Chris versus “DC versus Marvel,” Part Three!

At the end of our last DC versus Marvel article I told you I would give you an in depth review of Amalgam Comics and the conclusion to the big DC/Marvel crossover. But I warned you that I was tired and it would be a “long damn while.” Well, that was sixteen years ago. I’m all rested up now. What do you say we finish this thing? And this time, you can read each comic in its entirety. Progress!

WHO WILL WIN? YOU DECIDE!

Sixteen years is a long time. Just in case you need a refresher, this is what we’ve covered so far:

Click the pic to read Chris versus “DC versus Marvel,” Part One!

Click the pic to read Chris versus “Marvel versus DC,” Part Two!

If you’re just joining us, this article is Part Three of my ongoing effort to fill the whole entire internet up with words about superheroes. But not just any superheroes. Amalgam superheroes. Superheroes that were once separate DC and Marvel superheroes, but who were fused together into one being with the identities, abilities, and histories of both… kinda. Superheroes who have been amalgamated. But in order to understand why such a thing would happen, we need to see how we got here. So let’s dive right in, shall we?

MARVEL AND DC PRESENT MGM’S MARVELOUS WIZARD OF OZ #1, June 1975
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Now, before we get to the meat of this thing, do you at the present time have any knowledge of the history of DC/Marvel crossovers? Trust me, this is relevant, and it will all make sense. Just keep calm and read on. It all started back in 1975, when Stan Lee approached DC with the idea of co-publishing a Wizard Of Oz comic instead of publishing the competing Oz titles each company had planned. Thus was born the ridiculously named Marvel And DC Present MGM’s Marvelous Wizard Of Oz. It’s a humble start, featuring no original superhero characters at all. And I’m not going to rate it, because I’m not the least bit interested in reading a Wizard Of Oz comic. I mean, technically it’s not really even a crossover, just a collaboration between two publishing houses. But that’s how it always begins. Very small.

SUPERMAN VS. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, March 1976
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Their first co-publication having proved profitable, the next year Marvel and DC decided to try again, this time with a story featuring each company’s flagship character. After spending a little too much time establishing who these incredibly well known characters are, the story takes us to prison, where Dr. Octopus and Lex Luthor have been assigned cells right next to each other. You might think nothing could possibly go wrong with that well-thought out security arrangement, but after about five minutes Luthor busts himself and Doc Ock out. Gee, I wonder if shenanigans will ensue?

Yup! The next thing you know, Superman apparently vaporizes Mary Jane and Lois Lane while Peter Parker watches helplessly. Let that be a lesson to you, girls of the world. That’s what you get for being catty. Anyway, more things happen. That’s how stories work. You can read it for yourself, but I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight what may be the two most unintentionally hilarious panels in comic history.

Read it again, only this time in breathy whispers. Yeah. You’re welcome.

For being the first of its kind, I’m giving this book an 7 out of 10. Is that overly generous? Absolutely. But groundbreaking isn’t an easy thing to do, and this comic handled the task of setting up all future crossovers very well. Yes, 7 out of 10. I have spoken.

SUPERMAN AND SPIDER-MAN, July 1981
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This article isn’t intended to be a comprehensive history of DC/Marvel crossovers, but this one is interesting for a couple of reasons. Typically crossovers are printed in pairs, the first being published by one company and the second published a short while later by the other. Yet, despite the success of the first crossover, Marvel and DC inexplicably waited five years to publish a follow up. Weird.

What’s even more interesting, though, are the unadvertised characters that show up. Wonder Woman and the Hulk are players in this tale, not mere cameos. Hulk in particular is pivotal to the story. In order to succeed, the machinations of Dr. Doom require two high powered individuals to be sacrificed, one very specific supervillain, and Superman for his unique ability to counter the powers of said villain. Hulk is the key to distracting Superman and attaining this supervillain, and… well, just click the pic and read the comic. Despite its age and some blatant, forced sexism, the story is pleasantly clever.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I failed to mention the omnipresence of lead as a plot device. If this story is any indication, the amount of lead Superman encounters over the course of a single day is STAGGERING. Lead walls, lead floors, lead dust, lead lined metropolitan sewer systems… it’s a wonder The Man Of Steel can use his x-ray vision at all. Every goddamned thing around him is either made of lead or coated with it. I think I may have gotten lead poisoning just from reading this fucking thing.

