Thursday, March 26, 2015

Superman meets Spider-Man, 1981

When you go through your old comic books, you can come across forgotten gems.

For me, they often come loaded with memories. Where in life I was when I got them, what was happening at the time, and the like. More often than not, those memories are good ones as comics have always been a constant companion and source of solace for me. Such is the case with the second crossover of Superman and Spider-Man.

Superman and Spider-Man, published in 1981 (I think), was actually the second such inter-publisher crossover for these characters. I have that one in a collected trade paperback edition of "Marvel meets DC" specials which also includes this version, but I had an original copy in its gigantic treasury size when I was a kid and that was a treat. It got so dog-eared and battered from me lugging it around everywhere that it's no wonder it didn't survive to this day. Its story follows the "Marvel/DC crossover" trope almost to the letter:

1) Get your two major crossover characters 2) Set them up against two of their biggest villains 3) Have a pair of supporting characters from each universe in a guest bit 4) Shake and serve, you have a winner. Or something fun at the least, hopefully. This storyline does away with any form of shenanigans to interweave the universes, though. It's just assumed that the characters all exist in the same world. New York City inhabits an Earth that also has a Metropolis and so forth.

Writer Jim Shooter weaves a plot together around Doctor Doom. Schemer that he is, Doom has developed a scheme to release a variety of radiation (of course) that will destroy all fossil and nuclear fuels. This will force the world to become dependent on a new fusion reactor invented by Doom. The one rub in his reactor design, however, is that it needs the Parasite in order to work. What's more, the Parasite must be tricked into giving his life in the process. No problem for a guy like Doc Doom. In fact, Parasite is not the only pawn in the game. Doom is also manipulating Superman, the Hulk, and Wonder Woman on the board. Spider-Man just happens to stumble on to the whole affair, becoming a, the ointment.

A few highlights:

-Peter Parker moves to Metropolis and works for Perry White at The Daily Planet. He's amazed at how nice Perry is and that he will actually pay more for pictures of Spider-Man. As Spider-Man, however, Peter is self-conscious of living in Superman's shadow.

-Clark Kent goes to New York City as he realizes he (as Superman) has been targeted by Doctor Doom. He works for a time at The Daily Bugle and is amazed at what a jackass J Jonah Jameson is.

-Wonder Woman briefly fights Spider-Man, suspecting him of being a criminal.

-Superman gets coated with Kryptonite dust and becomes powerless. Spider-Man manufactures a net out of his webbing and drags it across Superman in order to remove the dust before it's too late. Even as a kid I thought it was inventive and tension-filled.

-We finally see it: Superman vs. Hulk. Who is stronger? In a diplomatic nod to both publishers, Shooter seems to concoct a weak, pre-Crisis answer of "both." Can't blame him. He probably didn't have a choice.

All aside, this is a fun read. Reminds me of what comics used to be.


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