Comic book crossovers that totally failed

In many ways, crossovers are the backbone of the comic book industry. They help establish interconnected universes, introduce different fandoms to one another, and provide a way to create enduring franchises such as the Avengers and the Justice League. However, there are quite a few comic book crossovers that became immediate flops. Some made absolutely no sense, and others were nothing more than great big advertisements. From Charles Barkley loaning Godzilla a new pair of Nikes to the Punisher gunning down Eminem's posse, here's a list of the comic book crossovers that totally failed.

Sonic the Hedgehog and Spawn

As an Archie comic, you generally know what to expect from Sonic the Hedgehog. Everything is light, family-friendly fun, making this comic the polar opposite of grim and gritty comics such as Spawn. So it was kind of weird that one time Sonic and friends ran into Spawn himself, along with Savage Dragon and a few other strange Image Comics characters. It was an unusual stunt in the history of Sonic comics, and as you might expect, it didn't go over so well.

The fairly generic story focused on how some Star Trek-like tech sent Image Comics characters into Sonic's world, including a woman named Particle. When she ends up stealing a Chaos Emerald, Sonic and the gang embark on a dimensional road trip in order to stop her. In addition to being a cliché execution of a really weird premise, the cover to the comic is something of a tease. The whole reason to really buy the issue was to see Sonic meet Spawn…and the two meet in exactly one panel, with Sonic asking the guy for directions. As for Spawn, he replies, "No," and that's it.

Basically, the biggest Image Comic star of the time is on the cover to sell copies to excited readers, but the comic fails to deliver on its weird potential. It didn't sell much more than a normal Sonic comic (which is bad, considering this was a so-called Super Special), and it sold far less than Spawn did that same month. In other words, when readers were asked to invest in this lazy crossover event, they responded a lot like Spawn with a great big "no."

Joker/Mask

Modern audiences tend to overlook the Mask as a comic book character, probably because Jim Carrey immortalized the character as a relatively harmless prankster with unlimited magical powers. However, the famous movie was based on a far grislier comic series, one that involved a mask from Loki turning its wearer into a psychotic killer with a warped sense of right and wrong. And considering how much early designs of the Mask seemed to honor the Joker, the concept of a Joker/Mask crossover seemed like a good idea on paper. Instead, it ended up being the nail in the coffin of Mask comics.

The plot wastes no time getting started, with the Joker finding the god-powered mask and going on a crime spree. This provides an excuse for Mask character Lt. Mitch Kellaway to team up with Commissioner Gordon and Batman in order to catch this new incarnation of the Mask. Batman is finally able to stop Joker by appealing to his ego, saying the mask has made the villain unfunny. Thus, Joker relinquishes the mask and is promptly defeated, allowing Kellaway to return the mask to the grave of previous owner and protagonist Stanley Ipkiss.

Unfortunately, the Mask as a comic book character soon hopped into his own grave. Joker/Mask's sales were grim compared to pretty much anything else featuring Batman during the same time period, and it would be nearly 15 years before Dark Horse attempted another Mask comic.

Charles Barkley and Godzilla

Dark Horse didn't limit their weird crossovers to combining the Joker and the Mask. For one bizarre comic, they actually united basketball icon Charles Barkley and the Tokyo-terrorizing monster Godzilla. Of course, this wasn't exactly an original idea. The entire one-shot was cashing in on a Nike commercial featuring the two playing a game of basketball.

Inspired, Dark Horse adapted the idea and threw in a young boy as an audience surrogate character. He helps convince the basketball icon that he's "Earth's greatest warrior" and the only one who can stop Godzilla, who's currently terrorizing a nearby city. The boy then uses a magic coin to grow Barkley into a kaiju-sized giant, and the two lure Godzilla away from the city by challenging the monster to a basketball game. (As Barkley points out, "It is a little known fact that Godzilla is a sucker for b-ball.")

Barkley wins, but he makes peace with Godzilla by giving the creature some giant Nikes. The entire comic attempts to be charming, but really, it's a cheap cash grab, serving as little more than a prolonged shoe commercial. Afterward, Dark Horse never really attempted anything quite like it again, wisely deciding they should focus more on selling comics and less on selling Nikes.

