Comic book crossovers have long been massive, wildly hyped events that bring two universes together for an epic story featuring otherwise-impossible team-ups and collaborations. Sometimes they are pulse-pounding epic sagas, and sometimes they are brazen cash grabs and shameless attempts at cross-promotion that embarrass everyone involved. Very rarely, they end up being all of those things. In our inaugural episode of The Doombots Podcast, we talk about a few stranger crossovers — so now we’re looking back at (nearly) all of Marvel’s best, worst and weirdest universe-blending crossover events of all time.
1. Archie/The Punisher
In a special 1994 crossover event, The Punisher hunts down Archie Andrews, mistakenly thinking he’s a criminal in need of some punishing. He then teams up with Archie to save Veronica Lodge from a kidnapping baddie. The bizarre, high-concept crossover was met with surprising acclaim, and was published by both Archie Comics and Marvel Comics (under the titles Archie Meets The Punisher and The Punisher Meets Archie respectively).
2. Attack on Titan/The Avengers
This one-shot crossover special, Attack on Avengers, sees the ravenous giants from Attack on Titan emerge from the sea off Manhattan, where Spider-Man and some of the other Avengers have to battle them back as they destroy the city. This crossover was published as part of Marvel’s Secret Wars #0 in June 2015, and was an effort to get manga fans more interested in Marvel shenanigans. The story doesn’t really have a resolution of any kind, but at least the Guardians of the Galaxy randomly show up in the last panel! (You can read the whole thing here, it’s crazy short.)
3. X-Men/Star Trek
While it might seem odd to think the modern day X-Men would ever run into the crew of the USS Enterprise and Captain Kirk (considering the whole “outer space” and “distant future” aspects of Star Trek), this is exactly what happened when the X-Men fell through a dimensional rift in the 1996 one-off Star Trek/X-Men. It apparently happened again with Star Trek: The Next Generation/X-Men, when the X-Men met Captain Picard. (There’s also the meta-movie crossover in which Patrick Stewart plays both Professor X and Picard, but that’s besides the point).
4. X-Men/Teen Titans
Considered to be one of the best Marvel/DC crossovers to date, the X-Men and the New Teen Titans crossed paths in 1982 when Darkseid broke the universe barrier in an attempt to resurrect and harness the power of Dark Phoenix. Then fighting happened, and somehow Robin was useful.
5. The Amalgam Universe
From 1996 to 1997, DC and Marvel came together to form a united comic imprint known as Amalgam Comics. The characters were all amalgams (hence the subtle name) of characters from both universes. So Batman and Wolverine were essentially combined to form the character Dark Claw (real name: Logan Wayne) — whose nemesis was Hyena, a cross between Joker and Sabretooth. There was also Super-Soldier, a cross between Superman and Captain America. He faced off against Green Skull, a combination of Lex Luthor and Red Skull. It was an ambitious, bizarre effort from both companies that deserves revisiting.
6. Guiding Light (For Some Reason)
For reasons that are as inexplicable now as they simply had to have been at the time, Marvel felt like it would be a good idea to do a crossover with the soap opera Guiding Light back in 2006. In the TV show, one of the series’ main characters, the incredibly named Harley Davidson-Cooper (Beth Ehlers) gained superpowers due to reasons. On Marvel Comics’ side, they created a one-off special issue featuring Harley and the Guiding Light universe. As it turns out, the audience for both comics and the soap opera had very little overlap. Comic fans didn’t care about it and soap opera fans actively hated the unrealistic storyline, and everyone involved really should have seen that coming.
7. Batman/Captain America
This 1996 Elseworlds one-shot sees Captain America and Bucky Barnes ordered away from the front lines of World War II to travel to Gotham, where they meet and eventually team up with Batman and Robin, and the four have to battle the nefarious plans of the sadistic pairing of Joker and Red Skull.
