to the saga.
So which is a better film? You could argue that Empire is more accomplished and nuanced, but it wouldn’t have a leg to stand on without the groundwork laid by A New Hope.
Now let's talk about The Last Jedi...
... wait, let's let that cool down a bit more.
Best Doctor4 of 12
One of the greatest tenets of BBC’s longrunning sci-fi franchise Doctor Who is the way the title character, the Doctor, changes hands every few years. Through a story conceit of regeneration, every time one lead actor’s turn in the role ends, another comes in to take their place, bringing with them a new personality, new quirks, and a new story.
But, as with any character who has many incarnations, each version of the Doctor has their supporters and detractors. Debate is strong among fans which actor played the best Doctor. Was it the classic Tom Baker? The ever popular David Tennant? The dark horse choice, Christopher Eccleston? The recently departed Peter Capaldi, or the newest Doctor Jodie Whittaker?
The great thing about Doctor Who is, there’s really no wrong answer. And as long as the series continues, there will always be new candidates for the top spot.
Best James Bond5 of 12
Seven actors have officially played Ian Fleming’s iconic secret agent on film over the course of 24 movies, the most recent of which was released in 2015. But any time there are multiple actors in the same role, die-hard fans – and even casual ones – have an opinion about who wore it best. In this case, Bond’s iconic tuxedo.
You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who would pick George Lazenby or David Niven as a favorite, but things get a lot more dicey when you start comparing Sean Connery and Roger Moore. Even the unlikely Timothy Dalton has his fans, and an entire generation grew up knowing Pierce Brosnan as Agent 007, though many of the same fans prefer Daniel Craig’s “blunt force” portrayal of the character.
With Daniel Craig’s turn as Bond seemingly headed towards its end, fans will undoubtedly have a new contender for the throne in the next few years.
Best Batman6 of 12
Like James Bond, Bruce Wayne has had his share of onscreen interpretations. Starting with Adam West’s campy, colorful Caped Crusader in 1966, followed three decades later by Michael Keaton’s moody return to form, and on into Christian Bale’s dark and gritty interpretation, there have been plenty of different Batmen for fans to embrace.
Some of them, like George Clooney, wouldn’t even make an argument for their own place at the head of the class, though even Val Kilmer has his fans. This year, a new challenger entered the race, with Ben Affleck taking on the role of an older, wiser Batman with roots more closely related to his comic book counterpart.
Although it’s hard to call these debates settled, Affleck’s version of the Caped Crusader was considered one of the highlights of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and the recent Justice League.
And speaking of Batman...
Batman Vs. Superman7 of 12
Who would win? The Dark Knight, or the Man of Steel? Would impossible power triumph over the pinnacle of human potential? Ever since Batman got his hands on some Kryptonite, evidence seems to point to the ruthless guardian of Gotham triumphing over Superman, but is his victory so easily guaranteed?
Sure, Batman’s got the one weapon that could fell Superman, and presumably the will to use it. But Superman is nearly invincible – not to mention super fast and super strong. The real answer is, it will probably never come to a real fight between the two – and the DC Universe is probably better off that way.
This age-old debate took center stage in the public conscience a few years ago when Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice hit theaters. And even though that film’s last clash between the two heroes seemingly ended with Batman having the upper hand, there’s still room for debate.
Lee Vs. Kirby8 of 12
Stan Lee and Jack Kirby – the titans of Marvel Comics. Between them, they not only created almost all of Marvel’s biggest characters, but they also defined the way modern comic books are made. So why would one of the greatest creative pairings in history constitute a rivalry?
Well, because quite honestly, not even the two of them could agree on which parts of Marvel lore they each contributed.
So while Lee and Kirby are, almost unarguably, best together, there’s still a wide gulf between what Lee's given credit for and what Kirby arguably deserves. And it’s not necessarily malicious – both men admitted that they worked so closely together that sometimes it was hard to tell where the line was. But that blurred line – and Lee’s willingness to act as Marvel’s sole mouthpiece for many years - lead to lawsuits, acrimony, and a fan debate that continues to rage even decades after Kirby’s death.
It might even be the prototypical example of the next debate on our list.
Writer Vs. Artist9 of 12
Like the Lee and Kirby debate, it may seem obvious that comic books rely on both writers and artists to be truly constitute the art form – even if they’re the same person. But there’s still a debate in many circles as to which is more important. Could a comic book exist without art? Or would art without writing not count as a sequential story?
It’s a question that’s been on the minds of fans ever since Stan Lee invented a cult of personality around comic book creators, with the whims of the era seemingly dictating which answer is most prevalent. Right now, readers seem more likely to follow writers than artists, but there have been times when the visual component of comic books mattered far more than the written word.
On the other hand, many of the most legendary creators of the past fit both roles, proving that the debate isn’t that simple.
Star Wars Vs. Star Trek10 of 12
You could almost boil the debate between Star Wars and Star Trek down to the debate between sci-fi and fantasy. Both franchises have many of the same trappings – space ships, alien species, high adventure – but where Star Trek favors the exploration and extrapolation of scientific advancement, Star Wars is all about swashbuckling, daring theatrics with an eye towards science that seems a lot more like magic.
Of course, as with all things, there’s room for both in the lives of many fans (and one director, J.J. Abrams). But that doesn’t mean that the two mega-franchises aren’t constantly pitted against each other in one of genre fiction’s biggest debates. So is Star Trek or Star Wars better? Well, that likely depends on whether you dream of a fantastic future or an impossible past.
This debate is seeing some renewed vigor now that Star Wars has movies coming out every year, a new generation of Star Trek is back on TV with Discovery.
Marvel Vs. DC11 of 12
Marvel and DC are the unquestioned rulers of the superhero kingdom. DC’s universe of gods and wonders is older, more elemental, but Marvel’s all-too-human heroes are more innovative and inventive. Ask any superhero fan, and dollars to donuts, they have a preference between the two companies.
But is either universe arguably better? The fact is, the competition between the two companies has undoubtedly made both companies improve and evolve over the years. DC’s classic stories spurred on some of Marvel’s best creations, and Marvel’s groundbreaking storytelling forced DC to break its mold.
On pure numbers, Marvel’s been winning the race since they entered, with DC remaining a long term second place, but it’s hard to deny the presence characters like Superman and Wonder Woman have in the cultural zeitgeist.
A recent demographic map from U.S. Dish shows that Marvel also holds sway over DC in terms of state-by-state popularity - but those numbers are based on Google analytics search terms, so it's less of a popularity contest and more of a statistical analysis of general interest.
In the long run though, both comic book universes have ascended to the most iconic ranks of pop culture - and really, aren’t we all better off with both the superhero and the superhuman?
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