Supervillain Team-Ups

Supervillain Team-Ups

(pop culture)
There is safety in numbers, the supervillain community has learned, often rallying together under adversarial appellations like the Masters of Evil, the Secret Society of Super-Villains, and the Sinister Six. These confederacies are usually motivated by a mutual hatred of a hero, and are generally fouled by dissimilarity and deception. As a rule, supervillains may gang up, but they rarely team up—their selfish motivations and megalomania prohibits cooperation. Yet upon occasion, a pair (or trio) of supervillains will join forces to spell double trouble for their fabled foes, the result of writers' creative inspiration or sales desperation. Batman #2 (1940) featured an early example, a tale titled “The Joker Meets the Cat-Woman” (Catwoman), although those newly introduced Batrogues were rivals in this adventure. The Joker united with the Penguin in “Knights of Knavery” in Batman #25 (1945), sealing their alliance by jointly signing a “Deed of Partnership”; a Joker/Penguin coat of arms hung on the wall of their lair. In an effort to make the 1966 theatrical spinoff of the live-action series Batman (1966–1968) splashier than the small-screen's version, four foes—Joker, Penguin, Riddler, and Catwoman—combined forces. Signet Books published a novelization of its screenplay, author Winston Lyon's Batman vs. the Fearsome Foursome (1966). That same year, Lyon also penned the original novel Batman vs. 3 Villains of Doom, featuring a contest between Penguin, Catwoman, and Joker, while DC Comics' The Brave and the Bold #68, a Batman/Metamorpho team-up, also featured Joker, Penguin, and Riddler, chuckling like lunatics as the Caped Crusader was turned into the “Bat-Hulk.” Toward the end of the second season of TV's Batman, when the writers were running out of fresh ideas, supervillain team-ups occurred, such as Catwoman and made-for-TV thief Sandman, and Penguin and Marsha, Queen of Diamonds. In this tradition, Batman villain team-ups have become common in Hollywood's interpretations of the Dark Knight. A popular example is the “Harley and Ivy” team—Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy—that was rooted in an episode of Batman: The Animated Series (1992–1995) but blossomed into additional episodes and comic-book spin-offs. Batman theatrical movies have continued the team-up trend: Penguin and Catwoman (Batman Returns, 1992), Two-Face and Riddler (Batman Forever, 1995), Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy (Batman & Robin, 1997), and Ra's al Ghul and the Scarecrow (Batman Begins, 2005). (Following this pattern is the film Spider-Man 3, featuring Venom and the Sandman.) The oddest source of a Bat-foes team-up is The New Scooby-Doo Movies (1972–1974), the Scooby- Doo-plus-guest-star cartoon in which the Joker and the Penguin united in two episodes featuring the Scooby gang and Batman and Robin. While the Flash's Rogues' Gallery is perhaps the best-organized team of supervillains, two of its members, Captain Cold and Heat Wave, teamed several times to battle the Fastest Man Alive. In fact, Heat Wave's first appearance occurred in a team-up with his frosty “friend” in The Flash vol. 1 #140 (1963). He may pride himself as being smarter than Superman, but the egocentric Lex Luthor has found it advantageous at times to team up with other villains. As the Joker and Penguin did in 1945, Luthor, the Toyman, and the Prankster contractually inked their alliance as “The Terrible Trio” in Superman vol. 1 #88 (1954). During the 1950s, Luthor formed another trio with the Prankster and Mr. Mxyztplk (the original spelling of the villain now known as Mr. Mxyzptlk; “Mxy” later palled around with fellow magical imp Bat-Mite), and hooked up with the Joker to attack Superman and Batman. Luthor and the Joker linked to bedevil Superman and Batman in World's Finest Comics #88 (1957) and #129 (1962, in which they formed “Joker- Luthor, Incorporated!”), then waged “The Duel of the Crime-Kings!” in #177 (1968). In post-Crisis continuity, their biggest match-up took place in the World's Finest miniseries (1990). During comics' Silver Age (1956–1969), Luthor and the rogue android Brainiac pooled their evil geniuses several times to attempt to kill Superman; in their first team-up, written by Edmond Hamilton (from a plot suggestion by teenage fan Cary Bates, who later became a regular DC Comics writer) and penciler Curt Swan for Superman vol. 1 #167 (1964), they imperiled the Man of Steel by removing his superpowers and shrinking him, keeping him in a birdcage while they argued over who should have the “honor” of executing him. Their partnership went sour in writer Alan Moore's “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow” in Superman #423 and Action Comics #583 (1986), a two-part “imaginary” tale in which Brainiac took over Luthor's body. Superman's two greatest enemies have occasionally teamed in the years since, in comics and on the animated series Superman (1996–2000) and Justice League Unlimited (2004–present; in JLU, Brainiac telepathically “speaks” to Luthor). Other significant Luthor teamups include his deceptive subservience to the superpowered General Zod in the movie Superman II (1980) and his partnership with Dr. Octopus in DC and Marvel's first superhero crossover, Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man (1975). Like Luthor, Marvel's resident mastermind, Dr. Doom, is prone to rampant megalomania but has found coalitions with other supervillains necessary at times. Doom and the vengeful anti-hero the Sub- Mariner wreaked havoc in Fantastic Four vol. 1 #6 (1962), and years later, the pair starred in the first thirteen issues of Super-Villain Team-Up. That series, running from 1975 through 1980, featured in its later issues Dr. Doom and Magneto, Dr. Doom and the Red Skull, and the Red Skull and the Hate-Monger. Doom and DC's the Parasite paired off against their mutual foes in the Superman/ Spider-Man sequel in 1981. Additional Marvel and DC crossovers, published off and on during the 1980s and 1990s, made strange bedfellows of the Joker and the Shaper of Worlds; Darkseid, Dark Phoenix, and Deathstroke the Terminator; the Joker and Jigsaw; Darkseid and Galactus; Parallax and Thanos; Mr. Mxyzptlk and the Impossible Man; the Joker and the Red Skull; Two-Face and Mr. Hyde; the Kingpin and Ra's al Ghul; Magneto and Darkseid; Galactus and the Cyborg Superman; and Kingpin, Scarecrow, and Catwoman. Some criminals, like Fantastic Four foes the Mad Thinker and the Puppet Master, have fared better as partners than as solo supervillains. Marvel's shapeshifting Sandman, however, regretted his 1981 anti-Spider-Man team-up with Hydro- Man—their bodies merged into one sopping mess! Golden Age (1938–1954) baddies the Sportsmaster and the Huntress (not to be confused with the superheroine of the same name) enjoyed a much smoother merger—when they came out of retirement to fight Starman and Black Canary in 1965, they surprised the world by announcing their marriage (becoming “Mr. and Mrs. Menace”); Marvel's Absorbing Man and Titania have also tied the knot. Two of Marvel's most malevolent made beautiful music of a different kind—Paul McCartney and Wings' pop tune “Magneto and Titanium Man” hit the charts in 1976, with a third villain joining in on the lyrical bridge, “And the Crimson Dynamo came along for the ride.” While supervillain team-ups are rarely this harmonious, they can always be counted on to entertain.