In 1996, Ron Perleman was at a dilemma. Because of the massive $600 million dollar debt from years of acquiring properties, his Marvel Entertainment unit was mired in bankruptcy. Time-Warner, owners of DC Comics (Marvel's biggest rival), was intrigued about these events. Constantly battling with Marvel has left both sides frustrated with each other. However, a truce was made that year when Marvel and DC decided to do a series of crossover titles, which lead to an eventual four-part mini-series, DC Vs. Marvel, which was to begin in 1997. However, Time-Warner made a shocking proposition to Ron Perleman and offered the business man $1 Billion (which includes paying off the bank debts incurred) for the entire Marvel Entertainment company. So, the DC Vs. Marvel crossover had higher significance and was the beginning of something truly revolutionary in the comic book industry.
The crossover was renamed, fittingly, Infinite Crisis, a nod to 1986's Crisis on Infinite Earths maxiseries crossover and the Infinity crossovers from Marvel. The plot involved a rift in the dimensions which has ramifications in both the DC and Marvel universes. Sentinels were seen hovering over the skies of Central City. Lex Luthor is seen in New York City buying the Daily Bugle. The Hulk awakens, shackled in a holding cell within Cadmus. Heroes and villians fight each other while trying to figure out what's going on and who these newcomers are.
The climax of the story occurs when the universe starts over again, and memories are restored. The DC-Marvel Universe is rebooted dramatically in a series dubbed Universe, which rewrites the DC and Marvel Universe under one continuity:
New alliances are forged. For example, The Xavier Institute is now fully sponsored by The Wayne Foundation, The Daily Bugle is now a LexCorp subsidary while The New York Daily Globe and The Daily Planet are owned by the same holding company, and Reed Richards was an employee of S.T.A.R. Labs New York, a division of Stark Industries, where he came up with the experiment that lead to the events that created the Fantastic Four. Cadmus, ran by a clandestine group known as Checkmate, is now a government agency responsible for the events that lead to the creation of The Incredible Hulk and Doomsday as well as the development of surveilance devices of the metahuman and mutant communities, including the construction of Sentinels.
The Avengers are a US-government backed superhero team while the Justice League is an internationally-sanctioned, yet independent group. Some DC characters became core members of the Avengers and X-Men while some Marvel characters became a part of the Justice League and Teen Titans.
The kingdom of Atlantis is in a civil war for the control of the throne with Prince Arthur and Prince Namor dividing the underwater world in half, Atlantica is ruled by Namor while Pacifica is ruled by Arthur.
There was controversy as to what to name the newly merged company. The joint name of the comic unit became DC-Marvel Comics, Inc. (DCM for short); however, the classic franchises retained their original masthead. Superman, Batman, and Justice League remained under the DC Comics masthead while Spider-Man, X-Men, and The Avengers remained under the Marvel Comics masthead. DC-Marvel relaunched a quartet of anthology series to showcase a more unified continuity and both imprints' stable of characters under the DCM Presents masthead. Among the DCM Presents titles:
- Action Comics: An anthology series showcasing Superman, Spider-Man, and a rotating third character.
8Tales To Astonish: Space-themed stories featuring the Silver Surfer, Adam Strange, The Starjammers, and the Green Lantern Corps.
- Showcase: Much like the original DC Showcase, this comic introduces new story ideas and characters in the new continuity like Runaways, The Outsiders, and others.
- Journey Into Mystery: A paranormal book featuring The Doctors (Doctors Strange, Fate, and Occult), The Question, and Manhunter
With Time-Warner as holder of the Marvel characters, they optioned the characters in new productions. Warner Bros. co-produced X-Men Evolution with Film Roman and produced the Blade trilogy of films and television series under its New Line Cinema unit. DC-Marvel Comics, Inc. also produced outside productions with other companies, such as Spider-Man and Ghost Rider with Sony, X-Men, Daredevil, and Fantastic Four at Fox, and Hulk at Universal. Recent productions, including Teen Titans, Justice League, Smallville, and The Batman, also had episodes featuring Marvel and DC characters side by side.
DC-Marvel has become the biggest comic publisher on the planet with a stable of characters and franchises such as Superman, Spider-Man, Batman, X-Men, Wonder Woman, Captain America, Justice League, Fantastic Four, Teen Titans, and Avengers. With multiple mastheads, including acquired studios like Wildstorm (which was responsible for the relaunch of the Fantastic Four and Iron Man properties after Infinite Crisis) and mastheads such as Vertigo (populated by characters like The Endless, Constantine, Punisher, Ghost Rider, and others), DC-Marvel has generated interest in the comics industry in the 21st century.