The Amalgam Age
of Comics: DC

(DC Comics, 1996)

The Amalgam Age
of Comics: Marvel

(Marvel Comics, 1996)

It's a clever idea, but somehow I think The Amalgam Age of Comics was more fun for the writers and artists involved to create than it was for the readers to read.

The Amalgam Age is the product of a joint venture between publishing giants DC and Marvel. It's a spin-off of the cross-title slugfest DC versus Marvel, which had various superheroes from each universe duking it out for the right to survive. Midway through that storyline, the two universes collided and briefly merged, spawning the Amalgam Universe. The heroes were subsequently dissected and reassembled in new shapes and colors to create all-new characters until, a month later, the universes divided again.

The theory was that comics publisher Amalgam was launching 12 new superhero books in a single month, most using characters already established in other titles and each already having a rapidly enthusiastic fan base. (Sounds like a publisher's wet dream, eh?) They were, perhaps, a bit too optimistic -- after all, how many new series begin with a letters page already in place?

Some of the Amalgam characters are clever amalgamations of their various DC and Marvel inspirations. Others were simple switches and cosmetic adjustments which showed a distinct lack of creativity. For instance, Batman and Wolverine became the violent vigilante Dark Claw, and his costume and abilities retain enough of each hero's identity that they were immediately recognizable while still creating a unique new character. Less impressive was Super Soldier, which simply placed Superman's powers in Steve Rogers' body and a slight variation on Captain America's uniform. Wonder Woman is still Wonder Woman, but she has the body of the X-Men's Storm. The Marvel villain Doc Octopus is exactly the same, except that now he's a good guy, playing Alfred to Spider-boy (Spider-Man's powers, Superboy's face). Villains Doctor Doom and Doomsday became -- you guessed it -- Doctor Doomsday. The Justice League of America, Doom Patrol, the Avengers and the X-Men are all shuffled around to create a handful of new teams, too.

Like I said, this was probably tons of fun for the creative teams involved. Imagine having the chance to take your daily toils and break all the rules for a couple of weeks -- it must have been a blast! But from this side of the comic shop counter, it was rather like picking up several issues from the used book bin and trying to figure out what's going on in the various storylines. (Although these were all issue No. 1's, many had ongoing plots from other imaginary books in Amalgam's universe. In fact, some stories had asterisked notations giving continuity references in nonexistent books in the company's past.) Since each title put out only one book before the two companies went their separate ways again, you had just enough time to figure out who was who and what was happening before the book ended and you were introduced to another set of jigsaw characters.

The Amalgam books are not a very exciting read, but the collected versions released by both companies are fun to browse simply for the sake of figuring out who's who.

[ by Tom Knapp ]

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