It’s all been leading up to this. After 10 years of Marvel movies, the entire MCU will come together in April 2018 for Infinity War. With a cast list clocking in at 76 characters, it’s safe to say that Marvel is betting that bigger really does mean better. But, is Infinity War really the most ambitious crossover event in history? When Bobby Palmer, a senior editor for ShortList, tweeted out this statement accompanied by his own “most ambitious crossover” (the Disney Channel movie, That’s So Suite Life of Hannah Montana, crossing over That’s So Raven, The Suite Life of Zach and Cody and Hannah Montana) he had no idea what he was about to unleash.
His tweet quickly racked over up 275,000 retweets and it didn’t take long for others to take the formula and add their own tongue-in-cheek examples of “more ambitious crossovers,” making it a certified meme. Historically, company crossovers were what brought together characters we’re now used to seeing together. DC’s shared universe was ushered into existence when the Justice Society of America formed in All Star Comics #3 in 1940. In the same year, one of the earliest superhero crossover battles took place between Sub-Mariner and Human Torch in Marvel Mystery Comics #8-9, effectively kickstarting the Marvel shared universe, too. Since then, crossovers in every medium have been happening with more frequency and more ambition. And while we may be accustomed to the idea by now, they can still wow us in scope.
15. POWER RANGERS SUPER MEGAFORCE: LEGENDARY BATTLE
For the 20th anniversary of Power Rangers in 2013, Saban Entertainment’s marketing strategy was essentially: “Hey! You like Power Rangers? Well, here’s all of them ever!” Cue an all-you-can-eat buffet of Ranger-goodness, with Bandai and Toei pitching in to bring us a special toy line, games, parade appearances and two decades’ worth of Red Rangers lining up for this epic class photo.
The Ranger-fest all came to a head in the final episode of Power Rangers Super Megaforce, which brought together veteran Rangers from every past season in the form of the Legendary Rangers, led by fan favorite, Tommy Oliver, to battle an alien army known as the Armada. That’s over 100 Rangers! And, with the franchise still going strong, their ranks will only increase.
14. GREEN LANTERN/SILVER SURFER: UNHOLY ALLIANCES
This year, Thanos arrives on the MCU’s Earth, but in 1995, his destination was a little further afield: the DC universe. The Mad Titan’s goal was simple: he needs Green Lantern’s (Kyle Rayner) ring to power a weapon. First, he had to test out the boundary between the DC and Marvel universes, so he did some character trading. Cyborg Superman was drawn into the Marvel universe, while Terrax the Tamer was thrown into DC’s.
Seizing an opportunity to have some inter-universe fun too, Parallax journeyed to the Marvel universe and soon crossed paths with Silver Surfer. Parallax managed to swindle the Power Cosmic from the Surfer, promising to use it against Thanos. Eventually, the story delivers what it says on the tin: a cosmic team-up between Green Lantern and Silver Surfer against the “Unholy Alliance” of Parallax and Thanos.
13. IDW’S INFESTATION
With so many big licences in its playpen, it was only a matter of time before IDW decided to throw all of its toys together into the same arena. In 2011, the company pulled characters from G.I Joe, Star Trek, Transformers and Ghostbusters together to fight an interdimensional zombie horde. This was followed up by a 4-issue miniseries epilogue, Infestation: Outbreak.
The popularity of the concept led to a sequel series, Infestation 2, this time swapping invading zombies for alien armies, and having the Elder Gods (or, “Great Old Ones”) of H.P Lovecraft’s universe rip apart the fabric separating the worlds of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, G.I Joe, Dungeons and Dragons, Transformers, Bat Boy and 30 Days of Night.
12. CARTOON NETWORK SUPER SECRET CRISIS WAR
Perhaps inspired by its previous property licence mash-up idea, IDW and Cartoon Network released a limited mini-series in 2014 bringing together some of the network’s best-loved shows to spoof comic book “crisis crossover” specials with one of its own. Super Secret Crisis War included Samurai Jack, Ed, Edd ‘n’ Eddy, The Powerpuff Girls, Dexter’s Laboratory and Ben 10: Omniverse.