I’m giving this book an 7 out of 10, but not because I’m being generous. This was actually a clever story that I’m happy to recommend to all of you for your reading pleasure. It might have been higher if not for the misogyny. People will try to tell you that sort of thing is just a product of the times, but it really seems like they went out of their way to shoehorn some sexist stereotypes into this story. It doesn’t even fit the flow of the dialogue. In fact, it feels a lot like editorial interference, like the writers were told it wasn’t offensive enough and they needed to find a way to alienate female readers. So, with that complaint in mind, the fact that I’m rating it so highly should tell you that I’m not just being nice this time. I’m giving this an 7 out of 10 because it earned it.

BATMAN VS. THE INCREDIBLE HULK, Fall 1981
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I’m not going to rate this comic because I didn’t like it enough to finish it. It has some decent 1980s artwork, but it puts Batman in some fights with Hulk that make no sense at all. In fact, in a lot of these confrontations Hulk should have straight up murdered him. Hulk is incredibly fast and has god level strength, yet the writers show Batman making the decision to engage Hulk in hand to hand combat, escaping Hulk’s grasp, and even knocking the wind out of Hulk by kicking his solar plexus. BULLSHIT. I love Batman, but if Superman can punch the Hulk and not knock the wind out of him, Batman’s kick shouldn’t do anything. And a strategist of Batman’s intelligence and experience would never have allowed the fight to come to such close quarters in the first place. That’s suicide. It’s lazy writing, and I’m not going to tolerate it. But you can if you want. Go ahead, click the pic. Read some crap. See if I care. It’s your life, man. Do whatever.

MARVEL AND DC PRESENT FEATURING THE UNCANNY X-MEN AND THE NEW TEEN TITANS #1, 1982
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Hell of a title, isn’t it? I’m not going to rate this comic either, but not because I didn’t like it. I actually like it quite a lot. It has some amazing Jack Kirby-esque ’80s artwork, and it opens by touching on some of the foundational cosmology of the DC universe. And this crossover does something I’ve ALWAYS said crossovers should do. It ditches the astronomically unlikely pair-of-supervillains-working-together formula that most crossovers cling to, and showcases the two teams of heroes banding together to defeat one incredibly powerful foe. This is a really good book.

I know I said one villain, and it’s true. You’ll just have to read it for yourself.

So why am I not rating it? Because I don’t know much of anything about Donna Troy, Kitty Pryde, Starfire, the Phoenix Force, Kid Flash, Dark Phoenix, or the love lives of the X-Men and Teen Titans. So anything I say regarding the roles that everyone and everything I’ve just listed play in this story would be supposition. But you should absolutely click the pic and read this comic. Metron and Darkseid are in it. What more do you need?

Okay, enough backstory. Let’s fast forward twelve years…

BATMAN/PUNISHER: LAKE OF FIRE, June 1994
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There was supposed to be a sequel to the X-Men/Titans story, but it got scrapped due to squabbling between Marvel and DC. They wouldn’t work together again for over a decade. But that was the eighties. It’s 1994 now, and things have changed. Bane has broken Bruce Wayne’s back, and Jean-Paul Valley Jr. has crafted special armor and assumed the role of Batman. Jigsaw cut a deal with the Joker to make a move on Gotham, and Punisher is hot on their trail. No more time for petty schoolyard rivalries. We’re gettin’ the band back together.

A saint who lives in Hell, torments his followers, and burns the souls of sinners. But he loves you…

As I said before, I love Batman. Anyone who has ever made the mistake of talking to me about comic books – or who has played in my superhero roleplaying campaign – can tell you I love Batman. He’s my favorite superhero… and not by a little. I’ve never bothered to figure out who my second favorite is, because they’re all so distant that which one is in second place is mathematically meaningless at this point. I like Batman to a degree that, were to I seek professional counseling, would definitely be of urgent psychiatric concern. Batman is fucking AWESOME.

And because I can hear your lovely brows furrowing at the mention of Jean-Paul Valley Jr., I’ll use my Bat-knowledge to explain. There is a secret society in the DC universe called The Order Of St. Dumas. My Catholic readers can tell you that there is no such person as St. Dumas. He isn’t real in our universe, and he isn’t real in the DC universe, either. His followers, however, are terrifyingly real, and they engage in equally real psychological conditioning and physical torture in order to turn regular people into warriors for Judgement Day. At least that’s the impression I have. It’s been a long damned time since I read a Jean-Paul Valley story, and since he wasn’t the real Batman, I didn’t care so much. In any case, Jean-Paul is one of the unfortunate victims of The Order Of St. Dumas. His body has been enhanced to superhuman levels, but he suffers debilitating, nightmarish visions of a punitive religious icon who cannot be appeased because he does not exist. Jean-Paul eventually became the hero called Azrael, but first he was Batman and fought Punisher.

