DC & Marvel Crossovers
by Juan Martin Ponce
"Elseworlds" or "In-Continuity"?
The history of DC and Marvel intercompany crossovers began in 1975, when the two companies published an adaptation of the classic tale "The Wizard of Oz". The first story they featuring two superheroes from each company interacting in a same story took place in 1976, with Superman vs. The Amazing Spiderman.
The hysteria that it created in comic-fandom was astounding.
Today, when an intercompany crossover is published, reaction tends be along the lines of "oh, another one", but the hype generated by Superman vs. The Amazing Spiderman was very, very large because such a thing had never been done before. Even better, the story was published as a tabloid, giant-size book, making it even more special.
In reality, the crossover was a gimmick used to boost low sales, but creative teams behind the issue, such as writer Gerry Conway, admitted that it was a "fan's dream come true".
The list that follows is a rundown of all DC-Marvel crossovers ever published.
Pre-Crisis DC & Marvel Crossovers: 1976 - 1982
This story is nothing "revolutionary", and is, in fact, a simple one. Lex Luthor and Doctor Octopus, sharing the same prison cell, develop a plan and escape from jail.
They take Lois Lane and Mary Jane Watson hostage and Superman & Spiderman must free them and stop a deadly machine that threatens to destroy the world. Both characters' supporting cast appear in the crossovers (i.e. Morgan Edge, J. Jonah Jameson, Jimmy Olsen, Perry White, Betty Grant, Robbie Robertson, etc.)
An interesting item is that the two heroes interact on the "same earth", and despite never meeting, they have read or heard about each other. In their initial meeting, Spiderman talks about Superman as a legend, but Superman thinks Spiderman is a villain. In fact, Superman thinks that the web-crawler is responsible of the disappearance of the two girls.
This raises a big question: Since the DC characters must "travel" to another earth or dimension in order to meet their "Earth-Two" counterparts, how can two heroes of different companies share a same earth?
Think of it, Hal Jordan or Barry Allen must travel to another Earth if they want to meet Jay Garrick or Alan Scott, but Superman - who has never met or shared the same "universe" as Spiderman - suddenly takes a walk and meets Spiderman on the proverbial "other side of the corner." Not only this, but he knows him!
Because of all the different earths that DC had at that moment (1, 2, X, S, etc) it was explained, in The Crisis Crossover Index, that this tale and all the intercompany crossovers published between 1976-82 took place on a "Crossover Earth", where DC & Marvel's heroes interact on the same world.
Having taken place on Crossover Earth, that meant that the story wasn't really a part of Superman or Spiderman's official continuity. In some senses, they didn't really "live" it.
With the impact of "Crisis On Infinite Earths", the maxi-series which destroyed all the parallel earths, that meant that Crossover Earth was destroyed too. Thus, Superman/Spiderman became an "imaginary story" or, taken from a Marvel viewpoint, a "What If?"
However, DC's recent concept of Hypertime changed things all over again, making it possible that all these "pre-crisis crossovers" actually took place in a different "timeline." So they are part of continuity again!
Superman/Spiderman II (1981)
In my opinion, this was the best crossover. In it, the two heroes battle Dr. Doom and the Parasite (one of Shooter's creations during his stay with DC), and we see a lot of the supporting characters interact. In fact, we see Peter Parker, Jimmy Olsen, Clark Kent, and Robbie Robertson, all working at the Daily Planet! In-jokes, such as having Superman being confused for Thor while flying above New York City also added to the fun.
But, the most surprising parts of the story were the two fights that no one really expected to see, Wonder Woman vs. Spiderman and Superman vs. Hulk. (The latter one is excellent, although it surprised me that Superman shrugged off Hulk's most powerful blows as if they were nothing!).
Again, like the previous one, this tale takes place on the Crossover Earth, so it was not part of official continuity.
I give this one a 10 due to the excellent script and artwork (Garcia Lopez is amazing!) Here, the two heroes battle the Joker and the Shaper Of Worlds.
The supporting casts mix and mingle, and we see Banner meeting Alfred Pennyworth, Gordon talking to General Ross, and a cameo of Doc Samson. Additionally, the Shaper creates illusions of Hulk's and Batman's more hated enemies, such as Two Face, Killer Moth, Scarecrow, Rhino, Abomination and the Leader.
The story's excellent, really astounding conclusion shows the craziness Joker is capable of.
