Obscure Comics: Batman/Superman #33, Annual #3, & #34

There are comic book series almost every comic fan knows, there are comic book characters that most everyone knows, there are specific comic books most every comic reader knows, and then there are the more obscure issues that slip through the cracks. What makes obscure comics so interesting and vital is discovering those books that most don't know were ever printed, or that top tier creators worked on "that book" or on "that character." Obscure Comics are fun to find and interesting to know about, but that border between great reads and terrible comics.

The New 52 Gives Way to Rebirth

DC Comics underwent a major change in 2016, as the New 52, which had replaced the "Post-Crisis" era, was now being replaced by the Rebirth era.  The clear relaunch of titles with mostly new #1's (except Action Comics and Detective Comics returning to their original numbering) made it clear that the New 52 was ending, and the crossover replacing the New 52 Superman with the Post-Crisis Superman made it even clearer.  At this point, though Superman had four titles, and a planned relaunch of Superman as a new #1 and Action Comics returning to its original numbering, left the two team up books, Superman/Wonder Woman, and Batman/Superman on the chopping block.

Batman/Superman Volume 1

Batman/Superman was launched in June of 2013, another new Superman title along with Superman Unchained, and later in the year Superman/Wonder Woman, to celebrate Superman's 75th anniversary.  The book reflected the current continuities of both heroes throughout its run, including the revelation of Superman's identity of Clark Kent to the world by Lois Lane and Batman's disappearance and replacement by Commissioner Gordon as an armored Batman.  The book focused heavily on the relationship between the two heroes as it went from adversarial, reflecting the New 52 timeline's beginning, to good friends and confidants.  When the series was canceled as the Rebirth began, Batman/Superman #33 and Annual #3 were solicited and never published as individual issues.

Batman/Superman Credits
Batman/Superman Credits

Obscure Comics: Batman/Superman #33, Annual #3,  & #34

Where Superman/Wonder Woman had a clear place in continuity, Batman/Superman #33, Annual #3, and #34 do not; the three-part story titled "Criss Cross" was written by Frank Tieri, art on #33 was done by Alex Konat, with Annual #3 drawn by Alex Konat (focused on the Batman Villains) and Elia Bonetti (focused on the Superman Villains), with issue #34 penciled by Giuseppe Cafaro (who also drew Superman/Wonder Woman #30 and #31) and great covers by Yanick Paquette.

Batman/Superman #33 Cover
Batman/Superman #33 Cover

Batman/Superman #33 begins and focuses on Killer Croc and Livewire, who end up working together when a robbery in New York, planned for one supervillain, ends up with two.  From there, the two go to Bar None, where Killer Croc introduces Livewire to the villain bar where every super-villain can mingle and get away from the hectic needs of fighting capes. (It's even a place where Cheetah and King Shark can hook up.)

However, the discussion eventually ends up focused on superheroes, and Major Disaster involves himself as Livewire, and Killer Croc argues over who is tougher, Batman or Superman.  Major Disaster isn't the only one to involve himself, as Bane joins the argument, and a bet is placed whether Superman's foes can beat Batman and vice versa.

The forty-page Batman/Superman Annual #3 picks up the next day with alternating pages focused on each group, with the odd pages going to Batman's foes and the even pages going to Superman's villains, as each group tries to take on the other's superhero.  Adding to Livewire and Major Disaster, Atomic Skull joins in, and surprise assists Bizzaro helps take Batman down. Bane, along with Killer Croc, and Clayface, get Poison Ivy's help taking down Superman, as criminals everywhere bet on the Criss Cross (no jumping is involved, though, as the two words aren't spelled with the letter k).

Having both taken out their targets, the two groups find they've both won, and Batman and Superman have lost.  However, help is on the way for both heroes.

Batman/Superman #34 shows that no clear winner means super villain battle royal despite both parties having won.  As expected, Batman and Superman get free, with help from Nightwing and Robin, but even the four of them cannot overpower all the villains assembled.  However, the help of Lex Luthor brings the battle to an end, as he lectures both that they were careless bringing such conflict to "his" city.  Afterward, Batman and Superman enjoy a beer together, but the question of which of them would win in a fight remains unanswered.

Published in a Collection, but Not as Floppies

Collected in Batman/Superman Volume 6, both hardcover and paperback, in April of 2016, the three issues are marked in their credits page as being created exclusively for this collection, which again seems like an odd lie.  This time, unlike with the Superman/Wonder Woman #30 and #31, this three-parter seems to be a clear cut case of an inventory story, done to help fill a gap in publishing or a missed deadline.  This story's continuity is very up in the air as it takes place before the Forever Evil crossover, as Lex Luthor has not joined the Justice League. Creating brand new content for collections is almost unheard of in terms of brand new full issues being included, but that is what DC claims.

Batman/Superman Volume 6 Front Cover
Batman/Superman Volume 6 Front Cover

The issues themselves are only available in this collection, even if you want to get them on Comixology, which only makes the issues available to read-only if you buy Batman/Superman Volume 6.  They can be read for as cheap as around $7 online, but the hardcover can be as cheap as $8, with the trade paperback usually costing more, ranging from $11 to $18.  DC now regularly publishes content only online, with plans to eventually collect it physically in trade, but this seems to be a weird instance where planned issues were instead not released.  Also, this wasn't done once, but twice, so why DC decided to do this in this manner is currently unknown.

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About Ian Melton

Japanese Teacher, Comic Book, Manga, & Anime collector, LCBS worker, father of 2, fan of far too many things for far too long...
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