Marvel vs DC: Contest of the Champions

1 x 60 minutes for BBC Radio 4

Marvel and DC, the two titans of America superhero comics, have been locked in cosmic battle for over six decades - raging across publishing, radio, TV, movies, gaming and animation.

It’s one of the greatest rivalries in the history of pop culture, ferociously debated by generations of readers, fans and industry creatives alike.

While both companies are now worth billions, this wasn't always the case.

This feature goes back to their early comic book roots, where DC comics and young upstart Marvel both had offices in 1960s Manhattan - and yet differed widely in their approach to the genre, posing very distinct ideas of what our superheroes should be – and as a result, what it means to be human. Do we want to look up to the skies or do we really want to see a reflection of ourselves? Are our heroes other, outsiders like gods – or are they basically people like us, who gain strange powers but keep their flaws? Readers had a choice.

Each company watched the other. Each company tried to outdo the other, either on their own terms or – sometimes brilliantly - their opponents'. This is the comic-book bedrock upon which the blockbuster superhero movie franchises are currently fighting tooth and nail.

Talking to industry legends from both companies, artists, writers, experts and diehard fans, this Archive on 4, presented by documentary maker and lifelong Marvel and DC comics fan Simon Hollis, tells the story of the Greatest Battle on Earth.