Throughout the evolution of comic books, one consistent driving force has been the love fans have for speculating about what would happen if their favorite characters collided. It's this kind of speculation that lead to the <I>World's Finest</I> team ups, to the JLA, to Marvel's shared cinematic universe. We've even been lucky enough to see characters we never thought would meet share the same pages. <p>But what about the crossovers no one expected, or, in some cases, even asked for? It's been a while since comics saw a really unlikely team-up, but with <I>Convergence</I> and <I>Secret Wars</I> filling our news feed, it's not unlikely we'll see some pretty outrageous meetings in the near future. <p>With that in mind, here is a look back at thirteen of the most unlikely comic book crossovers of all time!
Call it the ultimate pick up game. Way back in the far-flung year of 1993, Dark Horse published a cartoon account of the supreme sports rivalry of the day. Beginning life as a Nike commercial, as all great comics do, <I>Godzilla Vs. Charles Barkley</I> tells the tale of Sir Charles taking on the atomic super lizard with the fate of California and Tokyo hanging in the balance. And, really, there's not much else to be said about this, perhaps the ultimate example of unlikely comic book crossovers. <P>Too bad Godzilla lost. The Dream Team could've used a guy with his reach.
Once upon a time, Joe Quesada famously proclaimed that if the Ultimate universe ever crossed over with Marvel proper, the publisher would be "out of ideas." Of course, nowadays, this kind of thing is almost the norm, with the upcoming <I>Secret Wars</I> promising to crossover a lot more than just two of Marvel's worlds. But just a few years ago, this kind of thing was unheard of - that is, until <I>Spider-Men</I>. <P><I>Spider-Men</I>, published to celebrate Spidey's 50th anniversary, featured Peter Parker and Miles Morales teaming up to take on Mysterio, among other villains from both worlds. With rumors persisting that this won't be the last time the pair come together, perhaps their collective future lies in the aforementioned <I>Secret Wars</I>.
IDW's 2011 <i>Infestation</i> wasn't a crossover in the classic sense, as the disparate characters didn't meet face to face, but it did bring together some properties you'd never expect to see in the same story in <I>Rashamon</I> style, namely: <i>Star Trek</i>, <i>Transformers</i>, <i>Ghostbusters</i> and <i>G.I. Joe</i>. These are characters that not only exist in separate fictional universes, but also different timelines and planets. <p>Soon after, IDW unveiled a sequel, getting <i>Danger Girl</i>, <i>Dungeons and Dragons</i> and <i>Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles</i> and more in on the fun and who knows which licensed properties might get involved if IDW as the leading publisher of licensed books does it again?
In theory, a team-up between Marvel's mighty mutants and Gene Roddenberry's optimistic space opera might seem like a strange but not ridiculous idea; after all, <em>Star Trek</em> has traveled back to the present day more than once, and the X-Men have been going into space ever since Charles Xavier realized that he had a crush on Lilandra. But in practice, the resulting 1996 one-shot (by Scott Lobdell and Marc Silvestri) was a tangled mess, mixing old continuity from both series Proteus, an X-Men enemy who had last appeared during the Claremont and Byrne era, and Gary Mitchell, from the second <em>Trek</em> pilot with some admittedly great Easter egg moments (Spock defeats Wolverine with a Vulcan Nerve Pinch! Gladiator punches the Enterprise to prove a point!). Sadly, the crossover took place four years too early for anyone to make a reference to Professor Xavier looking like a future Enterprise captain, but you just know that it would have been in there if it was even vaguely possible. <p>Even this misfire wasn't enough to convince people not to try again; there were two sequels to this one-shot a <em>Star Trek: The Next Generation/X-Men</em> one-shot, and a 1998 novel called <em>Planet X</em> and, undeterred, the crew of the Starship Enterprise teamed up with DC's Legion of Super-Heroes in a DC/IDW miniseries that launched a few years ago.
