Back in 1996 the two big publishers came together (again) for the ultimate crossover to ever hit the comic book pages (again). No, it wasn’t like today where DC and Marvel duke by using their cinematic adaptations to measure the companies’ successes. Way back in the 90’s both publishers had their financial difficulties and their moderate cinematic successes. So they did things to promote their comics because they didn’t have parent companies like Disney. That’s right. Marvel and DC did a company-level crossover named Access.
Ron Marz wrote the story illustrated by Jackson Guice and Josef Rubinstein. The hero, Axel, exists in the Marvel Universe with his Chinese girlfriend. A liminal character, Axel finds himself Billy Pilgrim-ing between the two comic book universes. Venom appears in the DC Universe and tussles with Superman.
Is that really even a fight? Wouldn’t Superman just pound the crap out of the symbiote? Yeah, he would. But for the sake of the comic, the villain gives the Man of Steel a run for his money.
Being a Vince Clortho fellow, Axel acts as a gatekeeper to open doorways between universes. He assists Superman (like Cal-El really needs it) by bringing Spiderman over into the DC Universe to help.
At the close of the first issue Dr. Strange realizes the anomaly and reveals that it was only the start as he states, formidably if we could hear him, “It begins…”
The whole series met with only a lukewarm reaction compared to the Death of Superman in Superman #75 four years earlier. And while the comic book craze that blew up in the late 80’s was ending around this time, the effort was still here. Sure, the plot wasn’t very exciting. Yes, it followed the same format of every superhero team-up: 1) the two fights 2) one realizes that the other is fighting fair and 3) the two team-up. Besides all the shortcomings, this answered fanboys requests for a team up of Who Framed Roger Rabbit proportions.
Maybe the advertisement in the book for baseball cards stood as foreshadowing of what was to come for comics: the baseball card market fell harder than Nicole Eggert on a celebrity diving show. So, too, would comics wane in obscurity.
Alas, comic book properties and their original media of the books themselves have once again risen to heights of popularity courtesy of Christopher Nolan and Jon Favreau. The two companies are so dead-set at butting heads in the cinema that we will never get another event like a company crossover. Well, in twenty years when the publishers have oversaturated the film industry and the comics are relegated back to the shelves of comic book stores and not the local multi-plex might we get another desperate attempt to raise money like Access was.
On the bright side, there were the mildly entertaining Amalgam comics like Legend of the Dark Claw, Iron Lantern, Bruce Wayne Agent of Shield, and Super Soldier. The twenty-three one-shot comics merged two popular opposing characters into one. Unfortunately, nothing came of those comics; some of those titles need revisiting and continuations.
Nevertheless, the entire event stands as historic. Only if the plot had been more gripping and enticing, we would have more to celebrate at the moment. For now, we will just enjoy the golden age of comic book hero popularity as we wait for the next Comic Con announcement that has wannabe fanboys like Olivia Munn twittering with excitement. For us true fans, we will look back at Access and laugh at it while we wipe a tear at what would have been.
Writer: Ron Marz
Artists: Jackson Guice and Josef Rubinstein
Publisher: Marvel and DC Comics
Current value: $5.00
Release Date: 12/96