Saturday, November 12, 2011

DC vs. Marvel #3 - 1996

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Comics Weekend "Round Three" by Ron Marz, Dan Jurgens, Claudio Castellini, and more.

We end our look at the universe-shattering DC vs. Marvel mini-series this weekend with issues three and four. Sadly, after the Aquaman/Namor tussle in issue two, neither Sea King has much to do in the rest of the series.

This issue opens with Jubilee writing in her journal about all that has transpired, and she recaps the previous battles:
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"But Namor lost to Aquaman"
--I, for one, can't get enough of that sentence, its just really fun to read. In fact:
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Okay, anyway, more battles commence: Robin vs. Jubilee (the two characters who probably come off best in this series; they're interplay is pretty adorable), Green Lantern vs. Silver Surfer, Elektra vs. Catwoman (both women win, really, just by being able to balance those giant orbs on their teeny tiny ankles), Wolverine vs. Lobo, Wonder Woman vs. Storm (who beats Diana--I call shenanigans), Spider-Man vs. Superboy, Superman vs. Hulk, and Batman vs. Captain America, which essentially ends in a draw, or darn close.

There's some other mingling of the universes, like when Peter Parker screws up the courage to ask fellow reporter Lois Lane out on a date. But...
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This moment, as much as any, represents 90s superhero comics to me. More on that in a moment.

This issue ends with the two universes merging into one, forming...The Amalgam Universe!
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...to be concluded!


From an Aquaman perspective, there's not much--anything, really--to say about this issue. But, not that anyone asked, but I did want to share something about this issue that stuck in my mind all these years, long after the rest of the series faded from memory.

I grew up on comics in the 70s and 80s, superhero comics especially, but by the time I started working around the edges of that world (I helped design lots of merchandise for Marvel, 20th Century Fox, etc.), comics had entered is extreme! stage, where every character--no matter how innocuous--was now suddenly throwing punches through gritted teeth, and it seemed like every hero was now fitted with razor claws and their villains had names like MarrowCruncher or The Rape Master or some such.

The combo of that new tone with the fact that I was not only reading comics as a hobby, but working in and around them all day made me pull back a bit, and for the first time in my life I found myself no longer visiting comics shops regularly. And when I did, I was not all that jazzed about what I was reading--a lot of my purchases were simply out of habit, not from a genuine desire to read the books themselves.

But of course, as any good superhero fan, I was thrilled over DC and Marvel finally going out all out and throwing their universes together. I loved--and still do love--the treasury-sized Superman/Spider-Man and Batman/Hulk books, so having everyone together seemed like four-color manna from heaven.

So I remember visiting a local comics store, and I think I bought the first two issues of DC vs. Marvel, I can't really be sure. I was really put off by everyone looking (IMO at the time) so silly, and felt like both companies were missing a huge opportunity using the faddish versions of their characters in this once-in-a-lifetime event. So by issue three my enthusiasm was really dimmed, to the point where I looked through the book before buying it. I got to this part of the book:
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...and I wondered what characters I was reading about. Clark Kent, being physically imposing on Peter Parker, on anyone? Clark Kent? Since when does Clark Kent have the ability--or the interest--to make anyone scared of him?

I don't mean to be nasty or overly critical of the writers and artists who worked on these books, and this sequence in particular--this was the style at the time, so it probably didn't seem unusual or misguided. But I think superhero comics lost something vital when all the characters started looking and acting like bullies and supermodels--and these three panels are, to me, the ne plus ultra of that whole time. It took a long time for superhero comics to pull back from that, and in some ways (again, IMO) they never completely did. So its been weird revisiting that era again with these recaps of DC vs. Marvel.

Sorry for the rant--issue four coming shortly!

7 comments:

kevin G. said...

while they were the "fadish" versions of the characters...they were the current versions from their monthly titles. So Spidey was sporting the post-Clone Saga costume, Aquaman was harpooning it, Clark had long hair (and if Peter Parker is hitting on Lois I think Clark would step up)...flash forward to 2003 (I think that's the year) and the JLA/Avengers crossover uses the current look of the heroes from their monthlies as well as the ultimate (not the comic universe) idea of using every incarnation of the super heroes and their various looks...like Aquaman who at the start of the JLA/Avengers was in the final years of his harpoon look but his orange-suit and water hand were making their first appearances (post-the finish pages of JLA/Avengers #1 and #2) so by the end of that mini-series we got to see his "new" look. for someone like myself who started reading regularly in the early 90s, the look of each hero was what I knew and current, the rest was the past. so DC vs. Marvel is a product of it's time. I was stoked to see DC heroes and Marvel heroes together. I open up my issues to this mini-series and it just screams mid-90s...yes it's a product of its time and to a regular reader it's not a fad but a moment in time. :)

Diabolu Frank said...

Thor wearing a tube top is not a moment in time, but a human tragedy. Thank God Cap wasn't running around in armor, at least. I actually liked the Ben Reilly Spider-Man costume, though. It certainly served Spider-Girl well.

Say Rob, have you run any of the DC vs. Marvel or Amalgam trading cards yet? I've got sets of both, and there's surely some Aquaman in there. I seem to recall pieces by Glen Orbick and Jim Calafiore...

Anthony said...

I was a reader of the Superman titles at the time this crossover came out. But yeah, this is how Clark was drawn in the 90s/2000s---looking muscular/burly looking like his alter-ego/most super-types nowadays. Big difference from the Silver/Bronze Age, where Superman was muscular, but not Schwarzenegger-esque, and Clark really did look "mild mannered"...

Caffeinated Joe said...

I agree with you on how that just doesn't fit with Superman, at least the Superman we knew.

I also have to say... Did the artist never, ever deal with a woman and her engagement ring? Wrong hand, buddy.

kevin G. said...

nope the Thor costume was what he was wearing in his title around this time. wasn't pretty but it was happening in that moment of time. he'd didn't just have that costume for this x-over. the mini-series is a product of the times.

Diabolu Frank said...

I know sir. I read those Ellis/Messner-Loebs issues. I just tend to think of Thor's exposed glory trail, boxer's headgear, and luscious blond locks as some sort of collective repressed homoerotic fanboy nightmare given form by Mike Deodato Jr.'s ghost artists on a Journey into Mystery at the YMCA. There's a codpiece, sir!

On the bright side, I decided that it would be too seemingly phobic and in poor taste to reference little Billy and the Norse hammer of NAMBLAJOR. I'm classy like that.

The Green Aaron said...

Of course, you all know how Aquaman defeated Namor, right?:

http://aquamanrules.blogspot.com/2010/04/aquaman-vs-sub-mariner.html