Crossovers are major and often highly anticipated events in the comic book world, but they can also be hit or miss when it comes to pleasing fans. Crossovers can be as minor as a brief appearance by one superhero in others story, or they may involve a full fledged, multi-issue story line that can alter both respective realms permanently. Marvel Comics, with its vast roster of characters and multiple universes, is prime crossover territory, and every year brings new ideas to the table.
Some of the comic book mash-ups feel natural, like they should happen. Others enter into truly bizarre territory. Creators try to strike a balance between keeping fans on their toes with surprising new innovations in character and storytelling, and simply seeming to throw in a touch of the absurd for its own sake. If there are too many crossovers, then fans can start to lose sight of whatever it was that held the original appeal of the series, and between the re-launches and reboots, reader fatigue is a possible drawback. On the other hand, they are also a great way to potentially introduce new characters or series to existing fans, revamp story lines, and maybe even generate enough excitement to attract brand new comic book enthusiasts. Whatever their reasons, we applaud the creative spirit that keeps Marvel’s comic book creators coming up with the new, the exciting, and sometimes, the strange.
15. The Spider-Men Crossover
Marvel came out with Spider-Men, a five-issue miniseries, in 2012 for the webslinger’s 50th anniversary. In it, two universes came clashing together as Peter Parker meets Miles Morales — Spider-Man in the Marvel Ultimate universe. The Ultimate universe was Marvel’s way of revamping Spider-Man and other series into the modern era, and was launched in 2000. In the Ultimate universe, superheroes are feared as dangerous mutants. Writer Brian Michael Bendis, who launched Ultimate Spider-Man in 2000, wrote the Spider-Men series. The plot line plays off the idea of the two universes, with Peter Parker knocked into the Ultimate universe, where the native Parker has died and Miles Morales is the new webslinger in town. Peter has to team up with Miles to defeat Mysterio. Famously, Joe Quesada, at the time editor-in-chief at Marvel Comics, told attendees at the 2005 San Diego Comic-Con that if the Marvel and Marvel Ultimate universes ever crossed over, it would mean the comic book giant “had officially run out of ideas.” Even in 2012 such crossovers were rare, and Spider-Men was the exception to the rule. It foreshadowed the brand new universe of All-New, All-Different Marvel, where Miles Morales has joined Peter Parker on a permanent basis.
14. Eminem/Punisher 2-Part Miniseries
Occasionally, it’s the real world that crosses over into the realm of Marvel Comics. Back in 2009, Marshall Mathers, aka rapper Eminem, was promoting Relapse, his comeback album after a few years out of the spotlight. He told a British talk show host that comics had been his solace during those long days in rehab. He even read Marvel comics on the air to establish himself as a bona fide geek, but it didn’t curb fan’s surprise and shock when the comic giant released Eminem/Punisher as a two-part series that summer. The series was available in XXL Magazine and on the Marvel website. Naturally, the story line features Eminem as a badass who gets mixed up with Punisher villain Barracuda and ends up fighting alongside the violent Frank Castle himself. Now, Detroit does seem like the kind of place that might be able to use some Punisher-style accelerated justice, but fans greeted the comic book series – and Relapse – with a lukewarm reception.
13. Ren & Stimpy Show #6 – Spider-Man vs. Powdered Toast Man
Marvel’s Ren & Stimpy Show comic, based on the TV series, ran from 1992 to 1996, and the issues have since become collector’s items. Like the TV show, the comic book adventures of Stimpson J. Cat and Ren Höek, the neurotic chihuahua, take place in a surreal universe filled with gross stuff like hairballs, Stimpy’s dirty cat box, and magic nose goblins. The TV show ran late nights on Nickelodeon, and it wasn’t made for kids. In that broad sense, it has something in common with the world of any of the Spider-Men. But, the usual gloom and gore of Spider-Man’s world definitely took a lighter turn when Spidey showed up in issue #6 of The Ren & Stimpy Show to help our hapless heroes take on the Powdered Toast Man. The world of comic books is a relatively small one. Dan Slott, who wrote the 1993 Ren & Stimpy cross over, is the current writer for the Amazing Spider-Man series.
