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Spiritual Crossover

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Totally not evil knockoffs of the Justice League, we swear!

"In this classic tale, Lupin comes up against the only man who may be able to stop him . . . no less than the great British gentleman-detective Herlock Sholmes! Who will emerge triumphant?"
— Blurb for Arsène Lupin versus Herlock Sholmes, by Maurice Leblanc

There are some crossovers that are blindingly obvious, but can never quite get off the ground. Maybe one of the creators didn't like the idea, maybe the characters are owned by different companies that can't make a deal, maybe it just got stuck in Development Hell somewhere along the way. Regardless, one side of the crossover still wants to do it enough that they're willing to bend the rules a little bit to make it happen. After all, what does it matter if it's not Superman that's punching Captain America in the face for the vaguest of reasons, but Duperman?

A Spiritual Crossover is what happens when a Fake Crossover meets Spiritual Adaptation. The characters created as a result may vanish after fulfilling their crossover purpose, or they may stick around, since they're owned by the same company and there are thus no restrictions to their use.

This may involve a Cast of Expies, in case there are several individual characters copied from a different work or works instead of just one. Also, do not be surprised if these newly-made characters are made a little more villainous than their original versions just to pour some more salt on the wound.

Compare/Contrast Captain Ersatz and Expy, which are about individual clones of another company/writer's character that aren't necessarily involved in any sort of Crossover plot. Do not confuse with the aforementioned Fake Crossover, which is actually about genuine crossovers that don't count in the chronology of one or both franchises involved.


