Since Marvel Comics emerged as the "House Of Ideas" and began its rivalry with DC Comics, fans have loved to pit the two companies against each other. There's few fans who haven't wondered about the winners of a Batman versus Captain America battle, or a titanic clash between the Hulk and Superman? And with the reporting of monthly sales, fans have joined in the celebration of a Marvel or DC book hitting number one, or one company taking control of the market from the other. But now fans will see their companies square off against each other in America's favorite pastime (or a close enough version): softball.
Thursday, July 20th, at Comic-Con International in San Diego, Marvel & DC will play a charity softball game, with their big name creators and staff manning the bases and hitting the balls. The game starts at 3pm, at the historic Morley Field at Balboa Park. And just as in any bout between Marvel & DC, the winner is always the fans: this time fans can bid to be part of the Marvel or DC teams. Furthermore, the event will serve to raise funds for ACTOR (A Commitment To Our Roots), which helps to take care of those important creators who've given their hearts & souls to the industry but now need a little help from the fans. To learn more about this event, CBR News caught up with ACTOR President Jim McLauchlin and Marvel's X-Men editor Mike Marts. Jim, good to talk to you again. Let's start with how you became involved in this event and the impetus for the whole event.
JIM: The impetus was Dan Didio and Mike Marts, over at DC & Marvel respectively: all the credit goes to them. I got the call from Mike, a month or two ago, saying how he was trying to put together a softball game between Marvel & DC, and how it should have a charitable angle. To which I said, "Mike, that's a wonderful idea but good luck [laughs] I don't think you're going to do it." The two organizations are occasionally armed camps [laughs]. Lo and behold, I find out that Dan and I are going to be in Toronto at the Paradise Comic-Con, which is an outstanding con, just outstanding. Dan had called me to say he'd be there and that he wanted to talk about the softball game. I spoke to Dan, and I'd spoken to Mike as well, and it was on! The great thing about Dan is that he's really an old-school geek and the main reason Dan wanted to do this is because he grew up seeing photos of these old Marvel softball teams. We even recalled the same photos, like Roy Thomas in his jeans, with a belt buckle the size of a dinner plate and those bell bottoms…it was great. I think Dan just wanted his own set of photos with the team [laughs].
So with Mike and Dan spearheading the effort, what's your role in event?
Basically, ACTOR is taking care of people from Marvel and DC, since they're being really nice [laughs]. ACTOR is going to supply transportation, the equipment, we're taking care of the Umpire and we'll cover the shuttle for the staff. One of the ways that ACTOR is turning this into a fundraiser is that admission is 100% free: if you wanna come, we want to see you. Admission being free doesn't sound like much of a fundraiser, so we are going to offer transportation and I believe it'll be $15-we'll pick you up at the Marriot or the Hyatt, right next to the convention center. We take you to the game and bring you right back.
Now the thing I find most exciting, besides the charity, is a chance to bid online to join the Marvel and DC teams, so you can play right on the field with your favorite company. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
We have two auctions, one for Marvel and one for DC, so it'll be an interesting way to show your allegiance there. The winner of the auctions get a position on the team and you get a team jersey as well.
What about those fans who read "Civil War" or "Infinite Crisis" and may want to bean certain creators in the head?
[laughs] Then you bid on playing for the other team.
So are we going to see some no-name interns playing ball or is it the big guns, like Dan and Joe Quesada at Marvel, who'll be out there?
Mike and Dan are still pulling together their teams, but it's going to be a big mix of staffers and freelances. I know that Dan has it planned at 30 people for the DC team. He's going to rotate people out in squads of ten for three innings each. Dan has said that Jim Lee is going to play, because he's a big baseball fan and I've actually played against Joe Quesada, who is an outstanding baseball player. He's played baseball all his life and that guy can really let one rip! There will be a lot of big names and good players as well.
If someone can't attend the game, perhaps even the convention, will there be any way to view the game online through streaming video or perhaps on a DVD?
No specific DVD plans, but if you ask me, judging from Comic Book Resource's famous photo parades, I wouldn't be surprised to see a lot of pictures online on this site. We'll have some photo recaps on the ACTOR website - actorcomicfund.org - and I expect this will be the thing that most of the comic book sites will pick up on.
You've mentioned a shuttle, but with a crowd of 100,000 people at the Comic-Con International, I'm sure a great deal will want to check out the game. What's the stadium capacity?
I dare say we'll have less than 100,000 people show up [laughs]. If I'm wrong, it might be hard to manage [laughs]! I'm not anticipating any problems and a good time will be had by all.
Let's switch gears and talk about ACTOR. You aren't in the headlines as much as CBLDF, another fine organization, and I was hoping you could explain your group's mission to fans who might be in the dark.
