In October of 1981, a Marvel or DC comic off the newsstand would cost you 50 or 60 cents.  What could possibly make you make 400% more?  How about a double-sized treasury edition featuring only the second crossover between the Big 2 universes?  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of DC Special Series #27 – Batman Vs. The Incredible Hulk awaits!

batmanvstheincrediblehulkcoverDC SPECIAL SERIES #27 – BATMAN VS. THE INCREDIBLE HULK
Writer: Len Wein
Penciler: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez/Dick Giordano
Inker: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez/Dick Giordano
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Letterer: John Costanza
Editor: Dick Giordano
Publisher: DC Comics/Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $2.50
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $80.00

Previously in DC Special Series #27 – Batman Vs. The Incredible Hulk: In April of 1976, Marvel and DC Comics collaborated on a huge event, a crossover between their two shared universes, featuring their top heroes: Superman Vs. The Amazing Spider-Man.  As noted during my Retro Review of that story, the creative team made no attempt to explain the hows or whys of the event, simply having Clark Kent and Peter Parker meet, as though New York City and Metropolis were no further apart that a subway ride.  Those who study the myriad alternate Earths of the Marvel and DC Universe are thus flummoxed as to where these stories take place, and have dubbed the strange world where DC and Marvel both exist as “Earth-Crossover,” where stories like the X-Men/Teen Titans crossover or Batman/Spider-Man can take place.  In 1981, Marvel had a successful TV property in ‘The Incredible Hulk,’ featuring  Bill Bixby and a sad piano riff, while DC had…  Batman.  DC always has Batman, it’s sort of their schtick.  With their biggest and brightest heroes having met, it was only natural that their #2 men would likewise intersect, and thus, we open in one of the hundreds of abandoned warehouses in Gotham City, as the man known only as The Joker finishes a deal with an unseen ally…

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As The Joker and his gang exit, one of his goons opinnes that his boss is scared of “that freak inna warehouse,” leading the Clown Prince Of Crime to blithely murder him, reminding the gang that the Joker does not fear, “The Joker IS fear.”  It’s a really chilling moment, and one that sticks with me as the first time I had ever encountered a truly scary Joker.  While those wheels are set in motion, strange things are afoot at the Circle-K in Gotham City, as random citizens find their dreams turning into real, live waking nightmares, and a new employee at Wayne Enterprises (his name tag says “David Banks”, but we know better) encounters a nightmare of his own…

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Mister Banks, better known as Doctor David Robert Bruce Banner, thinks quickly, protecting himself from the effects of what is quickly revealed to be the Joker’s laughing gas.  It seems that whatever plot Jokey is up to, it involves stealing Wayne’s experimental gamma-gun, the same device that has brought the curious Banner to the lab.  Bruce makes a run for the emergency alarm, barely managing to set it off before he is overwhelmed by the Joker’s goons…

It’s an assault that the thugs quickly come to regret.

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Ladies and gentlemen: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez!  Holy crap, is that a great looking Hulk!  Fans these days probably know Garcia-Lopez best from the stock images that DC uses for marketing their heroes, some of which remain nearly unchanged and iconic since at least the 1970s, and with good reason.  As an angry, beautifully rendered Green Goliath starts busting up the joint, Joker’s goons beat a hasty retreat, only to find that Earth-Crossover is a rough place to be a nameless thug…

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Na-na na-na na-na na-na, BATMAAAAN!  (A Batman, who, it must be remarked, also looks pretty amazing under Garcia-Lopez’ gifted hand.)  Caught between a gamma-irradiated rock and a cowled hard place, The Joker uses his beguiling tongue to convince Hulk that he’s on his side, pointing out that it is Batman who busted in and started cracking skulls.  “See?  I’ve got green hair, just like you!”, lies Mista J, and the sight is just enough to turn the Hulk’s rage on the unsuspecting Caped Crusader…

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A Batman fan once told me, “Batman beat Blockbuster, he’d have no problem with the Hulk.  Easy fight for Batman!”  That fan is 100% incorrect, as Batman’s strategic mind isn’t quite enough to easily stop a raging engine of radioactive destruction, and he quickly finds that the shots he is able to get in don’t have the kind of stopping power he’s used to against The Scarecrow or Killer Croc (who is a bad example as he doesn’t exist yet in 1981, but…  Bygones.)

