Writer: Jim Shooter
Artists: John Buscema and Several assistants
Editor: Allan Milgrom
Special Thanks given to Marv Wolfman for plot suggestions.
Crossovers involving Marvel and DC Comics include those where the characters live in alternate universes, and those where they share the same version of earth (Indeed, some fanboys have posited a separate "Crossover Earth" for these adventures). For the earliest licensed crossovers, the companies seemed to prefer shared world adventures. They took this approach to the first inter-company superhero crossover, 1976's Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-man, and followed its success in 1981 with Superman and Spider-man. This story lacks the first time impact of its predecessor, and the artwork boasts fewer poster-style pages which take advantage of the larger format. The story, however, works better, and we encounter fewer of the lapses in plot logic so common to mainstream comic books. As a bonus, the comic also pitches Superman against the Incredible Hulk for the first time, and Spidey against Wonder Woman.
The first team-up, naturally, featured the heroes' most popular enemies, Lex Luthor and Doctor Octopus. Jim Shooter clearly sought plot possibilities over Rogues Gallery prominence, and chose Dr. Doom, more typically a Fantastic Four villain, from Marvel and the Parasite, a lesser-known criminal from DC. Whereas Luthor had dominated the evil plotting in the first crossover, the crime here belongs to Doc Doom. Why not? Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-man very much represented a collaboration; this second treasury-sized edition is largely the work of Marvel, with DC's approval.
The first Superman/Spider-man adventure broke its story into various chapters with histrionic subtitles. This story flows smoothly, from event to event. It begins with Spider-man stumbling, as superheroes are wont, onto a bank robbery. He solves this tidily, but feels a strange spider-sense uneasiness about the nearby construction site. Unable to determine the source of the danger, he moves on.
The reader learns, however, that the site camouflages an elaborate base of Victor Von Doom's, one of many connected with something called "Project Omega," his greatest undertaking, on which he has apparently been working for years. The next step of the project involves luring Hulk to Metropolis using a special micro-transmitter.
Word of the Hulk's advance towards the city gets the attention of J. Jonah Jameson, publisher of The Daily Bugle, and Peter Parker naturally takes the assignment. He steps off the New York/Metropolis bus just in time to witness the confrontation between the Man of Steel and the Hulk. Parker changes into his Spider-man costume, but he finds himself outclassed and unable to contribute.
After a battle with the Hulk, Superman discovers the beacon, destroys it, and wins the monster's trust. Calmed, the green-skinned goliath reverts to his Bruce Banner form. Doom's plan has been fulfilled; the semi-controlled Hulk has slammed a specific location hard enough to release the Parasite from his special, underground cell. Banner has been released into the custody of S.T.A.R. Labs, where they will search for a cure. All well and good-- but Doom wants Banner for his plan, and now he knows exactly where to find him.
Peter Parker goes to work for The Daily Planet; Clark Kent takes a leave and joins the staff of the Bugle in New York City. He has realized that the Hulk's controlled rampage was designed to free the Parasite, and reasons that, as Lex Luthor is behind bars, only Dr. Doom could be behind this scheme. After delivering this slight to the absent Leader, Fu Manchu, Mandarin, and Brainiac, Supes visits the Monarch of Latveria at the embassy in New York. Doom freely admits he's plotting world domination. Why not? Superman is sworn to uphold the laws of men, and on Latverian soil, Doom is the law. He even makes an attempt to capture the Man of Steel. In an interesting twist, however, Superman is able to use a standard feature of villain headquarters-- lead-lined everything-- to his advantage. When the kryptonite comes out, Supes rolls himself in the lead-lining, thus blocking the lethal radiation. Doom proves unsuccessful-- but he remains untouchable.
While Clark Kent works his mild-mannered charm on the cantankerous J. Jonah Jameson, Peter Parker naturally has to deal with Steve Lombard, the dumb jock stereotype who harrassed Kent throughout the 1970s. Eventually, he stumbles onto the Metropolis division of Project Omega, around the same time as Wonder Woman, who has also been pursuing this case. (Actually Doom has planted evidence in order to help her get this far; her capture also forms part of his master plan).
"She used to live in New York," thinks Spider-man, when he sees the amazing Amazon. "It's strange we never ran into each other there! Oh well... It's a big town." This preposterous aside delivered, they fall into the stock team-up situation of fighting under false pretenses, realizing they're on the same side, and then joining forces. Unfortunately, Doom neutralizes and captures Wonder Woman before they can accomplish anything. Spider-man escapes, and trails her captors to their destination-- where he learns the truth about Project Omega.
The installations, positioned all across the world, will go online and emit a particular radiation which will render most forms of fuel useless. Only a special generator built by Doom will provide the energy the world needs; he will step into the chaos and make himself absolute monarch. He tells the Parasite, whose abilities will be enhanced with the absorbed powers of Wonder Woman, the Hulk, and Superman (who finally arrives), that he will be his privileged enforcer. The Parasite likes the idea, but only because he intends to turn on Doom. He won't get that chance, of course. Doom knows that the combined power of all of these beings will burn out the Parasite, turning his body into some kind of crystal that will help power his super-reactor. This is, of course, comic book science at its most ludicrous, but it neatly ties together all elements of the plot.
What's left? A battle with the Parasite, Doom, several ugly goons, and the obligatory giant robot. Doom and the Parasite turn on each other, while Supes and Spidey use their respective abilities in a fairly intelligent manner in order to foil the evil plot and prevent the inevitable accidental world-destroying explosion of Doom's super-reactor. The Hulk wanders off when the stasis tube in which he was imprisoned cracks, the Parasite gets recaptured, and Doom manages to make it back to the embassy seconds before Superman catches up with him.
Other features include Superman and Spider-man's origins in the inside front cover, an earlier cover concept in the back, and house ads for both Marvel and DC. A number of other adventures would take place on Crossover Earth, but more recent comics generally present the DC and Marvel Universes as alternate realities, which can be bridged when common foes and market forces make this desirable. The interest in overall continuity has become a major part of even crossover comic books.