Again, the two character interact on the same earth, and Bruce Wayne explicitly says: "I read about the Hulk.." By this, we can infer that the story takes place on the Crossover Earth.
X-Men/Teen Titans (1982)
This is a really astounding crossover, a work of art. The villains in the story include Darkseid, Deathstroke and Dark Phoenix.
Again, we see that the two groups live on a same earth, as evidenced by Robin stating that he knows about the Avengers! (see page 18,panel 2).
(Incidentally, Marvel & DC Present #2 was scheduled to be JLA/Avengers team-up by George Perez, but sadly, it wasn't published due to a conflict between the two companies regarding the story's script.)
Post-Crisis DC & Marvel Crossovers (1994-present)
The conflicts created by the JLA/Avengers team-up took eleven years to resolve, and the next DC Marvel crossover appeared in 1994.
Overall, Batman/Punisher is rather poor, especially the script was poor. The artwork, however, was good.
It follows official continuity, with the "Azrael" version of Batman appearing rather than the real Batman (remember that in 1994, Azrael replaced Bruce Wayne for a few months) The villains were the Joker and Jigsaw.
As in the past, both heroes inhabit the same Earth. Frank Castle recognizes Batman, and Batman recognizes Castle "thanks to wanted posters" (see page 18, panel 1). But this is post-crisis, and the Crossover Earth was destroyed in Crisis! What is going on here?
I initially expected to see the "Elseworlds" logo on the cover, but it wasn't there. So, I assume this story was intended to be part of official continuity, but on the same earth? Isn't this a problem?
Fans asked about this, but were not given a straight answer by either of the two companies involved.
Punisher/Batman II - (1994)
This is a semi-sequel to the first one, with the same villains (Joker and Jigsaw, but this time, in keeping with continuity, Bruce Wayne is Batman. This story is excellent, especially the battle between the two heroes. The artwork by Romita Jr. is amazing, and his rendition of Batman is really astounding!
Again, both heroes inhabit the same Earth, and an Elseworlds logo is nowhere to be found.
This is a work of art. Not only does Darkseid take on Galactus, but as an added bonus, Silver Surfer confronts Orion. (The Surfer wins without a problem)
The fact that Apokolips is really in another universe (and not strictly in the DC universe) makes more sense continuity-wise. Both the Silver Surfer and Galactus can easily travel to other dimensions or universes.
This is one of the best crossovers of the Post-Crisis era. The villains in the Joker (again!) and Carnage.
Once again, Marvel and DC attempt to insert this crossover into official continuity. On the first panel of page 3, for example, a notation tells readers that this story happens before the Spiderman clone saga. However, the same problem that began in 1994 remains. Namely, the two heroes inhabit the same earth and already know each other.
Green Lantern/Silver Surfer (1995)
Another astounding tale! The artwork is really amazing! I rate this a full ten! The villains are two major ones, Parallax and Thanos. The villainous Cyborg (DC) and Terrax (Marvel) also appear.
This tale introduces a plot device used in nearly all the crossovers that followed. Specifically, the DC & Marvel Universes are different, and in the story, Parallax must travel to "another universe" to follow the Cyborg to the Marvel Universe.
This issue finishes with a panel that shows that is not really "the end." In fact, this crossover was a prequel to the DC vs. Marvel mega-event. This story is 100% part of official continuity.
The only problem I had with this story (now that we know that the two companies universes and different and independent from each other), is how exactly did all the previous post crisis crossovers take place? Remember that in both Batman/Punisher and Batman/Spiderman it was shown that the characters were on the same earth, and no Elseworlds logo was used.
DC vs. Marvel (4 issues) (1995-96)
This mini-series was a dream come true!
Following the plot introduced in Green Lantern/Silver Surfer, the heroes of both universes must fight one another in order to save one of the universes from oblivion by two cosmic brothers (The brothers are powerful that the Spectre was like an ant compared to them!)
The winners of the first five prominent battles were voted on by the fans (the winner is depicted in parentheses):
The outcomes of the other six battles were determined by the companies:
I don't want to discuss the individual battles (or I'll never finish this article), but let me say that the fights were depicted rather poorly. Most spanned only two or three pages, and the one between Lobo and Wolverine was a shame because it wasn't shown how Wolverine managed to win. The Batman/Captain America fight was also a shame.