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    Comic Books 
  • The Champions of Angor, a team of Ersatzes of The Avengers, battled the Justice League the exact same month that the Squadron Supreme (a team of Justice League copycats) fought the Avengers in their book. This was done because the writers on both books were friends. So if you bought a copy of Justice League in February of 1971, you got to see them Let's You and Him Fight with the Avengers, but not really, and fans of the Avengers had the opposite experience. Future incarnations of the Champions would take on new names such as "Justifiers", "Retaliators" and the "Meta Militia", this last one being a pastiche of The Ultimates.
  • Another simultaneous example from Marvel and DC were the Crusaders. In the late seventies, DC's Freedom Fighters battled a team by that name based on Marvel's Invaders, whilst the Invaders faced off with another team with the same name in their book, but based on the Freedom Fighters. More information can be found in their respective wiki pages.
  • Yet another pastiche of a rival company's team are the Shi'ar Imperial Guard from Marvel, who most often fight the X-Men. In their inception, they were patterned after the Legion Of Superheroes, as at the time, they had a level of popularity akin to the X-Men's and a crossover between the two was proposed, but never materialized. However, with the Guard becoming prominent characters, Marvel has downplayed the similarities over time, even introducing members that aren't based on any Legion character, somewhat distancing their more recent appearances from this trope.
  • At one point Marvel and DC had a special type of crossover in mind: one character of each company would be stranded, for a year, in the universe of the other company, that would use it for a year as they saw fit. The project fell into Development Hell and was never done. So both companies did it on their own. Marvel had the Ultimate Marvel universe (an Ultimate Universe of the Marvel universe) and the Supreme Power universe (an Ultimate Universe of the aforementioned Squadron Supreme, and so based on DC Comics to some degree). There was a crossover between both in "Ultimate Power", and after it Nick Fury was moved to the Supreme Power universe and Zarda to the Ultimate Marvel one. DC did a similar plot arc which had the main DC Universe's Captain Atom swapped over with the WildStorm universe character Majestic for a time.
  • Deathstroke: In Deathstroke (Rebirth), Deathstroke briefly teams up with a mental patient named Devon, who fashions an elaborate costume resembling Deathstroke, breaks the fourth wall while directly alluding to the first time Deadpool did so, and then admits "it would be freaking ironic if they sued us". The storyline was written by Christopher Priest, who has a celebrated run on Deadpool and established the character's meta nature for the first time.
  • Inferior Five: The comic has featured characters such as Man-Mountain (The Hulk), The Egg's Men (The X-Men), The Kookie Quartet (The Fantastic Four, using a nickname for one of the Avengers' lineups) and the Cobweb Kid (Spider-Man) as antagonists for the satirical superteam. Though they didn't have to worry about renaming Thor, who just stayed Thor. Cobweb Kid was sent to find him by "Stanley" due to Thor shirking his contract with their comics company because he didn't want to shave his beard, and then ran into the titular Five.
  • Justice League International: The "Old Glory" five-issue arc was all about the League (well, mostly Guy Gardner) meeting a Captain America expy and having to deal with the fallout from his reappearance in the modern world, mainly involving a Big Bad Friend of the General's and an aging Nazi supervillain. The Capt- er, that is, the General stuck around, becoming a roommate for Guy Gardner and providing hokey golden age wisdom. He would also end up on the receiving end of this trope with a Youngblood expy team called "Wildblood", albeit briefly and only as a story in comic books inspired by the real General's life.
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Though it's already a Massively Multiplayer Crossover of several public domain characters and novels, the series ran into this when Alan Moore tried to add more contemporary characters. Jimmy Bond, an incompetent and mysogynistic agent of the British Secret Service, was introduced in The Black Dossier as an antagonist, and Volume 3: Century had The Antichrist, an orphan with magical powers who studied at a secret school for wizards go on a killing spree after discovering his destiny and killing many of his supporting cast (though they were all satanists here, so who cares). Needless to say, many people were pissed off at these.
  • Marshal Law: This is Marshal Law's entire gimmick - he's a Hero Killer and oftentimes his victims are parodies of established superheroes, whether owned by whatever company is publishing him or otherwise. He does do actual crossovers sometimes, having encountered The Mask when he was at Dark Horse, for instance, but mostly just faces Captain Ersatzes. There was also an Alien crossover that would start with the xenomorphs attacking a pastiche of the Legion Of Superheroes - basically a spiritual crossover mixed with actual crossover - but the plans fell through, as they often do, and the aliens were disguised at the last minute, as well.
  • The Multiversity: The comic has characters from the DCU deal with not only characters from Major Comics, but also the likes of Spore and Dino-Cop. The concept of the series is that all the comics in our world are doors to parallel universes, so it seems Grant Morrison felt they had to be in there one way or another to complete the Kayfabe. The Earths shown to include pastiches are as follows: Earth-7 (Ultimate Marvel), Earth-8 (Mainstream Marvel) Earth 25 (Nedor Comics), Earth-34 (Astro City), Earth-35 (Awesome Comics), Earth-36 (Big Bang Comics), Earth-41 (Image Comics) and Earth-48 (a mishmash of the original Earth-6 and the Top 10 characters by Alan Moore).
  • Not Brand Echh: The comic had an entire issue dedicated to this, though this being Brand Echh, both sides were comprised of Captain Ersatzes: Spidey-Man battled Gnatman And Rotten, The Ironed Man dueled with Magnut, Robot Biter and Knock Furious, agent of S.H.E.E.S.H. fought the Blunder Agents. And it was glorious.
  • Power Man And Iron Fist: A strange issue had the pair interacting with a very blatant expy of Doctor Who named Professor Gamble, a former member of the Time Variance Authority who used a time machine able to camouflage itself according to its surroundings (it usually takes a form less conspicuous than a phone booth, though). Luke and Danny end up having to defend an actor playing Gamble in a broadway production from the "Dredloks" (the Daleks, but saying "Incinerate!" instead of 'Exterminate!"). It should be noted Marvel did have the rights for the Doctor at the time, so this instance was most likely done so they didn't have to worry about not being able to reprint the story later. Gamble remained a (minor) part of the Marvel universe thereafter. Oh, and that Broadway play? It was called "Day of the Dredloks".
  • Quasar: In issue #17, several characters with Super-Speed competed on a race to the moon, organized by the Runner, one of the Elders of the Universe. One such character was "Buried Alien", a speedster who suddenly appeared on the track in a flash of lightning, amnesiac but with the feeling he was no longer in his own universe. It's heavily implied that this is Barry Allen, having been thrown into the Marvel universe after his seeming sacrifice in the Crisis on Infinite Earths, albeit in a Captain Ersatz way. Regardless, fellow speedster Makkari brought him back to wherever he originally came from, and Buried Alien hasn't returned to Earth-616 since.
    Runner: Well, Buried, how does it feel to be the fastest man alive?
    Buried: It feels... right.
  • Savage Dragon: A very mean-spirited version happened with Johnny Redbeard's 'Nixed Men'. Every single one of them was based on a Marvel or DC character that John Byrne had reinvented in the past, and as such were all Ersatzes: Sensation (She-Hulk), Fade (the Invisible Woman), Sub-Human (Sub-Mariner), Super-X (Superman) and Lightning Bug (Storm). Of these, the only one who survived was Sensation, who managed to become Savage Dragon's Distaff Counterpart, She-Dragon. The name of the team may seem like a reference to the X-Men, but it is in fact a dig at a team Byrne created for Dark Horse... the Next Men.
  • She-Hulk: She-Hulk teamed up with a Gender Bender-fied Batman (in his first movie form) expy called "Nosferata the She-Bat" in issues #19 and #20 of The Sensational She-Hulk, in a story titled "Year Zero". In fact, the entire city of Gotham was expied as the city of Visigoth, down to Hamilton Hill becoming Hieronymous Hill.
  • Squadron Supreme: Shown above is the Squadron Sinister, the first incarnation of the Squadron Supreme, who debuted in The Avengers as analogues of the Justice League. Their heroic counterparts would appear later and were even better examples of this trope: A superhero team from another dimension brainwashed into fighting the Avengers by a supervillain (again and again). It really sounds like a lazy script for a crossover that never got made. Then it did get made, and this is what Hawkeye had to say about the Justice League:
    Hawkeye: Oh, right - now I got it! These losers are nothing more than a bunch of Squadron Supreme wannabes! Five gets you ten they're mind-controlled.
  • Superman:
    • ''Superman #276 starts with a young kid named Willie (as opposed to Billy) Fawcett being transported 20 years into the future and meeting Superman. Willie is secretly Captain Thunder, a superhero from a bygone era, who gained his powers from a wizard who lived in a cave. Upon rubbing his magical belt buckle and saying "Thundernote !", he is transformed into his alter ego with a "Sha-Boom!" sound to fight evildoers! However, the Monster League of Evil somehow made Thunder turn heel and help criminals instead of stopping them (to facilitate Let's You and Him Fight with Superman, naturally). Criminals call him a "cheap imitation" of Superman, and Supes refers to him as "Big Red" at one point. Superman defeats him by tricking him into saying "Thunder" again and changing back. In case you still haven't figured it out, Captain Thunder is Shazam!; the whole story was created to see if readers would be interested in reading about the real thing, as DC had just acquired the character. Seriously, just look at him!
    • Superman also had Action Comics #579 to his name, in which him and Jimmy Olsen travel back in time to a coastal Gaulish village, surrounded by Roman garrisons which they keep at bay thanks to the druid Geta... sorry, Pictorix, and his magic potion that gives the drinker Super-Strength. Other major characters include Columnix, a portly, jolly fighter who gets into a brawl with Superman himself, or Prolifix, a soothsayer with dark ambitions. All in all, the issue is just one big excuse for an unauthorized Superman/Asterix crossover, though one with strangely melancholy undertones. The Captain Ersatz of Asterix himself is mysteriously missing (though Jimmy is given his clothes to fit in) and it's revealed that it's been centuries since the original comics and Pictorix keeps the entire place in a time bubble out of sheer sentimental value.
    • During the seventies, Cary Bates wanted to see what it would be like to have Superman fight Popeye, so he created a more realistic-looking version of him named Captain Horatio Strong. In his debut, Strong gained superhuman strength from an alien seaweed called sauncha, which he tried to market as a superfood. When prolonged exposure to the sauncha made Strong go through Sanity Slippage (not helped by almost being swindled by some greedy Corrupt Corporate Executives), Superman had to stop him. Strong and Superman had several further adventures together, each one incorporating another element of Popeye's world such as. Captain Strong later cameoed in DC Challenge and Kevin Smith's Green Arrow before showing up as a supporting character in Harley Quinn, with the drug metaphor aspects of his 'sauncha' cranked up further.
  • Superman/Batman:
  • Teen Titans: In 1994, the Comic Book/New Teen Titans fought a team called the RECOMbatants (Aurora [Rainbow], Dreadnaught [Tank], Topaz [Amber], and Pseudos [Sham]) at the same time as The DNAgents fought a team called Project Youngblood (Black Owl [Nightwing], Celestia [Starfire], Amazing Girl [Wonder Girl], Roboto [Cyborg], and Heartstring [Jericho]). The stories followed much the same beats, except that in both of them it was the expy team that made a Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Vampirella: Vampirella vs Fluffy has Vampirella teaming up with a blatant Expy of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Fluffy even had her own stand ins for Buffy's supporting cast: Xtanley (Xander), Sallow (Willow), Carmilla (Cordelia) and Miles (Giles).