8. Transformers/New Avengers
This epic crossover between Marvel and IDW from 2007 involves a conflict between Doctor Doom’s Eastern European nation of Latveria and the neighboring nation of Symkaria. The Decepticons have stolen a device Doom invented that increases aggression, leading to an epic and vicious fight between the New Avengers and the Autobots. This crossover includes every ridiculous spectacle you could hope for including Iron Man, in special Transformers armor, fist-fighting Megatron.
Published in 2009, this truly baffling crossover sees Eminem’s crew pick a fight with The Punisher, who in turn kills a bunch of them and then goes hunting for Eminem himself. Along the way, they have to fight the villain Barracuda, whom Eminem ends up killing with a chainsaw. The weird one-shot was apparently released to help promote Eminem’s album Relapse.
10. Avengers/Late Night With David Letterman
In Avengers #239 — published in 1984, when the world was a weird place but in a different way than now — Wonder Man, Hawkeye, Beast, Black Panther and Black Widow get invited to be guests on Late Night With David Letterman. During their time on the show, a villain named the Mecho-Marauder, aka Fabian Stankowicz (the greatest of all comic relief character names) attacks and manages to incapacitate every member of the Avengers. However, he’s thwarted when Letterman bashes him in the head with a giant prop doorknob and this is a real thing that got published.
11. Spider-Man/Saturday Night Live
Years before David Letterman saved the Avengers from a man named Fabian Stankowicz, Peter Parker was bringing Mary Jane Watson to a taping of Saturday Night Live, only to have to defend the cast — made up of John Belushi, Dan Ayckroyd, Gilda Radner and all the other Not Ready for Prime Time Players — from the Silver Samurai. Published in 1978 as part of the Marvel Team-Up series, it’s truly a surreal experience watching a comic book version of Lorne Michaels and some of comedy’s greatest icons fighting alongside Spider-Man.
12. The Avengers/JLA
This massive four-part event, published between 2003 and 2004, revolves around Krona, a super powerful, universe-destroying villain who is challenged to a game of wits by The Grandmaster. The game involves forcing The Avengers to square off against the Justice League in a race/battle to discover magical items hidden around the universe. Eventually, The Avengers’ universe and the JLA’s universe are merged by a chaotic Krona, and everyone has to work together to defeat him. When they eventually do, everything in both universes is returned to normal, because obviously.
In Darkseid vs Galactus: The Hunger, released in 1995, Galactus, the planet devourer, decides that nightmarish Apokolips would be a tasty treat for his insatiable hunger. However, Darkseid has no intention of letting some giant jerk eat his world without a fight! It’s got great action, beautiful art, and a whole hell of a lot of talking, and however you think it ends, you’re probably wrong.
This 1976 crossover, ambitiously titled Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man: The Battle of the Century, is considered to be the first modern major crossover between Marvel and DC, and it certainly lived up to at least part of its title — in that it had both Superman and Spider-Man in it. The “Battle of the Century” aspect, however, may have been pushing things. After all, one of them is Superman. They do fight, however, and Spider-Man actually manages to get some hits in (because of a special gun that shot radiation and whatnot, you get how Superman comics work). Weird story short, they team up in New York to thwart Lex Luthor and Doc Octopus and then do that.
15. Robert Kirkman’s Invincible/Spider-Man
When Robert Kirkman was hired to revamp Marvel’s old Team-Up title, he managed to unite Spider-Man with his own character, Invincible, published by Image Comics. Essentially, Invincible (who’s alter ego is a surprisingly Peter Parker-like young man named Mark Grayson) gets thrown through a dimensional rift and ends up in New York while Spider-Man is battling Doctor Octopus. This fun encounter from 2006 blended two rarely united universes and proved how fun it can be for Marvel characters to be confronted by the inherent strangeness of their own universe.
16. Deadpool/Classics Illustrated
Not so much a crossover as a brilliant homage to the famous Classics Illustrated series, Deadpool: Killustrated revolves around the eponymous Merc with a Mouth figuring out that he is a fictional character, as well as everyone in his universe, and decides to wreck some classic literary figures. The wonderfully surreal series features Deadpool battling Moby Dick, Don Quixote and even matching wits, so the speak, with Sherlock Holmes.