However, the Superman/Hulk fight was depicted more realistically in comparison to the previous one (in 1981).
The most important thing about the story was the introduction of Access, a character created by both companies, who acts like a portal between the two universes.
All Access (1996) (4 issues)
Each issue of this miniseries contained a different crossover:
Issue 1 involved Superman and Spiderman against Venom. This is the first post-crisis meeting between Superman and Spiderman, and I think this is the best of the 4 issues. However, it surprised me that Venom nearly beat Superman (come on!).
Issue 2 was really poor and featured Robin and Jubilee against Two Face.
Issue 3 features Batman and Dr. Strange. This issue is rather good, especially the confrontation between Batman and the Scorpion. It amazed me how Batman single-handedly beat most of the X-Men!
Issue 4 pits the JLA vs. the X-Men. It's a decent issue, but the fight lasted too long. Superman could've defeated all of Xavier's pupils without needing any help.
In this mini-series, the two-universe concept is shown again, and the heroes needed Access in order to cross over to the DC and Marvel universes.
Superman/Silver Surfer (1996)
The villains were Mr. Mxyzptlk and Impossible Man. The two distinct universes were shown again. In summary, the crossovers is decent, with a few good jokes and an interesting battle between Superman and the Super-Skrull.
Batman/Captain America (1996) Elseworlds
This was perhaps the best crossover of the post-crisis era. It is an "Elseworlds" tale in which the two heroes, along with Robin and Bucky, battle the Nazis in WWII. The villains are the Joker and the Red Skull.
Daredevil/Batman (1997) Elseworlds
I don't like this one, and in my opinion, it is the worst of all the crossovers. It was an "Elseworlds" tale and the villains were Two Face and Mr. Hyde.
Batman/Spiderman II (1997)
This was better than the first Batman/Spiderman, with a good story and sensational art by Nowlan. The villains were Kingpin and RaŽs al Ghul.
But there's a problem here. Namely, the heroes are back to inhabiting the same earth, and no Elseworlds logo is shown! Why was the idea of two distinct universes, and Access, introduced if they wouldn't be used? Why go through the same mess again?
Unlimited Access (4 issues) (1997-98)
Issue 1 contains a Spiderman-Wonder Woman team-up against Mantis and Juggernaut, an excellent fight between Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) and Hulk, and finally, Jonah Hex vs. Two Gun Kid.
On page 1 of this issue, the publishers tried to solve the error which occurred in Batman/Spiderman II. Access appears, saying that he was responsible for Batman/Spiderman II. He explains that he allowed the crossover to take place without Batman or Spiderman "knowing I was even there".
Well, at least they tried to explain how Batman and Spiderman ended up on the same earth after the concept of the two universes was introduced. It seems that Access has the ability to somehow unify the two universes when he wants to.
The next three issues have the Legion of Super-Heroes with the X-Men of an alternate future, Batman (Year One) with the yellow Daredevil, and the first versions of JLA and the Avengers fighting each other. We also see the first X-Men team (by Kirby) and a preliminary version of Young Justice. The villains were Darkseid and Magneto.
This mini-series was very good, and I like it very much, more All Access, but the last issue was very reiterative and confusing.
Superman/Fantastic Four (1999) (Giant Size)
I enjoyed this giant-size crossover despite the art being sub-par. The villains were Galactus and the Cyborg.
Thankfully, in one panel, Superman states that he needs Access in order to travel to the Marvel universe. Whew, at least this time the publishers remembered that there are two universes, not one!
Hulk vs. Superman (1999) What If?
I expected a bit more from this crossover. The battles were good, and ended in a proverbial draw, despite Superman being shown to be more powerful. .
The fact that the "What If" logo appears on the cover tells us that it is an Elseworlds-like tale. The only villain here is Lex Luthor.
Batman/Daredevil II (1999)
By far superior than the first Batman/Daredevil in 1997, this is a good tale with a sensational art. The villains were Kingpin and Scarecrow. Catwoman appeared a bit also.
Continuity wise, a small problem exists. Recall that the first Batman/Daredevil tale was an "Elseworlds", but in this sequel, the Elseworlds logo was not used. Batman mentions their previous encounter (page 4, panel 1), and so it seems to be an Elseworlds. It better be, because they are shown on the same earth again!
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This piece is © 2002 by Juan Martin Ponce
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