Comics are in the midst of a crossover boom. In the past few months, Batman has met the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the spies from the 1960s’ show “The Avengers;” He-Man met the Thundercats; and Archie met punk-pioneers The Ramones. IDW Publishing is even reorganizing its Hasbro-licensed properties into an ongoing shared universe.
But for every logical crossover like “JLA/Avengers,” “Aliens vs. Predator” or “Batman/Green Hornet,” there are a dozen utterly bizarre pairings that defy all common sense. From corporate-driven affairs to moments of mad inspiration, these crossovers can make for compelling reads, boring slogs or puzzling curiosities.
Now, CBR will highlight 15 of the strangest, most noteworthy crossovers in comics history. In the past few decades, there have been so many crossovers that a list twice this long couldn’t possibly mention them all. So to help narrow it down, we’re leaving out Archie’s strangest crossovers and real-life celebrity crossovers, since we’ve looked at both recently. But with new crossovers announced just about every week, there’s no shortage of weird comic crossovers coming out in the near future.
15. Sonic The Hedgehog/Image Comics
“Sonic Super Special” #7, by Ken Penders and Jim Valentino, features a meeting between two titans of the 1990s who are a lot less prominent today than they used to be: Sonic the Hedgehog and Spawn. Sonic and other characters from his long-running Archie Comics series met a variety of Image Comics characters in this deeply bizarre 1998 crossover. While Spawn is the most well-known Image character here, he only appears on one page, while ShadowHawk, Savage Dragon, and the forgotten WildStorm hero Union all have more central roles.
After being transported to a cartoonish version of the Image Universe, Sonic and his Freedom Fighters fought Doctor Droid and Particle, a young woman he had coerced into collecting the Chaos Emeralds, the world’s main objects of power. Sonic and the Freedom Fighters teamed up with the Image heroes to defeat Doctor Droid before being sent home with no memory of the encounter. After this story, Penders used Particle and Doctor Droid in his 2000 Image series “The Lost Ones,” which lasted a single issue. After a well-received crossover with “Mega Man,” “Sonic the Hedgehog” was rebooted in 2013, due in part to legal issues with Penders. After DC Comics bought WildStorm in 1998, Union left Image for the DC multiverse, retroactively making this a crossover between three comic universes.
14. Star Trek/X-Men
When Marvel Comics received the license to make “Star Trek” comics in the 1990s, they understandably paired the long-running science fiction franchise with their most popular characters at the time, the X-Men. In “Star Trek/X-Men,” the X-Men were sent into the Star Trek Universe through a dimensional rift while casing the body-possessing mutant Proteus, who reanimated the corpse of Trek antagonist Gary Mitchell. The team unsurprisingly worked with the original Enterprise crew to defeat the villain before returning home. The story is fairly standard, but this book is built around clever moments like Beast and Trek’s McCoy both answering when someone calls for “Dr McCoy.” The Trek cast seemed slightly overpowered in the story, however, with Spock knocking Wolverine out with a single Vulcan nerve pinch.
The X-Men would go on to team up with the crew from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” in a special issue and, bizarrely, a best-selling novel called “Planet X,” which featured a relationship between Captain Picard and Storm. It also includes comments on the resemblance between Picard and Professor X, an ironic prediction of Patrick Stewart’s involvement with both franchises.
13. Battle of the Planets/Witchblade
Some of the weirdest crossovers in comics come when cartoon characters meet comic characters. Given the visual nature of both mediums, it’s easy to see the thinking at play here. Still, the combination featured in “Battle of the Planets/Witchblade” is a little odd. “Battle of the Planets” started as a kid-friendly English localization of the science-fiction anime “Science Ninja Team Gatchaman” in the late 1970s. “Witchblade” was a dark 1990s comic about Detective Sara Pezzini, who wore a mystical gauntlet and little else. If it wasn’t for the fact that Top Cow Productions was publishing both of these series in 2003, it’s difficult to imagine that they would’ve ever crossed over at all.
In this Pezzini-less one-shot, “Battle of the Planet’s” Princess became the new host to the Witchblade gauntlet, which gives supernatural powers to the woman who wears it. While she fought the forces of the series’ villain Zoltar, the rest of her team tried to prevent her from getting lost in the influence of the sentient power gauntlet. As this series shows, “Witchblade’s” core concept is fairly transferable. That’s part of why “Witchblade” was a frequent participant in crossovers with a number of different franchises around the time. “Battle of the Planets” would team-up with fellow Saturday morning cartoon “Thundercats” later in 2003.
