Superman Vs. Spider-Man
Cover Price: $2.00
Value: $110 (Near
"The Battle Of The Century!" - 96 Pages (as detailed below)
"Big events" now are commonplace in the
world of comics. Now, barely a month goes by without another "earth-shattering
event" from Marvel or Dc. But today's crossovers can't compare to the excitement
created in 1976, when the unthinkable happened: Marvel's friendly neighborhood
Spider-Man met the Man of Steel himself, Superman!
It's probably fair to say that without Superman, there wouldn't even be a Spider-Man. Superman was the first comic book superhero and, in the minds of many, is still the greatest. Spider-Man, of course, is the flagship character of Marvel Comics and by the mid-'70s, Marvel actually had surpassed Superman's DC as the #1 comic book publisher. The two companies had been fierce competitors since Marvel entered the superhero game in the early 1960s. But the two companies collaborated on an adaptation of The Wizard of Oz in 1975. That project put DC's Carmine Infantino together with Marvel's Stan Lee and the two began working out plans for an even bigger crossover - Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man.
The creative teams were chosen carefully, of course. The creative team of Gerry Conway and Ross Andru, which had finished arguably the best Amazing Spider-Man run in history just a year or so earlier, was tapped to tell the story. Conway was one of the few writer at the time who had written both Superman and Spider-Man, so he was perfect for the job. Joining them was Dick Giordano, a DC Comics executive and perhaps the best inker in the business at the time. And although he wasn't officially credited, legendary DC artist Neal Adams assisted Andru with some of the pencils.
The result was "The Battle of the Century!" Quite honestly, this project was going to be a big seller, no matter how good it was, simply because of the historic significance of the Spider-Man/Superman team-up. But Conway, Andru and Giordano didn't settle for mediocrity. Instead, they produced a thoroughly entertaining story that holds up just fine as a comic book, regardless of its historic importance.
Prologue 1: The story opens with a beautiful double-page spread of Superman battling Lex Luthor, who is piloting a giant robot wreaking havoc on Metropolis. This was back in Luthor's "purple jacket" phase where he was a super-criminal and mad scientist, rather than his modern incarnation as a global power broker. The robot steals a small computer module from S.T.A.R. Labs and more than holds its own in a fight with Superman. Luthor then escapes with the computer module.
Superman tracks Luthor down at his underwater lair. "We were friends once, Luthor, long ago. For a time, I hoped we could be friends again -- perhaps we will be someday. But in the meantime, we are enemies, because you chose lawlessness and I chose law!" he tells the villain. He captures Luthor, but Lex is still able to hide away the computer module, which he plans to retrieve as soon as he can get out of jail.
Prologue 2: Spider-Man is out looking for news photos and finds them in the form of a break-in at New York City's Metropolitan Museum. "Mr. Parker, it must be your lucky day!" he thinks. However, he may not think he's so lucky when he learns that his old nemesis Dr. Octopus is behind the break-in. This time, Dr. Octopus has brought his own transportation, the Flying Octopus! "Yeeech! And I thought the Spider-Mobile was a disaster!" Spider-Man jokes. Doc Ock gets away momentarily, but a well-placed spider-tracer leads Spidey back to the villain (although he has to blow off a date with Mary Jane Watson to pursue Dr. Octopus.) The Flying Octopus has been hidden inside of a blimp, but Spider-Man is able to get inside and punch out a surprised Doc Ock, who is now off to jail. Thinking his work is done, Peter Parker heads over to a worldwide conference for journalists being held in New York.
Prologue 3: Lex Luthor and Doctor Octopus are sent to the same maximum security prison. One thing I like about this book is that there are no convoluted explanations as to why Spider-Man and Superman are just now teaming up. No separate worlds, no alternate realities. Just "Hey, we haven't seen each other before." In the prison, Luthor proposes a partnership, which Doctor Octopus accepts," 'My enemy for yours'? Why not, Luthor? As long as we are playing make-believe, why not wish for the world?" But Luthor has smuggled some weapons into his cell, which he uses to subdue the guards. Doctor Octopus regains his tentacles and the two baddies are on the loose again!
Chapter 1 -- A Duel of Titans: Peter Parker and Clark Kent arrive at the conference at the same time. Accompanying them are some familiar faces: Mary Jane, J. Jonah Jameson, Joe Robertson, Betty Brant and Ned Leeds with Peter; Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Morgan Edge with Clark. Peter gets into an argument with Jonah and storms off, after the gruff publisher tells him, "You're not hard-working, not diligent--and there are times, Peter old boy, when I'm not sure you're even a photographer!" On the other hand, Clark's cutthroat boss Morgan Edge tells him that he is being temporarily demoted from his job as a TV news anchor. mild-mannered Clark Kent just smiles and takes it, which doesn't sit well with Lois. "Sometimes you make me so mad I could scream!" she says.
Lois bumps into Peter, and it turns out the two of them have heard of each other in news circles. Each is complimentary of the other's work. Mary Jane doesn't exactly hit it off with Lois, saying "I guess you're not the liberated type, eh 'Miss Lane'?" To which Lois responds, "Pull in the claws, MJ." That's a fun little exchange there. Just then, Superman flies into the scene and, without saying a word, hits Lois and Mary Jane with a teleportation beam! Now, Superman can't do that -- and Clark Kent is as stunned as anyone. Peter runs off to change into costume. "All my life, I've heard of that super-guy and now when I meet him..." Spider-Man says.
