46 years ago, Marvel and DC teamed up for their most disappointing crossover

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It was, according to its own cover texts, not only “The Greatest Superhero Team Ever”, but also “The Battle of the Century”.

Even in 1976, comic book fans knew better than to believe the hyperbole regularly offered, but this time it seemed deserved. After all, even the very idea of ​​DC and Marvel joining forces to produce Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man was the stuff of fan fiction.

At 96 pages, it was four times the length of a regular monthly comic, but sold for eight times the price at a shocking price for the time of $2.00. The oversized comic proudly wears its dreamlike status with a splash page featuring the two heroes staring at each other. The words “FINALLY!” and “THIS IS IT!” highlight how excited fans were supposed to be about the first official meeting between the DC and Marvel characters. An introduction by Stan Lee began bluntly: “We were told it couldn’t be done. They said it would be impossible.

DC chose the writer, while Marvel chose the artist.Marvel/DC

It’s exaggerated, but Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man was the result of two years of painstaking negotiations and effort between Marvel and DC that began, unexpectedly, with someone completely foreign to either company. Instead, the man to thank for this comic book milestone was literary agent David Obst, best known at the time as the negotiator behind Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s film version. All the President’s Men.

In 1974, Obst had the opportunity to have lunch with Stan Lee. He asked why the Marvel and DC Universes had never crossed paths in over a decade of coexistence. After all, DC’s first super-team had visited alternate realities on a yearly basis since 1963. Justice League of America #21. Lee, being his usual affable, even if he doesn’t commit, said he’d love to do it, but he knew DC would never be interested… only to swallow his words with Obst managed to get the counterpart de Lee at DC, publisher Carmine Infantino, to validate the idea. (Both Lee and Infantino receive first credit for the completed story, which is officially “presented by” the two.)

As part of the agreement between the two companies, DC handled the majority of the practical work related to the book – lettering, coloring and a rarely mentioned “production by” credit for employee Sol Harrison – and also choose the writer. Meanwhile, Marvel would select the artist. Demonstrating the complicated cooperative spirit that drives the project, Infantino told Marvel he knows the perfect man to script the story: Gerry Conway.

“Carmine was a guy who had that kind of tendency to wear grudges and liked to poke people in the eye.

On the one hand, it was a sensible idea. Conway, a writer and editor at DC who was working on Superman at the time, wrote The Amazing Spider-Man for years (he was actually the flagship title’s first regular writer outside of Stan Lee) and clearly mastered both superheroes.

On the other hand, Conway had, at the time, recently left Marvel on bad terms, making the suggestion more than a little awkward. It was no accident. As Conway explains in a 2012 interview old number #61: “Carmine was a guy who had that kind of a tendency to hold grudges and liked to poke people in the eye. He was really proud of the fact that I left Marvel and came to DC, where I was writing things like Superman stories.

Fans would be forgiven for expecting “A Duel of Titans.”Marvel/DC

Marvel was apparently more generous in its selection of artists, highlighting Ross Andru, a fan-favorite artist with experience in both the Superman and Spider-Man comics – and a history of collaborating with Conway on the latter. In reality, Andru ended up being fair a artist on the project, with both Marvel art director John Romita Sr. and DC veteran Neal Adams redesigned his work to ensure both companies were happy with how their flagship heroes were portrayed.

With so much behind-the-scenes effort, fans would be forgiven for expecting “A Duel of Titans,” as the story was officially titled, to be something truly special. Unfortunately, that’s just… fine. Conway and Andru are both professional enough to make for a fun enough read, but they’re both somehow limited by contractual obligations – Marvel and DC expected their heroes to appear in exactly the same number of panels in the number — and disinterested in delivering what fans really wanted.

A glaring problem? There’s no explanation for how the heroes crossed universes to team up. Instead, the story assumes that they already co-exist on the same planet. Likewise, the factual fight between the two characters takes less than 10 pages before Superman finds meaning and attempts to calm a passionate and bewildered Spider-Man. (“This fight will not bring us everywhere. are you going Listen for me?”) What has literally been described as a “battle of the century” takes up less than a quarter of the final comic, with more time devoted to the two prologues introducing the heroes and villains fans already knew.

Despite the disappointment of the actual story, Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man was a huge success.Marvel/DC

Despite the disappointment of the actual story, Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man was a huge success and remains an important part of comic book history to this day. This may not have been the first DC/Marvel co-production – it was actually an MGM adaptation The Wizard of Oz film a year earlier, although it happened after work on this special had begun – but it was nonetheless proof to a generation of fans that, given the right circumstances, and if enough people want it to happen, nothing was possible.

After all, if Marvel and DC managed to put aside their differences long enough to work together, who knows what might be achieved?

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