?Almost as long as there have been comic books, there have been comic book crossovers to meld our favorite good guys and bad guys, commonly from differing universes, together. They’re the definitive source for settling vocal “who would win” arguments held every day on playgrounds around this great planet of ours, and their innate cross-pollination of popular brands just might be helpful in selling a comic or two along the way. Just like crossovers seen in other mediums, some of said comic couplings work out extremely well, adding a sweet new dimension to the worlds we’ve grown to know. Others, for one reason or another, succeed in adding weirdness to the recipe.
This brings us to our good friend Batman. Like any tenured comic book icon worth his salt, the Caped Crusader has had his share of run-ins with that magic crossover formula, both having it out and teaming up with various characters ranging in origin from film and novel to fellow comic distributors such as Image, Cliffhanger and Marvel. What makes the Dark Knight an interesting crossover case isn’t just his Batman-edness of course; since he inhabits a world based largely in the arena of fact and real possibility, in comic terms at least, seeing how things shake out when new characters who are anything but rooted in reality enter Batman’s world can make for a good time, and sometimes, a very, very odd one. Join us now for a bit of crossoverology as we explore some of Batman’s partners who were both cooler and/or stranger than Robin ever was.
Rich Shivener contributed to this list.
5) Batman/Spider-Man: Disordered Minds
?In Disordered Minds, a pairing that parallels the acts of cruelty that indirectly forged the destiny of the crossover’s lead heroes, Spidey and Batman (initially) reluctantly join forces to stop the potentially terrible tandem of Carnage and the Joker. Well, make that reluctance on Batman’s side anyway: Spider-Man is all over the pairing from the beginning (“this guy’s a legend!”) as he makes several appropriately nerdy attempts to woo Gotham’s guardian into joining him as his partner in crime-fighting. The bad guys also do their part to keep things rad, as it’s safe to say that dealing with Carnage’s tremendous power creates some pretty awesome action set pieces.
While not exhibiting the greatest story ever told, the crossover does manage to tie things up nicely thematically before all is said and done, and it’s hard to deny the simple sweetness that can he found in watching this duo fight crime together.
4) Batman/Captain America
?It’s wartime, 1945. In a team-up loaded with patriotism, the Caped Crusader and The Captain smack up their eternal foes – the Joker and the Red Skull – in the name of national interests, thwarting the Nazis’ plans for an atomic massacre. The Golden Age flair to this Elseworlds setup works really well, especially for Batman’s tricked-out Lovebug and the team’s effortless ass-kicking and ingenuity. There’s a moment where Bats swoops down from his plane to snatch up Cap mid-air as he dodges a relentless Gatling gun, and one with Batman’s connecting his fist with the Skull’s face.
The supporting characters are cool, too. To be specific, Bucky’s kind of a jerk, and the Joker is proud to be an American lunatic despite the Red Skull’s promises of rewards from The Third Reich. “Any time an American can’t thwart a Nazi rat … will be the day your pal Hitler wins Miss Congeniality!” The masterminds are stopped yet again, and years later the new Batman and Robin (hint: It’s Dick) rescue The Captain from his icy tomb deep underwater.
3) Batman/Punisher: Deadly Knights
?Batman and Punisher have gotten into each other’s comic book business twice, and while Deadly Knights and Lake of Fire have quite a few elements in common with each other (a 1994 release, Jigsaw, the Joker, a lack of friendliness between the title duo despite sharing enemies) Deadly Knights beats out its prequel in coolness for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is the inclusion of Batman-proper, (the original featured whiny Knightfall fill-in Azrael) or the merciful absence of Lake of Fire‘s bathhouse brawl. The story is well-paced and the John Romita Jr. art keeps things interesting; the Joker and Jigsaw make a pretty scary team and even Robin gets in some action as he out-hacks Punisher’s tech expert Micro before Batman and Punisher “have words” memorably to close it all out. A fun read.
2) Batman/Deathblow: After the Fire
?Thanks to Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo, Batman/Deathblow: After the Fire takes on pulp noir and the stickiness of government special ops, flashing between Deathblow’s shoot-’em-up hunt for the pyrokinetic Max Fai and Batman’s follow-up on the case 10 years later. The terrorist – or contractor, depending who you’re asking – is mixed up with The Falcon, the I.O. and the C.I.A., and eventually Fai realizes he will die in Gotham.
Of the two “good guys,” Batman employs more creative tactics, disguising as a thievin’ bum and, surprisingly, Deathblow just before Fai falls to a sniper. Overall, this is a pretty gritty crossover, and calls to mind the Joker graphic novel, also done by Azzarello and Bermejo. Hell, even Bruce Wayne is kind of ugly.
1) Batman vs. Predator
?Batman has tangled with the Predator more times than we care to remember, and even though it may seem like an odd pairing out of the gate, the first Batman vs. Predator was actually pretty swell, thanks in no small part to the artistic stylings of Andy Kubert and the writing of famed Watchmen yarn-weaver Dave Gibbons. BvP captures the feel of the two characters and the gritty reality they co-inhabit well, and the story feels like a lot more than a blah excuse to get the two icons in the same arena to engage in blood-drenched fisticuffs.
