In my last Back Issue Bin, I spoke about DC vs. Marvel. Between issues 3 and 4 of that series both publishers weekly releases were supplanted by 12 new titles. Marvel and DC had teamed up to release their combined characters under the Amalgam Comics imprint. Despite being a gimmick to promote their crossover it was a novel idea. Two universes as rich as the DCU and the 616, and they were going to merge them? How fantastic was that? But, was the execution as good as the idea?
I remember first reading the DCvM trade paperback and seeing all the merged characters at the end of issue 3. I was floored. The TPB was relased in 1996, so I was probably 8 when I first read it. The combined characters blew my mind. I wanted to know more about them, who they were, what their names were, their powers. It wasn’t until I was probably 14 that I stumbled across a lot of Amalgam Comics on eBay. Finally, a chance to read the stories of that quirky, combined universe. I snatched them up and blazed through them when they arrived. I am lucky enough to own all 24 issues and am extremely happy to have them in my collection
24 issues, 12 released during the DC vs. Marvel crossover, and 12 more when the two companies revisited the idea a year later, were released. These are really fabulous stories. Sure, they’re basically one-shots of amalgam characters, but that’s what makes them so enjoyable. With characters named Iron Lantern, Spider-Boy, Doctor Strangefate, and Thorion of the New Asgods(snicker!), you have to be intrigued to see what they came up with.
The writers and artists basically took two characters from each universe and merged them, usually keeping the general look of both characters intact. Amalgamated names and origins abound. Characters like Hal Stark the Iron Lantern, Logan Wayne or Dark Claw, and the funniest of all, Lobo the Duck. Even supporting characters were combined, as were some heroes’ cities. Teams were also merged, the X-Patrol and the JLX were just two of the them.
A couple of really fun aspects were the editor’s notes and the reader columns. For those of you not in the know, an editor’s note occurs when a character in a comic makes a reference to an event that happened in a previous issue or story. Well since everything else was combined, stories were as well. The Secret Crisis of the Infinity Hour, as experienced readers will figure out, is a mash-up of DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths and Zero Hour with Marvel’s Secret Wars and Infinity Gauntlet. Even older titles such as DC’s Showcase and Marvel’s Tales of Suspense were merged into Showcase of Suspense when that title was referenced. Yes, none of those volumes exist for you to read the backstory, but it was a nice touch to give these comics a sense of history as if they’d been around forever.
The reader columns provide a lot of good times as well. These “readers” were fictional and the letters they “wrote” were penned by the writers that wrote the issues. Again, like the editor’s notes this was done to make the comic and characters seem established. Even the cities where the readers said they were from were generally American cities that had been amalgamated. Not all of the issues had a letter column, I believe 8 of the 24 issues had one.
If you’re a fan of good one-off stories, try and pick these up. They’re fun, simple tales of a fun, simple world. You might be able to find the single issues cheaper than the trade paperbacks as those are out of print and Marvel’s set are apparently ungodly expensive. And if you haven’t read DC vs. Marvel I urge you to give that a read as well, as it all ties in together. I’d love for Marvel and DC to revisit this idea again, but as I said in the Back Issue Bin column, with them being owned by rival companies, I doubt it happens. If you want to see all of the titles Amalgam put out, take a look here. If you have some issues in your long box speak up, let me know why you liked Amalgam, or why you hated it.