JLA Avengers Scanning My Collection

Why do we love crossovers? As I write this they’ve recently announced a crossover between Star Trek and Planets Of The Apes. That’s just plain silly. Heck, we have a comic out now where Groo the Wanderer is teaming with Conan The Barbarian, the guy Groo parodies. On TV the Simpsons and the cast of Family Guy crossed over. It’s one thing when Superman and Batman team up because they’re in the same universe, but at this time next week I’ll be reviewing the first superhero crossover comic with Superman and Spider-Man. So why do we love these so much that they keep getting made?

Sure, the Justice League Of America and the Avengers exist in different universes because they’re owned by different companies. Granted, that didn’t stop a crossover between Ally McBeal and The Practice, who had the same creator but were on different networks. It’s one thing to team up with someone from your own network, publisher, or production company. Battletoads/Double Dragon had the same game publisher, but Mario and Sonic can compete against each other in the Olympics even though they have different publishers who used to be rivals in the console wars. Walker, Texas Ranger and Sammo Law both fought crime on the same night, and even though they were made by different animation studios, teaming The Mask and Ace Ventura because they were both portrayed by Jim Carrey and both cartoons aired on CBS makes some sense. There’s a website devoted to creating comic covers for crossover that may never happen but he wishes they would.

The answer of why we like crossovers ties in to my overall review of JLA/Avengers and also makes a good topic by itself. For our final look at this miniseries it helps to go into the nature of the crossover. This is easily one of, if not the, best. I had one guy on Twitter upset at the early stages of the review and another tweeted that this was the miniseries that ended his 15 year absence from comics. So it’s just about why we like crossovers in general but why this one in particular worked so well.

Spider-Man & Batman

I still want to see these two team-up again.

The first one is rather easy. While Batman, Spider-Man, Space Ghost, Starfleet, the Thundercats, G-Force, and many other crossovers I’ve reviewed over the years all exist in their own universes due to having different rights owners (remember the Green Hornet was originally a descendant of the Lone Ranger) there is one place where they all co-exist–our media libraries. Godzilla and Gamera on both on my video shelf, Mario and Link are in my stack of video games, and Transformers and GoBots are in my toy collection, happily joining forces against their mutual enemies. You can also look at your bookshelves, or even duets in music with performers you wouldn’t expect. (Like most of Tony Bennet’s recent records.) Who as kids didn’t have Steve Austin, the Bionic Man, team up with Kung Fu Grip GI Joe, the Thundercats hanging out at Castle Greyskull, or whatever you had in your toy collection when you grew up?

In our hearts they belong together or it could be a case of why let the Voltron Force stay alone when the Star Wars figures are the same size? Of course we played, wrote, or drew our favorite heroes together because we loved them and hoped they’d get along, even when we asked who would win in a fight? I would hope a friendly fight but when ScrewAttack has a show called Death Battle Superman was meant to kill off Goku even if it’s not his way, Zack Snyder! It’s why crossover fanfic exists and why we get combinations like Aliens Vs. Predator or RoboCop versus the Terminator. Are they fan service? Usually, but who cares? We get to see our favorite characters side by side. I assure you someone is waiting to read Captain Kirk use the “damn dirty ape” line, or at least Doctor McCoy. It’s fanboyish or fangirlish as heck and we love it…if it can make sense.

There are two ways to institute a crossover between licenses. One is an out-of-continuity story where they’ve always been in the same universe. This is harder for some combinations so option two is to have them somehow cross universes. This is easier where science fiction or fantasy is involved. A temporal anomaly, a reality-breaking device, a miscast spell, and boom–you have Power Ranges and Mystic Knights and why didn’t Saban do that instead of the Next Mutilation Ninja Turtles? Both options have been used in DC and Marvel crossovers over the years, and this was actually explained in DC VS Marvel/Marvel Vs DC as the two universes being shards of twin brothers that sometimes intersect, even temporarily merging. Or in the case of the DCU and Wildstorm and Milestone universes, permanently merging. Seriously, DC is the Borg of the multiverse, absorbing other realities through osmosis at this point. Marvel tried that and the Ultraverse is no more.

JLA Avengers

The collection I have.

JLA/Avengers takes the second approach, with the DC and Marvel universes as separate realities. I like this better because until the introduction of Access and the Brothers this was the way to keep all of these stories canon to their respective universe. With Access’s story now they all can be; they were just the result of a temporary merging of realities that the current Access was able to undo after Batman fought the Hulk. We’ve seen both options used. The Terminator’s future is caused by RoboCop. G-Force and Thundercats are either on different planets or alternate universes. The X-Men’s world is an alternate timeline from the Starfleet future. Whichever serves the story best is fine with me.