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla: Godzilla teams up with King Caesar, the monstrous, but peaceful, guardian of a secluded island, whose natives can control with an ancient chant. Replace the word 'Caesar' with 'Kong' and that same description could apply to the Toho version of King Kong seen in King Kong vs. Godzilla, released a decade earlier, down to even having the same roar (not even modified or anything). The homage is sent up in Godzilla vs. Kong, where Kong and Godzilla join forces to defeat Mechagodzilla, the same kaiju that Godzilla and Caesar defeated in that movie.
  • Godzilla vs. Megalon: Paying the folks at Ultraman back for Jirahs/Jirass (listed in Live-Action TV below), this movie introduced 'Jet Jaguar' to the Godzilla franchise, who was the heroic focus of the movie. Said character looks nearly identical to Ultraman and can change size just like him. The movie ends with a So Bad, It's Good Theme Song for Jaguar that sounds like it would be played in the opening for a Tokusatsu show. Interestingly, not only was his original design much less of a blatant copy (looking vaguely like a Mazinger Z with a Ultraman-inspired color scheme), but he was originally meant to be the de facto star of the movie, and Godzilla was only included to boost sales. Which was probably a good idea, since Jet Jaguar is much more famous now as "That guy they used to make it look like Godzilla was fighting Ultraman" than he would have been as "That blatant Ultraman ripoff Toho tried to steal our money with".
  • Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.: A version that uses a preexisting character, Godzilla has an offscreen Curb-Stomp Battle fight against Kamoebas, a giant turtle kaiju with a spiky shell and tusks (who originated from the non-Godzilla kaiju movie Space Amoeba). that sounds familiar, don't be surprised, because Word of God has confirmed this was an intentional Take That! at Gamera, Godzilla's longtime cinematic rival/copycat.
  • Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood could have easily been retitled "Jason vs. Carrie", as Tina Shepard, the Final Girl who fights Jason at the end, is a teenage girl with telekinetic powers suspiciously similar to Carrie White, from the two of them having the same hair color to both of them having Abusive Parents (a mother for Carrie, a father for Tina) who they kill with their powers. The idea may have come from the fact that the producers originally wanted to do a real crossover with another popular horror franchise, A Nightmare on Elm Street, but Friday's studio Paramount and Nightmare's studio New Line Cinema couldn't reach an agreement.note 


