“The showdown of the century!” – Five fun facts about the 1996 DC versus Marvel crossover

“Who would win a fight between…?” These words haven’t just launched countless debates between DC and Marvel fans over the years – they also served as the basis for 1996 inter-company crossover DC versus Marvel by writers Ron Marz and Peter David and artists Dan Jurgens and Claudio Castellini.

That’s right: back in April 1996, the “Big Two” of superhero comics publishing pitted their most iconic characters against each other to settle arguments over who would come out on top once and for all. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of this momentous mini-series, here are five interesting facts about DC versus Marvel.

5. Readers decided who won several of the crossover’s biggest battles

As if the prospect of the DC and Marvel universes going head-to-head wasn’t exciting enough, DC versus Marvel invited fans to help shape the story itself! Seriously: it was readers’ votes – and not Marz and David – who had the final say over who emerged triumphant from some of the crossover’s most prominent match ups.

The titanic tussles decided by fans were:

  • Superman versus the Hulk
  • Batman versus Captain America
  • Spider-Man versus Superboy
  • Wonder Woman versus Storm, and
  • Wolverine versus Lobo.

As you’d expect, this occasionally led to results that stretched credulity, with popular characters miraculously overcoming their far more powerful (but less popular) opponents. The most notorious example of this occurred when Wolverine defeated Lobo, an upset so implausible that Marz and Jurgens opted to have it unfold largely off panel!

Fortunately, the creative team did get to call the shots on DC versus Marvel’s other top-tier slugfests – Aquaman versus Namor, Catwoman versus Elektra, Flash versus Quicksilver, Robin versus Jubilee, Thor versus Captain Marvel, and Green Lantern versus Silver Surfer – all of which played out in decidedly more believable fashion.

4. It was part of official DC and Marvel continuity

DC versus Marvel wasn’t the first inter-company crossover produced by the Big Two, but it was the first that was considered part of both publishers’ official continuities. Heck, both companies jointly owned Access, a new superhero introduced in DC versus Marvel who not only played a prominent role in follow-up mini-series DC/Marvel: All Access and DC/Marvel: Unlimited Access, but who popped up in other DC titles like Green Lantern!

Admittedly, DC seemed more comfortable integrating DC versus Marvel into its wider line of comics than Marvel (aside from a belated reference in 2005’s Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe), but neither publisher did anything to explicitly invalidate the crossover’s canonical status – at least, not at first. In the 25 years since DC versus Marvel was published, DC and Marvel have both rebooted their respective chronologies (several times, in DC’s case), so don’t hold your breath waiting for it to be referenced in either companies’ comics any time soon…

3. The fights were designed so that either combatant could win

Monthly comic book deadlines are notoriously punishing for artists. Their gruelling schedule requires them to turn around 22 pages of polished artwork in only a few weeks – and that’s when they’re working from a finished script. For DC versus Marvel, Jurgens and Castellini weren’t even afforded that luxury, as Marz and David had to wait for the fan votes to be collated and counted before they could finalise the plot!

To buy the artists the time they needed to complete each issue – which involved drawing two different versions of each vote-determined dust-up! – Marz and David adopted a clever approach to scripting the fights. Rather than choreograph two wildly different versions of the same scenario, they wrote these scenes to easily accommodate either outcome. This meant that, rather than having to redraw pages-worth of fisticuffs per superhero bout, Jurgens and Castellini would only need to rework a single page (sometimes no more than a panel or two) once the vote results were known.

2. The whole thing ends in a draw

You’d be forgiven for assuming that a mini-series with the word “versus” in the title would conclude with a definitive winner, but that’s not how the DC versus Marvel saga concludes. Sure, the individual skirmishes between the various DC and Marvel heroes all have clear winners (well, more or less), but in the end, neither fictional universe overcomes the other. Instead, the two god-like beings who personify the DC and Marvel universes realise the futility of their contest and call it a draw.

Now, some fans might call this a cheap way to wrap up the series. But considering the universe that lost DC versus Marvel was supposed to be wiped from existence, it’s pretty much the only way this story was ever going to play out. Let’s be real, here: although the powers that be at DC and Marvel were able to stomach a few of their most bankable characters coming in second best, conceding outright defeat was never gonna happen.

1. It set the stage for an awesome Marvel/DC mash-up series

On paper, a DC/Marvel showdown should be pretty hard to top. For many readers, however, the Amalgam spin-off that launched midway through DC versus Marvel was an even more memorable crossover than the event that spawned it! Amalgam took a basic premise that’s as intriguing as it is ridiculous – DC and Marvel’s respective character stables are amalgamated into composite characters like Super-Soldier and Dark Claw – and really knocked it out of the park with 24 inventive, entertaining one-shot stories.

But where Amalgam really raised the bar was its attention to detail, which was downright staggering. Each issue included editorial notes calling back to non-existent prior issues (helping to lend a sense of history to the brand-new Amalgam universe), as well as bogus letter columns supposedly submitted by readers hailing from cities with portmanteau names drawn from real-life locations!

What was your favourite thing about DC versus Marvel? Let me know in the comments below, or on Twitter or Facebook!

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