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Keeping Their Guard Up

With Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, atop the box office, Marvel still rules the universe

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Debates over politics or sports teams couldn't have been more trivial when I was a kid. Among my peers, there were only three true divisions: 1. DC or Marvel comics, 2. The Flintstones or The Jetsons and 3. Coke or Pepsi

I still recall arguments about DC vs. Marvel that make the Clinton/Trump debates sound like a garden party. Our childhood disagreements were about much more than just superpowers or secret identities, though. The evidence we used to prove superiority was that special something each universe employed: DC was filled with tales of angst, guilt, revenge and righteousness, while Marvel was more sly, waggish and often erratic.

Several decades ago, DC began pushing its superheroes onto movie and TV screens, suffering in the process. In the1950s, an all-too serious George Reeves barely squeezed into his Superman tights, and in the 1960s, Adam West's Batman was usually outflanked by B-movie actors whose villains acted like they were at a Dean Martin roast. Since then, actors Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale and Ben Affleck have all taken turns behind the bat mask.

Meanwhile, Christopher Reeve, Brandon Routh and Henry Cavill each enjoyed varying levels of success portraying DC superhero Superman on the big screen from 1978 to the present. DC will showcase more of its high-profile heroes in the coming years, starting with Wonder Woman on June 2, followed by Aquaman (2018), Shazam (2019), Cyborg (2020) and Green Lantern (2020).

But Marvel has been soaring past DC for the past few decades, beginning with the ever expanding X-Men franchise (2000-present); a profitable Spider-Man trilogy (2002-2007); and hit films featuring Ant Man, Captain America, Deadpool, Hulk, Iron Man, Thor and Wolverine.

Apart from Marvel heroes' impressive feats of strength, there is one superpower they all possess: the humanity imbued by their creator, Stan Lee, for nearly six decades. His most inspired creation was Guardians of the Galaxy, first appearing in print in 1969.The 2014 Guardians film adaptation was a surprise smash, grossing more than $700 million, the third-highest grossing film of the year. More important, Guardians won praise for its unique balance of action and message of overcoming adversity.

"I have lived most of my life surrounded by my enemies. I would be grateful to die surrounded by my friends," Gamora (Zoe Saldana) says to her fellow Guardians.

Facing the difficult task of living up to expectations, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 topped the first Guardians by 50 percent in its opening weekend, the biggest jump in history for a Marvel sequel. Box office success aside, the magic of the Guardians story is something best described by director James Gunn, who posted a message on his Facebook page bout why Marvel resonates with what he calls "heartbroken misfits."

"When I was young, I felt utterly alone. I never felt like I belonged, and had an incredibly difficult time connecting to other people," wrote Gunn. "I [make movies] so that some kid in Thailand, England, Colombia, Brazil, Japan, Russia or anywhere, can hear the frequency of his or her own heart bouncing back off the Guardians."

There you have it: a golden heart beating deep inside Marvel that spoke to me and countless other kids so many decades ago and continues to speak to kids of all ages today. While social issues and politics have shaped my adulthood, at heart, I'm still the kid who loved Coke, The Jetsons and Marvel comics.

Related Film

Official Site: movies.disney.com/guardians-of-the-galaxy-vol-2

Director: James Gunn

Producer: Kevin Feige, Victoria Alonso, Louis D'Esposito, Nikolas Korda, Stan Lee and Jonathan Schwartz

Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Sylvester Stallone, Pom Klementieff, Kurt Russell, Elizabeth Debicki, Tommy Flanagan, Chris Sullivan and Sean Gunn

Related Film

Official Site: movies.disney.com/guardians-of-the-galaxy-vol-2

Director: James Gunn

Producer: Kevin Feige, Victoria Alonso, Louis D'Esposito, Nikolas Korda, Stan Lee and Jonathan Schwartz

Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Sylvester Stallone, Pom Klementieff, Kurt Russell, Elizabeth Debicki, Tommy Flanagan, Chris Sullivan and Sean Gunn

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