    Live-Action TV 
  • Community: The episode "Regional Holiday Music" is an extended Take That! to Glee. The episode has the study group facing off with a very blatant Expy of Mr. Schue, who tries to get them to join his glee club after the previous members had died. It's also revealed he's responsible for that glee club's death.
  • The tokusatsu show Go Greenman had the episode Greenman vs Gorilla, the latter of whom is simply a reused King Kong suit from King Kong vs. Godzilla. The character itself is a generic monster of the day in pretty much all respects, but it would have been the real deal had Toho not lost the rights to Kong.
  • Ultraman had the titular character battle Jirahs/Jirass, expy of Godzilla. Aside from the name itself sounding like a shortening of GoJIRA, it was played by the same actor in an outfit cobbled together from separate Godzilla suits (on loan from Toho themselves) and given a neck frill, and had a modified Godzilla roar. Then Ultraman rips the neck frill off. It should be noted that this was something of an example of Real Life Writes the Plot - Eiji Tsuburaya wanted to make a more original kaiju for episode 10, but budgetary constraints forced them to go with the lazy option. It worked - Jirahs/Jirass is one of the most famous Ultraman monsters precisely because of its nature as a Godzilla expy.

    Video Games 
  • Conker's Bad Fur Day has its final boss battle involving a Xenomorph so utterly undisguised that The Remake had to change his color to light blue! Its name is Heinrich.
  • The Revenge of Shinobi rather infamously included a total of four bosses based on cultural icons, namely the T-800, Batman, Spider-Man and Godzilla. The Batman/Spider-Man Dual Boss is of particular note: In the original version they were a shapeshifter who morphed into Batman and Spider-Man-like forms; starting with revision 2, the Batman boss was changed to look more like Devilman and the Spider-Man boss, in contrast, was given an even greater resemblance to Spider-Man, with the transition even being altered so that instead of transforming into the other character, the "Devilman" ripoff simply flies into the screen after Spider-Man leaves. Apparently Sega wanted to show off their new acquisition of the Spider-Man license. (Why is Spider-Man working for an evil organization? Just go with it! Maybe it's a classic Marvel Misunderstanding.) As for the other bosses, Godzilla was later altered to a skeletal dinosaur and Terminator... uh, stayed exactly the same.
    • The T-800 also turns green before revealing its robotic exoskeleton, for good measure.

    Western Animation 


Video Example(s):



Created by a mad scientist, Jirass is perhaps the most blatant Notzilla ever, consisting of Godzilla with a frill. Thus, Ultraman technically gets to cross over with the King of the Monsters through this expy.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / Notzilla

Media sources: