Comics / Cult Favorite

Talking Team-ups

By Philip Schweier
Sep 21, 2013 - 20:30

To me, the weeks between Comic-Con and Dragon Con are akin those between Thanksgiving and Christmas when I was kid. Lots of anticipation building to a big annual event. As a child I watched Christmas special wherever I could find them, and in that same spirit, I spent the month of August watching Star Trek documentaries on Netflix.

My fervor for Trek fandom has waned over the years, as the property has been franchised and re-imagined to its limits and beyond. But in recent days I’ve been a little more observant, and the other day I was in my friendly neighborhood comic book store. I spied with my little eye something that once would’ve made me hyperventilate: a crossover between the Legion of Super-Heroes and Star Trek (original series).

I know it was published a while ago, and I was aware of it then, but because of an increased “trek sensitivity,” it stood out more than before. Not enough to make me buy, however. I noticed what I considered to be a fatal flaw in the concept, that being that while the Star Trek facets were clearly based on the original TV series from the 1960s, the Legion portion was more modern. I just felt that they should have used the original Legion, complete with Lightning Lad’s robotic arm and a fat Matter Eater Lad...

Yes, kids, there actually was a super-hero whose power was to eat anything.  And suddenly, the Legion aboard the Enterprise seems less far-fetched, doesn’t it?

But I digress

Team-up books were a staple of the 1970s. Batman’s most frequent so-stars in Brave & the Bold included Aquaman and the Spectre (both drawn by Jim Aparo in other titles), the Metal Men and Mr. Miracle. Superman starred as the lead in World’s Finest for a brief period in the early 1970s, but later a new book, DC Comics Presents featured the Man of Steel with other DC stars, often fellow Justice Leaguers.

Meanwhile, over at Marvel, Spider-Man starred in Marvel Team-Up, sharing the pages with fellow New Yorkers Human Torch Dr. Strange, but also unlikely guests such as Red Sonja and the original cast of Saturday Night Live. The Thing was the lead in Marvel Two-in-One, where one of his most frequent co-stars was, ironically, Spider-Man

So I got to thinking about the concept of team-ups, and all that they entail. They can be broken down into a handful of categories:

The Buddy Team-up: This borders on a full-blown partnership. An example might be Superman and Batman, and requires little discussion. Let’s move on.

The Common Team-up: This is usually two similar heroes, such as Green Lantern and Green Arrow (both Justice Leaguers) or Spider-Man and Daredevil (both fight street level crime in New York City). Such crossovers seem natural, and thereby leave little room for any creative drama.

The Uncommon Team-up: Once in a while, in the pages of such comics as Brave & the Bold or Marvel Two-in-One, the unlikeliest of team-ups was shoehorned into the most implausible narrative. One personal favorite was the Thing and Doc Savage (Marvel Two-in-One #21). Since both Doc and Ben Grimm are based in Manhattan skyscrapers, it may have made sense to someone. Thinking about it creatively, I would have liked for it to be treated as a Doc Savage story, in which the Man of Bronze encounters this man, this monster, in a good old-fashioned pulp-style adventure. But the Thing was the star, so I can see how the editorial powers might not go for it.

The Fan Boy’s Dream:
Back in 1976, DC and Marvel dared the impossible by bringing together their two flagship characters, Superman and Spider-Man. They tried such events several times with varying success. In 1982, the X-Men fought alongside the New Teen Titans at the height of their combined popularity and was an instant classic. John Byrne crafted a tale in which the 1940s-era Batman & Robin joined forces with Captain America and Bucky during WW II. This allowed the two senior crime fighters to temporarily swap partners.

Another unlikely pairing that worked so well occurred not in the comic book pages, but on television. In the 1960s, Greenways was producing the Batman TV series. Hoping to duplicate its success, it launched a show based on the Green Hornet, and to wish the Hornet well, Batman hosted the Green Hornet and Kato on his show.

Which only strengthens my argument regarding the Legion and Star Trek. Combining two properties from the same era seems a more natural fit. The Legion was extremely popular in the 1970s, and easily could have been featured in a story set during the Star Trek: The Motion Picture continuity. Such a story could have explored strange new worlds for both properties.

So Crazy It Just Might Work: A few years back, Judd Winick got a call from DC Comics editor Eddie Berganza. “He has this exhausted tone in his voice," Winick told an audience at Atlanta's Dragon*Con in 2003. " 'Listen, um, you like Thundercats?' and I'm like 'Yeah!' and suddenly he wakes up with a 'Yes? Really?' and I'm like 'Yes, absolutely!' "

When Berganza offered him Superman/Thundercats, Winick seemed to have doubts. "Well, I really don't like the idea of Superman, like, hanging out with the Thundercats, you know, on Thundera. It just sounds so bad, I mean, what could be stupider?"

But according to Winick, Berganza said, "No, no, no, we think the Thundercats should come to Metropolis."

Enthusiasm back, Winick says, "Yeah, I'll do it. Yeah."

Sure, the whole idea sounds goofy, but sometimes, an enthusiastic writer enjoys the challenge of making the impossible happen. Which might be why DC Comics will be publishing a DC Universe/Masters of the Universe crossover later this year.

Team-ups have been a staple of comics since the Golden Age, but for some characters, it took decades for them to find their way into the pages of the same comic book. One example would be Doc Savage and The Shadow, who had been stable-mates at Street & Smith since the 1930s. Granted, their track record in comics has been iffy over the years, which might be why they didn’t meet until 1989.

Last Updated: Jun 26, 2018 - 9:28

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