Justice League/Power Rangers

For nerds of a certain age, a Justice League and Power Rangers team-up comic seemed like a no-brainer. After all, there was a lot of buzz for both the live-action Power Rangers reboot, not to mention all the talk about the upcoming Justice League movie. In other words, it seemed like a smart idea to have these super groups team up in comic form.

The story all gets started when the evil Lord Zedd invades the Power Rangers Command Center, and Zordon accidentally zaps Zack into a different dimension (the rest of the Rangers follow him later). And eventually, our mighty morphin heroes meet up with the likes of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. Unfortunately, while the comic got decent reviews, the sales were downright abysmal. The collaboration between DC and Boom! Studios was clearly trying to capitalize on both of their audiences, but the effort sadly fizzled.

Of course, it doesn't help that this is a very lopsided team-up. What do we mean by that? Well, when the Avengers and Justice League join forces or butt heads, it's clear they bring a lot of combined firepower to the table via god-like beings such as Superman and Thor. On the other hand, it's a bit embarrassing to see a spandex-covered martial arts dude (like Zack) standing next to the all-powerful Man of Steel. When it's kung fu teenagers versus otherworldly demigods, well, our money is on the Justice League.

Transformers vs. G.I. Joe

The Transformers and G.I. Joes have a lot in common. They're both toy lines from the '80s with their own comics and TV shows, and they've also run into each other on quite a few occasions. As it turns out, there's a pretty rich history of Transformers-G.I. Joe crossovers, with Marvel pitting the two against each other back in the late '80s in a bid to sell toys. However, things have changed a lot since then, as neither franchise is selling a lot of comics these days. But that didn't keep IDW Publishing from trying out one of the weirdest comic book concepts ever.

In March 2017, IDW released Transformers vs. G.I. Joe: The Movie Adaptation, and if you're wondering what movie they're adapting, well, there isn't one. So what's going on here? Well, between 2014 and 2016, there was a 13-issue series called Transformers vs. G.I. Joe, and The Movie Adaptation is pretending this series was turned into a film…that's now being adapted for a comic book.

Confused yet? So were audiences. Even adjusting for IDW's lower sales compared to bigger companies, this comic sold less than the competing G.I. Joe ongoing comic and way less than many of the Transformers comics that same month. So the message was clear. Fans wanted their Joes and Bots kept separate from one another, and they didn't have time for adaptations of movies that were never even made.

Evil Dead 2: Revenge of the Martians

Ash Williams, the primary character in the Evil Dead franchise, has had a weird life. He's fought demons in the woods, demons in the past, and even demons in Jacksonville, Florida. So while the venues often change, audiences are pretty familiar with the kinds of foes that Ash has to face. However, the company Space Goat set out to change those expectations by pitting Ash against the Martian invaders made famous by H.G. Wells in his novel War of the Worlds.

The flimsy premise involves a scientist at an Area 51-like place (inventively called Area 54) reading from the Necronomicon near the body of a dead Martian. Naturally, the creature comes back to life, and soon, Ash discovers that H.G. Wells's novel was actually an account of real events. Now, Ash must use his combat prowess and experience to ward off an alien invasion, but while that might sound pretty groovy, audiences were having none of it.

Even in a month filled with weird Evil Dead one-shots from the same company, this comic was at the very bottom. In fact, when the book debuted, it was one of the lowest-selling comics that month. So unless Ash can remember the correct magic words to travel back in time and create a better story, this boomstick adventure will remain deader than an alien on a slab in Area 54.

Spider-Man and Ren & Stimpy

If you never watched The Ren & Stimpy Show, well, then it's hard to understand just how weird it was. While modern cartoons struggle with notions of political correctness and mass appeal, Ren & Stimpy made jokes about the Pope, showed the Constitution on fire, and was full of bizarre innuendo and inappropriate references. Nonetheless, this children's show developed widespread popularity, which led to an ongoing comic book. The series would last for several years, but its sixth issue featured a shameless cameo from a certain red-and-blue web-slinger.

This particular issue featured Ren and Stimpy running into Spider-Man, as the webhead is inexplicably filling in for Powdered Toast Man. As it turns out, the normally-powdered protagonist is being mind-controlled by a supervillain, which means the two heroes are going to fight it out. Over the course of the issue, Spider-Man finds himself imprisoned in snot before freeing Powdered Toast Man from the mind control with the help of some milk. Ultimately, the issue was a strange diversion written by Dan Slott, a writer who'd later become a major architect of Spider-Man's comic book future. Here, though, he's just pulling a quick cash grab, one so blatant that Ren & Stimpy never returned to this weird well again.

