Marvel And DC, Stop Sitting On The Epic 'JLA/Avengers' Crossover
If the comic book nerds in your life seem (even) sadder recently, there's a very good reason for that: Massively influential and massively loved artist George Perez announced he has inoperable cancer and has been given six months to a year to live. Perez is known for drawing lengthy runs in series like Justice League of America, The Avengers, and Wonder Woman (which he also wrote), but his biggest claim to fame these days might be the fact that he co-created The New Teen Titans, the dramatic 1980s comic that somehow became a zany 2010s cartoon. In fact, an episode aired this year offered a somewhat fictionalized account of the moment Perez and writer Marv Wolfman came up with the series:
Perez is also universally acknowledged as the absolute master when it comes to packing a page with as many muscular people in colorful costumes as humanly possible, as he demonstrated in popular crossover events like DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths and Marvel's Infinity Gauntlet. This made him the obvious choice for drawing the massive JLA/Avengers crossover published in 2003-2004, which Marvel Executive Editor Tom Brevoort recently called Perez' "magnum opus." Perez actually managed to cram every single member of the JLA and the Avengers up to that point (over 200 characters) into a single cover, a feat so insane that his hand nearly self-destructed while he was drawing it.
And yet, your only options for reading this legendary comic today if you don't already own it are paying around $100 for the original issues on eBay or using a site called freecomix4U.ru or something and have your browser redirected into online casino sites every two seconds. See, JLA/Avengers may be beloved by fans, but it has been a source of drama for the companies behind it for several decades now. The project was conceived in the late '70s after Marvel and DC fortuitously published a Wizard of Oz adaptation together and decided to follow it up with some actual crossovers. One of those ideas was JLA/Avengers, which Perez began drawing in the early '80s, generating enough hype to power multiple countries.
But then, the project fell through because the infamously strict editor running Marvel in the '80s didn't like the plot, while DC's head editor ... also didn't like the plot. Still, they figured they could always fix it later or whatever. The situation got so nasty that Marvel and DC dropped all future crossover plans and didn't team up again until the mid-'90s, when they remembered that, oh yeah, these things make a ton of money. Over the years, the companies tried to revive the JLA/Avengers project multiple times, but someone always shot it down for one reason or another. When Marvel's leadership changed in the early 2000s, DC tried again, and this time the other side went, "Sure, what the hell. Let's make some fanboys cream themselves."
The comic finally came out in 2003 and was a perfect mix of fan service-y scenes (Superman holding Cap's shield and Thor's hammer), quiet character moments (Batman and Cap working together), and nerdy explanations to age-old questions (it's established that DC's earth is slightly bigger and that's how they can fit all those fictional cities).
Also, it's one of those rare crossovers that actually mattered -- at the end of the story, the JLA ends up in charge of a cosmic egg that would play a role in future DC storylines. The effect on Marvel's universe was smaller ... officially, anyway.
There's a plotline about Scarlet Witch tapping into the DC Universe's more powerful magic forces, which (in her words) start "corrupting" her. Later, because of time-related shenanigans, she learns about the time her fake babies turned into demon hands, a fact that had been erased from her mind at this point in Marvel continuity. A couple of years after JLA/Avengers, the demon baby debacle was used as Wanda's reason for going insane and murdering some of her friends. It's interesting to think that her little trip to DC's earth could have set her off on that path.
Despite all this, and containing some of the best work in Perez' career, the JLA/Avengers collected edition has been out of print since 2008. It's not just that the editors can't stand each other this time -- Marvel's Brevoort admits that the comic is unlikely to be reprinted again simply because both companies are owned by corporate giants now, and coordinating 200 IPs is suddenly a lot more complicated. Why waste time and resources on a comic that you can't even turn into a movie later? It makes no business sense!
It would, however, be a nice tribute to Perez' legacy, especially if they can get it done while he's still around to see it. Please don't let that Teen Titans Go! episode be the highest-profile George Perez tribute to come out in his final days.
Top image: DC Comics, Marvel Comics