Superhero media has adopted such a crossover friendly, shared universe-embracing mentality over the past few years that these seismic events in storytelling are almost taken for granted now, but never have they been bigger – or stranger – than the mid-’90s. Faltering comics sales in the mid ‘90s led to DC and Marvel resorting to a limited DC Vs. Marvel series that pitted fan favorite characters against each other, like The Flash Vs. Quicksilver, Green Lantern Vs. Silver Surfer, and Batman Vs. Captain America. The success of these stories led to DC and Marvel forming their own publishing house, Amalgam Comics, which would release 24 comics from 1996-1997, all of which were set in a blended, amalgamated universe.
This is not just some crossover world, but rather a new universe where DC and Marvel characters are literally combined, with the results being misguided creations like Thorion (Thor/Orion), Kultron (Kobra/Ultron), Manadarinestro (Manadrin/Sinestro), and the truly unbelievable Ra’s A-Pocalypse (Ra’s Al Ghul/Apocalypse). These are real comics made by professionals that involve some of the most famous superheroes of all time. These painful, pun-focused amalgamations are a riot, but Amalgam actually pulled some pretty damn impressive amalgamated rabbits out of its hat. Here are the 15 Best Moments From DC and Marvel’s Amalgam Comics.
16. Honorable Mention: The Advent of Access, the Human Crossover!
Okay, so before this can of crossover worms is really dug into, it’d probably be helpful to explain how this madness could happen—or rather, who this madness could happen. Yes, this new, amalgamated universe is the result of a person rather than some sort of chaotic crossover event. Created in the precursor to Amalgam Comics, DC Vs. Marvel, the character Access is a superhero whose abilities are cross-dimensional awareness, the ability to transport materials between dimensions, and basically evade copyright laws in a single bound!
He might be a little tricky to peg down, but Access is in charge of the complicated responsibility of keeping both Marvel and DC’s universes separate. If they ever run into jeopardy of overlapping, the two worlds run the risk of blending into the Amalgam universe once more. Obviously, this saddles Access with a ton of responsibility. Access faces unique problems like if he stays in one universe for too long he’s liable to cause “spontaneous crossovers” to occur, meaning he has to constantly move from one universe to another. Talk about wanderlust.
15. Spider-Boy Teams Up With Spider-Boy 2099
Spider-Boy, the amalgamation of Spider-Man and Superboy, doesn’t actually have any spider-based powers. His abilities allow him to control his own gravity, with him instead wielding a web gun. He also earns the rare distinction of being the only Amalgam character that gets to interact with their future self (and not go through an identity crisis in the process, at that). Spider-Boy is lucky to have a friend from the future when Kang the Time Conqueror not only freezes the Legion of Galactic Guardians 2099 in Limbo, but also begins dismantling Spider-Boy into his base elements in a ploy for power. Spider-Boy 2099 travels to Earth-9602 to save his fellow Spider-Boy, with the two alternative web-slingers taking down Kang in the process. In a surprise reveal, Kang turns out to actually be Chronos-Tut the Time Pharaoh!
Spider-Boy Team-Up #1 happens to involve a fair bit of time paradox logic, with a surprising amount of focus on connecting the dots and having everything line up with the eventual 2099 timeline. Also, doesn’t Spider-Boy just scream “middling Sega Genesis game?”
14. Magneto and the Magnetic Men Vs. the Sinister Society
You know those times when you’re like, “I really love the X-Men but I wish they were all robots…”? Well, Magneto and the Magnetic Men has got your robo-needs covered. First off, the basic premise of amalgamated X-Men is pretty damn dark. Magneto’s entire Brotherhood of Mutants is slaughtered courtesy of his brother, Will Magnus’, Sentinels. Magneto then decides to rebuild his team as robots, and hence the Uncanny Magnetic Men are formed.
In a rather enlightening parable about free will, Magneto’s robot team slowly gain sentience and become increasingly human to the point of Magneto dissolving the team entirely to keep them out of danger. It’s at this moment of vulnerability that the Sinister Society (Sinister Six/Secret Society of Super-Villains) attacks them, resulting in Magneto coming to the rescue. A surprising turn of events leads to the Sinister Society teaming up with Magneto and his Magnetic Men, with Will Magnus being a common enemy between them all. In the meantime this robotic Traveling Wilburys is more than equipped to deal with threats like Sinistron (an amalgam of Braniac, Mr. Sinister, Nimrod, Sinestro and *breathes for air* Ultron).
