Crossovers can be a strange beast.
They can be pear-shaped and awkward as easily as they’ll charm your pants off. If that statement didn’t tip you off, just know that I tend to be pretty fickle about them as a whole. That said, there’s a short list that rocked my world when I first discovered them (and which continue still to do so). Since a list of the top 5 all-time crossovers would be rather unwieldy, I’m sticking to Batman here. It also happens that I love Batman a whole lot, so it was also a selfish choice.
I don’t think any of these would be considered traditional superhero crossovers, so bear with me if that’s your usual ball of wax. Strictly superhero crossovers are great, but I like something that wanders into other genres I enjoy, which are usually set apart from the classic superhero motif to begin with. Shall we?
Number 5 – The Shadow and the Knight
This one is the lowest on my top 5 for one reason and one reason only: it never happened. How can an unpublished crossover make the list, you ask? Because Batman owes his existence to the Shadow, that’s why. Besides, who wouldn’t enjoy seeing arguably the two greatest crime-fighting sleuths of all time in the same setting? Batman with his tech, the Shadow with his mysticism, and both with amazing detective skills. Probably more than anything in life, I wish this had come to fruition.
Batman and the Shadow are products of the age of pulp magazines and detective/adventure stories; they helped to shape the film noir era and held a monopoly on America’s imagination for decades. Hell, Batman still fills that role. It just feels right to have them in a crossover together. To be honest, this should be number one on the list–if only it were real. Check out the link to see more of the issue covers that might have been. Oh well. In a perfect world, right?
Number 4 – Batman vs. Predator, Volume 1
This is a great “three cheers for Batman!” story. This crossover gives you Batman’s usual (and timely) utilization of non-existent technology to defeat Predator. Because being a bazillionaire make easily building or attaining future-tech a real thing.
If this weren’t reason enough to pick up this three-issue story, just know that a ship full of others of the Predator’s species arrive during the final showdown, and then promptly leave Earth basically out of respect, since Batman is too amazeballs for them to mess with any longer. Also, no Predator-related story is complete without honoring the warrior spirit…in this case the ritual suicide of the defeated Predator. ‘Nuff said.
Number 3 – Gotham by Gaslight
Gotham by Gaslight was originally a one-shot set in a Victorian steampunk universe, wherein Batman tangles with Jack the Ripper in the streets of Gotham, but not before Bruce Wayne is framed for the murders. I’m also including the sequel here too, Master of the Future, since it’s now included with the first as a two-fer in Gotham by Gaslight. In this story, Batman faces a bomb-dropping, zeppelin-piloting madman. Delightful, simply delightful. And the goggle-wearing Batman’s steampunk-y tools are exactly that: steampunk-y. All gas-powered with cogs and such. Just read it.
Number 2 – Batman & Dracula: Red Rain
This cross brings true gothic horror to Gotham. Appropriate from the get-go.
Written by Doug Moench (creator of Bane!), Red Rain tells the story of Batman’s investigation into a string of murders in Gotham that leads him to discover that the one and only Dracula is not only real, but thriving in Gotham’s streets, and with a cult following. Literally. I don’t want to spoil the story line here, but just know that Batman becomes a vampire in the process, and that he grows actual bat wings. If it sounds too hokey, please give this one a shot anyway. You won’t be disappointed. It got great reviews, as it damn well should have, and kicked off two other story arcs. Both were great, but neither so great as the first.
Number 1 – Hellboy: Masks and Monsters
This. This is my favorite crossover of all time. Masks and Monsters is actually a two-story collection, but the first is the one that makes me all aflutter. It features my three favorite comic book heroes–or anti-heroes, as each of these are, in one sense or another–of all time: Batman, Starman and Hellboy. This is a Hellboy story, no doubt about it, so in this one Batman is the crossover guest. And it’s got the best villains for any Hellboy story: Nazis. Nazis and elder gods.
Follow Hellboy while he teams up with Batman and Starman to save Starman’s predecessor (and father, if I remember right), Ted Knight. This is a great story for crossing from any one of these heroes’ universes to the other. To be fair, Starman and Batman do both exist in the same DC universe, but I’ve never seen them cross over into one another’s stories. And Hellboy is Hellboy is Hellboy. Holy crap, I could wax philosophic on Hellboy forever. Anyway, read this. It’s dark, it’s funny, it’s Lovecraftian and it’s got a #&$%ing amazing trifecta of protagonists. And Nazis, don’t forget the Nazis!