Plenty of other people on the Blogosphere seem to have been talking about this lately, so I may as well leap on that wagon they call band and give my own thoughts on the matter.
I got my copy of Superman Vs The Amazing Spider-Man back when it first came out. That was hardly amazing, I'd already got a few Marvel Treasury Editions by that point and if there was one I wasn't going to miss out on, it was the first ever senses-shattering, epoch-making encounter between Superman and Spider-Man. I'm pretty sure I got my copy from Sheffield's Sheaf Market, as I remember reading parts of it on the bus on the way home but, even before I'd bought it, it was clear to my twelve year old brain that there were inherent problems with the concept.
One was that Superman and Spider-Man clearly lived in different worlds, so how could they possibly meet?
The other was that Superman was a gazillion times more powerful than Spider-Man so how could they possibly fight?
The other matter was completely ignored as we were seemingly meant to take it for granted that Superman and Spider-Man actually do inhabit the same world - it's just that they inhabit different cities in that world and had therefore never before met.
It was a less than satisfactory solution and, given that both Marvel and DC had in the past been willing to send their heroes off into alternate worlds, a somewhat surprising one. Maybe neither company wanted their hero to pass into the other company's world because that'd raise questions as to which company's world was the real one? Well, clearly Marvel's is because it's set in places that actually exist, whereas the DC universe is full of cities that don't. Perhaps there was a fear on DC's part that acknowledging this'd establish their universe as false and therefore subordinate? Or maybe I'm just reading too much into it and they just couldn't be bothered to make up an explanation.
Despite the historic nature of the publication, the plotting's pretty workmanlike. We get to meet each hero and his arch-villain, then those villains meet up, then, thanks to the villains, Superman and Spider-Man meet and fight before uniting to tackle the villains. In other words, it's the standard Marvel approach whenever two heroes bump into each other. That's the thing; although it's a joint venture, it feels more like a Marvel comic than a DC one - especially in the scenes involving the heroes' everyday lives.The fact that it's written by Gerry Conway and drawn by Ross Andru - both strongly associated with the monthly Spider-Man mag - adds to this sense that what we're reading is actually a giant-sized version of Marvel Team-Up.
What reminds you that we aren't is the treatment of the two main Marvel characters. In Spider-Man's case, this was inevitable. Spider-Man was always going to seem redundant in a partnership with Superman but a bigger crime was the treatment of Dr Octopus. Octopus, as we all know, is highly dangerous and a genius but his role in the comic seemed mainly to be to stand there going, "Incredible," and, "Amazing," every time Lex Luthor did anything. It's Dr Octopus, you lunatics! He's a scientific genius too! Let him get at least get a share of the super-villain glory!
But if the story's a little lacking, the book's main selling-point is the look of the thing. It's huge! I've had smaller carpets. It has that magnificent cover that alone makes you feel the astronomical price of $2 is justified. It's also pencilled by Ross Andru, who, as I said a few days ago, was my favourite Spider-Man artist, and inked by Dick Giordano who, along with Tom Palmer, was my favourite inker, so it was always going to find favour with me on that score. What I didn't know at the time was the pencils had been touched up by Neal Adams and John Romita. Once it's pointed out, it's obvious but I was clearly a very trusting soul back then and, because neither were credited, it never occurred to me.
So, overall, it's a mixed bag. A somewhat workmanlike story with visuals that were anything but workmanlike. Clearly comics are a visual medium but there was something about the encounter that never sat right with me; so much so that when Marvel and DC did other cross-overs, I never had any desire to read them. The first meeting of the two companies' standard bearers had convinced me that, however exciting it might seem, such an idea was not a good one.
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