Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Omitted material: Marvel Treasury Edition 28 – Superman and Spider-Man

Another issue which the Essentials do not reprint but I thought was worth a look at is Marvel Treasury Edition #28. This was generally a reprint anthology series in the huge Treasury Edition format, featuring many different Marvel characters, but occasionally it carried original material. This was true of the final issue, #28, which carried “Superman and Spider-Man”, the second team-up between the lead Marvel and DC characters. Once again this has had a few reprints since, usually to tie in with more recent Marvel/DC crossovers. It cost $2.50 in a year when the regular Marvel titles went for $0.50 and I believe DC’s regular books went for the same price.

The story is written by Jim Shooter, with some plot suggestions from Marv Wolfman, and drawn by John Buscema. Whilst Buscema had drawn a handful of Spider-Man issues over the years, Shooter had written very few but was the-then Marvel Editor-in-Chief. Did he take this one for himself to prevent creative squabbling (his stated reason for later writing Secret Wars)? Or was it for more mundane reasons? Their Superman credentials were more limited – it was nearly two decades before Buscema did his first work for DC. Jim Shooter had, however, written for Superman in the 1960s, whilst in 1981 Wolfman was the regular writer on Action Comics.

Before the main story we get a one page feature introducing both heroes’ origins, but amazingly the Spider-Man section completely omits any mention of Uncle Ben and responsibility. Equally there’s no reason given for why Superman uses his powers as he does (and my knowledge of Superman continuity is such that I don’t know the answer for this particular incarnation).

The main story is presented as a semi-sequel to the earlier Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man and the story in part seeks to compensate for the villain imbalance in the earlier team-up by this time making the primary villain Doctor Doom, with a secondary role played by the Parasite. Now Doctor Doom is not specifically a Spider-Man villain and the two had had relatively few encounters up to this point, but he is the premier Marvel villain and one of the few who can present a world threatening menace that’s a credible threat for Superman. However the Parasite is not of the best known Superman villains outside his own book, and doesn’t feel like he deserves to be in a particularly special adventure. But then this is not a particularly special adventure.

Sadly the story itself seems overcomplicated for the sake of it, with Doctor Doom spending endless billions on a project to wipe out the world’s fossil and nuclear fuels and then use his ownership of the surviving super reactor to take control of the planet. He’s brought the Parasite along as part of a convoluted scheme to turn the latter into a crystal for the reactor to prevent it otherwise destroying the world. Already you can see the complications in this tale, and it throws in guest appearances by the Hulk (well he did have a TV series at the time) and Wonder Woman (whose series had ended but were there endless reruns?) that don’t add a great deal. Superman and Spider-Man’s interaction is limited to a brief meeting in Metropolis when the Hulk is rampaging and the climax when both investigate Doom’s base but get captured, though they free each other and work to save the day. However we get some extended sequences as Clark Kent briefly relocates to New York and takes a post at the Daily Bugle, whilst Peter Parker is talked into staying in Metropolis for a while and working at the Daily Planet. Peter’s sudden uprooting of his life is hard to swallow but the arrangement allows us to see each hero’s alter ego interacting with some of the other’s supporting cast, and many comment on the similarities of the two.

Lacking the novelty of the first team-up, this story is left looking for something to make it special but doesn’t really find it. It may explore new angles and contrasts between the heroes, but the problem is their adventures and power levels are on such different scales that it’s hard to have them credibly interact for extended periods of time. Instead the title searches for original ideas, throws in extra heroes for the sake of it and presents situations that stain credulity. Doom’s scheme might have been inspired by real life contemporary fears about the energy supply at a time when the oil crisis was still fresh in people’s minds, but by the time the issue came out the tide was already turning.

Overall this story feels poor and uninspired, and probably produced for no other reason than to tie into the-then contemporary movie Superman II. If this is typical of the inter-company crossovers then I can’t say I’m waiting with baited breath for a possible Essential Showcase Presents collecting all the Marvel & DC team-ups.

2 comments:

  1. I'm sure you already know, but there was a Crossover Classics edition published back in 1991 which reprinted this tale in colour. Unfortunately, in far too many panels, Superman's costume was a 'dirty' blue. Still, it was nice to see John Buscema's take on Supes, although he seems to have turned this one out in 'auto-mode'.

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  2. The same thing happened on the 1995 standalone reprint, presumably due to using the same source. At first I thought perhaps Superman's costume had been modified in the early 1980s but it seems a mistake.

    I guess that's one good argument in favour of a black & white reprint!

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