Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Classics - Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man

We've been looking at Treasury Editions in our "Classic" reviews recently - the oversized comics Marvel and DC published back in the 1970s. Here's one more before we go back to "regular" comics.

Having cooperated on the publication of MGM's Marvelous Wizard of Oz, and noting that the world didn't end, Marvel and DC gave it another shot with their best-known heroes - so in 1976, we were stunned to see a 92-page publication called Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man.

The story is by Gerry Conway and (of necessity) it reads like a Silver Age Superman story. Lex Luthor embarks on a scheme that threatens the Earth and uses assorted scientific devices (especially giant robots) to thwart the omnipotent Man of Steel. The whole thing actually reads like an extended issue of Brave and the Bold (or perhaps I should say World's Finest or DC Presents) - Spider-Man almost feels like an afterthought, and he seems ineffectual next to a powerhouse like Superman.

Spidey does have his moments and puts up a surprisingly effective fight against Supes when they pull the traditional Marvel "heroes meet and fight because of a misunderstanding" bit.

I should add that Luthor teams up with Doctor Octopus, who also largely plays second banana. It's a problem of scale, of course - Spider-Man and Doc Ock are "street level" heroes, working best in settings that could exist in the real world, while Superman and Luthor operate (at least in 1976) in a science fiction playground.

Don't get me wrong, the story is fun, well plotted and makes sense - it's just a very odd mix of styles and characters.

The art is by Ross Andru and Dick Giordano (and I'd swear there are some panels by Neal Adams and John Romita in there). I should admit that I like Andru's art on many comics, but I never warmed to his version of Spider-Man. That hero needs to be limber and athletic, and Andru's version always struck me as being a bit stiff.

Still, Giordano's inks add power to the proceedings, and the tale has an appropriately epic feel to it.

The book was popular enough that it spawned a sequel, and several other crossovers between the two companies (including Batman and the Hulk, and the X-Men and the Teen Titans, to name two).

It was interesting as a stunt, but I have to admit that these stories usually left me cold - it was just too odd a mix to bring the characters together, and the stories were so staid and safe - presumably out of fear of offending one group of fans or the other.

Right now we seem to be in a "no crossovers" era, and that's fine - they should only do them when a creative team has a great idea (like the more recent Justice League / Avengers series). Otherwise it becomes - like this issue - an interesting stunt, and nothing more.

Grade: B-


No comments: