Nowadays, DC and Marvel have decided to fight like Red Sox and Yankees. However, when the rivalry was a bit more friendly, their characters would become involved in non-continuity crossovers. The first featured their flagship characters in Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man. More would follow and not just with DC and Marvel. However, they are the ones most thought of.
Intercompany crossovers are usually simple stories. Super hero D meets super hero M. They usually end up fighting each other before teaming up against their respective super villains. However, Spider-Man & Batman added something to the mix that wasn’t in any of the other crossovers in my collection, as it actually took the opportunity to compare both the heroes and their respective villains in the story, Carnage and the Joker.
Marvel Comics with DC Comics (September 1995)
WRITER: J.M. DeMatteis
PENCILER: Mark Bagley
INKERS: Scott Hanna & Mark Farmer
LETTERING/BOOK DESIGN: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
COLORS/SEPARATIONS: Electric Crayon
COVER COLOR: Steve Buccellat
ASSISTANT EDITOR: Mark Bernardo
CONSULTING EDITORS: Dennis O’Neil, Scott Peterson, Jordan B. Gorfinkel, & Darren Vincenzo
EDITORS: Eric Fein & Danny Fingeroth
EDITOR IN CHIEF: Bob Budiansky
OK, I’m done with the credits.
Overview: Behavioral Psychologist Cassandra Briar has developed a chip that, when placed into a madman, can make the subject docile (although Dr. Kafka says it’s more like turning them into “mindless drones”), and plans to test them in the worst homicidal maniacs she can find: Cletus Kasady and the Joker. Kasady was already a serial killer before bonding with a piece of the symbiote that forms Venom, and took the name Carnage. Briar is convinced that with the chip implanted, Kasady and the Joker may actually become worthwhile citizens.
Separately, Spider-Man and the Batman aren’t too convinced. Their fears turn out to be right when the symbiote is able to destroy the chips, thus freeing the two. At first, Batman doesn’t want to work with Spider-Man (this was during the time DC started thinking Batman didn’t need anyone, even Robin and Batgirl), and wants him out of Gotham. However, the Dark Knight soon realizes that the web-swinger’s knowledge could be helpful in locating Carnage. Teamed together, both heroes take down the villains (who aren’t getting along due to the different ways they see the act of killing) and maybe strike a blow to some of their inner demons.
Analysis: Sounds like just another crossover, doesn’t it? But what sets this comic apart are the details. J.M. DeMatteis added more to the story. It starts out with both Peter and Bruce having nightmares about the nights that made them. Not the radioactive spider-bite, but the night someone close to them died. Peter’s parents died when he was too young to remember them, living with his aunt and uncle, but his uncle died in part because Spider-Man was unwilling to stop the bad guy who later killed him. He wasn’t there at the time, and at around15 he was old enough to accept Uncle Ben’s death, even if he can’t accept that he could have stopped him. Counter that with Bruce Wayne, the around 8-year-old boy who would become Batman. His parents were murdered right in front of him, and there was nothing he could do at that time. Peter already had his spider powers and skills, but Bruce had to work hard, train and study (Peter was already a scientific wunderkind when he became Spider-Man) to become the Dark Knight Detective.
In Peter’s dream, he is thinking about he is concerned that his world could spin into chaos without the love of Aunt May and his wife, Mary Jane blast you, Quesada! On the other hand, all Bruce had was Alfred, who tried his best but couldn’t get through the dark wall Bruce has set up for himself. He also sees death stalking him. Interestingly, “chaos” is represented by the robber in the Parker home taking on a form similar to the Joker, while “death” has the Waynes’ murderer taking the shape of Carnage.
We also see the differences in the Joker and Carnage. While Carnage is all about the killing itself, feeling the life ooze out of his victims (probably enhanced by the symbiote’s own feeding habits as much as Kasady’s own desire to kill), the Joker is more about the act, seeking his twisted form of artistic flair as being more important that the sights and sounds of death. Both believe in killing and chaos, but it’s their difference in styles (the Joker wants to use a slow, torturous virus that drives it’s victims insane while Carnage simply wants to carve people up) that eventually turns them against each other just as the heroes start to come together.
In the final fight, Spider-Man and Batman end up fighting each others foes. It acts as a bit of catharsis (if you follow the internal monologue) for the heroes, as Peter confronts chaos/Joker while Batman takes on death/Carnage. When the Joker threatens to release his virus, Kasady starts to freak out at the thought of his own death, and even the symbiote starts to lose control. Batman sees that deep down, Kasady is more like a scarred little boy, much like Bruce Wayne himself deep down, only without the benefit of Alfred to keep him from going over that edge. (I would add the rest of the Batman family, who counter to DC’s thinking at that time to today–not counting post Final Crisis where he’s stuck wherever he is right now, help keep him from falling over.) Spidey confronts the Joker and finds that he won’t be sucked into that same level of chaos, because he made a promise that he intends to keep.
You’ll have to judge for yourself just how deep the story is, but I strongly encourage you to find this comic. It’s a fantastic book. There is even a reference to it during the big DC vs. Marvel/Marvel vs. DC event. During the interdimensional chaos in the first issue, Spider-Man meets up with the Joker, and the “Hateful Harlequin” recognizes the Wall-Crawler, making a comment on his new outfit. (However, this wasn’t Peter Parker, but Ben Reilly, as the event took place during the infamous “Clone Saga” event, who never met the Joker and had no clue what he was talking about.)
Just be sure to read this prior to reading 1997’s “sequel”, Batman and Spider-Man, a typical crossover where the team goes up against the Kingpin and Ra’s al Ghul. It’s rather forgettable, but not that bad. Interestingly, it had the same writer, but no look into the characters that this comic had as I recall.
Best Scene in the Story