DC and Marvel Present Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man (part 2 of 2)
Last week, multiple prologues had villains Lex Luthor and Doctor Octopus thwarted by our heroes, Superman and Spider-Man respectively. As Clark Kent and Peter Parker went off to attend a (yawn) news convention, Luthor and Ock met in prison and staged a jail break, agreeing to trade enemies. Chapter one of our landmark tale brings our various characters together in a massive auditorium where various high tech items are on display, such as a mockup of a communications satellite hanging from the ceiling and a massive computer equipped with huge monitors and magnetic tapes. Man, I bet you could play a bitchin’ game of Oregon Trail on that. In the foreground, Betty and Ned Leeds are talking about how cool Paris was to Robbie Robertson, but all agree nothing compares to NYC. In the background, Clark and Lois show up and Kent says New York is so “filthy”. Well, it is the era of the original Death Wish and the Son of Sam killings, and you didn’t want to visit Times Square without an armed escort, so…
Elsewhere, J. Jonah Jameson spots Peter Parker, and the former wants words whilethe latter just wants to disappear with Mary Jane. Pete explains to JJJ that he was just going to relax and make it a “holiday”. Jameson, shockingly, agrees completely. He says with a smile that a “diligent, hard working photographer” deserves a vacation now and then. And do you know why Peter never got one?
If that mustache was longer, I’m sure JJJ would be twirling it. But that’s enough for Parker; he pretty much calls Jameson two-faced and he’s had enough of getting stabbed in the back. I gotta say, I’m in JJJ’s corner here. Pete’s here to work, right? And he turned in shitty pics last time, so he’s got to step it up. All the same, Jameson needs himself a foot massage or something. MJ catches up with Peter, who says telling off his boss felt good. It always does, right up until you get fired, kid. Pete says he’s put up with this crap since high school and he’s “practically a college grad”. Guess who never graduated from college? Yup.
Meanwhile, Clark and Lois are admiring a mockup of “Comlab One”, the first orbiting communications laboratory. “Communications laboratory”? What the hell does that even mean? Lois is bored, but Kent points out the satellite combines the best features of Comsat and Skylab. Oh, so you get great reception as you burn up in Earth’s atmosphere? Clark further elaborates the whole thing is a big mystery and uncovering the facts would be a helluva scoop. Just then, he overhears Morgan Edge talking to somebody named Short about replacing Clark with Walter Cronkite, since Kent isn’t well known nationally. It turns out Short is a potential sponsor and Edge is seeing dollar signs. Yeah, right, like Cronkite is just sitting at home chilling, waiting by the phone for somebody like Edge to call. Morgan proves to be an even bigger dick than Jameson when he blows smoke in Kent’s face, and in an amusing scene, Clark turns away from Lois and removes his glasses to deal with his faux ocular distress while she asks him if he’s gonna take that from Edge. Clark smiles when he says “Yes,” and I can’t help but wonder if the grin is because he really just enjoys trolling Lois. She stalks off in disgust.
And what happens when Lois goes off on her own? She decides to get a closer look at the Comlab One mockup. She climbs a metal ladder on a scaffold, but she falls. Fortunately, she’s rescued by Super—oh, this time it’s Peter Parker that makes the save. Swear to God, the only people more prone to almost dying are Hank and Dean Venture and the only reason they’re still around is they were repeatedly cloned. The two recognize each other, and it seems Parker isn’t the lousy photographer I thought he was, in that he almost won a prestigious award last year. Lane, of course, is super famous. MJ shows up and gets instantly catty with Lois, who easily blows this off and says Pete’s too young for her. Oh, Lois, don’t let Pet’s age discourage you; didn’t you ever see The Graduate? But before the ladies can continue the conversation like Peter’s not there, Superman shows up. A little late for the save, eh Supes? But he isn’t here to rescue Lois from her high heels and a metal ladder.
And here I was bitching about infra-red vision before when Superman now has disintegration vision. Man, I get that Lois can be a pain in the ass, but she deserved better than utter molecular dissolution. Superman flies off after seemingly destroying MJ and Lois, and Peter watches in horror… and so does Clark Kent. Kent rhetorically asks himself if he’s lost his mind, and I guess yeah, years of Lois’ nagging could drive a man insane. He’s shocked out of his reverie when Parker asks him where the phone booths are. Clark points him in the right direction because he probably scouted the place earlier for them. Only, there aren’t any phone booths anymore, just stalls (which is a joke we see similarly play out in the first Superman movie a couple of years later). Pete races to the roof and changes into Spider-Man there, webbing up his clothes for safekeeping. His Spider-Sense goes off because Superman is here.