Punisher hates Gotham. I love little bits of character development like this. That’s not info we would have ever known without a little cross-corporate cooperation. Attention fellow gamemasters: these books, particularly Punisher’s outspoken attitudes toward Gotham and Batman, have had a profound impact on how I run role-playing games. Don’t just have your NPCs interact with the world. Show the players how they feel about interacting. NPCs have attitudes about what they do and where they are. Don’t be afraid to display them. It adds so much more to an RPG session than you would imagine.

Because all crossovers are apparently required by law to show the main heroes fighting, they do. But that actually makes a lot of sense here. Punisher is a murderer. He is a criminal wanted by the authorities. And he came to Gotham and killed quite a few people. Batman is very famously NOT a fan of murderers. Fisticuffs were inevitable.

This is a pretty good book, and a decent introduction to Jean-Paul Valley for those who weren’t there to see how he became Batman. The highlight for me is the Punisher’s narration. If this were a movie, that narration would win all the awards. I particularly like the way he points out the stupidity of heroes fighting each other when there are villains to catch. It’s definitely meta, but it’s not some clunky, failed attempt at being clever by breaking the fourth wall. That shit’s been done to death. This, on the other hand, is just damned good writing. This book would be a 7 out of 10, but Punisher’s narration bumps it up a whole point. If you’re even a casual fan of either of these characters, read this book. You won’t be disappointed. I give Batman/Punisher: Lake Of Fire a 8 out of 10.

PUNISHER/BATMAN: DEADLY KNIGHTS, October 1994
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Deadly Knights takes place a few months later, after Bruce Wayne had resumed being Batman. Frank Castle’s recognition of the difference in fighting styles is just another lovely detail that makes these books work for me. It would have been so easy to just write another fight scene, but little acknowledgements to the passage of time within a story, and nods to the character development that comes with it, really make these books shine. I kind of dig the gritty artwork, too. It just feels like Gotham.

Although these books are not technically part of the big crossover – not that I know of, anyway – they do exist in a special place that could be part of the crossover. On the surface it may seem that DC versus Marvel established three separate universes: DC, Marvel, and Amalgam. And that’s true; the recognized existence of the other universe and the Amalgam universe is canon in both DC and Marvel continuities. But clever readers will recall a fourth universe. Before DC and Marvel were fully amalgamated, they were merged. J. Jonah Jameson was suddenly Clark Kent’s boss, Spider-Man worked at the Daily Planet, Bullseye broke into the Batcave, etc. The characters are confused at first, but soon accept this state of things as usual. The writers were very careful to establish the dawning of this new universe, which I will refer to as the Merged Universe, and I think that was intentional.

For years, writers have written comic book crossovers in unspoken, assumed shared universes, where their characters and fictional locations co-exist. Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man established this tradition by assuming that Spider-Man’s New York exists in the same universe as Metropolis, and that Spider-Man and Superman are aware of each other. In Lake Of Fire, Batman’s eagerness to take Punisher down indicates he’s aware that Punisher is a murderer, and Punisher’s hatred of Gotham indicates he’s been there before. This is a shared universe story. And I think the writers established this in order to lend legitimacy to all the shared universe crossovers that came before. This is where they happened. The Merged Universe is where those stories live.

The brilliantly written Arkham Asylum: A Serious House On Serious Earth established that Joker is extraordinarily smart, possibly possessing a newly discovered form of superhuman intelligence. This little snippet of Joker’s insight into Batman’s past is a nod to his exceptional insight. This is hands down my favorite dialogue from these two books. So much said with so few words. Click here to read Arkham Asylum: A Serious House On Serious Earth.

Like any timeline, the Merged Universe must obviously have a past. Lake Of Fire and Deadly Knights are written as shared universe stories, but I see nothing in these books that prevents them from being Merged Universe stories that take place a year or two before the main Amalgam event. I can’t speak to the writers intent with regard to the crossover. I would think they certainly would have been aware such a monumental event was coming, and at the very least took steps to craft a story that didn’t interfere with the planned narrative. But I can’t say for sure. What I will say is that I really enjoy both of these stories, and I absolutely consider these books to be the unofficial first entries in the Amalgam saga. I give Punisher/Batman: Deadly Knights an 8 out of 10.

