Although crossover fatigue may be peaking, the inclination to blend stories between comic book publishers stands strong. Indeed, shortly after Marvel's "Secret Wars" and DC's "Crisis on Infinite Earths" launched the mid-'80s era of events, the attempt to tell the biggest, boldest story possible made enormous crossovers an inevitability. This impulse ran rampant during the comic book boom of the '90s, and if nothing else, the below selection of crossovers were a weird time for us all. Truth be told, there are plenty of bizarre '90s crossovers that will live on as nostalgic highlights. Despite their obvious flaws, the likes of Batman/Starman/Hellboy fighting Nazis, or the X-Men gallivanting with the crew of Star Trek make for endlessly joyful reading.
Unsurprisingly, though, crossovers between comic book publishers can't all be winners, and some of the nuttiest comic book combinations are downright unreadable. In our efforts to peg down the most notorious of the bunch, we'll be diving deep on a variety of crossovers, from intercompany team-ups to single character brouhahas. While recent 2017 crossovers like Batman/Elmer Fudd may prove that completely unexpected connections can lead to joyous highs, these '90s crossovers suggest that finding a good one is mostly the exception, and not the rule.
While there are examples of surprisingly good Tarzan crossovers throughout comics history -- Walt Simonson and Lee Weeks' Tarzan/Predator is the leading example -- and adding Batman to anything is typically a recipe for success, Batman/Tarzan: Claws of the Catwoman is a yawner. Written by Ron Marz with art by Igor Kordy, the Batman and Tarzan meet-up somehow manages to include Catwoman in the book title but almost never includes Selina Kyle.
Likewise Batman/Tarzan makes Bruce Wayne look like a low-grade early Tony Stark, funding the archaeological digs of Finnegan Dent that result in stealing from African villages. Sure Batman teams with Tarzan (who starts the story... in Gotham?) to put an end to his villainous financing, but it's not unreasonable to expect a little more in-depth vetting from the most strategic mind in the Justice League.
It's hard to get more '90s appropriate than this crossover throwdown between DC's Lobo and Dark Horse's Mask adaptation. The interpublisher mash-up begins with Lobo bellowing "Feetal's Fraggin Gizz!" before being eaten by a giant monkey and really never looks back. The two engage in a literal head-to-head (both are severed from their bodies) knife fight while hurling a deluge of insults back and forth that includes -- and we wouldn't lie to you -- "fart-brain."
It's lowbrow even by lowbrow's standards. Even basic pranks are outlandishly befuddling. For example, Mask and Lobo pretend to work together and throw their arms around each other, with the Mask taping a "kick my butt" sign to Lobo's back. Classic. Except here's the thing, Lobo does the same to the Mask, except he somehow actually writes "I eat dog waste" on the back of the Mask's jacket. Without him noticing. We give up!
Sometimes the greatest things in the world can also be objectively awful. Is the world a better place when Charles Barkley plays Godzilla one-on-one in a comic book one-shot? Absolutely. Is it a completely terrible comic that makes zero sense? Of course.
Godzilla vs. Barkley from Dark Horse Comics was actually based on a popular 1992 Nike commercial, and somehow manages to stretch the visual concept into an entirely nonsensical narrative. The spectacle is unintentional comedy at its absolute finest, with a young boy telling the round mound of rebound, "But Charles, only you can stop Godzilla because you're earth's greatest warrior!" Had warrior-king Barkley fought Godzilla to a stand still we might be able to roll with the supernatural punches, but the fact that he challenges Godzilla to a game of one-on-one basketball -- which Godzilla accepts -- makes this one of the most preposterous crossovers ever.
There aren't many crossovers that can quite out-'90s "Deathmate," the interpublisher mega-event from upstart Image and Valiant Comics in 1993 and 1994. Both Image and Valiant arose from an aspiration to make superhero comics differently than Marvel and DC before them, and heading into "Deathmate" the two new universes had found tremendous success. Because of Image's terrible shipping delays, Deathmate was essentially released entirely out of order. This marked the beginning of the end for the otherwise hot Valiant Comics.
Perhaps more importantly, "Deathmate" is a mess. Essentially, Solar and the WildC.A.T. Void meet in a place called Unreality and make love, creating merged a universe of Image and Valiant heroes. The likes of Bloodshot, Grifter and Archer & Armstrong then spend the entire crossover pulling a Marvel House of M and... ever... so... slowly determine something's not quite right. It's a big missed opportunity for both otherwise fun universes.
