Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Well, since the subject of inter-company crossovers came up, it’s time to look at the other worthwhile one. It was way more fun than the dental fillings of the same name. Also, there’s a peek at my shocking secret origin. (Remember to bookmark that archive while you’re at it!)
187. Amalgam Comics
Here was an odd semi-crossover. On two separate occasions, Marvel and DC got together during a skip week and created a brand new company, Amalgam Comics. Its purpose was to take properties from both companies and, basically, mush them together into one. Some of the combinations made perfect sense– others were completely ridiculous. Not every one-shot was great, but a few of them were terrific comics. Yes, this is something that worked far better as a concept than it did in execution, but it holds a special place in my heart.
Birthed from the Marvel vs. DC mini and some “All-Access” minis I never read came Amalgam Comics, a great little comics experiment from a time when DC and Marvel actually got along. From Dark Claw (Batman/Wolverine) and Amazon (Wonder Woman/Storm) to Generation Hex (Jonah Hex/Generation X) and Lobo the Duck (Lobo/Howard the Duck), Amalgam was filled with kooky ideas. Some worked, some didn’t. Let’s look at the ones that worked.
The two Spider-Boy (Superboy/Spider-Man) books were the pinnacle of Amalgam, and I’m going to have to thank Karl Kesel for that. He put a lot of effort into ‘em. I didn’t think the concept would work– I mean, yeah, it made sense at the time because of the Clone Saga, I guess, but combining Spider-Man with Superboy, of all characters? But then we got the awesome Arach-Kid with his web-shooting gun and his leather jacket, and enemies like Bizarnage and King Lizard. It was great fun. And the sequel, Spider-Boy Team-Up, was just as cool, and featured a Legion of Super-Heroes/Guardians of the Galaxy combo. The artists for these projects? Mike Wieringo and JosÃ© LadrÃ¶nn. Only the best, yo.
The Challengers of the Fantastic (Challengers of the Unknown/Fantastic Four) book was also terrific, as that too came from the mind of Karl Kesel and the pencil of Tom Grummett. They faced down the Silver Racer and saved the Earth from Galactiac! It was a Kirby fan’s wet dream.
The Super Soldier issues were a lot of fun, especially the Man of War one from Mark Waid and Dave Gibbons that teamed the Superman and Captain America amalgam up with all sorts of hybridized war heroes as they took on the Green Skull (Luthor/Red Skull) and Ultra-Metallo (Metallo/Ultra-Humanite/Sleeper robot).
Thorion of the New Asgods was given to us by Keith Giffen and John Romita Jr, and it’s a huge favorite of mine. But then, I’m a huge fan of Giffen, Romita, Thor, and the New Gods. It was pretty much designed to excite me. It showed us Thanoseid and L’ok D’Saad and was filled with crazy energy. Great stuff.
And then there were the rest, like Dr. Strangefate, Speed Demon (Flash/Etrigan/Ghost Rider), the JLX, X-Patrol, Bruce Wayne, Agent of SHIELD, Bat-Thing, and more. I haven’t read every single one. I can’t say all of the issues I own were great. Some were just plain awful. But if the idea’s the thing, then they were cool little beasts.
One of the first websites and forums I really got involved with was an Amalgam fanfiction ring. I’m not into fanfic anymore, but I was back then, and I used it to take my non-existent writing abilities and turn them into something better. So, yeah, I got my start as a writer because of Amalgam Comics, in a way. And my God, those fanfics were great idea factories, creating amalgams that were wonderful matches and some that were just plain ridiculous (I myself created Strange Lantern and Aqua-Hulk, among others, if you can believe it). It was a lot of fun while it lasted. It’s all dried up now, but I know a few of the old websites are still out there somewhere. I know of one old poster who reads this blog. I wonder if there are others. If you’re out there, say hello. I wonder if you’re like me, and still have an occasional amalgam idea pop into your head.
The Amalgam Comics “events” produced some great comics and some even greater ideas, and was a simple spot of fun in an ever more complicated industry. I’ll be forever grateful for them, as well, because of the ripple effect. Amalgam Comics created a spark that led me to be a writer, that let me meet some folks who helped me improve my craft, that catapulted me across the internet and now into this very column. It’s been a long, strange journey, and I’m eager to see where it goes next. Maybe one day, I’ll be some guy at the Big Two writing the next wave of Amalgam Comics. You never know.
What say you, readers? Who’s got some Amalgam books tucked away in their long boxes? You can admit it. Which ones were your favorites?
For more on Amalgam, check the Wiki or the Who’s Who, which are filled with information on every mash-up that appeared in comics form. And you know, there’s still the ghost of a fanfic board floating around. There may even be a piece or two from me on there, but I ain’t saying. Ha. If you’re brave enough to read some of that, well, good luck. Some of it’s good, some of it isn’t. A lot like the comics themselves, actually!
Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.