DARKSEID VS. GALACTUS: THE HUNGER, August 1995
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Here we have another Merged Universe story. A little history lesson is on order. Countless eons ago in the DC universe there was a nameless planet inhabited by nameless gods. These immeasurably powerful beings warred with each other so intensely that the energies unleashed during their final conflict literally shattered the planet, split it in two. The old gods were killed, and their energies were divided between the two halves of the planet, which drifted away from each other into the cold black of space. Eventually these masses formed two new planets, the verdant, paradisiacal New Genesis, and the bleak, hellish Apokolips. The life energies of the dead gods coalesced into beings called the New Gods, some of whom were born to protect, and others who live only to conquer and subjugate. The most powerful of the latter type is Darkseid, who rules Apokolips with an iron fist.

The most important thing to remember here is that Darkseid, Highfather and all the rest of the New Gods are, with a few exceptions, literally that. They are gods. And, although he is not commonly known as such, so is Galactus. He an immortal and vastly powerful embodiment of hunger; as much a force of nature as he is an individual. So when Darkseid insists on calling him “star-god,” it’s not just an idle nickname. Darkseid is recognizing a god of hunger for what he is. Again, it would have been so easy to just write a series of villainous boasts and draw some fight scenes. But reading this I got the feeling the writer really likes these two characters. This isn’t just another battle between two superpowered bad guys. This is what happens when gods fight.

Is this the beginning of the Amalgam saga? It’s difficult to tell. Story wise this is a Merged Universe tale. But this was published a scant eight months before the first issue of DC vs. Marvel and the entire first wave of Amalgam Comics hit the shelves. Surely the companies and writers knew by this point that the biggest crossover in comics history was on the horizon. And each company put forward one of it’s biggest bad guys. Obviously I consider it part of the build up to the Amalgam event, but I’m not the ultimate arbiter of such things. And I don’t know who is.

What I do know is that back in the day, when the Amalgam Comics titles were given the center spot on the comic store shelves, the Batman/Punisher titles and Darkseid versus Galactus were right there with them. It certainly seemed that, if they weren’t a part of the big game proper, then they were definitely a featured player in the pregame show. In either case, my only real problem with this book is the ridiculous amount of time they spent on Silver Surfer and Orion. I didn’t need yet another recap of Silver Surfer’s origin story, and not even the biggest DC fanboy gives two shits about Orion. Stop trying to make Orion happen, DC. Nobody is buying it. Anyway, I give Darkseid vs. Galactus: The Hunger a 7 out of 10. Definitely worth your time.

SPIDER-MAN AND BATMAN: DISORDERED MINDS, September 1995
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You know, looking back I remember this book fondly. But rereading it now… ugh. Lots of problems here, not the least of which is the art. The cover is beautiful, particularly the spiderwebbed Bat-Signal. I’m a big fan of crossovers that combine the heroes symbols. But the interior art is problematic. It’s not glaringly bad at first, but you soon start to notice consistent problems throughout the book. People tend to change appearances. Not so much that you don’t know who they’re supposed to be, but definitely enough to notice. Everyone is shiny, like they were dipped in oil, but not in a sexy way. Everyone has a prominent chin. Extraordinarily prominent. Prominent in a way not possible by normal human jawbones. And everyone is wasp-waisted. EVERYONE. One of these things would be forgivable. Having all of them going on intermittently throughout the book just makes it look amateurish. Bad form, Marvel. You’re better than this.

Oh, wait, no. No, you’re not…

But as bad as the art is, the story is just as flawed. Carnage wants to get thrown into Arkham Asylum because he’s a big fan of the Joker and wants to work with him. Batman, who has an entire vigilante career based around the pursuit and capture of homicidally insane killers with EXTREMELY different psychoses, makes the blanket decision that Joker is able to scare the Carnage symbiote off its host because “Death is usually what these mass murderers fear most of all.” And Spider-Man, who can silently get the drop on criminals from stories above, decides to give away his presence and position by shining that stupid fucking Spider-Signal on the Joker. It’s just one idiotic idea after another.

In the nearly 20 years this site has existed (or sometimes not existed, as the case may have been), I have never explained my rating system. So here you have it. We don’t have zeroes. A 1 is the minimum rating that exists, and 10 is the highest to which one may aspire. I was always bothered by the inclusion of zero in ratings, because it makes 5 the dead center of your scale. And that’s where weaselly reviewers like to put anything they don’t feel like making a decision about. They just give it a 5 and call it a day. Well, not The Sci-Fi Guys. Dead center reviews are mentally lazy, and I don’t like them. So we removed the temptation to use them by eliminating that nice clean center. Giving something a 5 here means you did not like it. It’s a choice.

