That's What's Up: The 8 weirdest superhero crossovers ever

Each week, comic book writer Chris Sims answers the burning questions you have about the world of comics and pop culture: what's up with that? If you'd like to ask Chris a question, please send it to @theisb on Twitter with the hashtag #WhatsUpChris, or email it to staff@looper.com with the subject line "That's What's Up."

Q: Everyone knows about The Punisher Meets Archie, but there have to be weirder crossovers out there, right? What are your picks for the strangest team-ups that ever happened?via email

You know, for a while there it seemed like Punisher Meets Archie would never be topped in terms of truly bizarre crossovers. Then again, that was before we had a live-action Archie TV show where people were more likely to be murdered than to have milkshakes, in which Jon Bernthal showing up with a skull on his chest to try to murder Hiram Lodge would make perfect sense, so I think it's fair to say that our baseline for what constitutes "weird" for these characters has shifted significantly.

Point being, Punisher Meets Archie came out in 1994, and in the years since, we've seen a resurgence of superhero crossover stories that seem like they'd never happen — and a few that seem like they probably shouldn't have. So how about I do you one better? Not only do I have eight of the weirdest crossovers ever, every one of them was published in the past 18 years.

Archie vs. Predator

We might as well start with the series that officially dethroned The Punisher Meets Archie as the wildest story to ever hit Riverdale — and these days, that's saying something. Over the past decade, Archie Comics has published a ton of crossovers where young Mr. Andrews and his pals have met KISS, the Ramones, Barack Obama, Batman, Sharknado… you get the idea. At the same time, the Predator's existence in comics has been made up almost entirely of crossovers, hunting down Batman, Judge Dredd, the Justice League, and, of course, the xenomorphs from Alien. So as weird as it might seem, this one was almost inevitable.

It lives up to its premise, too. Over the course of four issues, Alex de Campi and veteran Archie artist Fernando Ruiz send Riverdale into a hard-R bloodbath courtesy of a teenage Predator who — of course — falls in love with Betty and Veronica. Unfortunately for them, the Predators' courtship leaves more than a few bodies in its wake: Jughead, Dilton, Cheryl Blossom and Sabrina the Teenage Witch all have their heads torn off, Betty loses an arm, and Archie somehow manages to die twice in the span of a single story. That's not even the strangest part.

For that, it'd have to be a toss-up between Dilton revealing that he's created a Pacific Rim-style mech suit (complete with missile launchers) that looks just like Archie because he realized that's who his universe was built around, and the fact that while they defeat the Predator, Betty and Veronica aren't content to just leave him as a dead body. Instead, they use Hiram Lodge's cloning machine to revive and reshape him into their new Archie, which is presented as a more-or-less happy ending for everyone who's still alive. Seriously: this comic rules.

The Punisher/Eminem

As for the other half of the Punisher Meets Archie equation, Frank Castle hasn't had nearly the amount of crossovers that his co-stars have. Don't get me wrong, he's been in some pretty wild stories, including one where he was chopped up into pieces, then stitched back together as a monster called Franken-Castle (amazing), and a recent development where an alternate reality saw him becoming a herald of Galactus who was possessed by a demon, thus becoming the Cosmic Ghost Rider. Believe it or not, though, all of that has happened within the Marvel Universe, and he doesn't get out of it often.

Unless, of course, you count The Punisher/Eminem, a collaboration between Marvel and hip-hop magazine XXL in which Frank Castle found himself going up against Marshall Mathers. Make no mistake, writer Fred Van Lente and Larroca know exactly how ludicrous this premise is, but the comic itself is bonkers for a lot of reasons. First, it posits a world where Eminem is able to not only get the drop on the Punisher, but beat him into unconsciousness in a fair fight. I'm willing to believe in radioactive spiders, literal Norse Gods, a giant purple man with set of rocks that can remake the universe, but that's pushing it. Second, it involves the Punisher having a history with Barracuda, one of the few Punisher foes to actually survive long enough to become a recurring villain.

Needless to say, this one follows the classic Marvel "fight-then-team-up" format. While Eminem assumed the Punisher was out to kill him, the reality was that Frank was there to stop Slim Shady's old friend Barracuda, who had been hired to kill him by "the Parents' Music Council" (get it?) because of his offensive lyrics. After Eminem brutally murders Barracuda with a chainsaw — no, really — Frank decides to go kill the PMC instead. It is bananas, and it's still available to read on Marvel's Unlimited service, if you're curious.