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Hulk catches Batman in a bear-hug, but a shot to his big green ears startles the Hulk enough to break the hold, allowing Batman to engage his special sleeping gas grenade.

Unfortunately, while childlike and somewhat easily confused, The Hulk is nonetheless more clever than he seems.

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The Joker uses the distraction to escape, and as The Hulk collapses, Batman attempts to retrieve the Gamma Gun, only to find the city he knows like his own home transformed into a strange labyrith, as if the laws of physics had been bent.  (Foreshadowing: Your Key to Quality Literature!)  Returning to his lab, Batman takes the time to de-cowl, and arrives not as avenging Dark Knight, but as the CEO of Wayne Enterprises, leading us to the moment we’ve all be waiting for: Crisis On Infinite Bruces!

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“I dunno, Robert… Mind if I call ya Bruce ta keep it all clear?”  Wayne refuses Banner’s attempt to resign, pointing out that, without his quick action, there would have been no way to know it was Joker’s handiwork.  Moreover, Wayne remarks, he has to rebuild the Gamma Gun, and he would be remiss if he didn’t hire the foremost mind in gamma research to help him do so.  Back at the Abandoned Warehouse, The Joker makes use of the stolen cannon, revealing that his partner/benefactor is none other than The Shaper Of Worlds!

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Man, if you thought that the Batman/Hulk combo was wacky, than this one has to really hork your cheese.  The Shaper Of Worlds is a Cosmic Cube, a device from Marvel lore that can give ultimate world-bending powers, only he has achieved sentience of his own.  (Why that means he looks like a bust of the first Skrull President of the Rotary Club is a question for Herb Trimpe.)  Shapey explains that, as a construct, he lacks the ability to dream, and has been feeding off the dreams of other creatures to survive, hence all the wackiness in Gotham.  Now, he’s losing that ability and, unable to dream, is sliding further and further towards madness.  Joker’s unique mind (which is to say, a rat-infested cellar full of corpses and glitter glue) drew The Shaper to him, but even the Gamma Gun isn’t enough to keep him sane.  As for why The Joker wants to help The Shaper?

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While The Joker searches for another way to quell an alien lunatic’s growing madness, Bruce Wayne takes to the alleys of Gotham, while Bruce Banner begins the process of rebuilding the Gamma Gun.  There are a couple of wonderful scenes where Alfred steps in to keep Banner calm, including some lovely dialogue that implies he’s used to helping extraordinary folk keep their temper, when suddenly…

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The military men engage with force, which is a bad idea, causing Bruce to Hulk out.  As their leader is thrown clear of the floating laboratory, he idly wishes that they had a bigger monster on their side…

Remember how the Shaper’s influence is bringing dreams to life?

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The soldiers leave with The Hulk, and when the Gotham City police arrive, Commissioner Gordon is worried about the presence of known fugitive Bruce Banner in his city.  But, after a quick call to Gamma Base, Colonel ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross confirms that there are no active military operations to bring in The Hulk!  Instead, The Joker sent them to bring the monster to The Shaper Of Worlds, wondering if his unique gamma radiation could quell the alien’s madness…

He finds himself correct.

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The Hulk escapes into the night, but it is clear: He is the answer to The Shaper’s dilemma…

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Both Batman and the Joker set off into the streets to find The Hulk, even briefly forming an uncomfortable alliance to track down the monster.  When they find him, and enraged Hulk leaps away, with Batman desperately using his Batarang and line to follow.

I have to admit, it’s an impressive gambit.

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What’s even more impressive is the way Batman keeps up with The Hulk, trying desperately to calm the raging creature, including one of the coolest bat-moments ever put to paper…

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In the end, it’s The Joker’s terrible silver tongue that convinces The Hulk to return to The Shaper Of Worlds, leading an angry Batman to remind us just how disbalanced their rivalry is, at least on the purely athletic level…

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Finally allied, The Bruces step into The Shaper’s lair, only to find that his madness has brought their worst nightmares to life, confronting Batman and The Hulk with funhouse-mirror versions of their worst foes.

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It’s an intesne battle (and a clever way to wedge in more guest-stars), leading to the team breaking into The Shaper’s warehouse lair.  The Hulk’s energy is entirely drained, reverting him to human form, and curing the Shaper’s madness once and for all.

