A four-issue comic book miniseries, published jointly by DC and Marvel Comics in 1996. It was written by Ron Marz and Peter David, pencilled by Dan Jurgens and Claudio Castellini, and inked by Josef Rubinstein and Paul Neary. It happened during a period when Marvel and DC were being uncommonly cooperative and putting out a lot of crossovers between their top characters. So the managing editors of both companies -- Mike Carlin at DC and Mark Gruenwald at Marvel -- started pushing the ultimate Marvel/DC crossover: "Marvel vs. DC" (or on the weeks when DC published it, "DC vs. Marvel"), in which the biggest characters from both companies would duke it out to see which was the better company. Lame? Yes, totally, and their other gimmick made it even cheesier -- readers would get to vote on the winners of some of the battles.

One of the more interesting things they did for this series was create a character who was co-owned by both Marvel and DC. Access was a normal guy named Axel Asher until he unexpectedly learned that he had inherited a position as one of the guardians who made sure that the Marvel and DC Universes didn't crossover unexpectedly, 'cause it'd really screw up the space-time continuum. Lame? Yeah, pretty much. Access didn't have much in the superpowers area -- he could teleport himself or anyone else anywhere he wanted, and he could move between the two universes at will. Nevertheless, a good portion of the series revolved around Access as he discovered his powers and helped put an end to the crisis.

The plot of the series was decidedly odd: two cosmic brothers who embodied both of the comic book universes finally become aware of the other's existence and decide that they hate each other. After switching characters back and forth between universes for a while, the brothers decide they'll make some of the superpowered residents of their universes fight each other -- and the universe that loses the most battles will cease to exist.

The characters who got paired off against each other were:

 

 


In the quickest battles, Elektra stomped Catwoman, the Silver Surfer busted Green Lantern (in a battle that consisted of one bright flash of light -- LAME!), the Flash ran rings around Quicksilver, and Robin beat Jubilee (apparently, those two were paired up because they both had red and yellow costumes -- LAME!). Somewhat better fights were between Aquaman and the Sub-Mariner (Namor might be superstrong, but Aquaman can talk to sea animals, so he had a killer whale kick the Sub-Mariner's ass for him) and between Thor and Captain Marvel -- Thor wins after he's able to use his mystic hammer Mjolnir to short-circuit Cap's magic lightning, but he loses the hammer in the process. When Wonder Woman finds it and picks it up (Mjolnir can only be picked up if the wielder is "worthy", which makes Wondy one of the few people outside the Marvel Universe to ever pick it up), it makes her a lot more powerful, with powers that fuse Thor's and her own (a bit of subtle foreshadowing of what was coming at the end of Issue #3, maybe).

All the other battles were the ones that the readers got to vote on, and they were all generally disappointing. Wonder Woman threw Mjolnir away, because fighting Storm when she had all that extra power just wouldn't be fair (LAME!), then Storm zapped her with lightning bolts 'til Wondy went to sleep. Why? 'Cause Storm was more popular! Superman and the Hulk pounded on each other for a couple of pages 'til Hulky went to sleep. Why? 'Cause Supes was more popular! Batman knocked out Captain America with a lucky shot with a Batarang. Why? 'Cause Batman's more popular! Spider-Man beat Superboy -- which really says bad things about Superboy's popularity, 'cause at the time, Spider-Man was the infamous and much-despised Spider-Clone.

And in the lamest fight of them all, Wolverine beat Lobo. Lobo is a big alien biker thug who could go toe-to-toe with Superman, who'd killed everyone on his home planet, who could completely regenerate himself from a single drop of blood, who was serious bad news. Wolverine was a scrappy mutant with a little extra strength, a healing factor, a bad attitude, and claws -- hell, at the time, he didn't even have his indestructible adamantium claws. Wolverine should've been a stain on the floor after one punch from the Main Man. But Wolvie and Lobo rassle a little in this interstellar saloon, then they disappear behind the bar, then Wolverine reappears, smokes a cigar, and looks very satisfied with himself. Gee, I guess Wolverine beat Lobo with sex or something. That's what happens when you let readers vote on your plots -- they always suck.

Then, at the end of the third issue, the creators pulled off their biggest coup: the two universes were combined into one. (How? Can't say it was ever made clear -- in the third issue, the cosmic brothers did it; in the fourth, they didn't do it) All the characters were fused together: Batman and Wolverine were turned into Dark Claw, a millionaire playboy with metal claws; Superman and Captain America were combined into Super Soldier, World War II's greatest hero, revived in the present day and working as a mild-mannered reporter; the Joker and Sabretooth became the Hyena, a musclebound feral freak with green hair and a nasty giggle. Marvel and DC published a week's worth of "Amalgam Comics", then resolved the whole thing and got everything back to normal in the last issue of the miniseries.

Basically, this whole series was, aside from the inventive and fun Amalgam Comics issues, very disappointing. Besides the overwhelming lameness of many of the battles and the thundering illogic of the plot (the flip-flop on what caused the two universes to merge is absolutely inexcusable), there were so, so many missed opportunities -- team-ups that could have been really cool, but were only briefly pictured or wasted entirely. Iron Man and the Fantastic Four barely show up at all. Battles that could have been great -- Batman vs. Venom, Captain Marvel vs. Dr. Doom, Superman vs. Annihilus -- are given only one panel. Some of the neatest superhero team-ups -- Supergirl and the She-Hulk spring immediately to mind -- are just barely mentioned, and the only supervillains who team up are the Marvel and DC versions of the Scarecrow. Spider-Man meets the Joker, and they just talk. Everyone say it with me: LAME!

They still do Marvel and DC crossovers from time to time, and they're often not bad, mostly because they focus on only a few characters at a time. That's probably the formula for success right there.