In 1994, there was a collision of worlds. One was DC. One was Milestone.
In this episode, we discuss the 14 issue crossover called Worlds Collide that saw the Superman family interact with heroes from the Milestone universe.
Below are my notes from the show:
In 1994, the Milestone universe crossed over with the Superman and Superman-adjacent character books (Superboy and Steel) for the story arc Worlds Collide. The story revolves around a postal worker named Fred Bentson who has the ability to live between the two worlds of the DC Universe and the Dakotaverse. The power that links the two worlds within Fred breaks loose causing Fred to turn into Rift, an almost god-like character who claims he created the two universes. Rift pits the two universes against each other to see which universe is more deserving to exist.
According to Ivan Velez Jr, writer of Blood Syndicate at the time, the crossover occurred because of a clause in the deal with DC and Milestone and the popularity of crossovers at the time. Since DC was their distributor and partner, Milestone had to have at least one event that crossed over between universes. So the writers and editors of Milestone had a meeting with the writers and editors of the Superman family books to brainstorm ideas. Dwayne McDuffie proposed the idea of an everyman/nobody who would obtain godlike powers and existed in both worlds. His goal would be to merge the worlds together into one acceptable one. Because of his end goal of tearing everything apart while existing between the two, Ivan came up with the name Rift in the first brainstorm meeting and the name stuck for the remainder of the story. For the design process on Rift, Ivan was leaning to have a bi-racial character (ie: between two-worlds idea) but Dwayne wasn’t for that idea. In the end, Ivan believes it was artist Denys Cowan who ended up with the final design, and best shown as the first image of Rift when he finally appears in Worlds Collide #1.
In the story, there are clear collisions of characters between the two universes that the editors found to work best. The two tech-heads in Hardware and Steel would be paired together while the teens in Superboy, Static and Rocket would butt heads. Blood Syndicate and Icon would meet up with Superman. The creators at Milestone took the lead with the story as the creators on the Superman books were in the midst of their own major storyline (the fall of Metropolis). So while Milestone took the story very seriously while working with DC characters, the crossover felt out-of-place in the Superman books and more shoehorned in with the overwhelming story they were already in the middle of.
Books like Kobalt and Xombi would start releasing around this time. However because of lead-time to prep these books, they probably weren’t able to fit these in properly to the story without feeling forced. However, the four flagship titles (Icon, Static, Blood Syndicate, Hardware) were involved due to being the core books.
The books that composed the 14 issue crossover were:
Superman: The Man of Steel #35
Blood Syndicate #16
Worlds Collide #1
Superman: The Man of Steel #36
Blood Syndicate #17
Much of the first issue (Man of Steel #35) has very little to do with the crossover in general. In the midst of Metropolis’s destruction from Lex Luthor’s plans, Superman works his way through various problems in this issue from saving kids, pulling people from rubble, and putting out fires. In the background, we see Fred Bentson, a mailman stuck at a Red Cross center having nightmares. He wakes up to Emil Hamilton and Lois Lane comforting him as he explains how he wakes up in different cities when he falls asleep, but now a monster waits for him in between worlds. Suddenly a blast rips through and we see a giant metal monster blasting beams from it’s head. It kills Myra, the woman watching the kids that Superman saved earlier, and Superman rushes in to stop it. Superman notices there is living tissue underneath, such as a heart, and decides not to destroy it and instead takes it up into space where it goes into suspended animation. Meanwhile, Fred gets some sleep tests done on him, and the scientists have a monitor that views his dreams. In it, he is running naked from the monster and comes across Static. Right as he grabs a hold of Static, the monster wraps him up in it’s black tentacle and Fred wakes up. The scientist believes he may have tapped into another dimension, and plans to bring him to a man named Hazard.
Hardware #17 starts with Fred struggling against the monster in between worlds. When he wakes up, we realize he is in Dakota, the Milestone universe, where he explains to the scientists there the abilities he has to wake up in different worlds and has ever since he could remember. The scientists have been recording him, and Alva shows Hardware video of Fred sleeping and then vanishing in the middle of it. Alva decides it best that they test Fred some more, and use Hardware as the man to withstand any energies that Fred omits during the period of traversing worlds. In doing so, Hardware and Fred both get sent to Metropolis and receive a warm welcome by some men who abducted a woman and planned to rape her. Hardware saves the day and pushes Fred to fall asleep so they can get back to Dakota. Around this time, Hardware sees visions of Steel before Fred wakes up and both return to Dakota with a souvenir of a Metropolis newspaper. Alva plans to use the energies from Fred to conquer both worlds.