Some combination of Batman and/or Superman has crossed over with some combination of “Aliens” or “Predator” a total of nine times; 10 if you count “JLA/Predator.” The World’s Finest duo and the universe’s greatest monsters are both iconic in their respective genres, but that’s a bit much, even by comic book standards.
The concepts generally fit together well, since the DC Universe already has so many alien races floating around, a few more don’t put any real strain on the credulity of the universe. While the quality of the actual comics ranges from competent to shockingly good, especially in “Batman Vs. Predator,” it’s a marriage that largely gets by on the novelty of seeing these icons clash. Still, even the most recent crossover, 2007’s “Superman and Batman Vs. Aliens and Predator” has its charms, with a fun script by Mark Schultz and beautiful art by Ariel Olivetti.
DC Comics and Dark Horse Comics are in the midst of reprinting several of these and most of their other crossovers in a series of paperback collections. The duo of “Aliens” and “Predator” would go on to meet Top Cow’s “Witchblade” and spin-off title “The Darkness” in a crossover aptly titled “Overkill.”
11. Spider-Man/Red Sonja
As the star of multiple iterations of “Marvel Team-Up,” Spider-Man has had more than his fair share of odd pairings. While most of his adventures took place with contemporary Marvel characters, 1979’s “Marvel Team-Up” #79 saw the web-slinger team up with Red Sonja, a female barbarian who had spun off of “Conan the Barbarian” into her own feature. Created by the “Uncanny X-Men” team of Chris Claremont, John Byrne and Terry Austin at the peak of their powers, it’s certainly not a bad issue, but it’s an oddly minor issue to reprise decades after the fact. In 2007, Marvel and Dynamite Entertainment, who hold the rights to Red Sonja, did just that and released a four-issue miniseries that essentially retold an expanded version of the same story.
In both crossovers, Mary Jane was possessed by the spirit of Red Sonja and became a reincarnated version of the red-headed warrior. After scuffling with Spider-Man, they joined forces to defeat the ancient Marvel wizard Kulan Gath. In the miniseries, the Venom symbiote briefly bonded with Kulan and barbarian versions of some of Spider-Man’s rogues gallery appeared. These interesting wrinkles still don’t do enough to elevate the miniseries above the Bronze Age issue it’s based on, however.
10. Tomb Raider/Witchblade/Fathom
Today, this crossover is a time capsule from a lost era in comics. In Top Cow’s “Fathom” #12-14, Bill O’Neil and megastar artist Michael Turner teamed their water-based Top Cow heroine Fathom with Witchblade and “Tomb Raider’s” Lara Croft, who was published by Top Cow at the time. The story is a fairly standard adventure that saw the three team-up to take on a “Fathom” villain, but Turner’s art was the real star here. The crossover was the apex of the “bad girl” comics of the late 1990s, which highlighted female characters with hyper-exaggerated physiques and non-existent costumes. After a previous “Witchblade/Tomb Raider” team-up successfully introduced Lara Croft to comics a few years earlier, this highly-hyped crossover started near the peak of all three characters’ popularity.
While the first part sold a chart-topping 100,000 copies in April 2000, fan interest plummeted as delays pushed the release of the second two issues into 2002. The end of this crossover would be Fathom’s last appearance in a Top Cow comic, since Turner started his own imprint, Aspen MLT, for his characters in 2003. “Tomb Raider” remained at Top Cow until 2006, before the comic rights moved to Dark Horse as part of a franchise-wide reboot in 2013. Due to the complex legality of the crossover, subsequent reprints of these “Fathom” issues were edited to remove any trace of Witchblade and Lara Croft and condensed down into two issues.
9. Star Trek/Planet of the Apes
In 2014, IDW Publishing and Boom! Studios released “Star Trek/Planet of the Apes: The Primate Directive,” by David Tipton, Scott Tipton and Rachael Stott. Beyond a title with one of the best puns in comic history, this well-received crossover mixed two icons of 1960s science fiction together. While both franchises might hold a similar place in the pop culture lexicon, the properties have vastly different viewpoints. “Star Trek” takes place in an optimistic galactic utopian paradise, while the “Planet of the Apes” takes place on a barren world that still suffers for the sins of humanity.
The miniseries follows the original crew of the Enterprise as they follow a Klingon gunrunner through a portal into the alternate dimension of “Planet of the Apes.” The book captures the feel of a “Star Trek” episode quite well, as the crew struggle to limit their influence within the ape society and capture the Klingon Kor before making the voyage home. In recent years, “Star Trek” has had strong crossovers with “Doctor Who,” “Legion of Super-Heroes” and “Green Lantern.” Meanwhile, “Planet of the Apes” is currently crossing over with Tarzan in the Dark Horse/Boom! miniseries “Tarzan on the Planet of the Apes.”