And, yes, this scale obviously has a mathematical center at 5.5. We all graduated from high school, we can do the math. But that range between 5 and 6, that cowardly yellow no man’s land, that’s a place for wishy-washy, namby-pamby ne’er-do-wells and other similarly hyphenated curs to cringe away from the burden of having actual opinions and defending them with reason and passion. We don’t often use half points. I don’t like giving them. And, yeah, 5.5 exists, but we don’t use it. Giving something a rating of a 5.5… well that just means you’re a goddamned weasel. And we don’t cotton to weasels ’round these parts, you savvy?

These two sinewy, misproportioned humanoids are supposed to be Peter Parker and Mary Jane. Fuck you, Marvel. Spidey’s head is bigger than his whole ass. This is terrible.

So, with all that in mind, as much as I love Batman and Spidey, I have to give Spider-Man & Batman: Disordered Minds a 5 out of 10. I cannot, in good conscience, recommend it as quality sci-fi. Because, despite how much I so wanted it to be, it just isn’t. I’m glad I own it, and I’m glad I read it. I absolutely consider it a part of the DC versus Marvel event. And I’m sure 1996 Chris would have disagreed with this decision. But here in 2022, I’m afraid it just doesn’t hold up. It pains me to say it, but skip this one, true believers.

HOWEVER…

If you’re a collector, and you’re serious about collecting the entire DC/Marvel Amalgam event, you’re probably going to want this book. I’m not changing my rating. I’m just saying that if it’s completeness that floats your boat, there is an unconfirmed hint later on that this may be a legit part of the crossover. Yes, unconfirmed. But if you’re a serious collector, this may need to be book #1 in your Amalgam short box. Here’s the deal:

From ARKHAM ASYLUM: A SERIOUS HOUSE ON SERIOUS EARTH, October 1989
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In my review of Punisher/Batman: Deadly Knights I mentioned the assessment of Joker’s cognitive abilities made in Arkham Asylum: A Serious House On Serious Earth. You can read the full dialogue in the pic above. Make particular note of the description of his modified perception and his inability to control sensory input. That will be important.

As a means of explaining why no one remembers past crossovers, Marvel and DC invented a very slick mechanism: whenever someone from a different universe leaves the universe they’re visiting, the memories of that person and all their activities begin to fade. Eventually it’s as if they were never there. But if that person comes back, those memories seem to return. So it would seem the memories still exist, but are somehow blocked during that person’s absence. And though this happens during crossovers, it appears not to have happened when the DC and Marvel universes were merging. When merging, it’s as if past crossovers never occurred. During the merge, no one remembers meeting people from other universes.

No one, that is, except Joker.

As we will later see in DC versus Marvel #1, not only does Joker remember meeting Spider-Man, but he is able to recall details such as the modifications to his costume. While this could be referring to some distant crossover that I have not researched, I don’t think that’s very likely. With these two books published within months of each other, and with the changes in Spider-Man’s suit having taken place in that time frame, I think it’s far more likely that Joker is recalling details from their shared Disordered Minds crossover. And this is the ONLY example I can find of any character remembering past crossovers during the merging of universes. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

A Serious House On Serious Earth was a critical and financial blockbuster. Even now, thirty-three years later, it is still widely considered to be one of the greatest Batman stories ever published. It has sold in excess of 600,000 copies, making it the best selling original American superhero graphic novel ever published. To my thinking, it is extremely unlikely that Ron Marz, who wrote this issue, would not have read one of the greatest, most popular Batman stories ever told, especially while writing comics for the company that publishes Batman. I think it’s far more likely that Marz included this nod to Joker’s unique perception to indicate that some people with unusual mental abilities, like Charles Xavier as we will find out later, CAN remember after crossovers. And if my theory is correct, which I believe it to be, that would make Spider-Man & Batman: Disordered Minds the official first book in the Amalgam saga. So if you’re a collector and you want the complete set, my advice is to start here.

GREEN LANTERN/SILVER SURFER: UNHOLY ALLIANCES, December 1995
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So now we come to the first book in this article that is without question an official part of the big crossover. Unholy Alliances establishes how heroes and villains from both universes cross over to the other side. And it all starts with Hal Jordan. I’ll make it quick.

Hal Jordan was once the best of the Green Lantern Corps, the galaxy’s sworn protectors. A big, bad supervillain from outer space enlisted the help of the evil Cyborg Superman to destroy Hal’s home, Coast City. Seven million people died, including nearly everyone Hal Jordan loved. The grief drove Hal crazy, and he decided that he would use the power of the Green Lantern rings to bring back Coast City and all the dead. Hal took rings from his fellow Green Lanterns, killing some of them in the process. Then he traveled to Oa, the home world of the Green Lantern Corps, and absorbed the power of the Central Battery, the device that powers the Green Lantern rings. When he emerged from the battery he had been changed into the villain Parallax. In a last ditch attempt to stop Hal, a young Green Lantern named Kyle Rayner destroyed Oa, but even the massive energy unleashed in the explosion wasn’t enough. Parallax escaped.

