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Superman Meets Predator and...Bugs Bunny?
DC ups the ante on crossover comic book confrontations.
By Edward Gross
April 14, 2000
As if Superman hasn't had his hands full with the likes of the Aliens (from the movie franchise of the same name) and the Terminator, now he has to turn his attention to the alien hunter known as the Predator. At about the same time, he has to go up against Bugs Bunny and the rest of the Looney Tunes universe.
Why won't anyone leave the Man of Steel alone?
'Are you kidding?' laughs DC Comics editor Joey Cavalieri, who is overseeing both miniseries. 'The idea of combining characters is something that people have thought about since they were kids. I think everybody's always curious about that kind of cross-pollination; they'd love to see Superman and Spider-Man together. They'd love to see characters that couldn't possibly exist on the same plane suddenly together. In the case of Superman-Bugs Bunny, that's something I've wanted to see since I was in high school, and I found out that they were under the same company's umbrella. I used to do these drawings in my sketchbook of Bugs Bunny in a Superman suit with a big WB on his chest. I was just crazy about that kind of thing as a kid. I think it's always going to appeal to people in the broadest sense. I also remember one of my favorite episodes of the Little Rascals
was when they were sitting around arguing over who was stronger, Flash Gordon or Tarzan. It's just something that's always going to be a strain running through our culture.
'And that's because it's fun,' he continues. 'In the old days, there were Superman fans and Batman fans, and it was a real big deal when that issue of WORLD'S FINEST came out and the two of them came together for the first time. That kind of thing had never happened before. It was also a big deal with the Justice Society or Justice League and all of those characters came together. I guess such team-ups is a little more common place now, so we have to look for stronger combinations.'
SUPERMAN VS. PREDATOR (written by David Michelinie, art by Alex Maleey) is a 3-issue mini-series that begins with a very human threat in South America, and escalates to an otherworldly terror when a spaceship bearing a Predator lands nearby. 'There had been a number of successful Batman-Predator crossovers, which had a little more balance between the characters,' offers Cavalieri. 'Batman would have to be fairly clever to outwit somebody who's ten times as sharp and ten times as agile, and hunts people for a living or as part of its culture. On the other hand, Superman is far more incredibly powerful.'
The line to walk, of course, is one that allows there to be a genuine threat against Superman, but a threat that doesn't seem unnatural or asks the character to behave in ways that he normally wouldn't. 'You want him to be Superman,' he says. 'You don't want him to be in another costume or in other circumstances. You do, however, want to make it a fair fight. In this particular SUPERMAN VS. PREDATOR story, the Predator brings along in its spacecraft an alien virus that affects Superman so that it knocks his powers back tremendously. He's fairly weak, but he still has to protect the people he's with in the jungle.'
Beyond the Predator, the Man of Steel must deal with a scientist who is planning on wiping out DNA traits that cause certain illnesses or problems within the human immune system. 'But in order to do that,' the editor explains, 'he's willing to wipe out a third of the human race to achieve this under the guise of strengthening it. Superman gets involved in the first place because Lois Lane is down there. Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen, of course, are the early warning systems for trouble in the Superman universe. So Lois is down there; Superman gets wind of it and is more than glad to go down there. He tries to straighten things out, but becomes infected with this virus, which results in his falling prey to everybody, including the scientist's soldiers, a splinter faction that's down there, and the Predator itself.'
Scaling down Superman's powers is a problem facing virtually every writer and editor who gets involved with the character. 'It's very difficult,' he concurs. 'When I was the editor of the Superman line, it was between weakening him physically and finding some personal challenge from his past or something that would affect him emotionally. It wouldn't weaken him, but it would raise the stakes of the fight a little more. Believe me, it was always a challenge to try and come up with something that could even vaguely threaten Superman. Most of the time, a weakening of his powers was story-driven, with the exception of the big reboot when John Byrne came on like 10 or 15 years ago, which was an attempt to depower him and bring it back to square one. Since fifteen years have passed, he's gotten stronger again. I don't know if he's juggling planets the way he was 20 years ago, but he's strong.'
So is the audience's identification with the Predator, a Hollywood creation that has managed to far outlast the film that spawned it, appearing in a wide variety of comic books (particularly Dark Horse's enormously popular ALIEN VS. PREDATOR miniseries), and novels. 'The truth is,' Cavalieri muses, 'it's nice to see a really good, really well-thought-out science fiction concept that's worked out well. They don't violate the concept; they don't make it silly; they don't denigrate it; they don't go back on their own logic. The audience has to respect the fact that this alien culture has been developed very well and pretty tightly. That's the appeal of THE MATRIX and a lot of those things: it's a science fiction concept that is fairly familiar, but it's well realized. Even if action-adventure is not your cup of tea, it's still something you have to look at with a certain amount of admiration if it's done well.'
Which brings us to SUPERMAN & BUGS BUNNY. How on earth do you describe this one? We're not even going to try. Let DC give it a crack: 'It's the meeting comic-book audiences and animation lovers have demanded for decades,' says the company. 'It's an irreverent 4-issue miniseries that turns two classic worlds of entertainment upside-down in a story so wild, neither the DCU or the Looniverse may ever fully recover. In the miniseries (written by Mark Evanier, art by Joe Staton, Tom Palmer and Mike DeCarlo), the dimension-hopping Mr. Mxyzptlk meets Porky Pig's old sparring partner, the Do-Do, and comes up with a raucous prank to revive the Do-Do's faded career: Combining their powers, the two imps switch Loony Tunes characters and DC heroes between the universes. As characters from beloved cartoons start making mayhem for the JLA, only Superman has any hope of straightening things out.'
Cavalieri, who used to edit Warner's LOONEY TUNES magazine, admits that he's having a 'blast' working on this miniseries. 'When I worked on the LOONEY TUNES magazine,' he says, 'I was editing a kid's magazine based on those characters and was given a lot of free reign. I had fun updating the kinds of situations they'd be in, modernizing them a little bit. So, for me, it was natural to bring Superman and Looney Tunes together. The magazine was well received, and now I get to imagine all of these characters in the same place. Think about it: Mxyzptlk and the Do-Do decide it would be terrific to torment each of their respective universes' characters by crossing the two universes over and maybe turning Elmer Fudd into Superman for a while and Daffy Duck into Batman, and smooshingthat's a technical termthe two universes together completely.'
Superman, he emphasizes, always remains in character, never being molded to fit the goofiness that the scenario suggests. 'Superman is Superman,' he says matter of factly. 'The heroes react just as we would if we saw Bugs Bunny walking down the street. They recognize the Road Runner from the cartoons, and by extension, Foghorn Leghorn has read every issue of ACTION COMICS, so he's more than glad to tell Superman that the glasses aren't fooling anybody. Then it comes down to Superman and Bugs Bunny having to put their universes back together again. As each issue progresses, it becomes even more of a free-for-all.'
Apparently Superman meeting Alien, Terminator, Predator and Bugs Bunny isn't enough. There are even more team-ups in development, though Cavalieri refuses to offer any details. 'All I want to say,' he proffers, 'is that the ante will keep going up.'