The first in-depth, behind the scenes book treatment of the rivalry between the two comic book giants.
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 recount the history of this bitter knock down battle as a single, juicy narrative, is the story of the greatest corporate rivalry never told. It is also an alternate history of the superhero, viewed through the lens of these two dueling titans. Drawing on interviews with major figures in the industry, SLUGFEST reveals the arsenal of schemes the two companies have employed in their attempts to outmaneuver each other, whether it be stealing ideas, poaching employees, planting spies, or launching price wars. The feud has never completely disappeared, and it simmers on a low boil to this day.
Reed Tucker is a freelance journalist and author who writes mostly about pop culture and entertainment. His work has appeared in the New York Post, Esquire, Fortune, and USA Today, among others. He is a graduate of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He lives in Brooklyn.
Jack Kirby may have been paranoid, but the fact was that spying between the two companies was absolutely a concern at the time.
In 1971, when Kirby's Fourth World was rolling out, DC discovered that it had a real-life supervillain in its midst. Late at night, after most everyone had gone home, a certain freelance employee was ransacking the company's offices, rifling through desks and looking for corporate intel to leak to fan publications or, worse, to Marvel.
To catch the spy, DC's senior staff launched a clever disinformation campaign that, like all proper top-secret operations, even had its own code name: Blockbuster. Carmine Infantino drew up a phony corporate memo to his editors announcing that DC was going to raise prices and start putting out five-hundred-page comic books costing $1.
"They put the memo under some papers in the 'out' tray of someone in the production department, because that's where [the spy] was working, and basically just waited to see what would happen," recalls former DC production manager Bob Rozakis.
The trap worked. Word of the new Blockbuster books mysteriously found its way to various fanzines and, of course, over to Marvel's Manhattan offices. The next thing anyone knew, Marvel editor Stan Lee was talking about doing a five-hundred-page book for a dollar.
Neither company ever ended up producing the Blockbuster issues. As for the spy, he was soon caught after accidentally outing himself.
"He tipped his own hand by bringing up Blockbuster in a conversation with someone at DC," Rozakis says. The freelancer was henceforth no longer allowed in the DC office after hours.
Around the same time, Larry Lieber applied to DC Comics. On paper Lieber was a strong candidate. He was a seasoned writer with years of experience on high-profile titles, including Iron Man. He did have one major ding against him, though: he was Stan Lee's brother.
"I sent the work over to DC, and I never got any word," Lieber says.
Then one day he ran into DC's Carmine Infantino at a Manhattan watering hole. "I reminded him that I sent over some work and never heard anything," Lieber says. "He looked at me and said, 'You mean, that was on the level?' They thought that Marvel was sending me over to spy to get their wonderful secrets."