Fast forward to 1995. Cyborg Superman discovers that the destruction of Oa has literally blown a hole in the barrier between universes, and anyone from either side can freely travel back and forth. He takes a stroll over to the Marvel universe to stir up trouble there, attracting the attention of the Silver Surfer. Meanwhile, someone named Terrax from the Marvel side comes to the DC universe and starts tearing up New York. I think we’re supposed to know Terrax and be impressed. I had never heard of him, and I don’t think I’ve heard of him since I read this book back in ’96. Anyway, Cyborg Superman, Terrax, and Thanos all seem perfectly aware that they are from other universes, but our heroes are oblivious. Why? Unclear. But we’ve established our bad guys, right?

Nope! Out of nowhere, Parallax shows up to handle Cyborg Superman, and Thanos zaps Terrax to wherever Thanos zaps people. So now our BIG baddies are here. Shit’s about to get real… real depressing. Parallax tells his tale of woe to Silver Surfer, who agrees to lend him the Power Cosmic in order to recreate Coast City, but only after Silver Surfer shares his own sad origin story ONE MORE GODDAMNED TIME. I don’t even read Silver Surfer comics, yet somehow I know this guy’s life story better than I know my own. And Thanos convinces Kyle Rayner that he has constructed a weapon capable of stopping Hal Jordan, but it won’t work without his Green Lantern ring. So we have two cosmically powerful heroes who, despite voicing their misgivings, are talked out of giving up their powers to strangers they have known for ten minutes. I mean, Jesus Christ… it’s kinda hard not to root for the bad guys sometimes, isn’t it?

The manspreading is strong with these two.

As you can imagine, shit goes predictably wrong. I won’t spoil it. Despite my eyerolling at the premise, I really do think this comic is worth reading. I particularly like the fact that, like the X-Men/Titans comic, the pair-of-supervillains-working-together nonsense was abandoned for this story. Thanos and Parallax don’t meet until near the end of the story, and try to kill each other almost immediately. Unfortunately, so do Green Lantern and Silver Surfer. With ultra-violent vigilantes like Batman and Punisher I could absolutely understand how this would make sense. But Kyle and the Surfer strike me as super nice superheroes. I can’t imagine they would come to blows so fast.

I give Green Lantern/Silver Surfer: Unholy Alliances a 7out of 10. The art, particularly the Kirby-esque use of vivid, almost fluorescent colors, would have earned it an 8, but some of the elements in this plot are just too nonsensical, even by the lax standards of comic book logic.

Green Lantern/Silver Surfer: Unholy Alliances was the last crossover published before the big DC versus Marvel event, and it’s the first crossover that is undeniably a part of the Amalgam saga. Everything previous has been supposition, with the possible exception of the Batman/Spider-Man crossover we discussed earlier. But this one is beyond doubt.

At the very end of this comic we see Kyle Rayner back home in the DC universe’s New York City, where we are shown a tattered cardboard box glowing with rays of mysterious energy. What is this box? I won’t spoil the big surprise. But DC and Marvel dedicated so goddamned much attention and literary real estate to this box that I feel I must follow suit. Clearly this is no ordinary box. Any object that merits such focus obviously deserves a name with similar gravitas. Let’s diverge momentarily from our exploration of the DC/Marvel conflict and explore the saga of the MOTHERFUCKING CARDBOARD BOX.

From DC VERSUS MARVEL/MARVEL VERSUS DC #1, February 1996
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As you can see by the fact that it’s glowing and spitting holy fire like the Ark Of The Covenant, the MOTHERFUCKING CARDBOARD BOX seems super important. And powerful. I mean, it’s dangerous enough to trigger Spider-Man’s spider-sense and then make him disappear. So we’re for sure gonna get a satisfactory explanation of it, right?

