While The Avengers might have had the most characters from other franchises all converging in one place, fictional crossovers are hardly anything new. But it's a tricky business -- even if two franchises share the same fans, that doesn't mean it makes any goddamned sense for the characters to show up in the same universe. Still, some absolutely insane crossovers came extremely close to happening. Like ...
That is not a parody headline.
Casper the Friendly Ghost was a mild-mannered little sprite with enough innocuous charm to go around. In his Harvey Comics series, he would get into harmless adventures without any real consequences, like finding a lost dog or some goddamned thing like that. This is not to be confused with Ghost Rider, the Marvel Comics character and Nicolas Cage charity, which is a demon with a flaming skull that feeds on the souls of evil men and screams through the night on a haunted motorcycle.
Wait, the character or Nic Cage?
For some insane reason, comic book writer Ivan Velez Jr. pitched the idea of a Casper/Ghost Rider crossover to both Marvel and the makers of Casper with a full outline, possibly to silence the howling banshees in his mind. Velez imagined a scenario in which an evil villain replaces Richie Rich's father and shakes up the Harvey Comics universe so badly that Wendy the Witch casts a spell to bolster Casper's powers (what powers he possesses beyond being a joyless specter of our own mortality remains unclear).
At any rate, Wendy apparently casts too much magic and accidentally summons Ghost Rider, transporting Casper to a heroin-soaked puddle in Hell's Kitchen in his place. Casper somehow manages to thwart a bank robber, while Ghost Rider presumably rules the Harvey universe until the two finally switch places again, leaving behind a legion of young Casper fans with a literary shell-shocking usually reserved for Watership Down and Old Yeller.
"Wendy ... the shit I've seen ... the shit I've done ..."
How We Were Spared
Marvel signed off on Velez's pitch, because as the fire-peeing scene in the latest Ghost Rider movie clearly demonstrated, they do not give one single shit about making the character look ridiculous. Harvey, perhaps fearful of how fans of Casper and Richie Rich would react to a tortured servant of the devil suddenly appearing in the pages of their comics, decided to pass.
We should mention that this wasn't far removed from another batshit insane crossover premise that actually made it to print, when Archie of Archie Comics crossed paths with the Punisher, who sticks an Uzi in Archie's face while they both lament their current situation.
Frank Castle's lament takes the form of unprovoked murder.
In 1986, Hasbro decided that Rocky Balboa would be a perfect addition to the G.I. Joe universe, despite the fact that Rocky is a palsy-stricken boxer who seemed to have just enough brains to get punched in the face, and G.I. Joe is a fictional military force populated by what were essentially superheroes with billion-dollar weapon systems.
The G.I. Joe movie compromised by casting Channing Tatum.
G.I. Joe had done celebrity crossovers before, with the likes of wrestler Sergeant Slaughter and NFL lineman William "The Refrigerator" Perry (however, unlike those undulating piles of Man Jell-O, Stallone is one of the few human beings built exactly like an action figure). Talks apparently went well enough that Balboa popped up in a Marvel G.I. Joe comic, getting a dossier card complete with "facts" that include a clever mention of being the Joes' boxing instructor (which is bizarre, considering that most hand-to-hand combat doesn't seem all that useful when G.I. Joe battles were fought in vehicles so dense with laser cannons that there was barely room for a driver).
The promotional art for the Rocky Balboa figure even depicted him wielding his planned signature weapon: a stick with two boxing gloves attached to it, a weapon that virtually guarantees that Adrian will be receiving a tightly folded American flag.
"I ... shouldn't I have a gun? I feel like I should have a gun."
How We Were Spared
After a prototype action figure had been sculpted, Stallone's reps came to Hasbro demanding more money, citing the superstar's white-hot 1980s marketability (the arm wrestling vehicle Over the Top hadn't come out yet). Having grown accustomed to compensating Sergeant Slaughter and the Fridge with chocolate pies and insulin, Hasbro backed out of the deal.
For those of you too young to remember the '80s and '90s, Quantum Leap starred Scott Bakula as Sam Beckett, a physicist who time traveled by occupying different people's bodies throughout history, correcting mistakes or otherwise preventing disasters to change their future for the better.
As seen here.
Magnum, P.I. was a show about Tom Selleck solving mysteries while wearing Bermuda shorts and a mustache.
Or, more commonly, just a mustache.
Quantum Leap was best described as a "cult hit," a phrase which here means "financial liability." In an effort to try to gain viewers before NBC replaced it with a Golden Girls spinoff, Donald P. Bellisario, the producer responsible for both shows, hatched a plan to have Sam Beckett quantum leap into Magnum's body. Magnum, P.I. had been an enormously popular show throughout the '80s but had ended its run a few years prior, so the idea (despite being terrible) was completely doable, and might bring in old Magnum fans and convert them into Leap viewers.
