Thursday, April 2, 2015
THE 100 GREATEST CROSSOVERS OF ALL TIME #46
I've already discussed the two best Stan Lee-Steve Ditko crossover stories of the Silver Age, here and here, and the one Stan Lee-written comic that wasn't a collaboration with either Ditko or Jack Kirby here. But Ditko also did one other notable crossover in the Silver Age. Given Ditko's contrarian nature, though, it's significant that he refuses to give the casual reader what he might expect. "Blue Beetle Faces the Destroyer of Heroes," the lead story of BLUE BEETLE #5, does have the hero of the titular feature cross paths twice with the hero of the same comic's backup strip, The Question. However, the heroes do not meet with both in costume.
First, Vic Sage (aka the Question) crosses paths with Ted Kord (aka the Blue Beetle) when both happen to be at a museum. They stand together to prevent some scuzzy hippies from assaulting one of the Greek artworks on display, but they part ways thereafter and don't so much as shake hands.
Later, one of the hippies takes it into his head to don a costume based on a sculpture that represents absurdity and pointlessness, and to break into the museum to finish what his buddies started: destroying images of heroism and purpose. While Blue Beetle is fighting the costumed kook atop the museum's roof, on the street below one of the hippies grabs a cop's gun and tries to shoot the Beetle. Vic Sage happens to be around, and he disarms and clouts the bum, perhaps saving the Beetle's life. The Beetle then goes looking for his opponent, and never pauses to find out who shot at him or who saved him from being shot.
The "Blue Beetle" story also introduces a character who is featured as the villain in the "Question" backup, but this second story is not a crossover as such.
It's doubtful that "Destroyer of Heroes" made much impact on its dominantly juvenile audience at the time. However, many hardcore fans of the period still regard "Destroyer" as one of the most important stories of the decade. Though philosophical concerns did sometimes pop up as side-issues in the Silver Age stories of, say, Superman and the Fantastic Four, BLUE BEETLE #5 is arguably the first mainstream comic book to devote an entire issue to exploring its author's philosophical outlook. (It's rivaled only by MYSTERIOUS SUSPENSE #1, but this full-length comic was also authored by Steve Ditko, and bears the same cover date, October 1968, as BLUE BEETLE #5.)
Of course one can argue with many aspects of Ditko's Ayn Rand-flavored meritocracy, but the story remains one of Ditko's best dramatizations of his concerns. Later, Blue Beetle and Question teamed up "for real" in another story from Charlton, one from Americomics, and finally from DC Comics. This established the trope of a bond of friendship between the two heroes that never existed in the original Ditko crossover, a bond referenced in Alan Moore's WATCHMEN, where the Ditko characters are transformed into Rorschach and Nite Owl.