A Look Back At Superman and Spider-Man

I miss the old times when big rivals Marvel and DC Comics would set aside competition temporarily to team up and rely on their respective comic creators to make superhero crossover comic books that the fans can enjoy.

Back in the 1970s, key developments related to the comic book adaptation of The Wizard of Oz brought the two rivals together as partners. In 1976, Marvel and DC’s first superhero crossover Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man got published and to this day many comic book collectors and geeks I encountered still enjoy it. A few of them even called it a classic.

The collaboration between Marvel and DC continued in 1981 with Superman and Spider-Man which was published as issue number 28 of the Marvel Treasury Edition series.

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The cover.

This is my look back at Superman and Spider-Man.

The comic book

Scripted by then Marvel Comic editor-in-chief Jim Shooter (with Marv Wolfman mentioned for plot suggestions) with art drawn by John Buscema and inkwork done by Terry Austin, Al Milgrom, Steva Leialoha, Walt Simonson, Bob Layton, Joe Rubinstein and Bob Wiacek, the comic book begins when Spider-Man swings into a construction site where he encounters several armed men and stops them singlehandedly.

Even though he stopped the bad guys, Spider-Man’s spider sense bothers him making him speculate that, because there’s no clear danger around him, the construction site seemed to be a threat.

After Spider-Man swings away from the police who just arrived, classic Marvel supervillain Doctor Doom watches via surveillance video and he was bother by the way things turned out.

“I did not like the way Spider-Man paused and look around after subduing the thieves – – as if he sensed something unusual about the excavation! Those accursed spider instincts of his,” Doom said before proceeding with his master plan.

A day later, the Hulk arrives in Metropolis causing lots of damage. Separately Superman and Spider-Man arrive to contain the green guy. However, things are not what they seem. This is where the story description ends.

Quality

What this comic book lacked compared to the 1976 Superman-Spider-Man crossover is visual impact. Clearly John Buscema had to follow closely the script which called for multiple panels per page and that left him little room to draw scenes dynamically. That’s not to see the art is weak. In fact, Buscema’s art is pretty good and he has deep knowledge about how the characters (including those many supporting characters and other minor characters from both Marvel and DC Comics) really looked from the size of Hulk’s body, the details on Wonder Woman’s costume, the distinctive look of J. Jonah Jameson, Perry White, etc. In short, I recognized the characters very easily.

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This remains fun to read.
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Peter Parker in Metropolis along with the Superman supporting characters. This is one great element that made this comic book worth reading.

While the high number of panels per page limited him, Buscema managed to come up with some action shots that packed some impact.

When it comes to writing and storytelling, this comic book exceeds that of the 1976 Superman-Spider-Man crossover big time! To start with, the plot is much more elaborate, more detailed and yet consistently remained easy to follow.

While the 1976 crossover had the most popular villains of Superman and Spider-Man as the representation of evil, this one instead had Dr. Doom and Parasite. The great news is that these two super villains complement each other nicely and that itself adds good depth into the plot. Dr. Doom is a major schemer and Parasite fitted nicely within his master plan for global chaos.

Regarding dialogue, the script had a lot of strength and was also specific in capturing the personalities of the superheroes, the super villains and the supporting cast. I can easily identify J. Jonah Jameson, Perry White, Lois Lane and others through the dialogue.

Not to be outdone is the deeper approach to the crossover aspect of the story. Right from the start, the comic book creators expected us readers to suspend disbelief and start believing that while the story is non-canon, the respective universes of Marvel and DC Comics co-existed. Because there were TV shows of Wonder Woman and the Hulk playing, the two characters were included in the comic book adding depth to the crossover.

Speaking of crossovers, this comic book was not limited to Superman and Spider-Man. The encounter between the Hulk and Superman was a short but sweet spectacle to read. The encounter between Wonder Woman and Spider-Man meanwhile was short yet fun.

Adding more to the fun in this comic book was how Clark Kent interacted with the Spider-Man supporting characters while Peter Parker interacted with the Superman supporting characters. I enjoyed every moment of these scenes.