The primary villain was Samurai Jack‘s Aku, who formed his own inter-property Legion of Doom with Ben 10′s Vilgax, Powerpuff Girl‘s Mojo Jojo and Dexter’s Lab‘s Mandark as the “League of Extraordinary Villains.” Intent on ruling the multiverse, they send an army of robo-minions to kidnap their sworn enemies… and Ed, Edd and Eddy by mistake. Cartoon Network previously explored this idea in platform fighter game, Cartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion in 2011.
11. WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT
Perhaps because of its age and well-established place in pop culture, it’s easy to forget just how ambitious Who Framed Roger Rabbit was in terms of crossover scope. This 1988 live-action/animated feature, starring the late Bob Hoskins and the titular Roger Rabbit was the animated equivalent of a DC and Marvel team-up, pulling iconic ‘toons from Disney, Warner Brothers and Turner Entertainment together.
Like The Animaniacs series that would follow it, Who Framed Roger Rabbit was a celebration of the Golden Age of animation: a hardboiled detective story set in the ’40s featuring femme fatales, shadowy streets and Tex Avery-style animated sequences. The fluidity of the animated and live-action characters’ interactions is just as impressive today as it was then, as is the novelty of seeing Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny together for the first time.
10. FREDDY VS JASON VS ASH
Before Batman vs. Superman, there was 2003’s Freddy vs. Jason, which brought unprecedented levels of slasher-on-slasher action to our screen for the first time. While there’s been no word on whether we’ll see them settle their differences in some kind of team-up scenario (“Justice Slashers?”) there has been a sequel — not in film, but in the form of a six-issue series published by Wildstorm and Dynamite Entertainment.
Released between 2007-8, the story saw the hockey-masked, Crystal Lake killer and the blade-fingered, dream-stalker go up against The Evil Dead‘s Ash, as he tried to prevent the pair from getting hold of the Necronomicon and becoming more powerful. Freddy was successful, using his new reality-bending powers to bring back every Friday the 13th film victim, but Ash eventually prevails over the two villains.
9. KINGDOM HEARTS
Kingdom Hearts is one of the most unlikely company team-ups in pop culture history (with the very notable exception of that time that Superman hung out with the Nesquik Bunny.) Starting in 2002, the Square Enix video game series throws characters from the company’s Final Fantasy games in with the likes of Donald Duck, Goofy and Mickey Mouse from Disney.
On paper, the idea of Cloud Strife and Donald Duck crossing paths as warriors on equal footing is hilarious, and on-screen… it is still hilarious. Each entry in the franchise offers players the nostalgia-baiting fun of playing through levels inspired by beloved Disney classics with the emotional intensity of a Final Fantasy story, and the third instalment will feature Pixar characters for the first time, expanding the Kingdom Hearts universe even further.
8. STEVEN UNIVERSE/UNCLE GRANDPA
There’s a long history of characters that share the same network popping up in each other’s shows, but usually these are limited to background cameos. In 2015, Cartoon Network’s magical boy series, Steven Universe and Uncle Grandpa, a series about a magical man who is both an uncle and grandpa, officially crossed over. Though the two are of the fantasy genre, they’re wildly different in tone and style.
The crossover special, “Say Uncle,” saw Uncle Grandpa transporting himself to the Steven Universe world, where the Crystal Gems — deciding him to be a threat — battled him, only to find that they were no match for his reality-warping powers. The potential for even greater crossover was revealed at the end, when UG produced a checklist of Cartoon Network kids to visit next: Dexter, the Powerpuff Girls, Ed, Edd and Eddy, Billy and Mandy, Finn, Flapjack and more.
7. THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN
Before Universal Studios killed off its “Dark Universe” before it even began, Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill pulled classic literary figures and monsters into a shared world of their own for DC. The original concept was a “Justice League of Victorian England,” and though the tagline didn’t stick, the result is just as nerdy and cool as it sounds.
The main cast include Mina Murray (Dracula) Captain Nemo (10,000 Leagues Under the Sea) Allan Quatermain (King Solomon’s Mines) Hawley Griffin (The Invisible Man) Jekyll and Hyde (The Strange Case of Dr. Jykll and Mr Hyde) and Virginia Woolf’s Orlando (formerly a man born during the Tudor period who has an unexpected sex change and stops ageing.) Their first mission? To stop a war between Professor Moriarty and Fu Manchu in a post-War of the Worlds world.
6. MORTAL KOMBAT 9 & X
Along with Tekken and Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat is one of the biggest names in fighting games. The series has been going strong since 1992, when it was made infamous for sparking a censorship debate about ultra-violence in video games. A debate that it has has completely ignored, with each new instalment packing in more and more spine-ripping, body-slicing fatalities.