In Superboy #6, Superboy and Superman are checking in on Cadmus and more specifically on Guardian who is in rough shape after curing the clone plague. Afterwards, they do more good trying to save people impacted by the destruction of Metropolis while Parasite is out looking for a meal. In doing so, he runs across Fred whom he can sense energy like no other, and chases him down. Fred stumbles across Superboy as Parasite attacks, and the battle ensues. Superboy ends up winning as Fred runs across the Hobsneck Bridge only to be clocked in the head with some falling debris and falls off. In knocks him out for a short time as Superboy grabs him, and as he struggles from passing out, Fred and Superboy transport to Dakota where they immediately run into Rocket.
Icon #15 is the start of the clashing personalities of Rocket and Superboy. Superboy is heavily flirting with Rocket, who is having none of it, while they both try to make sense of what is going on as Fred explains to them what happens with him. This begins the back and forth of Milestone characters and DC characters claiming they are real while the others aren’t. It’s also here that Fred starts getting the idea that maybe one or both worlds are indeed imaginary and starts to manifest his powers in other ways – by summoning IRS Auditors that look similar to Parasite with the same power sucking potential. After having some trouble, especially by their calculators binding Rocket with receipts, they fly away to recoup. After failing to flirt some more by Superboy, Fred has his powers create something else in a Ghostbusters like nod. Jimmy Lippert, Fred’s old school buddy, pops up out of nowhere and about 100 feet tall. Superboy and Rocket work as a team by pulling Jimmy’s pants down and knocking him over, and as they fly away victorious, the monster from Fred’s dreams shows itself in the real world. With Icon’s help, they fly Fred back to Alva. Rocket and Superboy have a heart to heart (Rocket jokes to Superboy she’s pregnant and loves that he is willing to be a parent to a woman who’s pregnant – also learn Superboy doesn’t have a belly button) as Alva plans nano-transmitters in Fred to locate and possibly control him. During the tests, Fred, Hardware, Rocket, and Superboy blink out and the worlds begin to connect. The destroyed bridge on the outskirts of Paris Island, and the destroyed bridget outside of Metropolis…connect.
In Steel #6, the news of Fred is brought to Hazard where they explain to him that Fred is a living portal to another world and they discuss the possibility of an invasion by Alva due to what Fred has told them in the past. Fred, Hardware, Rocket and Superboy blink into the lab before Fred willfully transports them to a different location in Metropolis. Hazard locates them and sends people to confront them and bring Fred back. Steel runs across Hardware during the battle, and Hardware (remembering Steel from his earlier vision), thinks Steel is the enemy and attacks. Steel seems outmatched by Hardwares weapons but Rocket interrupts the two of them and that they should be working together. About this time, Fred, Rocket, Hardware, and Superboy all disappear again. Superman arrives and Steel tells them that things may be going down soon. Meanwhile, Hazard and Alva are battling for Fred’s abilities as he seems to be flickering in and out of reality in both labs and wherever he is with the heroes. As they ramp up the power in both worlds for control, Fred wakes up simultaneously which results in the connection of both worlds via the bridge we saw at the end of the previous issue.
Blood Syndicate#16. The Blood Syndicate feel a rocking on Paris Island and when they go a knocking, they discover an impenetrable wall of smoke. As the smoke starts to dissipate and they can travel through it, they notice that the bridge is whole again. On the other side, what should be Dakota is now the destroyed Metropolis. Thinking it’s Dakota, they are in complete shock. But as they look around, they notice something is wrong. One of which is people mentioning Superman, who in the Milestone universe are fictional characters in both comic books and tv. As they help out people they run across, they stumble upon a camp of people including Lois Lane who suggest they help finding some water. Aquamaria senses some underneath, and summons it up out of the ground. Everyone around, including Lois, basks in the water as it rains down on them. Masquerade transforms into a bear and starts digging around some rubble. Superman mistakes him for a zoo animal and picks him up with intent to fly him to the zoo. Masquerade transforms into a snake and Superman tosses him away. That’s all it takes for the battle to start as the issue ends.
Worlds Collide #1 has Superboy and Fred being transported back to Dakota, but in different locations. Superboy starts searching for Fred, but Fred discovers some comics that he made as a kid fully realized as real comics. As he stumbles out of the subway, he bumps into Virgil (Static). Virgil mistakes him as a real comic professional, and in his own effort to make comics, tries show Fred his work. Fred’s powers manifest again and pull out two characters from Virgil’s comics. Virgil runs off to change into Static as Superboy flies by to help. Static butts in and starts verbally sparring with Superboy. Fred does it again and brings about two heroes of his own from the comics he had made – Fabulous Man and Super Nazi Fighter, both muscular versions of Fred himself. Rocket flies by and notices Superboy and Static being attacked by all the manifested comic characters. They are able to fight all the characters back, but Fred decides to fuse with all of them becoming a machine gun toting, green costume yellow cape wearing, motorcycle riding superhero himself. After an unintended insult by Superboy, we learn Fred always felt inadequate growing up. He could never be anyone of worth. He was always a nobody. Static tries to persuade him into being the hero he always wanted to be. Fred has other plans as he finally snaps. He believes he can do anything, and as Alva and Hazard try one last push to control and possess his power, Fred’s power comes to full realization. He tells off both Alva and Hazard and transforms into Rift, a bluish and black being that looks like he could be composed of energy that towers over the bridges connecting Milestone and DC. It’s at this point that the story moves to the Blood Syndicate vs Superman battle. Superman mostly tries to play it soft and not attack too much while being blindsided and beaten around by the various Syndicate members. He finally has enough and draws a line in the sand (quite literally with his heat vision), and asks what is going on. Surprising him, they make a mention of him being Clark Kent. Scene cuts to Rocket, Superboy and Static who now stand before Rift after Fred’s transformation. Rift starts getting his God complex, and tests his omnipotence by picking up Paris Island and tossing it over his shoulder like it was trash. Rocket, who has family on Paris Island, is helpless to do anything as she watches her loved ones die. The Blood Syndicate and Superman decide to work together to figure out what’s going on, right before Paris Island (to them it looks like a meteor) drops out of the sky and creates a tidal wave that looms over Metropolis as the issue ends.
Everyone who sees the destruction of Paris Island in Superboy #7 leap into action. We see the wave getting ready to impact Metropolis and Dakota and everyone (Blood Syndicate, Superman, Superboy, Rocket, Static) rush in to try and stop it. Rocket, Static, and Superboy try first and all fail miserably, but Icon shows up right on time. However, he is put in a status field by Rift before it cuts to Superman and the Blood Syndicate working on the wave. Aquamaria comes to the save by diving into the water and forming her body into a counter wave to crash against the oncoming one. Cut back to Icon and Rift, and Rift notes how similar Icon and Superman are before combining costumes on Icon and noting how he needs to solve the two worlds problem. Rocket pissed at the destruction of Paris Island rushes in to attack Rift, but Superboy stops her so they can work out a plan on having Rift stop the tidal wave himself. They do get Rifts attention, but the talk to coerce him to help backfires as he turns the tidal wave into a wave of fire. This is bad for Aquamaria who crashes into the fire and by all accounts appears to have died on the Metropolis side. Rift flexes his power some more and time freezes the tidal wave, water again, on the Dakota side. Superboy, Rocket and Static have had enough and work together to take Rift off his feet. They celebrate too soon as Rift traps them in a what appears to be a gravestone.
In Hardware # 18, they recap who Fred used to be before showing him as Rift now and his desire to correct what he considers continuity problems between Metropolis and Dakota. Alva and Hardware get the bright idea that they need to work with the genius’s in Metropolis and so they reach out to Hazard to plan an attack on Rift knowing full well the other will betray them at some point. Hardware goes to grab Transit as their way to bridget the dimensional divide. Meanwhile, Hazard contacts Steel to get his help in the project as well. Using Transit, Alva creates an extradimensional space between the universes of Milestone and DC. It is there that they will create the trap. Hardware and Steel begin work on it, though they butt heads as to the best method to do it. Steel wants to do this the noble way and not harm Rift, just trap him. Hardware wants a failsafe to kill Rift. Hardware gets the best of Steel again as they fight it out, but Steel’s tenacity convinces Hardware to trust him.