As far as narrative is concerned, this comic book is slightly slanted towards Superman. One factor behind this was the implementation of how local authorities interact with Superman and Spider-Man. Whenever he solves crime, Superman is highly respected by the public and the police. This is not the case with Spider-Man who is often perceived to be a social menace even though he helps solve crimes. Another factor was that Superman did more detective-type work (including a visit to Latveria) while Spidey hardly contributed anything to the plot’s development.

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Nothing can be more frustrating than getting attacked by police officers when you try to help them solve their problems.

Regardless, the two icons got a fair share of the spotlight during the final stages of the story and there was enough spectacle to enjoy.

If there is any complaint I have, it would be the comic book creators’ reluctance on fully connecting itself to the 1976 crossover. In the scene wherein Peter Parker was guided into the film editing room by Jimmy Olsen, he recognized Lois Lane and remembered meeting her in the 1976 crossover (which ended with socializing). And yet when Spider-Man and Superman get together in this comic book, there was a noticeable lack of friendliness and personal cooperation between them even though they bonded nicely in the 1976 story.

Conclusion

Overall, Superman and Spider-Man is indeed a highly engaging, fun-filled superhero crossover comic book. For me, it is a true literary classic and definitely worth searching for out there. I read this crossover many times from start to finish and even though I knew the plot and the dialogue, I still had a lot of fun reading along the way. With the combined talents of Shooter, Buscema and many others, this superhero crossover was indeed one of the very best stories ever told by Marvel and DC Comics.

Given the current corporate climate Marvel and DC Comics are now in, it is very unlikely we will see another creatively fun superhero crossover collaboration between them happening soon. For the newcomers reading this, Marvel is owned by the Walt Disney Company while DC Comics is owned by Warner Bros.

Whether you search for the original comic book or its inclusion in a volume of The Marvel/DC Collection: Crossover Classics Volume 1, Superman and Spider-Man is highly recommended!


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What I’d like to see in a Man of Steel sequel

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Superman is more than just a comic book character. He is an American icon as well as a pop culture icon with global appeal. He is arguably the reason why we have superheroes to enjoy through varied media forms like comic books, video games, movies and television.

Co-created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Superman debuted in comics way back in 1938. The icon became even more iconic around the world in 1978 with the success of the Superman live-action movie that starred Christopher Reeve. To this day, Christopher Reeve is still beloved and millions of people around the world still hang on to him as their preferred cinematic Superman.

Then in 2013, Warner Bros. released Man of Steel starring Henry Cavill and directed by Zack Snyder. While it grossed $668 million globally, the movie was divisive among fans and movie critics due to its dark and gritty presentation.

In 2016, the hyped Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice movie was released featuring DC Comics’ two famous icons (plus Wonder Woman). It was darker, grittier and simply was not entertaining enough for the many moviegoers who seek fun with superhero movies. It did not help that Superman was secondary to Batman in the film.

In 2017, Justice League (directed by Zack Snyder but Joss Whedon finished the film) was released and brought back Superman who was portrayed by Cavill to be more optimistic and somewhat inspiring much like Christopher Reeve. The movie ended up as a disappointment which prompted Warner Bros. to adjust again their executives handling the DC Comics movie production.

The good news is that Aquaman (released December 2018) gave the DC Comics movie franchise a new lease on life as its optimistic tone (laced with humor and even romantic comedy), intense action scenes, memorable performances and immersive presentation of the aquatic world from the comics made it succeed big time. Like the Wonder Woman movie of 2017, Aquaman was made to be fun with thrills (none of the darkness and grit) while at the same time paid close attention on presenting Aquaman/Arthur Curry as an inspiring cinematic superhero.

This brings me to my main point – it is high time for Warner Bros. to bring back Superman on the big screen big time with a Man of Steel sequel with optimism, fun and straightforward heroism in mind.

I know that as of this writing there is uncertainty about Henry Cavill reprising DC Comics’ famous icon. Still I really want to see the British actor return on the big screen and his legacy on playing Superman can be improved while giving moviegoers a lot of fun.