Eminem/Punisher

True, there are a lot of crazy crossovers out there, but most are just lesser versions of Eminem/The Punisher, a one-shot that's one of the nuttiest comics ever created. It all starts when Slim Shady and his posse encounter the Punisher, who's evidently not a fan of rap music as he immediately opens fire on Eminem and his crew. The vigilante even manages to kill a few of them.

Eminem is soon "rescued" by the Punisher's real target, Barracuda, but their newfound friendship doesn't last long. After Eminem knocks out the Punisher, the villain shoots Eminem, and when the rapper wakes up, he's chained to a boat on a frozen lake, along with Frank Castle. As it turns out, Barracuda was actually hired by the Parents Music Council to murder Eminem, but fortunately, the musician magically escapes his chains and runs across the ice to borrow a chainsaw, all while Punisher struggles with Barracuda.

Eminem returns in time to save the day by murdering Barracuda, after which the Punisher promises to confront the Council for hiring the hit man. This allows Eminem to dramatically drift into the sunset as he says, "Do me a favor, and tell 'em Shady sent you." All zaniness aside, the comic was an over-the-top advertisement for Eminem's new album, which probably made a few comic fans feel like they'd been swindled. And while Marvel later courted the hip-hop world with some cover art homages, the company has decided to pass on anymore Marshall Mathers crossovers for the moment.

Superman Meets the Quik Bunny

Over the years, Superman comics have arguably had the weirdest collection of comic book cameos. It wasn't uncommon for the Man of Steel to run into famous figures like Pat Boone or Don Rickles, but those sorts of goofy appearances were mostly over after the Golden Age of comics. When the 1980s came along, Superman got a cool new face lift thanks to writer John Byrne, and his stories were generally more realistic. However, DC Comics didn't fully get the memo, and the 1980s also produced a pretty awful advertisement masking itself as a crossover: Superman Meets the Quik Bunny.

The plot revolves around Superman teaming up with the chocolate milk-peddling rabbit in order to stop the B-list Flash villain Weather Wizard. Superman, despite having laser vision, is inexplicably frozen in a block of ice that he can't escape on his own, so the Quik Bunny and some young children must help him fight the bad guy.

The real villain of this comic, though, is product placement. There is rarely a panel without a box of Quik in the background, and the plot hinges on everyone drinking enough milk to figure out how to stop the villain. And after vanquishing the Weather Wizard, our heroes guzzle down even more in a bizarre milk-drinking contest that Superman somehow loses to the Quik Bunny. Overall, this comic was rather obscene by the standards of both advertising and comic books, and DC generally avoided this kind of full-on product-shilling afterward…excluding those infamous Hostess Fruit Pie ads, anyway.

Spider-Man and Saturday Night Live

Over the years, Spider-Man has teamed up with just about everyone. In fact, long before he delighted audiences with his cameo in Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man's character was the glue holding the Marvel Team-Up book together. This comic represented an opportunity to introduce Spider-Man fans to characters they weren't as familiar with by letting the new guys hang out with everybody's favorite wall-crawler. That idea was fully in place for nearly 150 issues of the first volume, but there was one weird exception, and it involved Spider-Man teaming up with Saturday Night Live in Marvel Team-Up #74.

The plot for this blatant promo involves Peter Parker and Mary Jane going to an SNL show, which features plenty of classic faces, like John Belushi, Bill Murray, and Gilda Ratner. As for Belushi, he's been given a ring that he can't remove, and it attracts the attention of the X-Men villain Silver Samurai. Even worse, the Samurai has brought along his thugs, but as it turns out, they're really frightened of running into superheroes. (That's kind of unfortunate, considering they work for a supervillain.) Inspired by their fear, Spider-Man helps the cast dress up as heroes to frighten off the villains, and eventually, Silver Samurai and John Belushi (in his own samurai costume) square off.

But even with Spidey's help, Samurai wins and gets the ring, which turns out to have teleportation powers, and then…Silver Samurai just disappears. Ultimately, the comic is a weird period piece that hasn't aged well. As a Spider-Man comic, it's not very engaging. As an SNL comic, it's not very funny. In other words, it's one of those rare instances where Spider-Man couldn't save the day.