We hit the double digit issue with Man of Steel #36. Superman checks on whatever it was that caused the title wave and discovers dead people floating amidst the wreckage of Paris Island. As he surfaces, so too does Rift who towers over the Man of Steel. Superman tries to understand Rift’s motivation before Rift blasts him with a mouth beam like he was nothing. Rocket is able to break the trio out of the headstone, and Superboy impresses the both of them with his mad scientist thinking skills (thanks to paying attention during his time in Cadmus) that gives Static the idea on how to break Icon out of the stasis field. However, upon being freed, Rift grabs Icon and pulls him to where Superman is attacking Rift to force them to fight. If they don’t, he will destroy their cities and he gives some incentive by blowing up part of Midtown Metropolis. Superman and Icon toy with each other not wanting to fully fight, but trying to convince Rift they are until they see an opening. Rift isn’t having it, and decides to pluck Lois off a nearby ship which enrages Superman. Superman flies straight into Rift knocking him over, and Rift seems more concerned about Lois. Rift takes a different approach as he transports himself, Icon, and Superman to Dakota.
Icon #16 is where Icon and Superman really duke it out. Rift gives them one last chance. Rift forces Superman and Icon to watch helplessly as he allows the tidal wave to crash down on Dakota. However, he promises he will bring it back good as new if he defeats Superman. Likewise, if Superman wins, he will revert the destroyed Metropolis to its perfect state. The whole idea between the battle is to see if the original mythos of Superman is still strong enough to be relevant today, or if the new mythos in Icon can surpass it. Both men don’t want to risk allowing the other to try and save the day no matter the results, so they both go at it. Each get in their blows, but Rift realizes neither will give up. So instead, he decides he will merge the two worlds together thinking both heroes ultimately need each other.
Icon #16 is an important issue not only for the crossover itself, but because it does a great job showcasing the difference between Icon and Superman. More specifically, the racial divide between the two. Superman was an alien who came from a different planet. But because he was white, he was given the opportunity to be the shining beacon of hope. Icon on the other hand is an example of a minority in American society, being forced to leave his planet. Instead of landing in the arms of loving parents like Superman, he was instead subjected to slavery because of nothing more than the color of his skin. He wasnt given a chance to showcase anything other than his labor skills until he was able to use his skills to save others. As Icon, he was never given the same benefit of the doubt as Superman did – all because of the color of his skin.
The worlds start merging in Steel #7 and the labs become unstable causing Transit to lose consciousness due to falling rubble. Everyone is pulled out of the reality between dimensions and Hazard, Hardware, and Steel go to investigate what’s going on and come across Rift holding Icon and Superman. All of the heroes (minus Blood Syndicate) meet up and help people when Static notices that his friends and family are gone now because of the merging. Static pulls a Rocket and charges at Rift who bats him away easily, but it gives Steel and Hardware the idea to distract Rift while Superman and Icon grab the trap since they are the only ones capable of lifting it. The distraction works as their teamwork puts Rift on his butt again, though not without some damage being done to themselves and Superboy almost drowning. Having defeated the heroes, Rift compliments them as being capable heroes possibly worth keeping around in his new world. However, he doesn’t feel the same about Hazard and Alva and blasts out a mouth beam again to destroy the labs.
The penultimate (and quite funny) issue in Blood Syndicate #17 as it cuts back in time a little to right after Aquamaria appears gone. They dive in the water to see if they can locate her only to see the remnants of Paris Island. Rift makes his appearance and finds himself in a fight with the Blood Syndicate. They prove annoying to him, so he decides to remodel them for his new world. He creates a reality in which they are good little girls and boys in a school house. Wise son wises up and realizes this isn’t right before blasting the school teacher out the wall. Rift interjects again as Aquamaria reforms from the steam and assaults Rift. But Rift changes reality again shifting the Blood Syndicate into an X-Men like group called “Ex-Gang” who run across the Phoenix doppleganger “Wet Hydrox” who quickly realizes she is Aquamaria and the Blood Syndicate go after Rift again. While Dogg distracts Rift, Fade is able to slip away and Rift transforms them into a memorial statue before turning Dogg, Cornelia (Wise Son’s sister) and Edmund (Wise son’s son) into bubbles.