12. Spider-Man In Live From New York, It’s Saturday Night!
This is definitely a crossover that falls under the category of cultural curiosity. Both Saturday Night Live (SNL) and Spider-Man have been in existence for a long, long time, and even though New York is a big city, it’s perhaps inevitable that they met up at least once. Marvel Team-Up #74 came out in October 1978, and along with Spidey, the action comic features the “Not Ready for Prime Time Players” including Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Jane Curtin, Garrett Morris, Bill Murray, Laraine Newman, and Gilda Radner. Chris Claremont, best known for his work on the Uncanny X-Men series, penned the issue that sees Peter Parker take the lovely Mary Jane Watson downtown to sit in on an SNL taping. Arriving late to the theater, they rush up to their balcony seats, only to pass by the Silver Samurai. It turns out that John Belushi has stumbled upon a Silver Samurai ring and the Samurai and his gang are coming to get it back. Superhero costumes, webslinging, and comedy sketches ensue as Spider-Man and the SNL cast battle the crooks, but the Silver Samurai retrieves the ring, which activates a teleportation matrix, and he vanishes.
11. Archie Meets The Punisher
Billed as “the crossover you’ve been dreading!” The Punisher Meets Archie Vol 1 #1 (and the only one) came out in August 1994. It was drawn by the Stan Goldberg, who worked in both the Archie and Marvel worlds. As the story begins, Frank Castle is pursuing a redhaired, freckle-faced villain in a trench coat. Said villain loses The Punisher in a train station, where he buys a ticket to…Riverdale. Meanwhile, back in Riverdale, Archie is up to his usual Veronica/Betty dilemma at a 50’s dance at the high school. Mistaken for the crook, Archie finds himself pursued by both the criminals and The Punisher, but Frank quickly realizes the mistake. Naturally, there’s plenty of mayhem before the crook is caught, and perhaps because of the influence of the fun loving teens, Castle actually spares the life of “Red” the crook. At the end, there’s a teaser for an X-Men version of Jughead that never happened.
10. Hobgoblin In Dr. Strange, Sorcerer Supreme #11
Acts of Vengeance was a Marvel universe crossover event that took place between 1989 and 1990, and it resulted in a few unusual combinations. The Hobgoblin is a shifty villain in the Marvel ranks, and he’s had many identities. Best known as Roderick Kingsley, the former fashion designer turned demonic criminal, the hobgoblin was once also taken up by one Jason Macendale, Jr., a former CIA and mercenary who begins his criminal career as the Jack O’Lantern, but then becomes Hobgoblin during Roderick’s retirement phase. With us so far? He’s one of Spider-Man’s perennial foes, and he makes an unexpected appearance in Doctor Strange #11, released in December of 1989 and titled “The Horror of the Hobgoblin.” Stephen Strange is casting a spell to seal up his brother Victor the vampire, and in the process, inadvertently throws a monkey wrench into Hobgoblin’s Acts of Vengeance plans. It’s a long story, but Hobgoblin confronts Doctor Strange while he’s on a TV talk show, and Strange gets rid of him with a spell convincing him he’s become normal again, leading Hobgoblin to just walk away from the conflict.
9. Star Trek/X-Men #1
Paramount Comics was actually an imprint of Marvel Comics and it only existed for a brief two-year period from 1996 to 1998. The deal was made to put Mission: Impossible (which was just about to be launched in the movies at the time) and Star Trek into their own comics series. The association didn’t last, but did produce this notable crossover between the Star Trek crew and the X-Men. Captain Kirk and the original Enterprise crew come across Wolverine, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast, Storm, Gambit, and Bishop. The X-Men have slipped through a portal into the universe of Gene Roddenberry’s sci-fi classic while chasing Proteus. There are some awesome encounters, including one between Spock and Wolverine, but the good guys are soon teaming up to defeat Proteus. In the end, the X-Men use an Imperial Guard ship to slip back into their own dimension, glad to have found at least one more optimistic version of the future than most they’ve encountered during their adventures.