Admittedly, there are a lot of fun elements to the mid-'90s Amalgam Universe, Marvel and DC's superhero stew combining all their characters into one comic book universe. Some mix-and-match concepts are gloriously shameless comic book fun, like Wolverine and Batman merged into Darkclaw, or Doctor Doom and Doomsday merged into one absurd villain purely on nomenclature similarities.
Amalgam is chock full of awful crossovers, though, such as Amazon by John Byrne (it's just Storm raised on Themyscira), or Generation Hex. The unmitigated superhero joy in Amalgam means there will be a comic for just about everyone but on average, the universe really calls to attention just how similar DC and Marvel actually are (see also: Thanoseid), and plays like a modern day Twitter game of #CombineSuperheros pun-making.
Without question, Archie Meets The Punisher has become the most infamous cross publisher fiasco of the '90s, with a story by then Marvel Editor-in-Chief Tom Defalco, and art from Stan Goldberg (Archie side) and John Buscema (Punisher side). Admittedly, the sheer absurdity of the pairing is a bit delightful, and the sight of an Archie-fied Punisher logo on the cover is almost too good to be true.
Unfortunately nothing about the story really transcends the audacity of the set-up, with Punisher hunting down an Archie double known as "Red." Unlike, say, the more recent Archie vs Predator by Alex De Campi which effortlessly plays on expectations and doesn't skimp on horror, Archie Meets The Punisher is played consistently as slapstick. It's certainly not the worst entry on the list, but nothing about Archie Meets the Punisher lets it ascend to anything other than a novelty item.
The cover declares "Because no one demanded it!" and boy were they right about 1993's The Ren & Stimpy Show #6. Written by a pre-Spider-Man fame Dan Slott, "Clash of Titans: Break-Fest of Chumpions" is a farcical artifact of the early '90s that sure doesn't make a lot of sense.
When Ren & Stimpy run out of powdered toast, Spider-Man fills in for Powdered Toast Man who's being controlled by an evil genius. As Spider-Man says, "it happens." Spidey then makes Ren & Stimpy toast out of web fluid. Throughout the issue we're hit with more bread puns than any human could ever reasonably be expected to swallow, with pages upon pages of Spider-Man's worst quips. There is, however, a really good extended gag about all the people Spider-Man thinks of when he finds himself in dire straits. Sadly, it's nowhere near enough to save this oddity.
Image Comics displayed a lot of creator clout in the '90s, luring the hallowed talents of Alan Moore to write Supreme, and convincing Frank Miller to return to Batman for the first time since The Dark Knight Returns in a crossover with Todd McFarlane's Spawn. Honestly, the Miller and McFarlane Batman/Spawn is well worth checking out ---unfortunately "War Devil" is another story.
Despite a respectable creative team-up between Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon, Alan Grant and Klaus Janson, Batman/Spawn: War Devil reads like an egregious cash-in on two heavily marketable characters. Batman wanders Gotham with interior monologue like "Bombs and buildings. A bad combination if ever the the twain are permitted to meet," and Spawn steals lines from Daredevil: Born Again ("You shouldn't sign your work before you finish"). Let's just say the two ultra popular comic stars have seen brighter days.
Archie was meeting all sorts of comic book royalty in the 90's, including the wonderful Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. As if to declare up front that you shouldn't expect ANY of this to make sense, the turtles are dropped into Riverdale's reality via an inter-dimensional floating bovine head. As they say, out of the cow's mouth, and into an Archie comic. The issue finds more familiar ground from there, with Archie and Betty - totally smooching nearby when the Turtles arive - telling their crew that aliens have landed in Riverdale. Nobody believes them, and the Turtles manage to befriend the group heading to a Josie and the Pussycats concert by putting on some classic TMNT disguises.
The issue ends with Veronica Lodge taken hostage - for two million dollars! - and Archie, Jughead, and the Turtles coming up with a plan that borders on malpractice. Instead of trying to surprise the hostage takers, Jughead rings their motel room door as a fake pizza delivery boy, and then the turtles smash through the windows to undo any value Jughead's life-risking diversion may have established. Sure, the Turtles beat the ever-loving daylights out of Veronica's would-be abductors, but this could have gone very wrong, very fast.
Venom was so ubiquitous in the '90s that if you didn't crossover or team-up with the villain turned anti-hero turned symbiote-baby-daddy, there's a good chance you were either dead or Hank Pym. This Venom-fever extended to Malibu Comics' Rune, a vampiric baddie created by Barry Windsor Smith and Chris Ulm.