13. Speed Demon and Kid Demon Free the Night Spectre’s Captured Souls
Amalgam uses Speed Demon (Ghost Rider/The Flash/Etrigan the Demon) as their sort of commentary on there being various iterations of some superheroes, with new personalities adopting the mantle after something happens to the original. The Flash and Ghost Rider is a pretty bad-ass combo when you think about it, especially when considering that Blaze Allen just runs while leaving a flaming runway in his wake. Then throw in Etrigan’s perma-rhyming trait and you’ve got a character that’s weirdly intimidating. Like picture a flaming skull rhyming at you!
A lot of Speed Demon’s story involves mysticism and lost souls, with his primary antagonist being Night Spectre (Nightmare/The Spectre) who’s actually managed to capture the previous Speed Demon, Jay Garrick’s, soul, as well as Blaze’s love, Iris Simpson. When Wally West, Blaze’s nephew, undergoes the same sort of flaming skull-based metamorphosis as his uncle, he dons the title Kid Demon and the two use their skills to destroy Night Spectre and free all her souls in the process. It’s a great battle that opens up even more questions between the new team in a way that’s disheartening that we never got more of these two.
12. Iron Lantern Battles Great White, the Robot Shark
Iron Lantern (Iron Man/Green Lantern) might only get a one-shot issue to shine, but the character makes the most of his time, managing to not only showcase a winning battle, but also double as succinct origin story for the amalgamated character. Granted, Iron Lantern’s origins are essentially the same as Green Lantern’s only with his involving a suit of armor instead of some piece of jewelry. After Hal Stark acquires his powers, Pepper Ferris undergoes similar events that lead to her becoming the villainous Madame Sapphire. On her warpath she activates Great White (Ultimo/The Shark), a giant, weaponized robot shark. Then, before you know it, it’s Stark versus Shark in a mechanical throw down.
Curiously, this showdown between Iron Lantern and Great White gets interrupted care of the Green Guardsman (The Guardsman/Green Lantern—the other Green Lantern, Kyle Rayner) who robs Iron Lantern of his crucial power supply. Accordingly, Iron Lantern’s story is one of Amalgam Comics’ few narratives to end on a maddening cliffhanger. You could say plotting like this might jump the shark, but…
11. Challengers of the Fantastic Battle Doctor Doomsday
To be fair, this battle is all but teased, but it’s a showdown that would truly wield epic results so its premise alone warrants an inclusion on the list. The Challengers of the Fantastic don’t go through as drastic of an amalgamation as some of the other characters in the Amalgam universe (although Reed Richards’ Doc Ock arms are an addition that need to become canon immediately), but their primary villains certainly do. The Challengers of the Fantastic spend most of their time dealing with Galactiac, which yes, is a combination of Galactus and Braniac’s worst qualities. The supervillain gives the team considerable trouble before the revelation of freezing the goliath is reached. Even then though, Galactiac still manages to escape and continue to be a looming threat for the Challengers.
Once the Galactiac drama is swept under the rug, that rug is cleanly pulled out from under you in the introduction of Doctor Doomsday as he swiftly absorbs the power of the Silver Racer (Silver Surfer/Black Racer). This ultra-threat has big plans for the Challengers with seemingly endless power at his disposal. Freezing isn’t going to work on this guy.
10. Bizarnage Vs. Spider-Boy
Everything about Spider-Boy screams that it’s trying to be hip, with that ideology never more present than in one of the hero’s primary antagonists, Bizarnage (Bizarro/Carnage). The Spider-Man series has had plenty of fun getting creative with its symbiotes through the years, but Spider-Boy manages to one-up all of their efforts in one swift web-swing. The idea of combining two agents of chaos like Carnage and Bizarro is beyond appealing and the synthesis makes for a rather fulfilling villain. Sure, Spider-Boy might handle the foe in all of their encounters with relatively minimal effort, but he’s the best kind of recurring villain to have around. Even if Bizarnage isn’t beating Pete Ross in battle, his mental games and psychological torture are enough to make him be a perpetual thorn in his side. Bizarnage’s full potential may never get to be seen, but his character design paired with Spider-Boy’s make for some sleek, frenetic fights that will pull you out of any sort of spider boredom that you’re experiencing. At the end of the day, just the sheer glee of seeing some creature like a Bizarro/Carnage mash-up running loose is enough on its own. There’s no need to get greedy.