Here writer Kurt Busiek uses the alternate realities to play with those different takes on superheroes and the major differences in world-building. Where Marvel creates the occasional small town too small to be on the map or fake European or Arab country, DC creates whole cities in our country. Both have different approaches to science and magic, and yet there are plenty of parallels between the two. Busiek plays with both very well.

Then there’s the human factor (or “human” since we have mutants, metahumans, aliens, and robots in both realities). In the DC universe people are less cynical. They’re more willing to trust the costumed crimefighters and superpowered protectors. (At least until recently.) Marvel citizens are more paranoid, less trusting than the DCU. While some heroes like Captain America they like they’re split on guys like Spider-Man while people are generally afraid of mutants. I guess it matters how you got your powers? Radiation trumps puberty I guess. I’m not sure what message that sends.

Superman and Captain America initially distrust what they see in the other universe, and while the nature of how the contest was conducted reaching into their fears, it was really fears for how they operate in their own universe. Superman does worry they do too much and not let humanity do their thing. You may remember Destiny in one of the reprinted comics for Retroactivity dealt with Destiny trying to prove to Superman that he was doing just that. Meanwhile Cap worries that he doesn’t do enough, with groups like AIM and guys like Doctor Doom running around causing all kinds of havoc. The Marvel Universe fears their protectors while DC treats them like celebrities. That has to be tough on people who protect other people because they have powers or special circumstances and honestly want to both help people and in most cases live a normal life with family and friends.

Busiek plays well with the various ways the two universes worked at that time, but he doesn’t do it alone. George Pérez’s magnificent artwork also helps. His ability to draw so many characters with so much detail in the days long before we had software that could zoom in and add important details and put everyone on separate layers so you didn’t screw up the entire artwork is nothing sort of amazing and he’s one of the best artists in the business even today. And here he gets to draw heroes and villains of two universe, their most iconic pieces of geography, and the various costumes and namesakes they’ve had over the many years since before National and Timely became DC and Marvel. Busiek told me over Twitter that the big break between the third and fourth issue was because he had “crippling tendonitis.” drawing the cover to issue #3. (Maybe that’s why #4 is Superman holding Mjolnir and Cap’s shield with the merging universes instead of another group shot?) Adding in Tom Smith’s colors, and even the lettering work by Richard Starkings and his Comicraft team results in just a great comic. I see why that one guy went back to comics after 15 years.

Avengers-JLA #4 hatchet

This is the scene I want to see more of in these team-ups.

Is it perfect? Nothing is. I admit I was a bit tired while reading #2 but sometimes Grandmaster seemed to be a lousy score keeper, which is not really new. I still don’t know why Captain America trusted Batman so easily when he seemed to have issue with the rest of the Justice League, but even that led to a good scene between the two and they worked together very well. We’ll see them team up again during the “Yesterday’s Comic” readthrough of the DC/Marvel crossovers I happen to own in the coming weeks. I think a lot of my problem also comes from me not wanting to see heroes fight each other. During those play sessions my heroes always joined forces against the villains, or sometimes they played other roles to play along with other shows or original ideas. (Fun fact: the first superhero character I ever created got his base design from Panosh Place’s Pidge action figure before building on the design.) In the stories in my head the heroes get help from other heroes or heroes I created against villains. Yet so many of these team-ups, even when Marvel characters aren’t involved, begins with the heroes fighting each other for various reasons. I just want to go right to the team-up, but I appear to be alone in that.

Is this comic worthy of your time? Are you a fan of both the DC and Marvel continuities (at least of 2003)? If the answer to the second question is yes, than so is the first. This is a great tribute to both universes, which rises this book above the usual fanservice team-up.  I hope to add to the list, but I haven’t seen that since the first Spider-Man/Batman team-up I reviewed for Scanning My Collection. Only instead of comparing two character this compares two whole universes. That said, there are many different printings. Mine may be out of print but I’ll review it tomorrow at The Clutter Reports. (As usual there will be a link during Sunday’s comic.) But whatever version you get, this is easily on the must-own list for comic fans who enjoy characters of both comic companies.

About ShadowWing Tronix

A would be comic writer looking to organize his living space as well as his thoughts. So I have a blog for each goal. :)

One response »

  1. […] SMC presents JLA/Avengers: Wrap-Up Analysis […]

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