There’s a lot of love and hate for this particular crossover, and for good reason. DC Special Series #27, “The Monster and the Madman” from 1981, sees The Hulk and Batman duke it out, and Batman wins because [insert contrived and convoluted reasons here]. The real problem are the baddies, with Batman’s nemesis Joker being paired with Hulk’s, uh, nemesis(?) the Shaper of Worlds? Apart from all that, the incredible art of José Luis García-López almost makes the whole thing worth it, so at least it’s great to look at.
18. Batman/Punisher (Twice)
Batman and The Punisher crossed paths twice, both in 1994, although Frank Castle and Bruce Wayne only met once. In the first crossover, Lake of Fire, The Punisher has an encounter with the Knightfall Batman (who is really Azrael, as Bruce Wayne recovered from his broken back). This was generally disregarded and unliked by fans. However, Deadly Knights sees OG Batman tangle with the Skull-costumed mafia-menacing vigilante, and despite a lackluster story, it was well-received (possibly because of how much everyone wanted to do-over after the first time around).
19. Green Lantern/Silver Surfer
In Green Lantern/Silver Surfer: Unholy Alliances, the two cosmic superheroes were — like in so many Marvel/DC crossovers that came before and after — awkwardly pitted against one another in a battle that eventually goes nowhere. Following that time-tested formula, they then sort of work together to defeat baddies from their individual universes (in this case, Terrax and Cyborg-Superman). This 1996 one-shot preceded the heroes’ second face-off in the grand DC vs. Marvel mini-series that would follow later the same year.
20. Batman/Daredevil (Also Twice)
So, keeping in line with the crossover formula (see: Superman vs Spider-Man, Green Lantern vs. Silver Surfer, Batman/Captain America, etc.) Batman and Daredevil spar, move past their grievances, and then team up to defeat their individual enemies. In the 1997 Elseworlds story, Daredevil/Batman: Eye for an Eye, they face off against Two-Face and Mr. Hyde. In 2002’s sequel, Batman/Daredevil: King of New York, they battle Kingpin and Ra’s al Ghul.
21. DC VS Marvel
In 1996, DC and Marvel didn’t so much team up as directly battle each other in a four-part miniseries cleverly titled DC vs. Marvel (for issues 1 and 4, and Marvel vs. DC for issues 2 and 3). The general story revolved around two deities (who each control one of the comic universes) challenging each other to duels using their universe’s heroes. The series included a total of 11 major duels, and fan votes determined the winners of five of them. Given it was the ’90s, this led to some questionable results, like when Storm famously defeated Wonder Woman (because X-Men fans were rabid in the ’90s) by hitting her with lighting repeatedly.
22. Superman/Silver Surfer
When two of the most powerful beings in the universe were forced to team up in Silver Surfer/Superman back in 1997, there were only two beings who could possibly stand up to their combined might and present any real challenge to their power: Impossible Man and Mister Mxyzptlk. Yeah, it wasn’t great, and the weirdly cartoonish fights left most fans disappointed. If Silver Surfer and Superman don’t seem like a logical pairing, it might be because they just aren’t?
While the 1995 one-shot Spider-Man and Batman: Disordered Minds sounds like it’s about the titular superheroes, the real stars of the show — the characters to which the “Disordered Minds” part of the title refers — are Carnage and The Joker, and their brief partnership. This, of course, crumbles into animosity and Carnage almost kills Batman until Joker saves the Caped Crusader (because he’d rather die and take everyone with him rather than let anyone else kill Batman besides him). Meanwhile, Spider-Man faces off against the Joker, which is strangely fascinating. The wildly different tones of Batman and Spider-Man’s personalities sometimes clash in weird ways, but this team-up is still a neat romp.
Check out Ep. 1 of the DoomBots Podcast to hear more about some of these truly wild crossovers!