Batman/Elmer Fudd

In 2017, DC did something that you'd think would've happened a lot more often since the company was bought by Warner Bros. in 1967: a bunch of crossovers between DC's most famous superheroes and the Looney Tunes. If that sounds weird, that's because it was, but most of the stories were ultimately pretty forgettable. Batman/Elmer Fudd, on the other hand, was kind of a masterpiece.

It's called "Pway For Me," and that title alone should give you an idea of what we're working with here. Written by Tom King — also the regular writer of the monthly Batman comic — with art by Lee weeks, Batman/Elmer Fudd wasn't a comic that brightened up Batman to fit him in with Looney Tunes. Instead, this thing went so hard the other way, recasting Elmer Fudd as a tragic player in an excessively violent film noir thriller, that it wound up being one of the most genuinely hilarious Batman comics of all time. Elmer wasn't alone, either. In addition to portraying him as a hitman with a double-barreled shotgun who was drawn back into a "wife of viowence" by the presumed murder of his beloved, this comic also featured humanized versions of Bugs Bunny as a shifty informant, Porky Pig as a stuttering bartender, and a handful of other characters who were all beaten to a pulp and/or shot in a barroom brawl.

It's a fantastic comic. So much so, in fact, that it was nominated for an Eisner award for Best Humor Publication. It didn't win, but King took home the Best Writer award that year, and I'm pretty sure that's not just because of Mister Miracle and Batman.

Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Speaking of Batman crossovers that you'd think would've happened before, the Dark Knight Detective meeting up with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles definitely seems like something that would've happened back in 1990, but no. It somehow took until 2016 for those two pop culture juggernauts to collide, but when they finally did, it was everything you'd want it to be.

Compared to the rest of the comics we're talking about today, James Tynion IV and Freddie E. Williams II tell a pretty straightforward story. At the time, the Turtles had been bopping around on some dimension-hopping adventures that also saw them meeting the Ghostbusters, and this story follows pretty logically from that. The Shredder, frustrated with losing in his own dimension, hops through a portal to Gotham City and teams up with Ra's al-Ghul, uniting the Foot Clan and the League of Assassins in a bid to take over that world.

What makes it weird is also the scene that pushes it over the line from "good" to "great." In the penultimate issue, it's revealed that Shredder and Ra's have dosed the rest of the Arkham villains with mutagenic ooze, turning them into animal versions of themselves. This is delightful, and I kind of wish it had been permanent, at least in some cases. I mean, no, the Joker probably doesn't need to be a hyena permanently, and a fox dressed up like the Riddler seems like something you'd see on a website that also featured Sonic the Hedgehog becoming a proud mother, but c'mon. Are you going to look at Mister Freeze as an adorable polar bear and tell me that's not the best? Imagine that you weren't reading the crossover, and suddenly that's just how things were in the main series, permanently, without anyone ever mentioning it. That would be amazing.

Star Trek / Legion of Super-Heroes

Much like Batman and the TMNT, the Legion of Super-Heroes and Star Trek seem like a pretty natural fit. They are, after all, both distant-future sci-fi stories with casts that include notable aliens. The thing is, this one isn't just about two star-faring groups encountering each other out in space. It goes a lot deeper than that.

It kind of has to. Not to get excessively nerdy even for this column, but Trek, of course, takes place in the 23rd century, while the Legion is set in the 31st. That means that by necessity, this has to be a time travel story, but Chris Roberson, Jeffrey Moy, and Philip Moy answer the burning question that you're always confronted with when that's the case: why stop there? As a result, this becomes a story that spans an entire alternate timeline that stretches back to caveman days thanks to DC villain Vandal Savage being recast as the person directly responsible for Trek's Mirror-Universe timeline, which is a pretty great idea.

There's a better one here, though, which is what really pushes this one over the top. In a truly great scene, Savage reveals that the Legion and the crew of the Enterprise aren't the first time travelers to try to end his reign, showing off a massive roster of captured time machines that includes the TARDIS, Doc Brown's DeLorean, Bill and Ted's phone booth, the Flash's cosmic treadmill, and more. That means that if you want to get technical about it, Star Trek/Legion is actually Star Trek/Legion/Doctor Who/Stargate/Back to the Future/Time Tunnel/Hot Tub Time Machine (seriously), etc. And that's not even the actual twist in that issue.