And did we mention the stakes? The beating Batman suffers is almost on par with the one received compliments of Bane during their iconic Knightfall encounter, making Batman’s third-act attempt at evening the score all the more thrilling. Contribute to the preceding water cooler moments galore including a shiny new high-tech Batsuit, an all-or-nothing batcave brawl and even Alfred getting in on the fight by blasting Predator with an awesome-looking vintage rifle and you have a mighty cool crossover between Gotham’s protector and his intergalactic foe on your hands.
Things get stranger on the next page.
5) Planetary/Batman: Night on Earth
?Whether awesomely strange or strangely awesome, this crossover by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday is outstandingly comical. First of all, Elijah Snow from the Planetary team might have the best description of Gotham ever: “Old as New York, founded on the the East Coast and and originally designed by English masons on opium … exacerbated by absinthe-fiend local architects…” Snow, Jakita Wagner and The Drummer track down a universe-altering superhuman in the city, and, of course, Batman joins the party on his own accord. So, as the victim/murderer John Black gets “sick,” the trio goes up against various iterations of The Dark Knight. At one point, in fact, Snow gives the Frank Miller one a brain freeze. Jakita basically wants to make out with the modern Batman, but she’s turned off by the Adam West-y type. And rightfully so – he does spray her with “Bat-Female-Villain Repellent.”
4) Batman/Judge Dredd: The Ultimate Riddle
?Guess how many times Judge Dredd says “Creep”? And guess how utterly ridiculous (and bizarre) The Ultimate Riddle really is? Rather than deal with time travel or a dimension-jump belt, Dredd and Batman are transported to an alien world, thanks to the Riddler’s God-like scepter, which he mysteriously obtained in “a flash.” Posing as Emperor Xero, he pits the Judge and Batman against four fantasy/sci-fi combatants in a deadly game similar to bloodhound hunting, one with Batman as the quarry. Together, they stop brutal slayers such as the rocket launcher-wielding “Mekarnos Mandroid” and the mind-bending “Living Nightmare.”
But just as Judge Dredd seems to consider killing The Bat in order to return home, and ultimately win the game, Batman figures out the “Ultimate Riddle” – by simply realizing he’s living a riddle? Goddamn it.
3) Batman/Tarzan: Claws of the Cat-Woman
?Okay, we want to put this out there – the concept of Batman and Tarzan teaming up isn’t that crazy, they did share billing in the Batman/Tarzan Adventure Hour on CBS in the 70’s, after all – and this Elseworlds fable is far from bad. Batman/Tarzan:Claws of the Cat-Woman features Bats teaming up with Tarzan to protect the African city of Memnon from the pilfering of the evil and greedy Finnegan Dent, who naturally gets half of his face clawed off in the ensuing conflict.
It’s the imagery of a 1930s Batman partnering up with shirtless Tarzan and his animal friends that really takes the strange cake though, which of course, was the intent. There’s some cool back and forth about how each hero has his jungle and own sense of justice and the visuals are far from phoned in, proving that “good” and “strange” can be in the same sentence, as this unexpected pairing gives both leads their due.
?Forget the Batman mythos you know. Because Bruce Wayne’s tragic childhood goes something like this: Martha and Thomas Wayne were never mugged — actually, a Face-Hugger found its way to Thomas Wayne, and an Alien fetus exploded from Martha’s chest. At least this is how Batman remembers it when he doses off in the midst of a battle with the Aliens. Tracking the extraterrestrials in the Mayan ruins, he teams up with the special forces crew Deadman’s Hand and discovers the spaceship, hatched eggs, and most importantly, a geologist from Gotham City. It turns into a try-to-get-away situation, one that concludes (spoiler!) with Batman luring the remaining Aliens into a lava pit.
You might say the sequel Batman/Aliens II is even stranger. The creatures invade Gotham and, with the help of a Alien/Human scientist, capture the Joker, Two-Face, Poison Ivy and Scarecrow — and make Aliens from their D.N.A. The Joker-Alien is admittedly pretty awesome.
1) Batman/Danger Girl: Dangerous Connections
?J. Scott Campbell’s slick reimagining of the female spy team was quite popular in the late 90’s for a short while, and before it said sayonora to comicland after what was about a three-year run, it managed a surprising hook up with the world’s greatest detective. In Batman/Danger Girl: Dangerous Connections, the team visits Gotham to recapture presumed-dead series baddy Donavin Conrad. Once Conrad gets in well over his head with the likes of the Joker (let’s just say Donavin receives the “hands-off” treatment — be sure to give it a read for plenty more “handy” puns) over the fate of his mind control device and its activation code. Meanwhile, the girls go shopping and talk about how hot Batman is, but eventually do aid him in stopping the bad guys.
If this doesn’t sound like a match made in comic book heaven, it’s because it isn’t — the heroes’ different worlds just don’t play very well together. Whatever Abbey Chase and company bring to the table is overshadowed by the heavy mythos of Bruce Wayne’s alter-ego, and the carefree girlitude that made the DG books fun is at different times lost and completely out of place in the dangerous alleyways and caverns of Gotham. To be fair, this crossover’s execution wasn’t a crime against humanity, thanks in particular to the Joker’s scene stealing moments, but it’s hard to ignore that this blend was one strange idea that could’ve been left on the drawing board from the get-go.