One assumes Clark found a handy-dandy broom closet to change into his super-duds. Superman thinks Spider-Man is responsible for what happened to Lois and MJ, because I guess he’s bought into the Daily Bugle’s propaganda and since Spidey’s the closest thing to a supervillain on hand, it must be his fault. Spidey takes a swing but misses and Supes backs off, because the way Parker’s talking in regards to the disappearance, it sounds like he legit thinks Supes is to blame and that doesn’t sound like supervillain dialogue. On a nearby rooftop, Luthor and Doc Ock watch the fun. Lex is dressed as Supes and is putting away his Superman mask. Luthor pulls out a “red sun radiation” device and irradiates Spider-Man from a distance. Supes catches up with the wall-crawler and suggests there’s been a classic miscommunication that’s common between superheroes. But Pete’s in no state for discourse and he punches Supes. Normally, that would result in shattered fingers, only this time…
Pow! Right in the kisser! Supes almost hits a statue and flies back for more because now he’s a little pissed off, but Spidey’s not done and he swings in, kicking Supes in the face. Supes pulls himself out of a wall and tries to talk Spidey down, but Parker’s channeling all the rage he felt towards Jameson and plugs Supes again. And that’s it: Supes has had enough. He brushes off the odd couple tons of rubble and starts to throw a punch that’ll literally knock Spider-Man’s block off, only to realize at the last second he’s about to kill the guy. He pulls back but that doesn’t stop the shockwave: Spider-Man gets hit with the power of a “compact hurricane”. Spidey goes crashing through a window and there’s a sweet segment where he contorts his body in mid-air to avoid damaging some modern art, and then he’s back on the roof with Supes in no time and ready for more. Only, the red sun radiation has worn off and he bounces off Supes. Spidey hops back onto his feet and lays into the Man of Steel with a flurry of punches, demanding to know where Mary Jane is, which only serves to nearly break his hands. Supes lets Spidey work out his anger issues and when he’s done, the two compare notes and realize somebody’s playing them for fools. They shake and decide it’s time for a team-up.
Chapter Three finds our heroes at the “old Penn Central railroad yard”. Superman used his x-ray vision to follow an energy signature and he figures their mysterious enemy is here. Spider-Man asks him if he ever amazes himself and Supes replies, “Actually—no.” Heh. Spider-Man heads into the building via a skylight and instantly triggers a series of death traps: machine guns, electrified walls, a super-heated ceiling, and a wire screen designed to turn him into sliced spider. But Pete manages to make it through unscathed. Superman? He just punches through a wall.
The two heroes converge on a room where Luthor and Doc Ock are waiting. The heroes demand to know where the women are, and the villains assure the heroes that they’re safe (and kudos to writer Gerry Conway for having Spidey refer to MJ as “the kid”, since referring to her as MJ might’ve given the bad guys a clue that she means something to Spider-Man). And then they disappear: they were just holograms. But Spider-Man figures he can use the computers to find the source and starts monkeying with them, but then Supes senses a booby trap and uses his super-breath to blow Spider-Man to safety before the computer blows up in his face. Uh, okay, why didn’t Spider-Man’s patented Spider-Sense detect a trap? Wouldn’t it have been more interesting to see Supes start messing with the computers and Spider-Man stopping him? Having Supes rescue Spidey just makes the latter look weak in my opinion.
Supes then uses super-speed to reconstruct the blown-up computers “from the smallest circuit up”. Yeah, I can see why some people find Supes a little boring. Spider-Man uses the reconstructed computers to discover the signal came from Africa. Namely, Mount Kilimanjaro. Flying there (don’t ask me how the pair travel thousands of miles in what I’m guessing are minutes… or why it’s still daylight… or why Spider-Man isn’t dead from exposure), the pair find some Masai warriors. Superman starts to explain to the tribesmen what’s going on, and giving credit where credit is due, he doesn’t dumb down his language. He explains that they’re looking for two evil men and one’s got “many arms”. But hey, fortunately for him (and us) one of the guys, Nu’Chaka, studied in “London”. I wonder if that’s London, UK or London, Ontario? Or maybe London, Michigan? Nu’Chaka introduces our heroes to his dad, Chagga, who has the skinny on local happenings. But Chagga wants to be entertained by some super-antics first. So what’s Superman’s trick?
Yes, people-juggling. Chagga is most amused. He offers our heroes some milk and cattle blood, which they both pass on, and the pair along with Nu’Chaka head to Mount Kilimanjaro proper, where according to the young warrior one of their men disappeared months back. The gang find a stone door hidden behind a boulder, but oh noes! Nu’Chaka’s tribesman attacks and he’s super-strong. He knocks out the Masai warrior and tears through Spider-Man’s webbing, and then his sword cuts Superman’s hair. Damn, he almost got the spit-curl. Supes figures out the warrior is imbued with red sun radiation, but don’t worry, he’s got a plan; he analyzed Spider-Man’s webbing earlier (because of course he did) and has Spidey bind the warrior with his webs, and then Superman heats up the webs with his heat vision, which somehow makes them hard as steel. They enter the base and find it abandoned, but Superman discovers an empty missile silo; Luthor and Doc Ock have flown the coop. The question is, though to where? Why…
The old Injustice Gang satellite, of course. Damn, I forgot all about the Injustice Gang; I had no idea they had their own satellite, too. Honestly, it looks way cooler than the JLA satellite. It looks so, I dunno, George Jetsony. Inside, we find Lois and MJ imprisoned in a bubble, but the bad guys have no time for dames. Doc Ock asks Luthor what the plan is, and I’ve figured out Lex just has Otto around because he’s lonely ever since his Injustice Gang pals all got arrested and he just wants someone to gloat to. Luthor explains he’s got a sweet blackmail scheme in the works, and it involves the circuit he snatched yesterday.
