Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man (1976)
“The Battle of the Century!”
Writer – Gerry Conway
Penciller – Ross Andru w/Neal Adams & John Romita, Sr. (uncredited)
Inker – Dick Giordano w/Terry Austin & Bob Wiacek (uncredited)
Letterer – Gaspar Saladino
Colorist – Jerry Serpe
Producer – Sol Harrison w/Jack Adler
Consulting Editors – Roy Thomas, Julius Schwartz, Marv Wolfman & E. Nelson Bridwell
Presented by – Carmine Infantino & Stan Lee
Cover Price: $2.00
Okay, here’s a biggie. Today marks my ONE-HUNDREDTH day of blogging (in a row!). I figure what better way to mark the occasion than by checking out The Battle of the Century! DC Comics’ Superman versus Marvel Comics’ Amazing Spider-Man! 100 days, 100 posts, 100 years (in a century), and (nearly) 100 pages in this beast!
On a personal note… this blogging endeavor been a heckuva ride so far, and I’d sincerely like to thank anybody who has followed along or popped in from time to time. This ‘project’ has afforded me great new friendships, a new way to look at my comics collection, and a rediscovery of just how fun this hobby can be. I’d gone through a long period of comics malaise over the past few years… never so bad that I’d abandon the hobby completely (though, it did come close), in writing for the blog (and for sites of new friends and partners) I’ve found my inner-comic book fan.
I cannot think of anything that separates me from my fellow bloggers, and I humbly appreciate each and every view. Now, onto the Man of Steel and the Wall Crawler!
This is a long one…
Our opening piece is a Superman solo story acting as our first prologue. Superman is approaching a giant robot who is literally tearing through many of Metropolis’ skyscrapers. The lead-lined ‘bot is emerging from a high rise, and has left a path of demolished buildings in its wake.
As Superman attempts to heat up the beast with his infra-red vision he is blasted by the bot’s own inertia ray… throwing Supes through several buildings himself. After many failed attempts at downing the mech, Superman decides his best approach may be pushing the robot into the ground. When the ‘bot is about shoulders-deep in the Earth, it’s head launches skyward.
Superman gives chase, however, when he reaches the head… it explodes. Down on the ground we watch as Lex Luthor exits from the body of mecha, and flees by the grace of his jetpack.
Later on, we join Clark in his civvies as he heads to work at the Galaxy Communications Building. Clark runs into Lois and jerk-face Steve Lombard, as well as boss man, Morgan Edge. Jimmy calls everyone’s attention to the television. It turns out Channel 2 has all the dirt on the giant robot attack… the gang learns that the robot’s pilot is responsible for a stolen programming circuit from S.T.A.R. Labs.
Back in his blues, Superman takes off in search of his robo-foe. His search takes him deep into Metropolis Bay, where wouldn’tcha know it… Lex Luthor his holed up. The two tussle, with Lex firing some Red Sun energy into the Man of Steel’s eyes… dazzling him, which from the looks of it is just an excuse for Superman to break out in dance.
During the confusion, Lex loads the S.T.A.R. circuit into a pneumatic tube, sending it to a secure location. Superman’s really just had enough of Lex’s crap, and as such… just melts the underwater craft, letting in a deluge of foamy bay discharge. As this point, Lex is easy pickins’… he is soon taken into custody.
Our second prologue begins with Spider-Man setting up his camera so he may procure some snaps of his impending crime bust on a nearby rooftop.
As he swings into the fracas, he finds the mastermind of this criminal endeavor is none other than Doctor Octopus. As the two do battle Doc Ock draws his attention to his all-new Flying Octopus craft. This bugger looks kinda like Brainiac’s skull ship… in fact, during my first read-through, I thought maybe Brainiac was going to be involved. Ock is able to escape just as New York’s finest show up… but not before Spidey slaps him with a Spider-Tracer. The officers are more than a bit ticked that Otto got away, though, they’ll happily take the Wall Crawler in for some questioning. Spidey deciding discretion is the better part of valor, scurries away (outta web fluid, don’tchaknow).
Back at the Bugle, Peter Parker proudly hands over his latest roll of film to publisher J. Jonah Jameson. Jonah’s positively giddy at the prospect of a photo exclusive of Spidey duking it out with Doc Ock, and hands the roll over to the production folks sight unseen demanding the best snap get the front-page treatment.
Nearly an hour passes before the Night Owl Edition is ready to hit the streets of New York. Jonah is shocked to see the best image is nothing but a blur. He and Peter do their normal song and dance, and our young freelance photog is unceremoniously kicked out (just as Mary Jane Watson shows up as luck would have it).