The Outsiders and John Walsh

As we've already seen from the Punisher's encounter with Slim Shady, crossovers between fictional superheroes and real-life people are always pretty weird. There is, however, a long history of them that goes all the way back to Captain America punching Adolf Hitler and Superman being on the losing side of fights to both Muhammad Ali (awesome) and shoeless mid-century pro wrestler Antonino Rocca (significantly less awesome). And then there's the time in 2003 that the Outsiders, a team of DC second-stringers led by Nightwing, met America's Most Wanted host John Walsh.

Ideologically speaking, this is the opposite of the resolutely pro-murder Punisher/Eminem. When they're confronted with a child sex trafficking ring, the Outsiders, a team of superheroes who know Batman, turn to a television host for help finding their quarry. It is, by design, a huge downer, but it also breaks the fiction. There's a part in this where the Outsiders talk about how they can pull fingerprints off of a glass counter from three months before that's been cleaned "a thousand times" because "our tech's a little bit better than the police." We all sort of accept that Batman is exceptional and that the Gotham City Police Department probably wouldn't know what to do with a truckload of grappling hooks and metal boomerangs, but like… if you're going to share that technology with the guy who hosts America's Most Wanted on Fox, why not give it to the cops? It would probably solve some problems!

Even worse, we never get to see an in-universe episode of the show where Walsh grimly alerts viewers that the Rainbow Raider is back at it again.

DC/KFC

Before I say this, I need you to know that I am not even kidding in the slightest: one of my favorite crossovers of the past decade was a series of promotional comics produced by DC and Kentucky Fried Chicken about Colonel Sanders fighting crime and also making fried chicken.

Seriously, these things are great. Written by Tony Bedard with art by Tom Derenick, they were released annually for three years in a row at San Diego Comic-Con, and since they're promo comics, you can actually read 'em for free online. You should, too, because they start out with Colonel Sanders meeting the Flash and Green Lantern, and just get buck wild from there. At one point, he defeats Larfleeze, the Orange Lantern driven entirely by greed, by convincing him to open his own KFC franchise in space so that he can eat as much chicken as he wants. As far as I'm concerned, that is 100% canon.

By the time the third one rolls around, it's established that there's a Colonel Sanders on every world in the Multiverse that all join together to form the Colonel Corps. We're talking on-panel appearances from a futuristic Kingdom Come Sanders, a gender-swapped version from Earth-11, and a humanoid chicken from the post-apocalyptic future of Kamandi: The Last Boy On Earth who raises a lot of questions about just what it is that he's serving to people. And the reason they have to team up? The evil Colonel Sanders from Earth-3 named Colonel Sunder, who wears a black suit and makes bad chicken. The only major DC event comic that's as good as that is the one where Batman has to fight a team of villains where everyone else is also Batman, and also there are dragons there.

Spider-Man/Jessie

Finally, we have my pick for what is actually the strangest crossover in recent memory, at least as far as I'm concerned. This one happened on television rather than comics, on a special Halloween episode of the Ultimate Spider-Man: Web Warriors TV show where the cast of Jessie showed up.

Jessie, if you're not familiar with it, is a live-action sitcom for babies about a girl from Texas who moves to New York City and becomes a nanny for a ridiculously wealthy couple and their large roster of adopted children. I find it difficult to judge the quality of the show since my only experience with it involves a three-day stomach flu where it seemed to be on every time I'd wake up, and I'd catch about five minutes of it before I passed out again, but I'm reasonably certain that it does not take place within any version of the Marvel Universe, cinematic or otherwise. Having the cast cross over into an episode of a Spider-Man show, where they're all magically transformed by Morgan Le Fey into whatever they're dressed up as for Halloween is… surprising.

On one level, it's exactly the sort of thing that grumpy old nerds were afraid of when Disney bought Marvel, but it's also fascinatingly bizarre to see two genres colliding without managing to blend at all. Also, why is the little girl dressed like Doctor Octopus? In this world, isn't he like, a very real, very murderous criminal? That's a very weird thing to let one of the children you're watching dress up as, Jessie! Jessie you might not be that great at your job!

Each week, comic book writer Chris Sims answers the burning questions you have about the world of comics and pop culture: what's up with that? If you'd like to ask Chris a question, please send it to @theisb on Twitter with the hashtag #WhatsUpChris, or email it to staff@looper.com with the subject line "That's What's Up."