In the 1970s Marvel and DC created a brilliant crossover book with Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man. This book was followed by a second Superman and Spider-Man book, The Uncanny X-Men and The NEW Teen Titans crossover and of course Batman vs. The Incredible Hulk.
Batman vs. Hulk is as cool as it is unlikely a book, but worth reading. It was released in 1981, after the two Supes/Spidey books and before the X-men/Titans book.
I have the reprints of those books with the gold borders published in the 1990s. When they were released I was super excited as I thought I would never get a chance to read them. Digital comics back then did not yet exist, and reprints of classic comics often were hard to come by, or not in print whatsoever.
There was not a whole lot back issues of nineteen seventies and eighties comics floating around in New Zealand with its then population of around 3 million (when I was a kid). Of all these books, Superman and Spider-Man was my very favourite crossover. Heck, it is STILL my single most favourite comic book I have ever read in my life out of thousands and thousands of stories. Eeach character is spot on, we get their classic look, banter and background in books that just sing with great sterotypical superhero nonsense stories, before comics decided to grow up and become cynical and boring, and be afraid to actually be comic books.
Superman vs The Amazing Spider-Man has gorgeous art, and one of the most iconic covers ever crated in comics history. The book features an improbable and silly story that can only work in comics, that while forgettable, is always a great read. Superman and Spider-Man met in two books two gorgeous comic books that are an absolute treasure to read, along with the Batman / Hulk story that is great fun. All four of these crossover books are a real treat which I encourage everyone to read.
Let’s move on to Batman vs. The incredible Hulk. The cover features a lovely dynamic action pose with Hulk and Bats about to clash in an epic battle. Batman is drawn in that classic lean and mean 70s athletic gymnast look in his stylish blue and gray costume. The Hulk is rocking his trademark no shirt/no shoes/no service combo and ripped purple pants that miraculously change size when Banner turns into Hulk without giving him at atomic wegdie.
The artwork is stunning throughout and José Luis García-López did an amazing job, I still love flicking through this book just to look at the art now and then. The story by Len Wein is decent. Nothing to scream and shout about, but it does the job, and gives us a mix of villains including the Joker and the Shaper of Worlds, who looks like one half of a giant action figure. That's him in the background in the picture below behind the Joker with Hulk and Batman leaping at each other. I don't know the character at all, but he first appeared in Incredible Hulk #155 (Sep 1972).
The art throughout is beautiful and really shows Batman, Hulk and the Joker at their best. Unlike the more cynical 1990s Marvel / DC Crossovers - that feature mostly just battles - Batman vs. The Incredible Hulk has a fun story to go along with the action, and features ample time given to both characters in their civilian identities. Each of the 70/80s Marvel/DC crossovers plays out more like a movie with a luxurious 64-page count that allows for your typical three-act plot structure.
Basically you get all the cool action, plot stuff, more action and more plot, with breathing room in between so it never feels rushed. These four books are some of my all time favourite comics. Every character gets treated right, with a decent artist and writer on each book, and these comics are not ashamed to actually BE comics, to be fun and awesome and not so bloody "self-aware" like the revisionist stories and post-modern stories that followed the 1970's classics over the ensuing decades.
One memorable scene is when the Incredible Hulk nearly broke Batman's back, a couple of decades before Bane ever arrived on the scene. I don't know about you, but Hulk is a million times cooler than that steroid reject Bane, I really wish Bane would just go away to be honest. At least kill him for a few years and have him hang around with Aunt May, Jason Todd and Bucky (when they are not busy being resurrected every five minutes).
Another awe-inspiring scene has Hulk pick up a car and throw it at Bats, Batman has no time to move (who would? Hulk is one fast and strong amigo!) and does a dive roll through the window of the car. Is it possible? Bloody unlikely, but it is pretty damn cool, and shows off Batman's amazing gymnastic skills, not to mention the jaw-droppingly gorgeous art by José Luis García-López.
Did I mention that Hulk also turned up in one of the Superman / Spiderman crossover books? Well over a decade before the horrendously bad DC vs Marvel crossover of the nineties (which sit on the same sad pile as these reprint books on my bookshelf above Daredevil/Batman and below the Punisher/Batman crossovers) the jade giant battled the Superman, while a slack jawed Spidey looked on in disbelief. The few explosive panels of these timeless titans were fare more entertaining than their rematch in the later DC vs Marvel mini-series.
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