Chapter 2 -- When Heroes Clash!: Finally! Spider-Man and Superman face-to-face! "You better have an explanation for what you've done or, my friend, take my word, you're going to be sorry!" Superman says. "You've got that backwards, fella. You're the man who's got some explaining to do," Spider-Man replies. Neither hero knows that they've been set up by Lex Luthor and Doctor Octopus, who were behind the phony Superman and the kidnappings of Mary Jane and Lois. They also bathe Spider-Man with some red solar radiation, just to help him in the fight with Superman. Spidey gets the first lick in, rocking Superman with a radiation-aided blow. "I've got a newsflash for you, Supes! You're not half so tough as you think you are"! Spider-Man says. He even goes as far as to call the Man of Steel "overrated"!
Uh, I wouldn't be so sure of that Spidey! Because just then, the red solar radiation wears off. Spider-Man peppers Superman with a barrage of punches -- which have about as much effect as tickling him with a feather. "Oboy! I broke my hands!" Spider-Man says, helplessly shaking his aching mitts. They two heroes agree to talk, not fight, and quickly realize they've been duped. "The question is: Do we let the 'dupers,' whoever they are, get away with what they've done? Or do we join forces and fight them?" Superman asks. "For that you need an answer?" Spider-Man says, and the two heroes seal the deal with a handshake.
Chapter 3 -- The Call of Battle!: With that, Spider-Man and Superman track down Doctor Octopus and Lex Luthor, who have left a message for the heroes. They reveal that Lois and Mary Jane are unharmed, but are being held captive. Now, this story was written during the seventies, before John Byrne's reboot of Superman, and back then, Superman pretty much had unlimited powers. So he reconstructs Lex Luthor's computer and find out that the bad guys are holed up in a base in Africa's Mount Kilimanjaro. They get there, just in time to learn that Doc Ock and Luthor have fled to a satellite orbiting the earth. "Your pal Luthor goes in for gizmos in a big way, Supes! You ask me, he's seen too many James Bond movies!" Spider-Man quips.
Chapter 4 -- The Doomsday Decision: Luthor reveals his master plan. Using the computer module he stole, Luthor plans to use a Comlab satellite to throw the Earth's weather patterns completely out of whack. Hurricane after hurricane will batter the globe. Unless Luthor's ransom demand of $10 billion is met, of course.
To make things worse, Superman and Spider-Man are captured by Luthor and Doctor Octopus as they attempt to stop Comlab. And in the zero gravity environment of the satellite, they aren't having much luck. "Web-Slinger, this just isn't working out! We've got to act as a team!" Superman says. Superman goes to stop Comlab, while Spider-Man tries to reason with Doc Ock. "He's gonna destroy the Earth! Where're you going to spend your loot then, friend?" Spidey asks. Doctor Octopus realizes that he's sided with a madman and shuts down the Comlab satellite before it can further disrupt the weather. However, a 200-foot tidal wave is still headed for the East Coast and only Superman can stop it! Pushing himself to the limits, he does stop the wave, just as Spider-Man punches Luthor's lights out. Spider-Man and Superman, who began this story as foes, end it as friends. "After all," Spider-Man says, "It isn't every day two living legends go around making history."
Finally, we get a one-page epilogue, where Clark Kent informs Morgan Edge that he's got the scoop on the recent events, while Peter Parker has photos for J. Jonah Jameson. So both our heroes go home happy.
Wow; what a fun, 96-page thrill ride! Seeing arguably the world's greatest superheroes team up is simply fantastic, and the story itself works just fine. I'd like to see these two team up now that Superman has been somewhat "de-powered." It might be a more equitable team-up today. But given the limitations involved, it really couldn't have worked out better. If you don't want to fork out the money for an original Treasury-sized copy, you can find this story in the Crossover Classics: The Marvel/DC Collection graphic novel.
As an aside, this is my 100th back issue review for Spider-Man.Info. I've enjoyed every one of them -- and I look forward to continuing this journey into Spider-Man's past.
Reviewed by Bruce Buchanan.
"The Battle Of The Century" (Splash) - 1 Page
Prologue 1: "Superman" - 15 Pages
Now A Pause For Hero Identification: "Superman" - 1 Page
Prologue 2: "The Amazing Spider-Man" - 15 Pages
Now A Pause For Hero Identification: "Spider-Man" - 1 Page
Prologue 3: "Lex Luthor And Doctor Octopus" - 5 Pages
And Leave Us Not Forget Our Villainous Villains: - 1 Page
Chapter 1: "A Duel Of Titans" - 10 Pages
Chapter 2: "When Heroes Clash!" - 14 Pages
Chapter 3: "The Call Of Battle!" - 12 Pages
Chapter 4: "The Doomsday Decision" - 20 Pages
Epilogue: - 1 Page
Note: There is also a 2nd printing or 5,000 numbered copies which were signed by Stan Lee & Carmine Infantino, and were originally sold through the mail. These copies have a NM- valued of $220.
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