Crossovers. Love ’em or hate ’em, you can’t get away from them. Now Ralf Collie and James Corray Smith can reveal the Top Ten DC/Marvel Crossovers…
10. Daredevil/Batman – Eye for an Eye (1997)
Writer: DG Chichester
Artist: Scott McDaniel
Pairing Batman and Daredevil seems obvious, but the potential of the combination is not really lived up to here, largely due to the fact that almost no use is made of the respective characters’ secret identities. The similarities between the backgrounds of Matt Murdock and Bruce Wayne in terms of their motivation for becoming vigilantes, as well as the passion for justice they share, and their very different concepts of what justice means, would seem to be natural territory to explore.
Chichester does this in a cursory way, if at all. As it is, we are left with a pedestrian plot, little more than a series of slugfests into which pretty much any Marvel or DC characters could be inserted with hardly the necessity of a re-write. One nice touch though is the revelation that Murdock and Harvey Dent (Two-Face) were friends when they were both training for the law. DD is able to persuade Two-Face to spare Hyde’s life without resorting to tossing his coin by appealing to the man he once knew – though, as Two-Face ominously remarks, “Anything that happened here tonight…was simply the last of Harvey Dent”.
Best Line: DAREDEVIL: I’d wager that’s covered under the “Utility Belt Act of 1939”.
9. Batman vs The Incredible Hulk – The Monster and the Madman (1981)
Writer: Len Wein
Artist: José Luis García-López
Bruce Banner infiltrates Wayne Research, hoping its new gamma gun may provide a cure for his periodic transformations into the Hulk. Before he can implement his plan, the gun is stolen by the Joker, despite the intervention of the Batman, who is forced to do battle with Banner’s green alter ego. The Joker has made a bargain with the nigh-omnipotent Shaper of Worlds, whose power to turn dreams into reality is running wildly out of control and driving him insane. The gamma gun will cure the Shaper’s condition (for some reason) and in return for his help the Joker has been offered unlimited power.
García-López’s distinctive style of illustration, still used for DC’s merchandise today, never disappoints and does not do so in this story, which is a visual treat from the first panel to the last. The narrative moves along at a brisk pace with the Joker being as murderously psychotic as one could wish, but where the story perhaps falls down is that a battle between Batman and the Incredible Hulk is surely as mismatched as Jim Parsons fighting Anthony Joshua (this story was written 20 years before ‘The Dark Knight Strikes Again’, in which Batman can apparently take Superman to pieces without raising a sweat).
It was of course natural that after successfully pairing Superman with Spider-Man, DC and Marvel would want to use two more of their most popular characters for the next crossover, but the inherent improbability of the match makes the whole thing seem contrived, with the Hulk in particular coming out rather ill-served. Did they pair them just because they’re both called Bruce? Enquiring minds want to know.
Best Line: ALFRED: Perhaps a spot of tea will calm your nerves, Doctor Banner?
8. Darkseid vs. Galactus – The Hunger (1995)
Writer/artist: John Byrne
Galactus comes to devour the world of Apokolips to satisfy his never-ending hunger. The Stygian deity Darkseid, ruler of Apokolips, does battle to defend his world.
This is good workmanlike stuff from veteran writer/artist John Byrne, with him depicting the face-off between Marvel and DC’s two premier ‘cosmic’ Big Bads, and there’s a strong supporting cast including the Silver Surfer and Orion. Sadly (albeit in keeping with the tone and subject matter) the story lacks the humor characteristic of the majority of Byrne’s work and delivers little in the way of surprises (a whole 10 pages are devoted to retelling the origins of Galactus, the Silver Surfer, Apokolips, et al, something which anyone buying such a comic might reasonably be expected to know already).
However, the conclusion, in which Darkseid is unable to defeat Galactus, but then Galactus finds that Apokolips, a living hell, has none of the ‘life energy’ that Galactus feeds upon and is therefore useless to him, is logical and as such, satisfying.
Best Line: DARKSEID: There is more at stake here than your loss of stimulation, Desaad.
7. Punisher/Batman – Deadly Knights (1994)
Writer: Chuck Dixon
Artists: John Romita Jr, Klaus Janson
The Punisher journeys to Gotham City on the trail of Jigsaw, who is slowly taking over the city mobs, secretly only as a frontman for the Joker. Punisher’s attempt to kill the Joker leads him into confront with Batman, who allows the Joker to escape rather than be gunned down by the Punisher. Unknown to Punisher, the Batman he is now facing is the original, Bruce Wayne (he had previously met the Jean-Paul Valley version in the earlier, inferior Batman/Punisher Lake of Fire, which does make this Top Ten!).