Here's how good Jack Kirby was during the 1970s: Not only could he bring Don Rickles into two issues of his <em>Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen</em> run without breaking a sweat, but he also created Rickles' fictional alter ego, "Goody Rickles," got both involved with the behind-the-scenes machinations of Darkseid and the burgeoning Fourth World saga, and knew that it was so breathtakingly audacious that he told readers on one cover "Don't Ask - Just Buy It!" <p>The Don Rickles two-parter is made all the more weird by the fact that (the real) Rickles is pretty much entirely incidental to the story; the bulk of the action goes to "Goody," who looks like the famous comedian but otherwise shares no particular connection. Quite how Kirby and DC managed to get Rickles' permission not only for this treatment, but also to put his photograph on a cover during the storyline, is a mystery, but considering the result is one of the more enjoyably gonzo comics of the era, it's a good thing that they did.
The '90s saw a lot of intercompany crossovers everything from <i>Superman vs. Aliens</i> to <i>Nightman/Gambit</i> so it's not shocking that Sonic the Hedgehog, Archie's licensed property that's still popular decades after its debut, got in on the action. The actual characters he met up with, though? Pretty surprising. <p>1998's <i>Sonic Super Special #7</i> featured the usual Mobius crew interacting with Spawn, Savage Dragon, Velocity, Shadowhawk and The Maxx, all characters who starred in books that were pretty inappropriate for Sonic's target audience. The original Shadowhawk, for instance, was injected with HIV-infected blood by a particularly vindictive bad guy. Spawn is a disfigured agent of the devil who was murdered by his best friend. But, y'know, Tails has had his rough moments, too.
Eminem went to surprising lengths to promote his 2009 comeback album, <em>Relapse</em>. Not content with the usual round of interviews, videos and various promotional appearances, the one-time Slim Shady turned himself fictional and teamed up with Frank Castle in the two-part <em>Eminem/Punisher: Kill You</em>, which ran in <I>XXL Magazine</I> and on Marvel.com and marked the first appearance that Marshall Mathers has made in comic books. (Well, if you ignore his unofficial starring role in <em>Wanted</em>, of course.) <p>If you're wondering what would bring Eminem face-to-face with the Punisher, the answer involved a story by Fred Van Lente and Salvador Larrocca in which the rapper accidentally got involved with the Punisher villain Barracuda and ended up shooting his way to freedom alongside Marvel's favorite trigger-happy vigilante, thereby cementing his status as a fictional badass extraordinaire. (<a href="http://herocomplex.latimes.com/2009/05/01/first-look-the-eminem-and-punisher-comic-book-from-marvel/">According to interviews promoting the comic</a>, the choice of Marvel hero and villain were all Eminem's; Marvel had initially suggested the more mainstream Spider-Man and Wolverine.) <p>Sadly, while the story was better than you might have expected, it seemed to translate the Punisher's cinematic fortunes to his musical co-star <em>Relapse</em>, when released, wasn't necessarily a flop, but still underperformed compared with his earlier albums. Maybe there's a curse of Frank Castle that we need to talk about, though this isn't his only appearance on our list...
Marvel's "Assistant Editor's Month" brought plenty of mirth to the publisher's January 1984-dated titles, including Aunt May's rechristening as "Golden Oldie," herald of Galactus, in <i>Marvel Team-Up #137</i>. <p>The most famous product of this promotion is likely <i>The Avengers #239</i>, where Earth's Mightiest Heroes met David Letterman, who at that point had only been doing his old NBC show for a couple of years. Part of Roger Stern's legendary run on the series, the issue saw Letterman get in on the superheroing, thwarting would-be villain Fabian Stankowicz by hitting him with an over-sized doorknob. So in case your friends don't believe you that Wonder Man and Paul Shaffer have ever been in the same comic book, dig this one out from your long box and prove them wrong. <p>And this wasn't the only Marvel/late night TV crossover, and not even the first... keep reading!