Created by Warren Ellis, Chris Sprouse and Kevin Nowlan, “WildC.A.T.s/Aliens” set the stage for one of the most influential comics of the modern age. As editor Scott Duniber wrote, this 1998 one-shot was always supposed to have “lasting effects…unlike the usual cross-company epics that come and go and mean nothing.” In the crossover between “Aliens” and the WildStorm super-team “WildC.A.T.s,” the Aliens invaded the orbiting satellite of the other WildStorm super-team, Stormwatch, and killed half of the team. The WildC.A.T.s and the surviving members of Stormwatch eventually defeated the Xenomorphs by sending the satellite into the Sun.
Stormwatch’s surviving members would go on to form the basis of the titular team in “The Authority,” which revolutionized modern superhero comics. The in-continuity deaths of Stormwatch characters like Fuji and Hellstrike were shocking, especially since several occurred off-panel. After an epilogue issue, “Stormwatch” didn’t appear again for four years. The WildStorm Universe was still dealing with the repercussions of this crossover until its conclusion in 2010. “WildC.A.Ts/Aliens” was just republished by DC and Dark Horse in “DC/Dark Horse: Aliens” and plans were just announced for a Warren Ellis-curated revival of the WildStorm Universe.
7. Metalocalypse/The Goon
“Dethklok Versus The Goon” might be one of the strangest looking comics ever published. This 2009 pairing stars the heavy metal band Dethklok from the Adult Swim cartoon, “Metalocalypse” and Eric Powell’s darkly comic creator-owned comic, “The Goon.” In the comic, the band fell through a portal that takes them to The Goon’s world, where they met, drank and performed with the cast of the Dark Horse series.
While these two worlds might be thematically similar, they don’t look alike, and Powell highlights that in his illustrations, colored by Dave Stewart. Powell’s work on “The Goon” is one of the finest examples of classic, fluid cartooning in modern comics, while Dethklok is usually portrayed in a stiffer, more simplified art style that’s a key part of the Adult Swim aesthetic. Powell draws Dethklok in their usual “Metalocalypse” style, and the results are intentionally jarring, especially under Stewart’s simplified colors. The out-of-continuity story, written by Powell and “Metalocalypse” creator Brendon Small, fits in nicely with the often brutal, bloody comedy of both series, with the Goon delivering one of the show’s trademark gory climaxes. After this crossover, Dark Horse published a short “Dethklok” miniseries.
While Harley Quinn and Deadpool have the market on cartoonish mayhem cornered today, that wasn’t always the case. The modern Joker might seem more serious and more monstrous with every appearance, but “Joker/Mask” features Gotham’s Clown Prince of Crime at his funniest. In this 2000 miniseries, the Joker put on the titular Mask, which gave him great power and took his madness to a whole new level. “The Mask’s” antagonist Lt. Kellaway made the journey to Gotham too, and teamed up with Commissioner Gordon and Batman to separate the two from one another. With a fun story and a clever ending by Henry Gilroy and Ronnie del Carmen and dynamic, cartoony art by Ramon Bachs, this crossover is a bit of a forgotten gem that’s friendly for all ages.
Despite the zaniness of the wildly successful 1994 Jim Carrey movie, “The Mask,” the original “Mask” comics were incredibly dark and violent. Given the ease with which the Joker can be portrayed as a sadistic murderer, the lightness of this crossover is a pleasant surprise, though it is a little odd that this wasn’t called “Batman/Mask.” Surprisingly, this crossover was the last in a long line of starring roles for “Mask,” until 2014’s “Itty Bitty Mask.”
5. DC Comics/Masters of the Universe
The Masters of the Universe made their first comic appearance alongside Superman in 1982’s “DC Comics Presents” #47. After being bounced around between publishers for years, they ended up back at DC Comics, who published several well-received volumes of the franchise before once again matching them up with their iconic superheroes. In 2014’s “DC Universe Vs. Masters of the Universe,” Keith Giffen, Tony Bedard, Dexter Soy and Pop Mhan took the standard cross-dimensional crossover formula and blew it up to a grand scale.
Taking place in continuity with the ongoing “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” series, this six issue miniseries feels like a true crossover between universes, with surprisingly large roles for a diverse selection of minor characters, like John Constantine and Orko. In the miniseries, the Masters travelled to the DC Universe before fighting and then teaming up with three separate iterations of the Justice League to fight an unexpected villain in a surprising twist. “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” would continue after the events of this crossover, before launching into the recently released “He-Man and the Thundercats.”
4. Darkman/Army of Darkness
While two of John Carpenter’s film heroes have just started teaming up in the ongoing miniseries “Big Trouble in Little China/Escape from New York,” Sam Raimi’s two biggest heroes beat them to the punch by a decade. In 2006, Dynamite Entertainment published “Darkman/Army of Darkness” by the surprisingly robust team of Kurt Busiek, Roger Stern and James Fry. Beyond appearing in Sam Raimi films, the two characters aren’t a lot alike. Ash from “Army of Darkness” is an easy-going everyman who fights hordes of Deadite zombies with his chainsaw hand. Darkman is a “Phantom of the Opera”-esque tortured soul who fights crime with the inability to feel pain and synthetic skin masks that can look like anyone.
The creative team bridged this gap with yet another dimensional portal story. After Darkman’s ex-girlfriend accidentally summoned the Deadites, Darkman summoned the “legendary warrior” Ash, who helps push back the demonic zombies. Since this crossover, Ash fought the Marvel Zombies, Jason and Freddy Kruger, and just started his third crossover with Xena, Warrior Princess. Bizarrely, Darkman has not appeared in any form of media since this decade-old miniseries.
3. Spider-Man/Ren and Stimpy
As of last month, Dan Slott has written a fifth of all issues of Marvel’s flagship title “Amazing Spider-Man.” After almost a decade of shepherding the character, it’s easy to forget Slott’s extensive work on all-ages titles and humor books. One of Slott’s first stories with Spider-Man came in one of these more light-hearted books, 1993’s “The Ren and Stimpy Show” #6. With Mike Kazaleh, Slott put “The Ren and Stimpy Show’s” surreal spin on the usual superhero team-up story, farcically pitting Spider-Man against Ren and Stimpy’s favorite hero/breakfast mascot, Powdered-Toast Man.
After filling in for Powdered Toast Man’s corporate duties, Spider-Man searched for the missing hero and found him under the control of Dr. Dough-Naught. After a brief scuffle, Spider-Man and Powdered Toast Man teamed up to defeat the villain before arguing about who would win in a fair fight. The issue largely reduced Ren and Stimpy to supporting roles in their own title, but Ren explicitly thanks Spider-Man for appearing to help boost sales near the end of the issue. Slott would go on to write about 20 issues of the underrated “The Ren and Stimpy Show” comic adaption.
Mars Attacks/Image Comics
In one of the handful of crossovers that brought together the various creator-owned titles of the Image Universe, Earth’s heroes united to fend off the Martians of the 1996 film “Mars Attacks!” and old gross-out trading card series. Published in 1996 by Image and the now-defunct Topps Comics, “Mars Attacks Image” and “Mars Attacks Savage Dragon” ran for four interconnected issues apiece. While Image characters like Spawn, Witchblade, Gen13 and the WildC.A.T.s appeared throughout the crossover, characters from Erik Larsen’s “Savage Dragon” took a central spotlight. The primary series showed the full-scale invasion of Earth, while the secondary series followed Savage Dragon’s destruction of the Martian homeworld.
This story may have remained out of continuity for most characters, but “Savage Dragon” was deeply affected by the events of the crossover. While the Dragon was on Mars, his enemies the Vicious Circle took control of a devastated Chicago and a few supporting characters were killed. Savage Dragon was also given an extended suspension from his job as a police officer for his absence while he was on Mars. In 2013, the Martians would attack Judge Dredd, Transformers, Ghostbusters, the band KISS and Popeye in crossovers with IDW.
2. Superman/Bugs Bunny
Pairing Superman and Bugs Bunny together could have very easily been a tedious exercise in Warner Brothers corporate synergy that wouldn’t make much sense as anything other than a free giveaway at a Six Flags theme park. However, Mark Evanier, Joe Staton, Mike DeCarlo and Tom Palmer turned “Superman & Bugs Bunny” into a delightful romp featuring the full cast of the DC Universe and “Looney Tunes.” In this 2000 miniseries, Superman villain Mr. Mxyzptlk and the cartoon’s Yoyo the Dodo, both notorious pranksters in their respective universes, blended their two worlds together, leading to a series of bizarre yet charming character interactions.
Staton, DeCarlo and Palmer managed to keep the cartoony style of the “Looney Tunes” intact, even as the characters exist in a traditionally illustrated version of the DC Universe. The use of Mr. Mxyzptlk, one of Superman’s most cartoonish villains, did a lot to make the story feel relatively believable. The book’s fundamental absurdity drove a lot of the humor, highlighted by the DC characters’ constant questioning of their own sanity. Recently released digitally by DC, this crossover successfully combined the lighter side of both universes for a fun crossover that was as good, and as weird, as it could possibly be.
What’s your favorite kooky crossover? Sound off in the comments below.
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