From DC VERSUS MARVEL/MARVEL VERSUS DC #1, February 1996
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Eventually the MOTHERFUCKING CARDBOARD BOX is discovered by Axel Asher, who will become the hero called Access. Access was created just for the DC versus Marvel event, and is a character jointly owned by both Marvel and DC. That seems like a big deal. By creating this character both Marvel and DC officially, and I mean that literally, acknowledged that the existence of both universes is canon in the stories of both companies. Heroes from either universe are at least partially aware that there is a different universe of heroes, and Access is the character that can bridge both universes and travel back and forth at will. Now that is a big deal. Anyway, at this point in the story, a separate version of Axel Asher exists simultaneously in both universes, each one entirely unaware he has an identical counterpart in another universe. Ooh! I’ll bet the MOTHERFUCKING CARDBOARD BOX is somehow integral to his origin story, don’t cha think?

From DC VERSUS MARVEL/MARVEL VERSUS DC #1, February 1996
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My prediction was correct. It would turn out the MOTHERFUCKING CARDBOARD BOX is super important. And so is Access. So I’m sure this mystery homeless man guarding the box must be equally important, and will also be explained to our collective satisfaction, right?

From DC VERSUS MARVEL/MARVEL VERSUS DC #1, February 1996
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Meanwhile, the MOTHERFUCKING CARDBOARD BOX keeps zapping people out of existence. Or so it appears. I would say it was zapping heroes, but it takes Catwoman, who is at best an occasional anti-hero, and Elektra and Lobo, who are straight up killers for hire. In any case, the MOTHERFUCKING CARDBOARD BOX is pretty special, right? I bet they’re gonna give it a really cool backstory, wouldn’t you say?

From DC VERSUS MARVEL/MARVEL VERSUS DC #2, March 1996
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Okay, the MOTHERFUCKING CARDBOARD BOX is almost certainly not an actual cardboard box. Cardboard can’t teleport superheroes. I’m no expert on the paper industry, nor the multi-universal translocation capacity of corrugated wood pulp, but I feel pretty confident making that assertion. Mundane cardboard or not, the mysterious homeless guy who knows everything somehow fixed the MOTHERFUCKING CARDBOARD BOX with duct tape. Temporarily, anyway.

So here’s the big reveal. Not the big reveal about the MOTHERFUCKING CARDBOARD BOX. That will have to wait until we see what this whole DC versus Marvel deal is. Yep, this is the big reveal about this whole story. This is why it’s all going down. Click the pics to embiggen, because the writing is tiny but the words are important.

So when Kyle Rayner blew up Oa, it tore a hole in the universes and the Brothers became aware of one another. Nice going, bro.

So the stakes are the death of one Brother and the obliteration of an entire universe. And as their champions, who will defend their lives and the lives of countless other beings, the Brothers have chosen Robin and Jubilee. Sure. Whatever you say.

If this seems utterly ridiculous to you, then we are going to get along just fine. Look, I like this series. I like the idea of these Brothers. I think they look cool as hell. And I LOVE the fact that SPOILER ALERT: Spectre and the Living Tribunal will join forces to put a stop to this stupidity. Because the in-story reason for this series is weak as hell. The idea that the Brothers would agree to this life or death contest is dumb. But the notion that they wouldn’t call upon their strongest possible fighters in an effort to STAY ALIVE is just ridiculous. When the Marvel brother called up Jubilee, the DC brother should have chosen Doomsday. When the DC brother chose Robin, Marvel bro should have sent Thanos. Don’t leave your best players on the bench. Put ’em in the game. Get one on the board.

But seriously, I know you don’t care about this. Because right after this exposition, the writers decided to stop teasing and finally give us what we really want. Oh, you’re god damned right, my friends. We’re about to learn the secrets of the MOTHERFUCKING CARDBOARD BOX!! Hell yeah!

Click to enlargenate.

Wait… what? So the MOTHERFUCKING CARDBOARD BOX is a barely contained energy vortex and an interdimensional gateway? That can be fixed with duct tape? And looks like a MOTHERFUCKING CARDBOARD BOX. What the actual fuck? We’ve come all this way expecting a big payoff with this weird ass plot device, and that’s the story we’re going with? That’s the best we can do? Jee. Zus. Christ.

From DC VERSUS MARVEL/MARVEL VERSUS DC #3, April 1996
Click the pic to read the full comic!

Oh, but we’re not done. After that incredible disappointment, the bastards at DC and Marvel saw fit to keep right on talking about this goddamned MOTHERFUCKING CARDBOARD BOX. Axel gets emo and mysterious homeless guy gets intense. I have absolute faith that we are going to get a really satisfying backstory for this guy. They owe us that much.

From DC VERSUS MARVEL/MARVEL VERSUS DC #3, April 1996
Click the pic to read the full comic!