On the street, Peter’s spider-sense begins tingling. He looks skyward to see a Goodyear blimp. Knowing there’s more to it than meets the eye, he gives MJ a weak excuse and suits up. He climbs to the tippy top of the Empire State Building, and leaps onto the blimp… which we come to find is just a disguise for Doc Ock’s Flying Octopus aircraft. The pair wrestles as the craft plummets into the Central Park Reservoir. From there, Spidey wraps Ock up with ease.
Our third (and final) prologue consists of the first meeting between Doctor Octopus and Lex Luthor in Federal Maximum-X Security Penitentiary Number One… yeesh… outside of Deming, New Mexico. The two are told that there will be cameras and microphones on them at all times. They make special effort to make sure Lex has nothing on his person that he may use to escape… yet, leave Doctor Octopus’ arms intact.
After settling in, Lex proposes a Super Villain team-up. Ock is fairly pessimistic about the entire affair, but Lex is steadfast in his belief that he will be able to break the two of them out in short order. That evening, Lex peels a sheet of false epidermis off of his forearm that was hiding all sorts of goodies that would facilitate a prison break.
Before you know it, the two crooks are piggybacking outta the pen!
Now, 36 pages in… we begin the story proper. Chapter One: A Duel of Titans begins with members of the Daily Planet and Daily Bugle attending the World News Conference in New York City.
We first join Peter and Mary Jane as they are approached by Jonah. JJJ reads Pete the riot act, and young Parker decides that enough is enough. He tells Jonah where to stick it and stomps away.
Next up, Clark and Lois. They walk past Morgan Edge and come to learn that Clark will not be hosting the convention coverage on WGBS. Edge scapegoats a sponsor, and tells Kent that they’re gonna try to get Walter Cronkite (or someone of his stature) for the gig. Clark takes it on the chin, much to Lois’ chagrin. She’s had enough of Clark’s milquetoastiness… and she stomps away…
… until she comes across a scaffolding. She thinks it’d be a great idea to climb up in order to snap a few pics. Doing so in high-heeled shoes was perhaps not her best idea this day, and she begins to fall. Lucky for her, a young fella with awesome reflexes is already atop the scaffold. Peter Parker pulls Lois up, and the pair exchanges pleasantries.
Shortly, Peter helps Lois back to solid ground and bumps into a very passive-aggressive Ms. Watson.
Lois makes it clear she’s only got eyes for one fella… and his name ain’t Pete. As the two continue their chat, Superman swoops into the scene. Lois offers up a “Hey”, which is returned by Superman blasting the ladies with his eye beams, which sends them off to parts unknown. Oddly enough, this scene is witnessed by both Peter Parker and Clark Kent.
Pete runs off in a panic, frantically seeking a phone booth he can change clothes in. It’s a rather cute scene as he asks Clark if he’s seen a booth.
Chapter Two: When Heroes Clash! opens with Spider-Man and Superman coming face-to-face in the skies above New York City. The two posture a bit and exchange threatening words.
We come to find that the Superman in the previous chapter (shocker) wasn’t Superman at all… he was in fact… get this… Lex Luthor in a Superman disguise… naturally.
As the two titans get ready to tangle, Lex fires his Red Sun Radiation Device at Spider-Man in order to soop up his power-set… and boy does it ever.
The next several pages are the Marvel-style “Heroes fight before they team up” formula, featuring the Sooped-up-Spidey getting the best of the Man of Steel quite decisively.
Finally the Red Sun dealie wears off, and when it does, Superman (almost) lays in with a right-hand of his own. He pulls his punch just at the last moment, however the wind-blast his punch would have caused proves to be enough to send Spidey flying.
A confused Spidey regains his bearings and pounces back toward Superman. After a failed (and hilarious) attempt at fisticuffs…
… the pair come to the realization that they should not be enemies, and should instead try to get to the bottom of this caper as a tandem.
Chapter Three: The Call of Battle! begins with our new dynamic duo (with Spidey on web-skis!!!) approaching the Old Penn Station Railroad Yard. Superman tracked the “Super-Impostor” hear by following the energy residue left in his wake.
Spidey volunteers to enter first, and finds himself stuck in a bevvy of booby traps, including electrified walls, and a red-hot ceiling. A very impatient Superman decides to simply crash through the front door. They both wind up in a room with Lex Luthor and Doctor Octopus. The villains show them that MJ and Lois are still alive… but appear to be arguing.
Spider-Man pounces, only to find that Lex and Ock were only a holographic projection. He notices the computer equipment and attempts to use it for tracking purposes. Superman, using his X-Ray vision sees yet another booby-trap hidden in the machinery, and literally blows Spidey away. After repairing the wall of computers, the guys find that their next stop is Mount Kilimanjaro.
When they arrive in Africa the Multiverse’s Finest runs into some Masai tribesmen. One called Nu-Chaka recognizes Superman and agrees to take them to his leader. At camp, Superman commits the ultimate faux pas in passing up a delicious drink of cattle blood and milk (he’s just used to Nestle Quik is all).