Here are some things I want to see in a Man of Steel sequel:

    1. Henry Cavill playing a more optimistic and inspiring Superman – What this means is not necessarily Cavill copying the way Christopher Reeve memorably portrayed the caped icon in the 1978 movie. Rather it’s more about the British actor making Superman his own but without the darkness, without the grit and without the depressing stuff of Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. With the right script and right direction, I believe Cavill can make Superman inspiring and believable for moviegoers similar to how Gal Gadot and Jason Momoa produced results with Wonder Woman and Aquaman respectively. When it comes to delivering humor, I prefer to see members of the supporting cast to do it and let Cavill play the superhero straight.
    2. Maintain the brutal action (but no neck-breaking)  – This one requires having the right director and creative team. While Man of Steel’s cinematic tone was not ideal for most moviegoers, I still loved that film’s brutal action involving Superman and there is nothing like watching invulnerable characters hit each other, crash through walls and causing collateral damage. In a sequel, I’d like to see brutal action again but with key limits: toning down somewhat the collateral damage (way excessive in Man of Steel) and no neck-breaking. However the filmmakers will plan the action scenes, they should pay close attention to what has been presented in the comic books of the past twenty-five years.
    3. Bring back Doomsday – OK. This one could be divisive. A lot of geeks I encountered felt that the filmmakers brought Doomsday to the big screen way too early in the current DC Comics cinematic universe as he appeared in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Doomsday’s appearance in one of the movie trailers already generated a lot of speculation that Superman would be killed on the big screen given the literary history that the monster did just that in Superman #75 in the 1990s. For the Man of Steel sequel, I feel that Doomsday can be used to give the caped icon a major physical challenge. I can imagine that Superman, remembering what Doomsday did to him in the 2016 movie, will be more cautious on fighting the monster while at the same time ensure that civilians won’t be harmed along the way. That being said, I don’t think Doomsday needs to be the main antagonist which brings me to my next point…
    4. Have Lex Luthor and Brainiac as the main villains – These two villains I would love to see on the big screen working on a scheme to overwhelm Superman and the people of Metropolis. This is also an opportunity for actor Jesse Eisenberg to play Luthor in a more focused way that would resemble how the villain really thinks and acts in the comics. As for Brainiac, I can imagine him in his classic green-skinned human form laced with cybernetics and he can use technology to not only hurt Superman but also cause chaos on the world. With Luthor and Brainiac as the top schemers backed with Doomsday as their muscle, Superman will surely have his hands full and he will need the help of some allies from Metropolis.
    5. James Wan should be the director – Considering the success and impressive presentation of the Aquaman movie, I feel that James Wan should be hired for the Man of Steel sequel. I know this might sound like a rushed idea but in my experience watching Aquaman twice in the cinemas, Wan and his team delivered the big-time spectacle (lots of thrills and action), handled the large cast who delivered solid performances and told the story with a moderate-to-fast pace (not a single boring moment). Remember the interactions between Aquaman and Mera? There was really nice chemistry between Jason Momoa and Amber Heard. As such, I believe Wan has what it takes to make Henry Cavill and Amy Adam click more positively (and with romantic comedy) on the big screen as Clark Kent/Superman and Lois Lane.
    6. Colorful visuals – As the DC Comics cinematic universe is moving forward under the watch of Walter Hamada, it is obvious that moviegoers have a preference for colorful visuals when it comes to superhero movies. Look at the movie Aquaman. Its visuals are very lively with colors combined with fantastic art by the filmmakers. Look at the Themyscira scenes in the Wonder Woman movie of 2017. They literally are so wonderful to the eyes. Going back to Superman, a new movie for the icon must be in full color. No more color desaturation (decoloring)!

Those are my ideas about what I’d like to see in a future Man of Steel sequel. The DC Comics cinematic universe we have right now is moving forward and clearly the Wonder Woman and Aquaman movies respectively have the correct formulas to succeed with movie critics and moviegoers. Considering his iconic status, Superman deserves much better and so do the fans and all other people who are willing to pay good movie to watch him in the cinemas and have fun. I am appealing to the executives of Warner Bros. to make the best and most optimistic Superman movie they can with Henry Cavill.

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