It’s possibly due to the division of labor between Romita and Janson that the panels in this comic have a distinctly static and cut-and-paste feel about them, but the narrative, told largely in first-person internal monologues from both protagonists, is skilfully handled, and the juxtaposition between Punisher’s M.O. (kill) and Batman’s (anything but kill) works well.
Best Line: PUNISHER: The caped choirboy’s holding his own, but he’s throwing fists in a firefight.
6. Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man – The Battle of the Century (1976)
Writer: Gerry Conway
Artists: Ross Andru, Neal Adams, John Romita Sr
Incarcerated together in prison, Lex Luthor and Doctor Octopus hatch a plan to break out and conquer the world by taking control of a space station that manipulates the Earth’s weather, destroying their respective arch-enemies in the process. At a press conference in New York City, attended by both Clark Kent (Superman) and Peter Parker (Spider-Man), Lois Lane and Mary-Jane Watson are seemingly kidnapped by Superman (in reality, this is a ruse of Luthor’s). Each believing the other to have been responsible, Superman and Spider-Man battle.
The original, you might say! This first pairing of DC and Marvel’s flagship characters is without question a milestone in the history of comics. Even were it not done well, the remarkable thing would still be that it was done at all – but in fact, largely, it is done well, with state-of-the-art illustration, and just the right amount of humour. Kudos must be given to all of the creative talents involved, but it must be said that the story itself does not, quite, stand the test of time.
Some of the blame for this must be attributed (as with number 8 above) to the necessity of contriving a scenario in which a fight between the virtually all-powerful Superman and the heroic but all-too-mortal Spider-Man have a fight that lasts longer than a frame. (Spider-Man, having unknowingly been infused by Red Sun Radiation by Luthor, is temporarily able to hold his own, but when the effect ‘wears off’, he is outmatched.) Even allowing for this, the plot is somewhat simplistic even by the standards of 1976 comics, which keeps this pioneering publication just out of the top 5.
Best Line: SPIDER-MAN: How’d you get so hard so suddenly?
5. Spider-Man and Batman – Disordered Minds (1995)
Writer: JM DeMatteis
Artist: Mark Bagley
Behavioural psychologist Cassandra Briar has invented a bio-chip that renders even the most deranged and homicidal criminals docile. In New York City, Cletus Kasady (a.k.a. Carnage) is the first to undergo the seemingly successful treatment. Briar then travels to Gotham City, bringing Kasady with her as proof of the efficacy of her procedure, where the Joker is next to receive the ‘cure’.
Dr Kafka, the psychiatrist who had been attempting to treat Kasady, is unconvinced by Briar’s methods and, at her request, Spider-Man also goes to Gotham to keep tabs on Kasady. Dr Kafka’s doubts are fully justified, as Carnage’s alien symbiote renders him immune to the bio-chip, and he liberates the Joker for good measure. With the Joker and Carnage in collaboration, each being nuttier than the lower intestine of a constipated squirrel, even Batman and Spider-Man as a team are hard-pushed to contain the situation. Fortunately, the antagonists’ ‘artistic differences’ prove to be their mutual undoing…
By 1995, a team-up between Batman and Spider-Man was long overdue, and the slick artwork and deft plotting of this edition does justice to the long-awaited combo. Much emphasis is placed upon the obvious parallels between the murders of Bruce Wayne’s parents and Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben. But it is our villains who really steal the show here, with the Joker and Carnage getting all of the best lines.
Best Line: JOKER: I always thought of myself as the Orson Welles of crime and chaos, while you, apparently, aspire to be nothing more than the David Hasselhoff!
4. DC/Marvel All Access (1996-97)
Writer: Ron Marz
Artist: Jackson Guice
Axel Asher, a.k.a. Access, is the living embodiment of the gateway between the Marvel and DC universes, and he becomes aware that villains from the Marvel universe are somehow being transposed to the DC universe.
This cross-contamination threatens both universes as it could result in the return of the Amalgam universe (of which more shortly!) Enlisting the aid of both Marvel and DC heroes, Access traces the problem to Doctor Strange, within whom survives the essence of Doctor Strangefate, sorcerer supreme of the Amalgam universe, who seeks to bring about the restoration of his reality even at the cost of the destruction of the other two.
A sequel to both 3 and 2, both of which are rather better, hence their placement in this list, this miniseries is really just an excuse to see some more of those battles we never thought we’d get to witness, including Superman vs Venom, Batman vs the Scorpion, and ultimately the entire JLA vs the X-Men. And a highly enjoyable rollercoaster ride it is, too.
Best Line: STRANGEFATE (to Doctor Strange): I’m twice the mystic you are!
3. Amalgam Comics (1996/1997)
Writers, Artists: various
The Marvel and DC universes have been merged, resulting in the creation of the Amalgam universe, whose inhabitants, as the name implies, are amalgamations of DC and Marvel characters – for example, Superman + Captain America = ‘Super Soldier’, Batman + Wolverine = ‘Dark Claw’, and so on. But only Axel Asher and the sorcerer supreme Doctor Strangefate (Doctor Strange + Doctor Fate) are aware of this universe’s true nature and origins.
It’s perhaps lèse-majesté to lump together every issue of this superb series under the one heading, as Amalgam Comics is easily deserving of a top 10 of its own (and perhaps it will get one!) but no list of the greatest DC/Marvel crossovers would be complete that did not include Amalgam.
The sheer fun that the creative teams have had in tearing up the rule-book and creating this strange and yet eerily familiar universe is apparent in every panel. By no means the least entertaining feature is the mock-up letters page in every issue, purporting to be letters from readers who have been following the adventures of the Amalgam heroes for years.
Best Line: “MAKE MINE AMALGAM!” – Otto Sternbyrne, letters page
2. DC versus Marvel Comics (1996)
Writers: Peter David, Ron Marz
Artists: Dan Jurgens,Claudio Castellini
Two all-powerful cosmic entities known as the Brothers are the embodiment of the DC and Marvel universes respectively. Eons ago they became aware of one another and, each resenting the other’s existence, fought a cataclysmic battle rendering them both inert. Now, they have once again become conscious and mutually aware. Rather than do battle directly, instead they pit heroes from each universe against one another, and the universe of whichever side loses the most battles is to be destroyed. In the event, neither was destroyed, but the two were temporarily amalgamated (see 3, above).
This really was the one that every comics fan had been waiting for, and it delivers exactly what it says on the tin. Superman vs Hulk! Sliver Surfer vs Green Lantern! Thor vs Captain Marvel! Anyone who has ever wondered who would win a fight between (insert Marvel hero) and (insert DC hero) will probably find their question answered here. Best of all was the interactive element, since the result of the battles was decided by vote of the readership. For the record, Marvel was the ultimate winner, 6 battles to 5.
Best Line: GUARDIAN OF THE ACCESS: “First law of the universe: You can never have too much duct tape”.
1. Superman and Spider-Man – The Heroes and the Holocaust (1981)
Writer: Jim Shooter
Artist: John Buscema
Project Omega, the most ambitious scheme of Doctor Doom, is about to reach fruition. Doom plans to unleash a peculiar form of radiation that will render all fossil and nuclear fuels inert, leaving the only remaining source of energy a nuclear fusion reactor of his own design. Doctor Doom has offered Superman’s foe the Parasite an alliance but secretly plans to use him to regulate the energy core of the unstable fusion reactor, killing him in the process.
Doom lures the Hulk to Metropolis in order to manipulate him into freeing the Parasite from incarceration. Superman is able to check the Hulk’s rampage, but not before the plan succeeds. Peter Parker (Spider-Man) has been sent by the Daily Bugle to cover the story, and the two heroes soon join forces. As the fusion reactor runs wild, threatening the entire world, the duo are able to save the situation only just in time.
The second DC/Marvel crossover, again starring Superman and Spider-Man, is a vast improvement on the first (see 6, above). The success of this publication and its placing at number 1 in this list is entirely due to writer Jim Shooter’s handling of his material. No attempt is made to contrive a gratuitous and illogical battle between the two main protagonists, and more than in any other comic in this list, the characters are allowed to behave as readers familiar with them would expect.
Marvel’s Doctor Doom and DC’s Parasite are chosen as antagonists not for ‘star name’ value, but for their usefulness in providing a coherent and intriguing plot. Amongst the many highlights are Superman’s first-ever battle with the Hulk (it’s a draw), Spider-Man’s brief flirtation with Wonder Woman, and a philosophical discussion, of all things, between Superman and Doctor Doom of the responsibilities attendant upon great power. More than just a crossover event to delight fans, this is comic-book storytelling at its finest.
Best Line: SPIDER-MAN (to Wonder Woman): By the way, do you think it’s too early in our relationship to consider marriage?