The problem here is that the fans of Quantum Leap and the fans of Magnum, P.I. sat on opposite ends of the proverbial high school lunchroom. Leap was a science fiction show about a handsome nerd that frequently dressed its main character up like a woman and occasionally bridged over into the paranormal. Magnum was a show about an awesome dude who drove a sports car, beat the shit out of people and had sex with all of the vaginas in Hawaii. It would be hard to convince Magnum, P.I. fans to tune in to watch some geek in a Tom Selleck costume parade around on the corpse of their favorite television show.
"You think you put on the mustache and suddenly you're Magnum? You have to earn that mustache!"
Also, unless the episode was about Sam Beckett leaping into Magnum's mustache (which we would watch forever), we have to believe that the first five minutes would be devoted entirely to Scott Bakula in a Tommy Bahama shirt violently punching himself in the head as Magnum rebelled against having his body controlled by a time-shifting dweeb.
How We Were Spared
Despite promises from NBC that Quantum Leap would end its fourth season in 1992 with Sam Beckett jumping into Magnum, P.I., apparently no one bothered to inform Tom Selleck -- his publicist denied any knowledge of the deal. Additionally, Bellisario scrapped the idea when he realized that there was studio interest in a Magnum feature film (although the subsequent two and half decades of no Magnum movie seem to suggest that nobody told Tom Selleck about that one, either).
"It's tough getting back to people, what with all the sex I'm having."
Before he began to systematically respond to every single negative comment about him ever posted online, Kevin Smith made movies. Most of them featured the comedic stoner duo Jay and Silent Bob, whose slouched, speech-impeded antics led to five films and a short-lived cartoon series. Hellraiser is a series of films wherein a demon named Pinhead butchers people with hook chains and rips the flesh off of helpless victims to resculpt them into mind-bending horrorbeasts. Clearly it was time for these two franchises to merge.
After 2001's Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back seemed to mark the retirement of the two characters, Smith received a phone call from Miramax head Harvey Weinstein, presumably looking for the quickest way to spray ropy diarrhea tendrils all over the Oscar cred the studio had built up during the '90s. Weinstein's idea was to do a Jay and Silent Bob/Hellraiser crossover, like the classic comedy/horror mashup Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein, only with more sadomasochistic demon torture.
The Hays Code censored the planned disembowelment orgy scene.
They came up with a premise where Jay and Silent Bob would hilariously cross paths with Pinhead and get sent to their own personal hell -- a rehab clinic. People would get torn to bloody shreds around them while Jay spat out gibberish and Silent Bob vigorously nodded and bugged his eyes like a cartoon character.
How We Were Spared
It was Smith who decided that it was a terrible idea, even after Ben Affleck weighed in with some advice: "At first I was going to say that's fucking retarded, but I bet you a lot of people would go to see that movie." (Tyler Perry has this quote tattooed on the inside of his eyelids.)
In a bizarre footnote, New Line Cinema came under fire when they all but photocopied the Jay character for their own much more sense-making crossover Freddy vs. Jason, a shameless bit of inexplicable co-opting that led Jason Mewes (the actor who plays Jay) to mock the ripoff character in a TV documentary.
Jaws was the first movie to reach $100 million in ticket sales, and its inevitable and cleverly titled sequel Jaws 2 came pretty damn close to that milestone as well. Universal Studios had a genuine franchise on their hands, consisting of two of the most successful movies ever made (at that time) and featuring a real-life "monster" that truly scared people, despite the fact that it is arguably the most easily avoided predator in the history of the world.
"Just don't go in the water!"
So clearly, when you have a proven horror series with a bankable killer at its center that audiences respond to, the only thing to do is contact Matty Simmons from National Lampoon, fresh off their hit Animal House, to write a cheeky spoof called Jaws 3, People Nothing. Simmons hired John Hughes -- the guy who would go on to make Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club -- to co-write a script that featured the cast and crew of another Jaws film tormented by production issues and an uncooperative, director-devouring shark.
Richard Dreyfuss even agreed to star, and Joe Dante (the director of such masterpieces as Piranha and Small Soldiers) was slated to direct, assembling an A-team of heroes to create Earth's shittiest movie. Basically imagine George Lucas not only producing Spaceballs, but casting Harrison Ford as Lone Star.
... yes. Yes. Yes.
How We Were Spared
After spending millions in preproduction, Universal's execs got a visit from Steven Spielberg, director of the original Jaws and the guy who was still in the process of funneling hundreds of millions of dollars into the studio's pockets. Spielberg felt that a fully endorsed spoof like the one they were producing would essentially be like taking the 35 mm print of his movie and streaking it with a violent burrito fart, and vowed to never set one gold-smelting foot on Universal's lot ever again if they went ahead with it.
"I will put so many tits in E.T., even Russ Meyer won't pay to see it."
His threat worked, and the studio turned Jaws 3, People Nothing into a traditional sequel called Jaws 3-D, which was exactly 8 percent less dumb than the Lampoon idea, but apparently enough to keep Universal in Spielberg's good graces.
For ridiculous crossovers that did happen, check out 6 Comic Book Crossovers You Won't Believe Actually Happened and The 5 Most Insane Celebrity Comic Book Cameos.