In the 1970s Marvel and DC created a brilliant crossover book with Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man. This book was followed by Superman and Spider-Man, The Uncanny X-Men and The NEW Teen Titans and of course Batman vs. The Incredible Hulk. Batman vs. Hulk is as cool as it is unlikely a book, but worth reading, released in 1981, after the two Supes/Spidey books and before the X-men/Titans book.
I have the reprints of those books with 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 then did not 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 70/80s comics floating around in New Zealand with its population (when I was a kid) of around 3 million. Of all these books, Superman and Spider-Man was my very favourite and it STILL my single most favourite comic book I have ever read.
It has gorgeous art, an improbable and silly story that can only work in comics, and it has the two flagship guys from the big two companies who both wear red and blue iconic costumes. Superman and Spider-Man met twice in that decade, in two gorgeous comic books that are an absolute treasure to read, along with the Batman / Hulk story that is great fun, just not quite as good as the Supes / Spidey crossovers, but still a real treat, as are all four of these crossover books, which I encourage everyone to read.
This is a BAT-BLOG, not a Super-Spider blog, so 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, while 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. The artwork is stunning throughout and José Luis García-López did 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 above picture on the right 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 following two 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.
Well, this post is short and sweet as I am busy writing PART#2 Batman and Captain America and PART#3 Batman vs. Predator of my “Top 3 Astounding Batman Crossovers” Pulling out all these comics from the shelf has given me a Hulk-sized hunger so excuse me if this one is as brief as the Hulksters purple pants. You may not agree with my choices and that’s just fine, my picks are the ones I’ve read multiple times and still love to this day. Stay tuned BAT-FANs for the next two installments of this pulse-pounding saga! I know you will love my other two picks.