Issue #9 of 35   INDEX




Joel Grineau
by: Joel V. Grineau
Intercompany Crossovers: When Universes Collide
 

Here's a question that's puzzled many a comic book fanatic - if Batman and Captain America fought, who would win? This seems like a valid inquiry as, after all, they're both touted to be a 'superb combatant, who combines multiple fighting styles, and has developed himself to the peak of human potential'. Such a meeting would seem natural enough; so who would win? The more important question though is, Why did it take until 1996 for us to find this out?

The simple answer to this last question was that Batman and Captain America have never met, despite them both being around for over fifty years, (Batman first appeared in 1939, Captain America in 1941), because they exist in different comicbook universes. Neither company could use the other's character, for they would have been sued for trademark infringement.

However, there is a second part to this answer, for they did eventually meet and do battle. To briefly recap last week's column, the crossover was invented for two reasons: First, to answer the question "How would Batman and Superman react when they met?" and Second (and more importantly) to raise sales, as the readers of each comic book would want to read about this meeting.

Batman and Captain America finally met, as both companies agreed to the meeting on legal grounds, and they hoped to cash in big on it. They did, for the meeting of these two heroes was a part of the truly titanic DC vs. Marvel, Marvel vs. DC crossover.

We now know that the Batman won, as most of us predicted. What makes this victory particularly "valid" in the eyes of fans is the fact that the outcome was decided by the fans Frankly, I think the majority of us voted for the Dark Knight to kick Cap's butt.

The question, however, is still not fully answered. Why did it take until 1996?

First off, it was not until the 1970's that Marvel and DC became 'the Big Two', the largest and most dominant comic book companies. By then, each had a significant enough readership to make an intercompany crossover potentially profitable.

But neither "Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man" (1976), or 'Batman vs. the Incredible Hulk' ("DC Special Series", #27, fall 1981), did well, and neither has hardly increased in value some fifteen and twenty years later.

The "New Teen Titans/ X-Men" crossover of 1982 did much better. But it also failed to produce truly impressive revenues, so neither company seemed that interested in furthering the intercompany crossover experiments.

Once again the answer of 'why 1996?' can be found in the ever-changing market. In the early 1990's, the Big Two, after just recovering from the independent black and white competition of the late 1980's (the forefront of which was the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles") were rocked again. There appeared a new challenge of high quality paper, colour, creator owned, super hero comics, by such companies as Valiant, Image, and Malibu. Not to be left out, the perennial dark horse, Dark Horse Comics, also rebounded in the early 1990's, particularly by acquiring the rights to licensed movie properties, such as "Aliens" and "Predator".

Each of these new contenders also created their own universe, and they even had the audacity to do intercompany crossovers amongst themselves. [Of note: the highly touted Valiant-Image crossover "Deathmate" was a colossal disappointment to this reader, and many others.]

Faced with stiff competition, and a shrinking market share, the big two announced the 'ultimate crossover' - 2 universes, 11 bouts, of which fandom would vote on the outcome of 5 bouts, and the losing universe would face the consequences. Additionally, 12 one-shot issue would amalgamate one hero or team from each universe with the other, a sort of super-powered "What if. . .?" - an alternative history story. For example, Wolverine and Batman were amalgamated into a new entity called Darkclaw. And yes, the Big Two guessed right this time, and the comics flew off the shelves.

And that Virginia, is why it took till 1996 for Batman to kick Captain America's butt.

Joel Grineau is a former Writer/Contributing Editor for "Chaos" Magazine. "Iron Man" 146 (purchased in the spring of 1981) was his first comic book, and time has not worn down his enjoyment of them. Joel holds a BA from the University of Guelph and an MA from the University of Saskatchewan. He is currently an officer with the Canadian Forces.

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Text © Joel V. Grineau, 1997,1998.
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