The PlayStation 3 version of Mortal Kombat 9 upped the graphic quota by importing two characters known for their violence: God of War‘s Kratos and Freddy Krueger. The tenth instalment in 2015 for the PlayStation 4 took this even further, giving players the option to play as other icons of Horror, including a Xenomorph, Jason Vorhees, a Predator or Leatherhead by downloading different DLC packs.
5. GODZILLA: FINAL WARS
There are so many entries in the ongoing Godzilla film series that the giant, radioactive monster’s history has been divided up by fans into distinct eras from Japan and the US — starting with the Showa era and going up to the Hollywood “MonsterVerse” (including King Kong: Skull Island) and Japan’s Toho reboots. The creature from the deep has duked it out against a lot of other strange beings in that time.
If you thought the flying MUTO couple in the 2014 American reboot movie were terrifying, then clearly you’ve never had the displeasure of meeting the abomination that is Godzilla Junior, who looks like a lump of misshapen clay. Junior, along with scores of other monster skeletons from Godzilla’s past, reunited for 2004’s Godzilla: Final Wars, a Kaiju slug-fest that ushered in a 10-year hiatus; sadly making it the Batman and Robin of the franchise.
4. SUPER SMASH BROS.
Super Smash Bros. is Nintendo’s answer to fighting games like Street Figher and Tekken with a “crisis crossover” twist: drawing together classic characters like Link, Mario, Donkey Kong and Pikachu and Samus Aran from across its disparate catalogue of titles to battle a common enemy (and each other.) Since debuting in 1999, a huge competitive gaming scene has grown around the series.
The first game has a pretty conservative number of 12 playable characters, a number that has been increasing with each new entry and pulling from beyond Nintendo’s backyard. Brawl for the Wii included Solid Snake and Sonic the Hedgehog, while the Wii U and 3DS versions added Cloud Strife, Pac-Man, Bayonetta, Mega Man and characters from the aforementioned Street Fighter.
3. HOUSE OF MOUSE
House of Mouse was a short-lived Disney Channel concept that had huge crossover reach. The format was a revival of the animated shorts that used to run before Disney features in theaters. Airing in the late ’90s, the framing device for these shorts was a nightclub run by Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy and Goofy that was the place to be for any character in the Disney universe looking for an evening’s entertainment.
That made the club a free-for-all for everyone and anyone you’ve ever seen in any Disney project from its Golden Age to the present (which was Atlantis: The Lost Empire at the time of production) and things as varied as Scrooge McDuck to TRON. One story, “Halloween With Hades” played like a Disney fan fiction, with Mickey setting up a date between Hercules’ Hades and Sleeping Beauty‘s Maleficent.
2. ARROWVERSE: CRISIS ON EARTH X
Ever since The CW started expanding its DC superhero line-up to include The Flash, Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow along with Arrow, crossovers were not only inevitable, but expected. After all, it wouldn’t be an accurate reflection of the source material to not connect the dots between the different shows. The first was the introduction of Barry Allen in an episode of Arrow, with Oliver Queen returning the favor in The Flash‘s premiere.
We thought that things couldn’t get much more ambitious than the three-part “Invasion” crossover that pulled all four shows together, but then along came the four-part, “Crisis on Earth X” in 2017, which featured evil, alternate-universe doppelgängers, a version of Earth overrun with Nazis (with Green “Hitler” Arrow as their leader) and a plot to steal Supergirl’s heart (literally.)
1. DC AND MARVEL’S AMALGAM UNIVERSE
Though the fans often cross swords, DC and Marvel’s rivalry is actually so friendly that they even have their own inter-company shared universe: the Amalgam universe. The shared universe was created by the 12-issue DC vs. Marvel series published in 1996 under the Amalgam imprint. But, being such a historic event, the two companies went a step further than just having classic characters meet and shake hands for the first time.
They combined — or amalgamated — them into weird hybrid characters. For instance, Wolverine and Batman became “Dark Claw” (Logan Wayne) and Captain America and Superman became “Super-Soldier.” The two universes also took physical forms, “the Brothers,” who fought for dominance, with the outcome decided by reader votes based on in-comic character fights. Marvel came out on top, and the universes went their separate ways.
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