It’s no secret that science fiction fans can get a little overexcited about their franchise of choice, but things got heated last Thursday when the local Star Wars club of Norwich, England and a delegation from the Norwich Sci Fi Club, a group of Doctor Who devotees, got into a physical altercation at the Norwich Sci-Fi and Film Convention, hosted by the Star Wars club at the University of East Anglia. Apparently, the two groups had a longstanding feud that came to blows when the Sci Fi Club decided to show up on the Star Wars group’s turf to get a signature from Gram Cole, an actor from the time-travel series that currently stars Matt Smith. Though fandom disputes don’t usually escalate to blows, this is hardly the first time otherwise peacefully geeky communities have run afoul of each other. Here are some of the most prominent fandom rivalries throughout history, from superheroes to science fiction.
DC vs. Marvel
The Yankees and Red Sox of the comics world, whether you prefer one or the other is largely a matter of what kind of family you grew up in. In my case, my dad let me know from day one that I would be a Marvel kid: Batman and Superman were great, sure, but Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four were our heroes of choice. Generally, DC has the oldest, most well-established, and standalone icons (they practically invented the archetypal superhero with Superman and followed him up with figures like Wonder Woman), with few team efforts besides the Justice League and Teen Titans. Marvel, meanwhile, is newer and chock-full of crossovers and groups of its central characters, from the Avengers to the X-Men to the Fantastic Four themselves. The rivalry isn’t exactly hostile, with regular crossovers yielding ample profits for both companies, but the divide is there, and every comics geek knows where he or she stands.
Star Wars vs. Star Trek
It’s a debate intense enough to make up a 50-minute documentary (available in full on YouTube!) with input from both franchises’ creators and stars, not to mention countless comparisons of influences, legacies, and weaknesses. Now that the same director is helming both reboots, the two camps might reconcile on the strength of mutual frustration with J.J. Abrams alone, but Star Wars and Star Trek remain virtually mutually exclusive fandoms, if only because the sheer amount of material from both franchises makes following both of them difficult. According to sci-fi novelist David Brin, Star Wars exemplifies “the mythology of conformity and demigod-worship” while Star Trek “is a prototypically American dream, entranced by notions of human achievement and a progress that lifts all,” but generations of lightsaber-wielding, Darth Vader mask-wearing children would happily go to bat for Team Lucasfilm.
Doctor Who vs. Doctor Who
When a beloved series spans 26 seasons, five decades, and a whopping 11 lead actors, internal disputes are bound to happen sooner rather than later. With the addition of rabidly loved/even more rabidly hated writer and showrunner Steven Moffat, the intra-fandom arguments have only gotten more intense. A cursory Internet search reveals posts from “Are fans of the modern Doctor Who just outright dumb or is it just a very naive, teenage audience?” (author’s apparent opinion: probably both) to an entire anti-Steven Moffat blog (complete with a post called “How Moffat Ruined Doctor Who for My Little Sister”) to countless “Ranking the Doctors” posts that put the current star, Matt Smith, somewhere between dead last and the cream of the crop. Turns out this fandom isn’t as warm and fuzzy as all the tweed-and-bow-tie-clad cosplayers would suggest.
Pokémon vs. Digimon
If you were anywhere between the ages of six and 13 in the early aughts, this debate was earthshaking. Fans of Pokémon point out that their franchise was indisputably there first: the original video game launched in 1996, a year before Digimon stole the whole fake-fighting-animals-named-with-a-portmanteau schtick with their first toy line. But that didn’t stop Digimon from becoming enormously popular and eroding the older concept’s fan base. Both franchises exploded over time to encompass games, anime series, comics, movies, and card games, each one with its own strengths and weaknesses (Pokémon understandably dominated video games where Digimon’s animated version enjoyed a slight edge). But judging by the current wave of Pokémon nostalgia as ’90s kids age into their 20s — including a novelty Tumblr of monsters edited into hypothetical real-life habitats just ’cause — we’ll go ahead and declare the older franchise the winner.
Battle Royale vs The Hunger Games
This is less of a rivalry and more of a one-sided resentment among fans of the cult-hit Japanese thriller of the runaway success of Suzanne Collins’ book trilogy and ensuing blockbuster franchise starring perennial Tumblr favorite Jennifer Lawrence. Not only does Battle Royale have a strikingly similar plot to The Hunger Games, it’s also much less afraid of taking a dark concept to equally dark places: there’s a lot more blood and a lot more wrenching interpersonal drama than just Katniss vaguely pondering the hypothetical possibility of having to kill Rue before someone else conveniently does it for her. Though io9 points out that both films owe a mutual debt to classics like Lord of the Flies, it hasn’t stopped comment wars from erupting with each new Hunger Games trailer, including the particularly nasty labeling of Collins’s books as “Battle Royale for dumb teenagers.”
Twilight vs. Harry Potter
We’ll abandon all semblance of partiality here and declare our allegiance to the latter, but first, a rundown of the factors contributing to what Cracked once called “The Battle of the Century.” Twilight essentially caught the Harry Potter demographic, particularly its female half, just as the other series wrapped up and its fans aged out of fantasy-adventure and into fantasy-softcore romance. Plenty of Hermione Granger fans were horrified by the idea of passive, bland Bella Swan, the textbook definition of a Mary Sue character, designed as a blank slate for reader’s projections of themselves. Twilight author Stephenie Meyer, meanwhile, boldly declared that Edward would kill Harry Potter in a fight, provoking the ire of a good chunk of the Internet. Still, as of today J.K. Rowling has Meyer beat in terms of book sales by a factor of almost four to one, leaving this feud pretty much settled.
His Dark Materials vs. Chronicles of Narnia
It’s easy to read Philip Pullman’s fantasy trilogy as a direct response to C.S. Lewis’ epic, heavily Christian saga: the chief villains of His Dark Materials include an analog to the Catholic Church and an archangel, whereas Narnia features a lion as a parable for Christ’s death and resurrection. Pullman himself has frequently spoken out against Lewis’ series, criticizing their ending as demonstrating an overemphasis on the innocence of childhood over children’s ability to develop into moral, intelligent adults, and even calling Lewis himself “monumentally racist.” Pullman has also received his fair share of criticism, albeit less from Lewis fans specifically and more from Christians in general, who are understandably teed-off at his opposition to organized religion. Which series the reader prefers likely has a lot to do with their personal beliefs, so we’ll withhold judgement (and advise staying away from both series’ movie adaptations; they’re both awful).