Unfortunately, The Joker’s price for assisting turns out to be reality-warping powers of his own, leaving Batman and Gotham City in the hands of madness, which Bruce Banner cannot abide…

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The Shaper sends The Hulk away with a wave of his hand, while Batman finds that the only thing worse than The Joker is an all-powerful Joker…

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Once again, Garcia-Lopez outdoes himself with the renditions of the Joker’s mindscape, breaking panel borders and generally Jokering everything up.  Batman tries to outsmart his old foe, playing to his ego, as The Hulk suddenly finds himself in the middle of Joker’s dream-world as well.

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Batman keeps up the psychological warfare, forcing Joker to change the world repeatedly, over and over, while Bats challenges his creativity…

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The strain of the power quickly proves to be too much for The Joker, allowing the Bruces to get in one of the most satisfying one-two punches in comic-book history…

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Declaring the bargain fulfilled, albeit temporarily, the Shaper Of Worlds departs in a puff of logic, leaving Batman, The Hulk and the GCPD to pick up the pieces…

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*cue the sad, tinkly piano riff*

It’s a satisfying ending, even moreso than the Superman/Spider-Man battle was, ending with both heroes back in their status quo.  Indeed, aside from the questions of how this universe works, it serves as a solid story, indicative of the period for both heroes, something that many such crossovers never achieve.  Add in the amazing art, and DC Special Series #27 – Batman Vs. The Incredible Hulk is a successful on almost all levels, earning a well-deserved 4 out of 5 stars overall.  Neither character is really one of my favorites, but this book is one of my favorite of the giant tabloid-sized comics, and is a in close contention for my favorite Marvel/DC crossover, which says volumes about the quality of the book.  If you can find this one, you should buy it immediately…

In October of 1981, a Marvel or DC comic off the newsstand would cost you 50 or 60 cents.  What could possibly make you make 400% more?  How about a double-sized treasury edition featuring only the second crossover between the Big 2 universes?  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of DC Special Series #27 - Batman Vs. The Incredible Hulk awaits! DC SPECIAL SERIES #27 - BATMAN VS. THE INCREDIBLE HULK Writer: Len Wein Penciler: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez/Dick Giordano Inker: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez/Dick Giordano Colorist: Glynis Wein Letterer: John Costanza Editor: Dick Giordano Publisher: DC Comics/Marvel Comics Cover Price: $2.50 Current…
A much more lively affair than Superman/Spider-Man, with incredibly art and interesting nuance in our battle of the Bruces...

DC SPECIAL SERIES #27 - BATMAN VS. THE INCREDIBLE HULK

Writing
Art
Coloring

A much more lively affair than Superman/Spider-Man, with incredibly art and interesting nuance in our battle of the Bruces...

User Rating: 3.9 ( 1 votes)

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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6 Comments

  1. September 25, 2016 at 1:53 pm — Reply

    My favorite of these album-size crossovers is Superman & Spider-Man vs Dr. Doom & Parasite. Read it when I was 7 years old, probably one of my first super hero comics.

    • September 25, 2016 at 6:01 pm — Reply

      That one also features Wonder Woman and The Hulk, as I recall, thanks to their TV success…

      • September 26, 2016 at 9:05 am — Reply

        Yeah, they both make an appearance. That’s also where I base my opinion about relative strength of Hulk vs Superman.

  2. September 25, 2016 at 4:19 pm — Reply

    “…or Batman/Spider-Man can take place”

    That one was actually explained, sort of, as the universes starting to merge as they did in the Marvel vs DC/DC vs Marvel event. It was even referenced in the first issue of that series, with The Joker noting that Spider-Man had a different costume from the last time they crossed paths (one crossover he had the original costume, the other he had the Ben Reilly costume).

    That is why many speculate that the past crossovers, such as this one, happened in similar circumstances, with the universes starting to briefly become one, but not merging enough to create the fully combined universe.

    • September 25, 2016 at 5:59 pm — Reply

      I’m not sure that I can accept that the effect of a crossover in 1996 made it possible for crossovers to take place 20 years earlier. I’m willing to entertain a lot of odd theories, that the seems like a huuuuuge stretch for a reader to make.

  3. OverMaster
    September 25, 2016 at 9:17 pm — Reply

    It’s worth noting this story basically did the Emperor Joker plotline twenty years before the Superman comics and then the Batman: The Brave and the Bold cartoon did it.

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