NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Summer blockbuster season is hitting stride as comic geeks and cinephiles alike ponder the schoolyard question: "Who would win in a fight: Green Lantern or Captain America?"
That matchup isn't just about two of the great World War II-era comic book franchises, but the battle between Marvel Comics (MVL) and D.C. Comics and all that entails. It's Warner Brothers (TWX) versus Viacom (VIA.B) and Disney (DIS) for box-office bragging rights. It's Subway versus Burger King (BKC) for the fast-food tie-ins. It's Mattel (MAT) versus Hasbro (HAS) in the action-figure arena. It's Dr. Pepper Snapple (DPS) versus Pepsi (PEP), and it's all for the benefit of big-budget superhero film buffs.
"The greatest part about all of this is that you have these amazing entertainment companies spending all this money and producing films for a lot of people who have loved these characters for a very long time," says Gareb Shamus, chairman and chief executive of Wizard World (WIZD.PK), which runs a comic book and pop culture site and a series of comic conventions across the U.S. "They've really put their marketing muscle behind it and have exposed to the world what we've been fans of for decades now."
With the the exception of Screen Gems' Korean manga-based film Priest and its subpar $73 million showing last month, Marvel has sucked up most of the box office superpower in this early summer movie season. The Marvel Studios/Paramount release of Thor collected more than $430 million at the box office since its release in May, while Marvel's collaboration with 20th Century Fox (NWSA) on X-Men: First Class raked in another $221 million -- somewhat surprising for a prequel to the X-Men series that ended in 2006.Meanwhile, Thor brought sponsors including Acura (HMC), Hasbro, Visa (V), 7-Eleven, Burger King, Sega and Dr. Pepper Snapple along for the ride, selling millions of dollars in toys, video games and branded food items along the way. After spending much of the past two summers on the sideline -- not counting last summer's disastrous Jonah Hex -- D.C. and Warner Brothers are back in the mix with Green Lantern, which opens Friday. While Ryan Reynolds' man in green and black isn't exactly a household name like Spider-Man or Batman, Shamus says it's tough to count out a character just because not as many people have read the comic.
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