Batman vs Hulk
DC Special Series #27, 1981
This unlikely team-up, Batman vs Hulk, was one of the last tabloid format comics. Published towards the end of 1981, it followed on the heels of the ground-breaking Superman vs Spider-Man tabloid and its sequel and is a solid, if undemanding read. I know—I just re-read it last week!
The creative teams on these books tended to be creators that had some track record with both Marvel and DC. Writer Len Wein had been Marvel Editor-in-Chief for a brief period, so he provides the House of Ideas element to the firmly DC Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez on art. The publishers would also alternate, so, while Marvel published the second Superman/Spider-man adventure, Batman vs Hulk was published by DC under it’s eclectic DC Special Series banner.
Wein’s story sees mentally unstable cosmic villain Shaper of Worlds coming to Earth and seeking out the even more mentally unstable Joker to help effect a cure. That cure turns out to be an experimental gamma radiation gun being developed by a certain Bruce Banner. That being the case, you know that pretty soon it all goes awry and poor Bruce is once more splitting those purple trousers. Hot on the trail of the Joker as he attempts to steal the gun, Batman joins the party and finds himself on the wrong end of an almost spine-shattering hug from ol’ jade jaws. This some decade and a half before Bane did the job for real!
Joker uses the gamma gun on the Shaper of Worlds—a being that uses the dreams and imaginations of others to construct new realities—but it doesn’t work. Under orders, the Joker then tries to kidnap Banner, so that the scientist can adjust the weapon. However, Banner Hulks out, and the Joker is forced to bring him to the Shaper instead. The Shaper’s insanity grows and he conjures up nightmare worlds, but as the Hulk draws near all becomes calm: it is the radioactive emanations from the Hulk’s body that offers the only cure for the Shaper’s madness. The Hulk is tired of all the talk and jumps away. Left with no choice Batman must team-up with Joker and risk his life in tracking down the green behemoth. When the Shaper of Worlds turns his attention to the Joker’s diseased mind, things start to look very grim indeed…
The story is solid enough and provides just the right excuse for the unlikely alliance of brain and brawn, and finds time to give roles to some of Batman and the Hulk’s biggest foes such as the Rhino and Two-Face. That said, the real reason to track down a copy this book is to gaze in awe at the amazing artwork of Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez. He was, of course, a DC stalwart—still is, in fact—and this is one of the very rare occasions that he handled Marvel characters. His Batman is peerless, his Hulk is fabulous. The artist himself has said that he’s most proud of his work on the Joker’s appearances in this book, and it’s true, the material towards the end, where the Shaper of Worlds creates realities from the Joker’s twisted imagination are stunning and full of innovative layouts. Dick Giordano does the inking honours, so you know Lopez’s art is in safe hands.
This is 64 pages of some of the very best super-hero art you’re ever likely to find. It’s been reprinted at regular size, but if you can find the original tabloid format, then treat yourself—it’s worth every penny!
Images ©2012 DC Comics and Marvel Characters, Inc