Venom and Rune brawl in exactly the slobbering, violent fashion you'd expect from character's best known for eating brains and being nicknamed "Prince of the Void." Weirdly, Venom vs. Rune is deeply connected to Marvel's mid-"Clone Saga" "Planet of the Symbiotes" event, making this an external crossover mixed within an internal crossover, and causing wallets and minds to melt across the globe. Credit where it's due, Venom's tongue and symbiote appendages are approximately 7,000 feet long in every panel of this comic, so if you're merely flipping through without accidentally reading any of the content, you might actually enjoy yourself.
1998's Sonic Super Special #7 was released as the big Sonic and Image Comics crossover, with appearances by The Maxx, Savage Dragon, ShadowHawk, Spawn, Union and Velocity. Despite the potential, the crossover quickly becomes an unsatisfying sampler platter of late-'90s Image wares, feeling more like a Free Comic Book Day teaser than an actual super special worth hard earned cash.
While on one hand you have to appreciate Dr. Eggman threatening Sonic with Spawn's forest-cutting "Spawnmower," it's still an actively atrocious pun, and one of the few moments we even get to see Sonic and Spawn showdown. Purely based on nostalgic entertainment, this issue would be a tough one to pass up in any longbox, but actually reading the thing is far from a good idea.
If it wasn't enough that Rob Liefeld's Younglood was permeating every crevice of '90s comic book conversation, Youngblood's own Badrock had to go and get himself a crossover series with the X-Men's prize sales-magnet, Wolverine. Despite a story by the perpetually underrated Jim Valentino, Wolverine and Badrock's interpublisher crossover is a boring by-the-numbers Savage Land escapade we've seen 100 times before.
Wolverine, Badrock and Ka-zar's pet Sabretooth tiger Zabu hunt the trail of Sauron, the vampire pterodactyl. Strangely, Wolverine talks to Badrock like the least attractive version of Mary Jane Watson (direct quote: "Looks like we just hit the jackpot, tiger!"), and the duo fight Savage Land mutates and, we quote, a "Gigantosaurus-Man." If you've fallen asleep just reading this, we can't blame you.
In 1994, Marvel Comics purchased Malibu Comics and their Ultraverse, in what now appears to be a concerted effort to bring Malibu's top coloring talent inside the House of Ideas (and to vex DC Comics). Marvel took Malibu's comic book universe, and quite quickly canceled and rebooted the entire line (sound familiar?) in an event they called "Black September." You know, like the sort of thing you would call a stock market crash and subsequent tragic downturn in wellbeing.
Through Ultraforce and Ultraforce/Avengers preludes, Marvel explored the time-tested event waters of explaining continuity resets with lazy cosmic storytelling. The "Black September" event culminated in... wait for it... the cancellation of all Malibu Comics, only to be rebooted with all-new #1 issues! This surely flawless strategy lasted approximately no time at all before Marvel simply cancelled the Ultraverse for good.
If you ask us, Jim Lee's WILDC.A.T.s was one of the strongest iconic '90s Image creations, with runs by James Robinson and Alan Moore, and extremely successful interpublisher crossovers like JLA/WILDC.A.T.s by Grant Morrison. As a result, the multipart X-Men/WILDC.A.T.s has shining moments offset by extreme negligence, and plenty of passable material in between.
For example, the opening arc "The Golden Age," by Scott Lobdell and Travis Charest begins as a compelling narrative about Wolverine and Zannah accidentally crossing paths while infiltrating an evil Nazi lair. The black-and-white heist gone bad is compelling until a Nazi flunkie utters "The little one is like a Wolverine. Once he sinks his teeth into something he doesn't let up." A daemonite punches him out before he can utter further unnecessary pandering, but the damage is done.
The best thing that can be said about this crossover between Rob Liefeld's notorious Image Comics and Marvel Comics superteams, is that Eric Stephenson has done wonderful things at Image since penning this story in 1996. The ultra-rad comics crossover begins with Youngblood tricked into signing contracts with Mojo, and unfortunately they aren't just left there to boost Mojo's ratings until the all too predictable crash of the 2000s.
Youngblood leader Shaft finds a portal to the Marvel Universe, and Cable and X-Force decide they should help defeat Mojo. In all reality, it's difficult to even isolate much of a core focus to this narrative, as the Extreme and Marvel universes largely just collide with no ramifications or satisfying conclusion. It's the literary equivalent of playing a V-neck guitar with another V-neck guitar, but hey, the '90s were a weird time for us all.
Which of these crossovers do you actually like? Let us know in the comments!