Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Superman and Spider-Man Once Again.

When I wrote about the first DC/Marvel superhero crossover a few months back, I got a few comments about how enjoyable the follow-up Supes/Spidey team-up was. I had to take their word for it--it's one I never got around to reading.

Fortunately, the library at which I work has a copy of the out-of-print Crossover Classics trade paperback, which includes the various cross-company team-ups from the 1970s & 1980s. So, once reminded of the horrible gap in my reading experience, I was able to get caught up.

Superman and Spider Man was published in 1981. Like the first, it doesn't attempt to explain how the characters from two separate universes now coexist, but implicitly postulates a universe in which they simply do so. They just don't happen to run into each other very often--this is actually lampshaded in the story when Spider Man meets Wonder Woman and wonders why they've never met when both of them have been based in New York.

This universe eventually got an official designation, by the way. In Marvel's nomenclature, it's Earth-7642. DC has rather unimaginatively designated it "Earth-Crossover." Gee whiz, there wasn't a spare number or letter to toss that way?

This time, the story is written by Jim Shooter and features superb art work by John Buscema. The two heroes meet again when Peter heads to Metropolis. He's not able to sell his latest Spidey pictures to Jameson at the Bugle, because such pictures don't sell papers any longer. Pictures of Superman, though... they might bring in some readers.

This is the set-up for a complex story involving a plot by Dr. Doom, who plans on manipulating Superman, the Parasite, the Hulk and Wonder Woman to carry out his latest scheme for world domination. This would involve releasing a radiation that would destroy all fossil and atomic fuels, forcing the world to bow to Doom to get access to his newly-invented super-reactor. But that reactor is unstable and Doom can only use it if he eventually tricks the Parasite into sacrificing himself to solve this problem.

The plot is a little complex, but its well-told and we are always able to keep track of what's going on. It's also a plot that allows for some really fun
action set pieces. Superman fights the Hulk at one point, answering the question about who is stronger (though if I wanted to quibble, I would say that this was a question best left unanswered). Superman later avoids an attempt by Dr. Doom to capture him. Spider Man and Wonder Woman meet, with the Amazon initially trying to bash the webslinger to bits because she's tricked into thinking he's a villain.

The scenes with Spider Man and Superman together are really done well, with both heroes forced to use their brains as well as their powers to get out of dangerous situations, while creating believable reasons to show that they need each other. I especially enjoy Spidey's improvised method of stripping a layer of kryponite dust off a captured Superman.

There's a fun sub-plot as well. Peter Parker decides to try living in Metropolis for awhile, since Perry White pays better for photographs than J.J.J. But he's homesick and uncomfortable with the new city, especially since he now lives pretty much in the shadow of the much more powerful Man of Steel. This gives Peter a crisis of confidence that threatens to undermine his effectiveness as Spider Man.

Clark Kent, in the meantime, temporarily moves to New York when he realizes that he's been targeted by Doom--he's worried Doom might try to get to him through his friends. (Superman is so well-known as being a friend of the Daily Planet staff that sometimes his secret identity seems to be useless.) So we get to see the mild-mannered reporter interact with the grumpy and acerbic J. Jonah Jameson.

If I compared the two Superman/Spider Man team-ups, I would probably still pick the first one as the best of the two. But that very well might be nostalgia talking--the first one is the one I read as a kid, so I have fond memories of it. But it would be a close call regardless. This second team-up has a great plot, great art work and a keen understanding of the characters. It is superhero storytelling at its best.

1 comment:

  1. I remember reading it back in the day, but never bought it. I re-read it recently and Diana and the Hulk seem so shoehorned into the book because of the relative popularity of their TV shows. It's a good story, but I prefer the first one as well.


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