Why Superman and Spider-Man Were Comics’ First Big Crossover Stars
It was a match made in comic book heaven. Superman, DC Comics’ greatest superhero of all time, and Spider-Man, Marvel Comics’ friendly neighborhood Wall-Crawler, have teamed up to battle two of their most devious enemies. 1976 Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man (by Gerry Conway, Ross Andru, and Dick Giordano) was the groundbreaking comic book issue that finally brought the two titanic comic companies together in one adventure. Here’s why the Man of Steel and a super-powered teenage photographer have come together in this epic story.
Debut in action comics #1 (by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster) Superman not only became one of the most popular comic book characters of all time, but he also became one of the most famous American icons of all time. Superman represents truth, justice and unwavering bravery, a wayward alien who grew up to call Earth his home. Superman set the bar for what the comics could be and continued to maintain his status as one of the best superheroes for generations.
Spider-Man made his first appearance in amazing fantasy #15 (by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko) and brought a new twist to the superhero formula. Young children pushed into adventure were certainly nothing new, but Peter Parker was a very real and relatable teenage superhero. He had girl issues, was constantly broke, and had a complicated personal life due to his obligations as a crime fighter. Spider-Man resonated with fans due to his firecracker attitude and wit, abandoning the stuffy pretension of other, more grown-up heroes.
At first glance, it may seem that the two heroes could no longer be different from each other. An alien with every power imaginable who is virtually indestructible against a child who can climb walls and swing on a web. Upon closer inspection, however, Superman and Spider-Man share a number of similarities. Clark Kent works as a reporter for the Daily Planet. Peter Parker is a photographer for The Daily Bugle. Clark is in a testamentary relationship with Lois Lane, and Peter has a similar relationship with Mary Jane Watson. Both are single people who suffer from complicated love lives due to their alter egos, live in big cities and wear outfits in vibrant shades of blue and red.
Choosing Superman to represent DC Comics was an obvious choice. While DC had plenty of other heavy hitters to choose from, such as Batman, Wonder Woman, and The Flash, Superman is arguably the most iconic of them all and is the shining pillar of what it means to be a superhero. On the other hand, choosing Spider-Man despite his many similarities to Superman might seem a little more unlikely. With characters like Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor at their disposal, Marvel had plenty of heroes more aligned with the type of hero Superman is.
But it’s Spider-Man’s colorful personality and youthful enthusiasm that makes him perfect for the role. Captain America and Iron Man are grown men with grown-up opinions and sensibilities. Captain America is a hardened war veteran and Iron Man is a genius billionaire. Their interactions with Superman, while undoubtedly positive, would have been fundamentally different from Peter’s. Spider-Man is the embodiment of each of us, the everyday person immersed in crazy adventures. It’s his fanboy reaction as well as his fiery brashness that makes him such a wonderful sidekick to Superman.
Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man is the quintessential superhero comic. It’s packed with explosive action, sinister villains, and insightful drama. It makes sure to entertain its readers, but also emphasizes the humanity of its heroes. Sure, DC and Marvel could have paired Green Lantern with The Hulk, but it just wouldn’t have been the same. Pairing Superman and Spider-Man together was a marriage of not just two great comic book companies, but the very essence of what it means to be a hero.