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Underrated: Inter-Company Crossovers

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet-pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week:  Inter-Company Crossovers

I was reorganizing my bookshelf the other day and a couple of older graphic novels caught my eye, and set me to thinking about the amount of inter-company crossovers I’ve read over the years. Books like Team X/Team 7 from Marvel and Image, Batman/Punisher from DC and Marvel and even He-Man/Thundercats from…. well from DC (does it count in this list? I think so, because although DC owns both properties now, when this awesomeness exploded in the eighties, the thought of them crossing over was a dream in many a fan’s mind, and since this is a thing that I’m writing, I’m going to leave that option on the table for myself). The crossover I’m thinking of in this case is Marvel Verses DC and the Amalgam Universe series that came from it; I’m still far too obsessed with that book after twenty plus years since initially reading it.

Whether it’s because these crossovers seem to happen with less frequency these days (especially between Marvel and DC), they’ve flown under my radar as they’re released, or I just happen to be stumbling across a large number of the crossovers from yesteryear at the comic shop, I’ve been missing the inter-company crossovers that bring some of our favourite heroes together (and often some of the most unexpected combinations).

Again, I don’t know if it feels like there were more released in the 80’s and 90’s than there is today, or if it feels that way because we’ve already got those releases and there’s less from Marvel and DC together than there used to be.

It should probably come as no surprise if you listen to Those Two Geeks, but my favourite crossover is Marvel Vs DC, and the subsequent Amalgam universe. It is the most ambitious crossover on the list, and had fans vote on the outcomes of fights between the various heroes – sometimes the fans were bang on, and sometimes the result was clearly the result of a popularity contest and not of a reasonable outcome between two characters (I love Wolverine, but having him face off against Lobo wasn’t the best match up, and definitely not the right outcome between the two, but at the time I loved it). Other highlights include Superman vs Smart Hulk, Spider-Man vs Super Boy, Batman vs Captain America, Storm vs Wonder Woman and Thor vs Shazam. There was also a pretty cool series of trading cards that came from the crossover with other fights not shown in the comics, as well as two Amalgam trades collecting the mash up stories of Super Soldier (Superman and Captain America), Dark Claw (Wolverine/Batman) and others that came about as a result of the events in the four issue miniseries.

On a much smaller scale, Team X/Team 7 saw Wolverine, Maverick and Sabretooth in their spy days come across Image’s (well, Wildstorm’s) Team Seven. It was much more of an action spy story than a world saving capes and cowl style story, and despite having no idea who Team 7 were (even now I still don’t really know who they are beyond this miniseries, and a quick google has me wondering what the impetus was for this crossover because they don’t seem to have had a lasting impact, though I suppose things were different back then). This was one of those books I picked up because of the Marvel trio more than anything else, and it never inspired me to read more Team 7, but I recall enjoying the dynamic when I did read the book.

Even this Tomb Raider/Witchblade book wasn’t terrible, but had I been a fan of either character before giving it a try, I’d likely have enjoyed the book a little more.

Shifting to modern times, the Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crossover was an absolute joy to read, as were the sequels. DC and IDW teamed up to create a story with characters that mesh together remarkably well – it’s a shame that this isn’t an ongoing series, because watching Damian Wayne interact with the turtles gives me more joy than it probably should.

There’s been a few Batman crossovers with Marvel heroes – Punisher and Daredevil spring to mind immediately – and while both are thoroughly enjoyable, there’s a standout moment where Batman asks Daredevil for a certain coloured object. It’s been a bit since I read the book, and so I can’t remember if that’s why Batman knows Daredevil is blind or he’s testing a theory – either way the art in those scenes always makes me smile just a little.

And I think that’s the whole point of those crossovers; as almost all of them are out of continuity (aside from within their own self contained stories), for me the main goal is to just hope they’re entertaining. It’s unlikely anything character changing will happen, but there’s a special joy to seeing Spider-Man crack jokes at a stonewalled Batman, or the X-Men coming into contact with the Teen Titans. Of course, these books aren’t always easy to find; it’s unlikely that they’ll ever be collected into a trade (there are exceptions to this such as the Batman/TMNT stories, and the Marvel vs DC and Amalgam trades), and even if they are, reprints aren’t likely for the older books.

But next time you’re in your LCS, see if you can find some of these gems. The books from the 90’s especially are often over looked when it comes to the company crossovers, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth reading.

Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.

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