Review by Jamie McNeil
Its something children might wonder about. Who would win in a fight? Superman or Hulk? Batman or Captain America? And because kids grow older but don’t necessarily change, the ‘kids’ at both DC and Marvel Comics decided that it was about time they tried to answer those questions. The result was DC Versus Marvel Comics, or, if you go by the spine Marvel Comics Versus DC Comics.
This is about more than just super-powered brawls to determine supremacy. It’s a look at changing times and changing people as realities start to merge and dissipate in the wake of two battling cosmic entities who created the respective universes. As the Spectre and Living Tribunal try to keep the entities at bay, heroes and anti-heroes are pitted against each other to determine which Universe is best. It’s an interesting concept: In times of change do we accept our fate or try to alter it? If we are all unique, is one really better than the other? Then Executive Editors at Marvel and DC, Mark Gruenwald and Mike Carlin, wanted this project to respect the fans of characters from both companies, but there was that very tricky question of “Who gets to beat who?” resulting in five of these bouts being decided by public ballot.
Ron Marz and Peter David wrote a story that held together well, but is redolent of its times, epic in scope and hero monologues, where even Batman is uncharacteristically chatty. As characters are pulled from their comfort zones into an amalgamated universe, there is a real world reflection of the mid-nineties, awash with speculation and paranoia about what might happen to civilisation when the counters all reset to zero.
The artwork is also a product of its times, with its angular shapes, garish colours and grungy fashion sense. Amazing attention is given to the small details of clothing, accessories and hairstyles that also reflect the period. It’s difficult to isolate one if the many artists above another here. This was Claudio Castellini’s first gig in the States, while other pencil artists Dan Jurgens, José Luis García-López and Kevin Nowlan all delivered good solid work. The amalgam universe itself is imaginations run riot and having fun. In the end two editions of this were released: One where DC triumphed and another where Marvel reigned supreme. Everybody wins. Well, not everyone, but that’s for the reader to find out.
DC Versus Marvel Comics is not an amazing piece of work beyond compare, nor is it awful. It’s fun, produced for the fans by the biggest fans of all: the writers and artists. It’s neither genre-defining or ground-breaking (see Crossover Classics) by any means, but it is history.
It encapsulates the era of the mid-nineties, and its attitudes and style. It’s the best of DC and Marvel at that time in one place. It charts the rising popularity of the anti-hero, the emotions people felt as the 20th Century drew to a close. It captures the passing of the modern age of science into the post-modern age as science and spirituality struggled to find their place side-by-side. Its all here, a snapshot of two comics giants and the Western World at the peak of a decade, at the end of a century, with all its hopes of finding true love and fulfilling destinies.