They are told of a legend of a haunted location in the mountain which may aid them in their quest, and Nu’Chaka agrees to guide them there. As they arrive, the run afoul of a previously missing tribesmen who proceeds to attack the threesome. Nu’Chaka gets a broken arm for his troubles, and our Supers come to the realization that they must allow their powers to combine to take this foe down.
After felling the fella, the dream team enters the “haunted cave”. Chapter 4: Doomsday Decision begins as they find one of Lex Luthor’s computerized hot-spots. We also observe Lex and Ock rocketing away from Earth en route to the Injustice League’s Satellite HQ.
The Super Villains board the satellite, and we find that this is where they’ve been keeping Lois and Mary Jane. We also learn that this was the S.T.A.R. Labs circuit’s final destination.
Meanwhile, we get a neat scene featuring media magnates Morgan Edge and J. Jonah Jameson discussing their issues with a certain Kent and a certain Parker as they belly up to the bar.
Back in space, we find out Luthor’s true motivation. He intends to take control of an orbital Comlab with the help of the stolen circuit. This will (somehow) allow him to manipulate the Earth’s weather.
Just as Lex gets full control, Superman and Spidey-in-a-rocket-ship approach the Comlab satellite. Luthor uses the Com’s laser to take out (and somehow apprehend) both of our heroes.
On board the Injustice Satellite, the four men enter into battle. It is kind of a lopsided affair, as both Supes and Spidey are still reeling from the effects of the ultra-frequency sonic blast. To make the odds even more in the favor of the villains, Lex turns on the zero-g.
The dream team cannot regain their bearings, and it begins to look quite grim. It is then that Superman remembers the Jeet Kune Do style of fighting… letting the opponent attempt to strike first, then using their own power against them. He manages to counter a Doc Ock onslaught this way, smashing Otto into a wall, and knocking his glasses off.
Lex lunges for the floating spectacles, and winds up crushing them. Superman brings everyone’s attention to a Tsunami (which Stan and Carmine helpfully tell us is a Super Tidal Wave) about to decimate the East Coast of the United States.
Superman takes off Earthbound to attempt to stop the wave. Spidey is able to reason with Doctor Octopus that Luthor is perhaps a bit too mad, even for him. He reminds Otto that he also lives on the Earth. Doc Ock turns on Luthor and the two enter into combat.
All the while Superman approaches a tidal wave that stands one-mile tall and stretches 200 miles wide. He hits upwards of Mach-Three and is able ultimately able to calm the angry seas.
All that’s left now is the crying. Spidey wraps up the two baddies and the Dream Team take them into custody.
Our final scene is a bit of a postscript. Peter Parker hands in photos of the Super-Team Up… Clark Kent turns in the story. Edge and Jonah are both so pleased they send the boys out to dinner with their best gals. Our story ends with Peter, MJ, Clark and Lois strolling down the street arm, in arm, in arm, in arm.
Now how can you give this one an objective (so to speak) review? This one is pure spectacle. Seeing two of the greatest heroes ever put to pulp in the same story is an amazing treat. The story really is secondary. That isn’t to say it’s a bad story… it just isn’t a great one. I’m sure this may have something to do with there being “too many cooks in the kitchen” as Mr. Conway always brings top-quality work.
I got my tattered copy of this titanic tale when I was running a call center around the turn of the century. A woman who worked for me knew I was into comics, and brought it in for me. At first, I thought it was an autographed copy… I can’t say I wasn’t a little disappointed when I read the “autograph” and found that it was read “David Love Va-Vue” whatever that means… unless Gerry Conway’s got a weird signature, I’m just the proud owner of a tagged-up copy.
This issue did make me realize how much I miss this version of Spider-Man. This was an incredibly fun romp… something we don’t get too much these days. The art is great, made even more breathtaking by the over-sized format.
If you can get your hands on an original 1976 copy, definitely do so. Otherwise this issue was reprinted during 1995 when DC and Marvel kinda joined hands in weathering the post-speculator market crash. I wonder if they’ll do the same when the variant-cover bubble bursts.
EDIT (5/27/2016): It was brought to my attention by joecab that the Marvel/DC crossovers were reprinted in collected edition in Crossover Classics, Volume 1 (released in 1991 and 1999). That’s something I really should’ve known! This bugger is out-of-print, and demands quite a bundle online… but it comes with this issue, The Uncanny X-Men and the New Teen Titans, and a Batman/Hulk crossover!
I don’t get the impression that this one will be made available digitally any time soon… if ever. Definitely worth tracking down… it is a neat piece for any collection.
Before I go, I want to once more thank any and all readers who have joined me on this ONE-HUNDRED day journey. I hope you have enjoyed, and maybe even helped a person or two discover a book they want to check out. Cheers!