9. Bullets and Bracelets One-Two Punch of Diana Prince and Trevor Castle
Bullets and Bracelets proudly advertises on its cover, “Castle and Diana together again!” as it tries to prepare you for the force of adrenaline that you’re about to choke down. Doing its best impression of some sort of Jessica Jones/Luke Cage rocky relationship saga, Diana Prince (in non-Wonder Woman status) and Trevor Castle (the new de facto Punisher) are no longer an item, but when their son is kidnapped and taken by Thanoseid (Thanos/Darkseid), the two are forced to put their differences aside. With all of the different approaches taken in Amalgam Comics stories, it’s kind of awesome that this one is just two parents kicking ass on a suicide mission to get their son back. Naturally, Castle and Prince’s love is reunited from their mission together and their story ends on a suitably bittersweet note. So many of the character mash-ups looked at here try to juggle as much as possible, but Bullets and Bracelets is an elegant example of how less is more and that simply stripping characters down to different bases can be enough.
8. Lobo the Duck and Impossible Dawg Investigate Who Killed All the Superheroes
Amalgam’s Lobo the Duck storyline goes for the highest of concepts imaginable as it takes place in an alternate reality where virtually all of Amalgam’s superheroes have been brutally slaughtered. In what’s a rather inspired combination of Lobo’s mercenary status and Howard the Duck’s career path as a detective, Lobo the Duck wanders this wasteland investigating who’s responsible for wiping out all the heroes. Lobo’s story might bank on the idea that learning of a massacred Spider-Boy, Speed Demon, or Dark Claw is a whole lot more shocking than it actually is, but the comic carries strong narrative drive with its fresh direction.
If all of this wasn’t enough, Lobo the Duck finds himself working with Impossible Dawg (Dawg/Impossible Man), making this literally the weirdest pairing possible. The fact that villains like Dr. Bongface (Scarface/Dr. Bong) are on their rogue’s gallery just shows you the insanity factor in play here. Oh, and in case you were worried that Howard the Duck’s sex drive might have been reduced some in this amalgamation, Lobo is DTF, in spite of his girlfriend Bevarlene.
7. Super-Soldier Vs. Ultra-Metallo
Amalgam’s Super-Soldier comics see some of the cleverest amalgamations and re-framings of concepts in the entire series. It might have something to do with the fact that Super-Soldier is a blending of Superman and Captain America, which is a concept that holds a considerable amount of expectations behind it. Or it might have something to do with the fact that Mark Waid and Dave Gibbons are the ones in charge with this title, and these guys don’t mess around.
Set during WWII, Super-Soldier is framed in opposition to the Third Reich with the evil Green Skull (Lex Luthor/Red Skull) calling the shots. Green Skull calls Ultra-Metallo (Ultimo/Metallo), a highly advanced Nazi war machine, to take on Super-Soldier with some explosively evocative iconography following. Perhaps what’s most brilliant about what Waid does here is he has Green Skull ready to drop a K-Bomb on the world, taking the nuclear fallout aspect of the war and tying it to Superman’s kryptonite lore. The K-Bomb is only dangerous to Super-Soldier, with its radiation actually making Ultra-Metallo stronger. This amalgam totally brings its A-game with its combination of two pillars of justice being just as thrilling as it should be.
6. Dr. Strangefate Risks All to Ensure the Amalgam Universe’s Existence
Don’t let the name fool you, Dr. Strangefate is more than just some ridiculous name. He is the amalgamation of Dr. Strange, Dr. Fate, and Charles Xavier after all. Accordingly, this cocktail of superpowers results in Dr. Strangefate officially being the most powerful being in the Amalgam Comics universe. Of course, with great power comes great responsibility and so Dr. Strangefate’s immense energy is used to protect the Amalgam universe at all costs and prevent its destruction. When Access attempts to separate the Amalgam universe, Dr. Strangefate recruits White Witch, Skulk, and Jade Nova to help ensure their realm’s protection, but they ultimately prove to be unsuccessful.
Dr. Strangefate’s commitment is so severe that even after Amalgam is destroyed, he remains buried within Dr. Strange’s psyche. Even in this minimal form, Strangefate manages to convince Sr. Strange to open interdimensional gateways. Later, Dr. Strangefate goes as far as combining the X-Men and the Justice League of America together to collectively take down Access and allow Amalgam to exist. Dr. Strangefate is seen to be such a problem, Dr. Strange resorts to storing the Amalgam universe in a pocket dimension to keep all of this under lock and key.
5. Bruce Wayne, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Battles Green Skull
The idea of turning Bruce Wayne into some tactical espionage expert that could hand Nick Fury his ass is kind of an awesome premise. It doesn’t hurt that the stakes are set appropriately high with this one with the story never even attempting to slow down. To begin with, the villains here immediately jettison any expectations when Selina Luthor kills her father, Green Skull, taking over Hydra in the process. If Selina wasn’t enough of a threat, before Green Skull was killed he initiated his Planetsmasher Program which sees the deadly Terra Cannon arming itself in the process. The Terra Cannon is a veritable doomsday machine and the story even has the guts to pull the trigger on the weapon and let your mind wander as to what the horrible effects are. Bruce Wayne, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a masterful spy story that re-frames Bruce Wayne in such an entertaining new light, with there being constant surprises to keep this one moving along. The bombshell that Green Skull is still alive and pulling the strings behind everything also hits hard and makes for a cliffhanger as ingratiating as Iron Lantern’s.