Back in NYC, Jameson and Edge find themselves in a bar commiserating with each other about their lousy employees. Both reluctantly admit they’ve got talented people, but they’re…unreliable. Both make their way back to the convention center in time to watch the Comlab space launch. Mission Control deploys the space station, while Luthor monitors. And then when the time is right… Lex takes over Comlab. Supes and Spidey show up, with the latter flying a “borrowed space shuttle model”. The guy doesn’t have a driver’s license, but he knows how to pilot spacecraft?
Superman sees a laser probe from the station is wreaking havoc on Earth, particularly in the mid-west US. Superman tries to stop the laser but he gets knocked out, and Spider-Man’s ship is cracked open, causing him to lose air and consciousness. The pair wake up in Luthor’s clutches; Lex explains that the laser was packed with “ultra-frequency sonics”, which was how he was able to knockout the Man of Steel. Uh, sonics… in space? But there’s no time for lapses in plot logic; Luthor’s got a mono to logue. He explains that he’s going to blackmail the U.S. government for ten billion dollars, and if he doesn’t get it, he’s going to make mega-hurricanes. So… the plot to Superman III, only this version makes way more sense.
Our heroes have heard enough, and they’re up and at ‘em and Luthor is shocked the pair are able to function. Uh, Lex has known Superman since they were kids and he’s actually surprised at anything the guy can do? Lex shuts off the gravity, allowing Ock to keep Superman and his fists of steel at bay while Spider-Man’s web shooters can’t shoot straight. Ock throws Superman into Spider-Man, and Supes realizes they have to work as a team if they’re going to win. Supes decides to use a little passive-aggressive martial arts on Doc Ock, waiting for him to make the next move, and then…
Bet that jail cell cot sounds pretty comfortable right about now, eh, Doc? Ock’s lost his specs and is blind without them, so Luthor uses his jet boots to make a play for Otto’s glasses, but it’s all for naught: they’re broken anyway. The dude’s a nuclear physicist who invented robot arms and he never came up with plastic lenses?
Spider-Man tries to talk some sense into Lex and get him to shut the super-storms down, but Luthor’s in full-blown Supervillain Mode, and he’ll make them rue the day they laughed at him. They’ll pay; they’ll all pay! Damn, all this because nobody invented hair plugs yet? Superman sees a tsunami forming on one of the monitors, ready to swamp the east coast, so Spidey tells the man to do what needs to be done; he’s got the two baddies handled. Superman makes a run… er… fly for the airlock. As Supes dives towards Earth, Luthor brags that he’s starting a chain reaction that will destroy the planet that held him in contempt. Spider-Man knows he can’t take down Lex alone, so he turns to his one ally: Doctor Octopus. Because Doc finally realizes he’s teamed up with a complete nutbar, Ock smashes Luthor’s control device, causing him to lose control of Comlab’s laser. Luthor beats the crap out of Otto for betraying him, and Spidey can’t help because he’s still tied up in Ock’s tentacles.
Meanwhile, Superman flies towards the tsunami, and as Spider-Man finally clocks Luthor, Superman goes Mach Three and creates a wall of sound to break up the tsunami. Later, after the villains are webbed up, Spidey notes that it was a lucky break Luthor snatched “his girl” at the same time the villain grabbed Lois. And he says this while Mary Jane is standing maybe ten feet away, and Doc Ock is tied up on the floor nearby. I mean, man, all Otto has to do is just remember Aunt May’s nephew has a red headed girlfriend and connect the dots. Remember the credit I gave Conway earlier? I take it back. But hey, in the end, our heroes share an epic bro-shake, and…
The end. Or… not. In an epilogue, we discover Clark set up a video camera and Parker did the much the same, and the pair find Jameson and Edge at dinner together and they deliver up their respective goods: film and photos of Superman and Spider-Man arriving at the convention center together. Both men keep their respective jobs… and their horrible bosses. Um… yay? In the end, the two men have dinner with their ladies and all is well. The end.
Okay, I won’t deny it; Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man is a product of its time. Our heroes get to wherever they’re going in the blink of an eye, and the plot is very old-school super-villainy. But the story is fun as hell in a way most modern comics simply aren’t. The comic was originally released in a special over-sized format reserved for the likes of this and Superman vs. Muhammad Ali, and it’s chock full of splash pages taking full advantage of the larger size. At first I thought Spider-Man was going to be relegated to second banana as Supes and his plethora of powers made Peter look redundant, but Gerry Conway does a credible job of showing that Spider-Man is able to keep up. Artist Ross Andru (with an inking assist by legendary artist Dick Giordano) delivers the goods here, giving us some epic visuals. The fight scenes are fantastic and I especially love J. Jonah Jameson’s facial expressions. I’m glad I got past my Silver Age bias to give it a look. I hope you enjoyed the read, and see you next week.