5BC: Five Best Marvel/DC Crossovers

It’s been bettered but never equaled, the granddaddy of all inter-company crossovers. At a time when a comic book featuring Superman and rival Spider-Man sharing the same pages was a positively shocking idea, this enormous tabloid spent its 100 pages synthesizing the narrative styles of both the DC and Marvel house approaches into a single unified whole. The creative team of Gerry Conway and Ross Andru were perfect choices, having worked on both characters previously, and the visuals were further enhanced by uncredited assists from Neal Adams and John Romita. At $2.00, it cost more than half a dozen regular comics, but it was so worth it.

Or the original flight of Marvel/DC crossovers, none was more perfectly timed or flawlessly executed than UNCANNY X-MEN AND NEW TEEN TITANS, uniting the casts of the two most popular series in comics at that moment. A tour de force by writer Chris Claremont with stellar artwork by Walt Simonson, if the book has a flaw it’s that it was produced so early in the history of the New Teen Titans that the characters still hadn’t quite come together yet, meaning that Claremont’s interpretation of them skewed more towards his own mutant idiom. This book probably did more to make Darkseid the predominant DC villain than any other.

One of the first of the new wave of Marvel/DC crossovers of the 1990s, PUNISHER/BATMAN leans on the strength of the characters’ common writer Chuck Dixon who expertly brings their worlds and worldviews into alignment. But the real star here is artist John Romita Jr, at the time making his mark on the Punisher and here cut loose to work his magic on the caped crusader for the first time. John was at the height of his powers, backed up by the gritty and expressive inkwork of Klaus Janson. A beautiful book from cover to cover.

It was close to a coin toss between this entry and writer/artist John Byrne’s other Marvel/DC release BATMAN AND CAPTAIN AMERICA, which was set during WWII and featured a very Dick Sprang-inspired Batman. But this book is so clever and expert in bringing together the two worlds of Jack Kirby and playing them off one another that I give it the edge. Plus, it’s an underdog pick, a book you almost can’t imagine being approved because it features no headline heroes whatsoever. The very fact that it’s unlikely also makes it unexpected, and it delights in a way that many other crossovers fail to in finding interesting juxtapositions between its lead characters.

The very last of the Marvel/DC crossover and (regardless of my own personal involvement) probably the most fully realized thanks to its length, JLA/AVENGERS paid off on the promise of the aborted 1984 meeting between the two teams by bringing the two much larger by this point squads together for the ultimate crossover adventure. It gets broken in the third chapter, so the back half falls apart, but the real show here is artist George Perez, who both pencils and inks the entirety of its nearly 200 pages and draws literally every hero who had served with either team (and a lot more besides.) Writer Kurt Busiek does more than simply put the heroes together, he explores the differences between their universes as well. If there are never any further Marvel/DC crossovers it’s a good one to go out on.

BONUS ENTRY: It exists as only a plot and 21 pages of unfinished pencils, but the original JLA/AVENGERS crossover from 1984 is one of the great unfinished symphonies of the history of comics. The very fact that it was never completed means that each fan can imagine the finished book in their mind’s eye however they like–making it the unbeatable champion because it doesn’t play on the same field as any of the others. The plot was flawed, but simply the prospect of seeing the George Perez of that era handle these two mainstay teams was enough to get any fan’s heart pumping.

6 thoughts on “5BC: Five Best Marvel/DC Crossovers

  1. “It gets broken in the third chapter,” Tom, maybe it’s just because it’s been a long time since I read this story, but I’m not sure what you mean. Would it be possible for you to elaborate?

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    1. Without going into great detail, there was a dispute over what had been planned and agreed to in terms of the plot for the final two issues, leading to a set of compromises that wrecked the simple organizing principle of the back half of the story.

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      1. Ah, got it. For what it’s worth, Tom, the problems weren’t obvious to at least one reader (me 🙂 ) who thoroughly enjoyed the whole story.

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  2. Hard to argue with this list. Although I’d probably replace Punisher/Batman (which I enjoyed) with the first Spider-Man/Batman crossover by J.M. DeMatteis & Mark Bagley.

    And I agree with Darkseid/Galactus being (slightly) better than Batman/Captain America. Either way, both are excellent crossovers.

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  3. Just recently came across your column and have found your “5-Best” entries very entertaining. I started reading and collecting in the early 70s so the years you’ve covered represented some of my favorite issues and memories. One of the best was meeting Stan Lee and having him sign my just-released Giant-SIze Superman/Spiderman. Very nice man who, even though very busy at the time, took a few minutes to talk with me about my favorite comics. Made a big impression on a young kid.

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