Woah indeed, sir! Mysterious homeless man changes Axel into Access! And this is how we find out that this guy is able to grant people superpowers, or at least unlock dormant powers inside them. He is the previous gatekeeper, and he’s passing his power to Axel. So he’s gonna have a cool name and backstory, yes? I mean, he makes the MOTHERFUCKING CARDBOARD BOX look like a MOTHERFUCKING CARDBOARD BOX because he wants it to look like a MOTHERFUCKING CARDBOARD BOX. So there’s gotta be a reason, right? A really good, very sensible, logical reason that they are certain to tell us. And I just bet they’re gonna revisit the MOTHERFUCKING CARDBOARD BOX and explain more of its mysteries. Hell, they’ve devoted so many panels and pages to it, I bet they make it a main character. They will do that, right, guys?

MOTHERFUCKING CARDBOARD BOX
December 1995 – April 1996
We Hardly Knew Ye

GOD DAMN IT! Well, I guess we’ll never get to delve the depths of the MOTHERFUCKING CARDBOARD BOX’s past. You know, because it fucking exploded. Son of a bitch! But they’re gonna come through with mysterious homeless man’s backstory. I can just feel it.

Click the pic to read Chris versus “DC versus Marvel,” Part One!

Click the pic to read Chris versus “Marvel versus DC,” Part Two!

While the saga of the MOTHERFUCKING CARDBOARD BOX was playing out, the heroes were battling for their lives. I’m not going to rehash these battles. I covered them in the first two articles, which you can read by clicking the pics above. All you need to know is that the DC universe lost, and was facing oblivion. That didn’t exactly happen. And it didn’t exactly survive, either. For then something happened that the Ring did not intend…

From DC VERSUS MARVEL/MARVEL VERSUS DC #3, April 1996
Click the pic to read the full comic!

Instead of destroying one Brother and one universe, the Brothers appear to have come to an alternate arrangement. They combine themselves and their universes into one, forming a brand new entity and a brand new universe: the Amalgam Universe!

Okay, my peoples, I am going to have to break a promise. At the very beginning of this article, three quarters of a million words ago, I promised you this would be the article that finished up the Amalgam saga. Well, we’ve come all this way and we’re just starting the Amalgam Comics story. I’m sorry folks, but I’ve gotta split this into two articles. And I will swear to any gods you choose that you will not have to wait another sixteen years for the next installment.

But I’m going to make it up to you. The incredible success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has moved the previously geek exclusive milieu of comic book knowledge to the mainstream. Well, before I go, I’m going to show you something I’ll bet most dedicated comic book readers don’t even know. Amaze your friends with this one. They probably won’t believe you, so bring them here and show them. This is the Sci-Fi Guys, bitch; we bring the receipts. Check it:

Remember how I made a big deal earlier of these crossovers being canon to both comic companies? I went out of my way to point out that Marvel and DC used this story to officially acknowledge that their universes coexist within a larger multiverse. The DC and Marvel superheroes have met each other, and have adventured together, and the stories seen in the DC versus Marvel books are a part of the official fictional history of both companies. And for those of you who have stuck it out to the end, here’s where that information pays off.

THE NEW ADVENTURES OF THE MIGHTY WONDER WOMAN AND THE MOTHERFUCKING CARDBOARD BOX #1, Coming soon!

In DC versus Marvel #2 it is established, officially, that Wonder Woman can wield Mjolnir. Not only that, she is worthy enough to access the same magics that transform Thor’s clothes into Asgardian fabrics and armor. And if any of your friends question the authority of the writing staff that made this decision, you may confidently inform them that this is absolutely canon, because DC versus Marvel #2 was PUBLISHED BY MARVEL. Yeah. This shit’s for real.

This may seem like she’s made a pretty stupid decision, but Wonder Woman’s unwillingness to use a divine weapon against an opponent who might not survive the attack is part of the reason why she is worthy of the power of Thor. She is a warrior from a warrior society, raised apart from the world of mortals, and she follows her society’s warrior code. Sound like any of the Avengers you know?

And in case there’s any doubt that both companies were cool with the decision about Wonder Woman’s worthiness, DC versus Marvel #4 , which was published by DC, reiterated the fact that Wonder Woman can lift Mjolnir. And Thor saw it happen. Marvel published it, then Marvel gave DC the go ahead to publish it again. Deal with it, fanboys; Wonder Woman is worthy of the power of Thor, and was transformed into an Asgardian warrior a full eighteen years before Jane Foster picked up the hammer.

Tune in next time, true believers, as we deep dive into the mashed up heroes of the Amalgam Universe!

DC VERSUS MARVEL/MARVEL VERSUS DC #3, April 1996
Click the pic to read the full comic!

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