Mar 23, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - The Weekly Graphic Novel: Week 39 - Superman and Spider-man, 1981

I have, amongst my graphic novels, a whole whack of little paperbacks that were the precursors to our current trade paperback reprints of comics. This week's graphic novel reprints an old tabloid-size co-publication, featuring a team-up between the most popular (at that time) characters from Marvel and DC. I suppose nowadays, it would be Batman and Wolverine.

Which wouldn't make a bad team-up.

This story goes about the blending of the universes in a way that I haven't seen before. Rather than doing the whole parallel dimensions thing, this story simply proceeds under the assumption that all of the Marvel and DC characters exist in the same universe, and always have. Spider-Man even makes a little joke about it, noting that Wonder Woman is based in New York, the same as him, but he never sees her around. It's a cool idea, and I'm sure that, in the structure of the multiverse that unacknowledgedly links the two fictional universes, this Earth has a designation and continues on its merry way.

It's not, however, my favourite thing I've read. First, the two heroes don't actually spend that much time together, and when they do, Superman's kind of a jerk to Spider-Man. Further, a good portion of the story is dedicated to Clark Kent going to work for the Daily Bugle and Peter Parker going to work for the Daily Planet, so the story even conspires to keep the two in separate cities. Their nemeses, Dr. Doom and the Parasite actually spend more time together, and accomplish more together, than the superheroes do. Spider-Man, in fact, spends almost as much time with Wonder Woman as he does with Superman, whereas Superman spends much more time with the Hulk than with his co-star. You'd think the point of a team-up entitled Superman and Spider-Man would be to see the two working together.

The second thing that throws me off is the breaking up of the comics page proper into the smaller page format. Though in some places it's rather expertly done, it completely disintegrates the spatiotopic design of Buscema's layouts. How much are we missing in that kind of a reading when the page has literally been cut apart and spliced back together in order to accommodate a format?

What we do have to acknowledge about this kind of a publication, though, is that it paves the way for the more recognizable trade paperback reprints. That aside, I am very glad that this isn't a format that remained popular.

To be continued.

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