If your parents didn't let you watch <i>The Simpsons</i>, they probably really didn't want you watching <i>Ren & Stimpy</i>, a show that lovingly paid tribute to "magic nose goblins," and in one episode saw Stimpy care for one of his farts as if it were his child. <p>That kind of icky surrealism is pretty far away from the much more conventional world of Spider-Man, but that didn't stop <i>Ren & Stimpy #6</i> from happening. Marvel had a lot of licensed comics in the '80s and '90s everything from <i>Barbie</i> to <i>Madballs</i> so it sort of made sense from that perspective. In the issue, Spider-Man took on Powdered Toast Man, the closest thing in the <i>Ren & Stimpy</i> world to a superhero. <p>And the writer of this 1993 comic? Dan Slott, who 15 years later became one of the writers of <i>Amazing Spider-Man</i>, a position he now solely holds. Powdered Toast Man has yet to show up and ask for a rematch.
It really was a clash of the titans: The world's greatest superhero versus the world's greatest boxer, with the fate of the Earth hanging in the balance. Except, of course, by the time the book appeared (it was delayed from 1977 to 1978) Ali was no longer the world heavyweight champion, having been defeated by Leon Spinks in February '78. (He'd later reclaim the title in September of that year, meaning that the DC title was published during an unfortunate six month window when it wasn't actually contemporary.) <p>What makes <em>Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali</em> so unusual, however, is that it's just a great comic despite the gimmick. Even if you had no idea who Ali was, this would still be a fantastic Bronze Age Superman story, thanks to the spectacular work of Dennis O'Neil and Neal Adams. Everything, from the ridiculousness of the plot really, the fate of the world hangs on the outcome of a <em>boxing match</em>? to the characterization of everyone involved, just works, and the result is one of the most fun, enjoyable Superman stories of the period. It's something that genuinely lives up to the idea of an event comic, even more than 30 years after the fact it was reprinted in hardcover format in 2010. As Ali tells Superman at the end of the story, they really <em>are</em> the greatest.
This delightful bit of Marvel ephemera is about as '70's as it gets. Written by none other than Chris Claremont, MU<Marvel Team-Up #74</I> sees Peter Parker take the lovely Mary Jane Watson to a taping of <I>Saturday Night Live</I>, then in its early heyday. After Jon Belushi mistakenly receives a ring meant for the Silver Samurai (<I>SNL</I> devotees will get the nod), the classic X-Men villain himself pops in to reclaim the relic. Of course Pete makes a quick change, and with the help of the Not-Ready-For-Primetime Players - in the guise of other Marvel heroes - Spider-Man takes on the threat. <p>Interestingly, this issue is also a two-fer in the Unlikely Crossover department, as Stan Lee himself serves as the host of the episode of <I>SNL</I>.
<i>JLA/Avengers</i> wasn't surprising on its own an encounter between DC and Marvel's biggest superteams is pretty much a no-brainer. <p>What made is so unlikely, and earned it the top spot on this list, is the story behind the crossover, and how long it took. The crossover had been in development since 1979, with a scheduled publication date of 1983, from the original creative team of writer Gerry Conway and artist George Pérez. Though work had been completed and a promotional image released, behind-the-scenes disputes caused the entire project to be scrapped. <p>Two decades later, <i>JLA/Avengers</i> actually became a reality with Pérez now joined by then-<i>Avengers</i> writer Kurt Busiek, for four prestige format issues pairing the Avengers and the Justice League of America, running from 2003 to 2004. <p>The series was a hit, and, as these things happen, the last Marvel/DC crossover up to this point, with behind-the-scenes conflict reportedly getting in the way once again.
The magnum opus of wacky comic book crossovers, <i>Archie Meets the Punisher</i> was a 1994 one-shot that brought together Riverdale's favorite teen with crime's least favorite Vietnam vet who carries lots of guns and kills people. <p>You see, Punisher happened to be tracking down a dealer who looked exactly like Archie, a hilarious misunderstanding worthy of Frasier Crane himself. Much of the Archie gang gets brought into the fun, including Sabrina and Josie and the Pussycats. <p>The comic ended by teasing a Wolverine/Jughead crossover which fans are still waiting for, many years later. Sure, Wolverine's dead -- but he's come back from worse, so why not a Jughead crossover? It's a natural pairing: Jughead's ability to regularly consume giant piles of hamburgers and not gain weight is pretty similar to Wolverine's healing factor.