Saturday, January 2, 2016

Avengers Versus JLA - Why Not?


We all wanted it to happen, all of us. Fans of the Silver and Bronze Ages had two big gun teams, mirror images of one another and we always wanted them to rumble to see who was the toughest super gang in comics. There was of course the Fantastic Four, the Legion of Super-Heroes, the Doom Patrol, and even the X-Men. But the FF was a family, the Legion was in the future, and both the DP and X-Men were at the time relatively small-time. The two top-line powerhouse teams we really wanted to see duke it out were the Justice League of America and the The Mighty Avengers. Visions of Superman battling Thor, and Iron taking on Green Lantern, and Captain America punching it out with Batman, danced in our heads as the years passed. It would be so neat, epic even...but it was never going to happen.

And then it almost did.


In 1976 Marvel and DC buried the hatchet and by dint of will arranged for two of their headliners to face off in an over-sized treasury comic book which well and truly was the proper venue. Superman and Spider-Man, the icons of two different companies met in a one-time universe which held them both and they met, battled, and then teamed to defeat the threats posed by their enemies Lex Luthor and The Octopus. Gerry Conway wrote it, Ross Andru drew it, and Dick Giordano inked it. It was awesome and for a long time unique.


Then it happened again in 1981 when the two companies again decided it was in the best interests of all for Supes and Spidey to mix it up again. This time the honors were by artist John Buscema, inker Joe Sinnott among others, and writer Jim Shooter with aid from Marv Wolfman. Hulk and Wonder Woman show up too.  It was a treasury-sized Marvel offering.


Then Batman and Hulk mix it up under the pencil magic of Jose Garcia-Lopez, the inks of Dick Giordano, and a script by Len Wein. It was beautiful. This one was treasury-sized too, this time from DC.
 

And then the X-Men and the "New"Teen Titans met in a plush regular-sized comic book with a delicious wraparound cover by artist Walt Simonson, who was also the artist of the story inside by writer Chris Claremont, joined by X-Men inker Terry Austin. A beautiful story which left all of us agape waiting for the inevitable. Now it had to happen. It must happen.

If Superman could battle Spider-Man not once but twice, and Batman and the Hulk could mix it up, and even the X-Men and the Titans could join forces then it had to be possible that finally, at last, the Avengers and the Justice League could meet up and finally fulfill the fanboy dream.

They almost did.



Gerry Conway was tapped to write it (with a later assist by Roy Thomas) and the perfect artist for the job, George Perez was even beginning to turn out pages for the ultimate clash of the titans. The teams were set to confront their twin time-traveling enemies Kang the Conqueror and the Lord of Time, but something happened.

The stories vary, but we know Jim Shooter nixed the deal along the way for reasons that remain in dispute. Shooter's tenure at Marvel was tumultuous. He was successful in putting the staggering company on an even keel but it had cost him the good will of a number of his more high-profile talents, many of whom felt that they had been dealt with in less than honest ways. Lots of things happened then, but we do know that it was under Shooter's reign that the crossovers resumed and presumably with his blessing. What stalled them is less certain. But here is what reports indicated at the time as reported in Marvel Age.





And here is DC editor Dick Giordano's response.



Whatever the truth, it's a pity and shame it all fell apart.



Lost to the ages -- a true-blue what if.

But at the end of the day we had pages by Perez, penciled and tempting us all to imagine what might have been.  Marvel and DC were kind enough at long last to publish those pages, long since available for view on
the budding internet in a prize volume, when the eventual teaming of these the Avengers and JLA did eventually happen many decades later.


It was a joy to finally have the fragments of what might've been, but it was bittersweet to know that we had to wait so very very long. I shall take a closer look at those tomorrow.



As it turned out the wait was worth. Next week I shall begin a month-long review of the classic battle between these epic teams by George Perez and writer Kurt Busiek. Check in on Saturdays in January for a weekly dash of the clash of the champions.

See you next time.

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7 comments:

  1. Happy New Year, Rip. Apparently, first time around, Don Heck was announced as the artist, but it never happened. By that time, Heck's pencils were a bit loose, so I'm not sure it would've been as good as it could've been had he drawn it. I love his '60s work 'though.

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    1. I would certainly have supported a Don Heck rendition. He along with Perez and George Tuska was the only artist at the time to have drawn both teams. But clearly the fan-fave was Perez. One of the things which was a happy circumstance of the teaming not happening is that when Perez did eventually do it decades later, he was at the very top of his skills.

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    2. Let me add Rich Buckler to the short list. Can you think of anyone else? Buckler would've been another good choice at the time, but for whatever reason was not in the good graces of comics during this period.

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    3. I've just read the Marvel Age piece and note that Don Heck wasn't considered until after Perez had withdrawn, so two demerits for my faulty memory. I was always under the impression that Heck had been considered before Perez (on account of him having worked on both teams), so I must've picked that up wrong at the time.

      I think a Buscema/Palmer art job on the project would've been a winner, despite big John never having drawn the JSA before.

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  2. The paper trail in such disputes always provides a fascinating read, and I would expect no less when it comes to both Marvel and DC taking each other to task in print in order to "settle the issue" (he says with an amused shaking of the head). I'd never come across these accounts before--thanks for presenting them here.

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    1. The truth is usually in the middle most of the time, but sometimes it's just one side. I instinctively go with Dick Giordano on this one, as he has no rep for such turmoil while, as much as I admire what he accomplished, Shooter has plenty.

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    2. I agree. Based on their reps, Giordano would be much more believable. Also, Giordano's piece didn't contradict much the Marvel Age article as much as fill holes in them.

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