4. Amalgam’s Parallel Multiverses
One of the coolest things that Amalgam Comics would do during its short existence was create parallel comic series that would make reference to existing comic lines in some really inspired ways. For example, Legends of the Dark Claw was an Amalgam comic series that was a straight-up take on Batman. In addition to Legends of the Dark Claw also existed an Amalgam comic called Dark Claw Adventures which was a comic book adaptation of the “Animated Dark Claw Series,” of course being a reference to Batman: The Animated Series. There is no actual Dark Claw cartoon, but these comics end up making one exist by proxy. It’s a brilliant way of conveying that you’re somehow getting products from Earth-9602 that are not meant for you.
At the same time, Amalgam also plays with Super-Soldier: Man of War, which differs from the main Super-Soldier comic by being done in a classic Golden Age-style look from the WWII era. Like, it’s safe to assume that a Dark Claw Beyond comic probably exists out there in their world because they need some analogue to Batman Beyond. It’s such a comic lover sort of idea.
3. The Creation of Ultra Powerful Amalgams Like Thanoseid and Galactiac
There’s no denying that part of the fun of these Amalgam Comics is simply laughing at the sheer ridiculousness of some of these superhero meldings, whether it’s through sheer excess of power or sheer excess of elements getting thrown in the stew. So while throwing juggernauts like Batman and Wolverine or Superman and Captain America into one person might seem unfair, these upcoming characters go so far over the line it’s unbelievable. Thanoseid (Thanos/Darkseid), for instance, is almost comical for how intimidating a combination it is. His greatest weapon is his ability to control the mic dropping Omega Effect, not to mention he’s the one responsible for what leads into the Secret Crisis of the Infinity Hour (sound familiar?), the greatest battle that the Amalgam universe ever witnesses. He and Dr. Doomsday attempt to destroy everything in existence, leaving only the realm of Apokolips behind.
Meanwhile, someone like Galactus is so large of a foe he simultaneously seems unnecessary and perfect for an amalgamation. Mixing him and Braniac together is once more a step into overboard territory. It’s a shame Amalgam wasn’t around longer to see what other mega-behemoths they’d cook up.
2. Dark Claw Vs. Hyena
The DC Vs. Marvel event series that would lead up to the Amalgam years featured a good deal of irresistible crossover fights, but even in Amalgam’s short time it would manage to create swaggering blended characters that you were anxious to eventually see come to blows themselves. One of the strongest examples of this is in the creation of Amalgam’s own Batman and Joker archrivals dynamic between Dark Claw (Batman/Wolverine) and Hyena (Joker/Sabretooth). The idea of sticking two of comics’ greatest anti-heroes together in the form of Dark Claw isn’t exactly a no brainer, but taking someone that’s unhinged as the Joker and then making him additionally bloodthirsty and powerful is a really great idea. The fights between these two jokes have a certain weight and ferociousness to them that’s lacking from the other showdowns. Even though you’re only reading a few issues with these characters, they still succeed in creating the same storied reputation that Batman and Joker as well and Wolverine and Sabretooth share. This comic is the money shot issue that feels like the entire reason these comics were made in the first place.
1. Amalgam’s Fictitious Editorial Notes
Editorial boxes that feature notes in order to help you navigate through the decades worth of history that so many comic series have accompanying them are a great advent to the medium. These boxes can be beyond helpful to new audiences, but you can also get some smart reflexive material out of them too in Amalgam’s case. Amalgam would use fictitious editorial notes that were put into practice in some really clever ways in order to make it seem like Amalgam’s brief history actually spanned decades. For example, there’s reference to the non-existent Amalgam 2099, Elsewhat If, and Sleuth Comics (where Dark Claw debuted in issue #27, of course). There’s even, Dark Claw: The Murder Gag (Amalgam’s only graphic novel and a play on The Killing Joke) as well as Secret Crisis of the Infinity Hour (Infinity Gauntlet, Secret Wars, Zero Hour, Crisis on Infinite Earths). All of these references to comic stories that never happened shows a real degree of foresight and touch of meta that hasn’t really been witnessed until recently.
Is your favorite Amalgam Comics moment or character something else entirely? Are you a Baron Zero or Hawkhawk kind of person? Sound off below and be heard!