Static #14 is the final issue and starts off a bit differently. Rift has succeeded in combining the two worlds and has given it a futuristic 50’s flair. We see Static, Rocket and Superboy decked out in new duds to model it after the Legion of Super-Heroes. Steel and Hardware are not impacted though, but Transit is able to locate them and inform them that Superman, Icon, and the trap for Rift are still in between dimensions. Knowing his comics, Static realizes there should be a way to find the other heroes, so he goes and locates the mission monitor. Icon and Superman locate the trap in the dimensional rift they are in, and Transit is able to locate them as well using a small portal. Rocket reassures Static everything will be fine and gives him a kiss before being interrupted by Fade who is also unfazed by the fusion. However, Rift has been looking for him and finally finds him. He pulls the three heroes outside to see the memorial of the Blood Syndicate whom Rift gives life to fight the heroes. Meanwhile, Hardware, Steel, and Transit are able to open the dimensional portal up wide enough for Superman and Icon to pull the trap out. Cut back to the fight with Rift, and Fade sees his end when Rift blasts him to pieces. However, he didn’t come back alone and has brought Holocaust with him, though Rift makes quick work of him and melts the skin off his bones. Static is the last one standing as the other heroes locate Rift. The battle is fruitless, but it was all that was necessary for Icon and Superman to get the trap fixed and make their way to Rift. As they approach, Rift notices that the trap, along with Superman and Icon flying with it, appear like the monster that originally plagued the nightmares of Fred Bentson. As the trap starts sucking up Rift and his energy, it starts to lose power until Static gives it the last boost needed to completely contain Rift and diffuse the two worlds. While the main heroes involved in the fights remember the other world, the rest of the world seemingly doesn’t. Neither know for sure whether the other world was real or fiction, but they each inspired the other to keep going for the right causes. The crossover ends with Fred Bentson, no longer Rift, sleeping happily in a dark void.
Part of the goal with Worlds Collide was for more people to become aware of the Milestone books. Thankfully, the books sold really well, although royalties from the sales were given more to DC than Milestone. For Milestone fans, it was an enjoyable storyline according to Ivan Velez Jr. I can’t speak for DC fans entirely, but I know reading at the time, it made me interested in Milestone – the problem being my store didn’t carry Milestone books.
This story arc was mostly forgotten between the two universes, but it was brought back in 2008. In that time, the Milestone universe was folded into the DC Universe after Final Crisis. One of the occurrences of this was the Justice League storyarc “When Worlds Collide” written by Dwayne McDuffie. During this storyarc, the Shadow Cabinet along with Hardware break into the Justice League headquarters to steal the remains of the male Dr. Light who was turned into a candle by the Spectre in Final Crisis: Revelations #1. The goal is to revive the powers of the female Dr. Light, Kimiyo Hoshi that was stolen from her. They need her assistance for the upcoming fight that they can’t really speak on. That fight is with a renewed Starbreaker who uses Shadow Thief as a transport to Earth. Starbreaker is on the search for Dharma and the power he holds within, that of “1000 suns” according to Icon in the final issue.
They are victorious, but Icon made a deal with Superman to inform him of what is going on. Icon and Superman speak with Dharma and learn that when Darkseid was defeated, the Milestone universe was destroyed. However, Dharma was able to tap into the power of Rift from the original Worlds Collide story which sparks the memory in Superman of the time they worked together. It doesn’t make sense to him, because in his memory, he remembers knowing Icon for years. That’s only because Dharma was able to merge the two worlds, and is still in the process of holding the merge together, and was able to rewrite the continuity between the two to make sense. Starbreaker damaged that merge, and it’s up to Dharma to repair it. However, it’s up to Icon and Superman to decide if they want their universe to remain merged. If they don’t, the universes will drift apart and one will cease to exist. They both agree, thinking they can work together, and the story ends.
It’s a nice way for McDuffie to make Dharma future writers, but perhaps himself mainly. As Dharma, he promises to work as hard as he can to keep the two universes together as long as the heroes are capable of working and co-existing together. Hopefully in a way that people want both around, keeping both DC and Milestone universes alive and well.
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