In a very simple nutshell, ACTOR is an organization that lends medical and financial support to the creators who helped found the industry. Way back in the 1940s and 1950s, writers and artists worked for pennies, there was no idea of character rights or pensions, so there's a lot of people who helped mold the industry who don't have that financial security. They might be getting older and finding their health isn't great. We've paid the rent to help people from being evicted. We've paid the electrical bills for some creators who would otherwise freeze to death in the winter. Since our inception five years ago, ACTOR has provided $180,000 in aid to creators who've needed it and who've helped create this industry we all love. Look at the box office on the X-Men movies and you'll see how much the industry is worth, but look back at the creators who helped created many major characters, and you'll see they earned a proportionately small amount of dollars and cents.
So for those fans at the convention, or any major convention, how can they donate to ACTOR, beyond logging onto the site?
At most major conventions, ACTOR has a major booth set up, and the next one is Heroes Con in Charlotte, which is I believe June 30th –July 2nd. We always have fund raising merchandise and rope writers & artists into creating some special stuff for fans in exchange for a donation. While autographs are free, we also have a tip jar and we encourage fans to donate whatever they can to help. We won't have a booth at San Diego, because as you know, it's a big set up and getting a booth can be hard, so we'll be camping out at the CGC booth. We'll have creators over there to do some signings as well. Of course, you can do donations online as well.
And it's tax deductible!
There you go!
So are you playing in the softball game?
I dunno. I'm planning on umpiring, and I thought it'd be good to be indifferent, but there's a guy who helps us out who's an ASA certified umpire, so he's volunteered to ump the game. I might play, I might be second base umpire, I might sell peanuts.
We're talking about softball, which is like the cousin of baseball…so who do you predict to win the World Series?
That's a tough one. I started off as a sports writer and I'm doing a lot of that work again, but I guess the cop out answer is "it's early, we're still in June!" I will tell you this, the Tigers started out as a house on fire, but I don't see them being able to sustain it. In the National League, I like the Cardinals and they have a lot of depth, so I think once Pujols is at full strength, they're a contender. In the American League, I'm a Twins fan through and through, they've been on a tear and they've been on a hot streak, but I don't see them winning. The White Sox and Red Sox have been hot too, but I don't see anything coming out of the West. CBR News then spoke to Marts, who was quite pleased with the pre-order numbers for the first issues of the new creative teams on "X-Men" and "Uncanny X-Men," and took a few minutes to speak about this big game.
Mike, thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule. We just spoke with Jim, who mentioned that you approached him with the softball idea. Where'd that come from?
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MIKE: It came at the New York convention a few months ago and I was passing Dan Didio and Andy Kubert in the hall way, so we started talking. I knew Dan from a few Marvel/DC softball games in Central Park - just casual, fun games. Dan mentioned doing something bigger than the annual games, something involving the convention in San Diego, and most importantly, something for charity. I thought it sounded great and we talked about which charity we'd want to go with, and Jim McLaughlin and ACTOR came to mind, so at that point, we spoke to Jim and got him involved.
When fans think of DC and Marvel today, they often picture an intense, bitter rivalry and some kind of personal feud. But it isn't like that, is it?
No, a lot of us are friends and there are freelancers and staffers who've worked for both companies. When it all comes down to it, we're all part of the great big comic book family…but there is competition. It isn't warlike or anything like that, but there is competition, fun competition and while we may not always be #1 each month, that only pushes us harder to top the other guys.
Why ACTOR? What made them the natural charity for this event?
The fact that ACTOR deals with a lot of our former great artists, who worked under pay and conditions that don't resemble the current set up and weren't able to really benefit as much from their work, and this is our way of giving back to the people who laid the foundations for the work we're doing today.
Jim mentioned that the DC team will be about 30 people. Is Marvel coming with that big a force?
Yeah, we'll come in with the same number. Probably around 30, with a mix of artists, writers, staff and more.
Any big names you can tell us about?
I can't say too much, since the invites just went out, but our big guy Joe Quesada will be there, along with Publisher Dan Buckley. I'm sure we'll have some big freelancers.
I've heard that Joe's quite the batter.
He's played a lot of ball in his day, that for sure, and he's definitely one of our biggest weapons.
Assuming the event goes well this year, might you consider another sport for the next outing, such as soccer or flag football? Perhaps this could be an annual tradition?
Softball is always the most fun because baseball's the national pastime, but it would be fun to try other sports as well. We used to do an informal flag football game between Marvel and Quebecor Printing for a number of years, that was a lot of fun.
So are we going to see you repping your X-Men at the game?
For sure. We're all going to have an equal chance to play.
Thanks for your time Mike.
And fans can purchase those shuttle tickets now, by going to this site. Stay tuned to CBR News for more information on this historic event and for the most in-depth Comic-Con International coverage.