A lot of people love a good crossover story, whether in comic books or on TV. DC and Marvel have done it, shows like NCIS and CSI do it, and Dynamite Entertainment has been doing it for the past few years. Those are your basic character X meets character Y-type inter-company crossovers. Then there are the more subtle kind of crossovers, where a common thread runs through two or more franchises. Two notable examples came from IDW Publishing a few years back--"Infestation", a Lovecraftian invasion, and "Mars Attacks...", which pitted the real butt-ugly Martians against everybody, even Popeye. This kind of crossover I feel you don't see much on television--but it has happened before, specifically among four very different franchises.I'm getting ahead of myself though, so first, a bit of context...

The 1990's, while a mostly-terrible decade for the comic book industry (there are plenty of exceptions), was also the 'Silver Age' of Saturday morning cartoon programming, where many things were thrown at the proverbial wall to see what stuck. Much of these cartoons were attempts at cashing in on the big comic book, toy, and video game trends of the time, and no better examples of these can be found than the four shows that made up the "Action Extreme Team" block on the USA Network: Street Fighter: The Animated Series (1995-97, spinning out of the ill-fated live-action film), The Savage Dragon (1996, one of Image Comics' early attempts to bring their properties to the small screen), Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm (1996, also spinning off its slightly more successful film), and Wing Commander Academy (1996, serving as a prequel to the games).

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On September 16th, 1996, the unexpected happened: all four shows had a very subtle crossover occur between them. While the characters in each show didn't meet one another to take on a common foe (a la the old Justice League/Justice Society team-ups of yore), a character created specifically for the narrative interacted with the heroes of each universe (well, most of them anyway). That character was known as the Warrior King, and he looked like a stereotypical watered-down high fantasy barbarian-type--almost like a reject from Masters of the Universe. The character, in all of his appearances, was voiced by Star Trek: The Next Generation's Michael Dorn.
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*Be warned, there will be some spoilers to come.*

The King's story began in Street Fighter, specifically in the season 2 episode fittingly titled "The Warrior King" (an episode with pretty awful animation). We see that his kingdom is under attack by evil dragon-riding warriors, who are after the object that sustains their world: an orb of great power over the elements. In seeking to make sure the orb doesn't fall into enemy hands, the Kings' wizard advisor opens a portal into another universe, where he can lay low until he can return. He also casts a binding spell that enables the king to find the Orb should he lose it. A stray beam from one of the enemy sorcerers knocks the Orb into the portal, sending the King after it. Throughout the saga, the Orb would fall into the hands of those who wished to use it for malevolent purposes.
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The Orb lands first in the world of Street Fighter, in the fictional Middle Eastern country of Kampfer (German for, fittingly, 'warrior'), where its powers bring life to the desert nation. M. Bison manages to weasel his way into possessing the Orb, where he uses it to cause natural disasters globally. The King, who arrives later on, must team with Chun-Li (who he has fallen for), Guile, Ryu and Ken to stop Bison. When they manage to, the King opens a portal, only for the Orb to be knocked in there by accident. Chun-Li urges the King to go after it and save his people, which he reluctantly does.

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The Orb next winds up in the world of Savage Dragon, depicted in the 8th episode of season 2, "Endgame". Here, it falls into the hands of a villain called the Fiend, a spirit who possesses people with great anger. After gaining the Orb, he no longer needs to possess people, but can now absorb them, increasing his size and power. The King and Dragon, after having the trademark Marvel-style 'misunderstanding leads to fight, then team-up' situation, join forces to stop the Fiend after he starts absorbing inmates in a state prison. The Orb is once again knocked into a portal, and when Dragon offers to join the King on his quest, he is turned down and urged to stay and protect his own people.

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The Orb's next stop is in the world of Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm, in the series' 9th episode "Resurrection". Here, the Orb is given to Shang Tsung, resurrected by Shao Kahn. Kahn gives the Orb to Tsung, who then uses its weather-control powers to drain Raiden of his might, causing a crisis of confidence within the thunder god. With help from Jax and the rest of the Defenders (Kitana, Liu Kang, Sonya Blade, Kurtis Stryker, and Sub-Zero), Raiden is able to defeat Shang Tsung despite his powerlessness, and uses his restored powers to send the Orb into another portal. It is here that we see our only glimpse of the Warrior King, a cameo in shadows, as he leaps in after the Orb while our heroes' backs are turned.

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The story of the Warrior King and the Orb concludes in the 8th episode of Wing Commander Academy, titled "Recreation". Here, the cadets aboard the ship Tiger's Claw stumble upon the King after they pick up his cryo-pod, which he's been in for an apparently long time, aboard an outdated ship being towed by their enemies, the leonine Kilrathi. While they prep him to be taken in by some science vessels, the cadets are given 'shore leave' on the paradise planet Oasis, a 'neutral zone' for both sides, made so by a mysterious object the natives dubbed 'The Maker'. A small squad of Kilrathi arrive later, feigning their need for some R&R when they're really after the Maker. The King awakens, and is shown to have grown jaded and weary in his quest. He is temporarily imprisoned, but breaks out and forces one of the cadets, Maverick, to fly him down to Oasis. Here, we learn that he's come to accept that his people are probably gone by now, but now wants to restore the planet, at best, using the Orb. Once planetside, the King manages to get the Orb before the Kilrathi squadron does, and uses its power to destroy them with a tornado. Once finished, he is set to leave, but the cadets convince him to not take the Orb, as doing so would turn Oasis back into the barren wasteland it once was. Although initially refusing, Maverick and another pilot, Archer, manage to get through to the King, who realizes that he'd forgotten what he was fighting for in all his years of searching. After throwing the Orb back to the mountaintop, he takes one of the cadets' ships, reminding them that they need to not forget why they fight. He then jets off to parts unknown.

Thus ended the saga of the Warrior King--his home gone, and now a wanderer of the multiverse.

A pretty interesting experiment involving four franchises that had nothing in common with one another, yet not many people heard about their crossover, or those that do don't remember it as much. Why is that? Simply put, there was no hype built up around the crossover, and the shows didn't even say anything about it, not in their original airings, not even in reruns. Adding to the fact was that most of the shows were not highly-regarded by fans of the respectyive franchises (mainly true for the first three shows).

All the parts of the crossover are on Youtube, while three of them are actually on DVD (thanks to the Street Fighter boxed sets and the newly-released Wing Commander Academy DVD for Region 1, and the Region 2 Mortal Kombat: DOTR complete series DVD). So if you have the money and/or the time, I'd suggest giving this obscure crossover a look, if only for the novelty and a somewhat interesting story.

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