8. Star Trek: The Next Generation, X-Men: Planet X
In 1998, towards the end of the Paramount/Marvel association, they issued the second and last X-Men/Star Trek cross over in the form of a graphic novel called Planet X by writer Michael Jan Friedman. In the Star Trek universe, people on the planet Xhaldia are becoming mutants with strange powers, and their society is in a turmoil because of it. Captain Picard and the Enterprise are sent to help, and the X-Men arrive from their own dimension, drawn to the anomaly. Add menacing aliens who are looking to use the mutants in a war against The Federation into the mix, and the X-Men and Starfleet have to combine their forces to save the day. This crossover has some memorable moments, including Picard crushing on Storm, Warf and Wolverine bonding over prune juice, and best of all, a meeting between Captain Picard and Professor Xavier, who appears via holodeck at the end of the story. “As the doctor had warned him, he and the Professor bore a passing resemblance to each other…” Hahaha! The first X-Men movie came out two years later in 2000.
7. KISS: 1977 Marvel Comics Super Special #1
In 1977, men wore crazy platform shoes and knit bell bottoms, and Detroit rockers KISS battled Doctor Doom in an unusual Marvel crossover. Marvel Comics Super Special was a 41-issue series of one-offs, and the very first issue featured the black and white make-up loving rock band from the Motor City, and as a fan extra, the band actually mixed a few drops of their own blood with the ink for the first print run. Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley are teens in New York City as the story begins. They come into possession of a magical cube from a wizard and then meet up with Ace Frehley and Peter Criss. When they open the box, the nerdy teens transform into their superstar KISS personas, except better. Gene can actually spit fire and his shoes bite people. Ace Frehley has the powers of teleportation. The boys battle Doctor Doom, Mephisto, and more. Paul Stanley saves the day by psychoanalyzing Doctor Doom and weakening him with bad memories of the past. It may not come as a surprise that the story was written by Steve Gerber, who also wrote #41, the final issue of Marvel Comics Super Special – Howard the Duck.
6. The Trial Of Jean Grey
At the end of Marvel’s Atom event, the X-Men from the past are brought to the present, and the news about Jean Grey, current host of the Phoenix and all its destructive powers, has spread to all corners of the Marvel universe. The six-part Trial of Jean Grey appeared in alternating issues of the All-New X-Men (#22, 23 & 24,) and the Guardians of the Galaxy (#11, 12 & 13) comics through 2014. The trial begins when the Shi’ar kidnap Jean Grey to try her for her crimes as the Phoenix. But — the Jean Grey on trial comes from the past, the Jean who never became the Phoenix, who never destroyed a Shi’ar battle cruiser or caused a supernova. Hank and the other X-Men look to save her, along with the Guardians, who get involved when the aliens threaten Earth. Our favorite band of space pirates, the Guardians of the Galaxy, have managed to stay free of all the mutant shenanigans so far. But, The Trial of Jean Grey brings the ultimate Marvel outsiders into the fray for their very first encounter with the X-Men.
5. The Avengers Meet David Letterman In Avengers #239
Assistant Editor’s Month at Marvel is an event that used to be held on an irregular basis, where supposedly, the real editors at Marvel Comics gave up their role to their assistants. In 1984, the story was that while all the senior editors were at San Diego Comic-Con, the assistant editors came out to play and one of the results was this cheesy curiosity. The Avengers, including Beast, Black Panther, Black Widow, Wonder Man, Hawkeye, Starfox, Wasp, Scarlet Witch, She-Hulk, and Captain Marvel, make an appearance on Late Night with David Letterman, (that’s back when he was on NBC). The villain of the story is Fabian Stankowicz, aka Mechnonaut, who is jealous of the Avengers’ fame and success. He tries to attack them on the show, but of course it doesn’t work with the Avengers – and David Letterman, who bashes Fabian with a giant doorknob. In the end, the show is pre-empted by a news bulletin anyway, much to the dismay of Wonder Man, who wanted the exposure for his budding acting career.
4. Spider-Man , Iron Man, And A Daytime Soap Opera
Back in 2006, Marvel explored a crossover with…Proctor & Gamble. That’s right, the soap making company owned The Guiding Light, a daytime soap opera that, pretty incredibly, ran from 1952 till it finally ran out of steam in 2009. The crossover had two parts. In the first, on an episode of the TV show Harley Aitoro (Beth Ehlers) is electrocuted in a strange accident involving Halloween decorations, and ends up with superpowers. While it made for a very cool addition to the usual melodrama of daytime soaps, the character went back to normal by the end of the episode. In the comics, Guiding Light was a one off comic that was published in 2009. Harley returns as a fictional character who is electrocuted in a movie theater, an incident that reactivates latent superpowers. Her skin glows, she has electrical powers, and super speed. She becomes Guiding Light, who meets up with Wolverine, Spider-Man and Ironman, who team up with Harley and her husband to take on the Sinister Six. Harley loses her powers again at the end, but gets an Avengers Priority Call to use whenever she’s in trouble.
3. ALF in the Marvel Universe
This crossover brings together a few different threads. First, ALF was a classic 1980s sitcom about a fuzzy alien, ALF, who comes to live with your average suburban white family. The show was so popular that Marvel ran an ALF series of comics through 1988. The Evolutionary War was a comic book crossover that took over most of the annual issues through the summer of 1988. It involved the X-Men, Silver Surfer, The Punisher, Amazing Spider-Man, and ALF, as it happens. In the fifth story in the ALF 1988 annual, one of the young Tanner kids goes to camp and ALF gets the mistaken idea that he’s in need of saving. En route to the camp, ALF meets up with the High Evolutionary, a Marvel character and super geneticist that has appeared in a number of series, including Silver Surfer, Fantastic Four, Amazing Spider-Man, and more. He’s the key figure in the Evolutionary War crossover event as he tries to advance human evolution. The last story in the annual continues the crossover story line.
2. Luke Cage Meets Doctor Doom
Luke takes a walk on the wild side, and ends up battling a robot uprising AND Doctor Doom all on his own in Latveria. The two-issue story begins back in Harlem when Luke takes a gig to shake down some dudes for $200 a day. Turns out those dudes are actually robots, and Luke’s on the case that leads him to discover that his client is Doctor Doom himself, who is looking to locate and terminate rogue robots. At the end of #8, Luke is furious to discover that Doom has skipped out on his bill. After fighting off the Fantastic Four, Luke flies one of their spacecrafts to Latveria where he first beats on Doctor Doom for trying to mess with his fee, then defeats the Faceless One just so the Doc can pay him…which he does in full. Back home, Luke brushes off the Fantastic Four and their questions about the robot uprising to return to Harlem. The best line of the comic? When Luke Cage says to Doctor Doom, “Where’s my money, honey?”
1. Dark Avengers Battle Dark X-Men In Utopia
The Utopia series throws two sets of superheroes together with an added twist – supervillains in disguise. The Dark Avengers are a version of the superhero team that is brought together after the U.S. government has disbanded the original Avengers. The series first appeared in 2009. Norman Osborn, the reformed Green Goblin criminal type now rebranded as Iron Patriot. He’s already defeated the Skrulls and been made head of S.H.I.E.L.D., which he’s reformed into something called H.A.M.M.E.R. The Dark Avengers includes superheroes like Sentry and Noh-Varr, who is now Captain Marvel. But, it also includes supervillains in disguise, like Venom who is masquerading as Spider-Man thanks to a formula that resets him to Spidey’s form. The Dark Avengers go to San Francisco to suppress anti-mutant riots and hunt X-Men. Osborn adds a personal team of Dark X-Men that include Namor the Sub-Mariner and Mystique who is posing as Professor X. But, the Dark X-Men experiment backfires, and the two groups, and Osborn, end up in conflict. The clash occurs in the first issue of the Dark Avengers series and continues in Utopia. The Utopia series also came out in 2009, and the eight issue series mixes up the Dark X-Men and Dark Avengers several times. Naturally, Osborn’s real goal is to bring down the real X-Men and there is sinister testing of mutants involved. In the end, Osborn declares that Utopia, the mutant’s haven, is their prison as the mutants look to rebuild.