A post from my old Marvel blog discussing comics I edited that I liked more than the audience did.
All right, back on the horse after life got in the way several days ago. Today, we’re wrapping up the sequence on comics I like that weren’t received well, at least in some quarters. And today’s entry, which may surprise some people, is AVENGERS/JLA #2.
You may already know the history: how, back in the early ’80s, when the earliest Marvel/DC crossovers had been done, inter-company conflicts caused the early demise of an AVENGERS/JLA project being drawn by George Perez. And how, George having completed his return to AVENGERS in the year 2000, new EIC Joe Quesada got the ball rolling again on making a new AVENGERS/JLA project happen.
There was plenty of promotion and fan speculation when this project was announced—especially given that it took George almost two years to pencil and ink the entire thing, two years during which all of fandom knew he was working on it. And much of the conversation centered around the inevitable clashes between parallel characters at the two rival companies.
While each character, each side, had its vocal proponents, one concept remained consistent throughout almost all of the feedback: if the heroes were going to fight, people didn’t want to see cheats or draws—they wanted somebody to win clean (especially their favorite character—since, of course, that’s absolutely what would happen.) Nowhere was this more in evidence than with fans of Thor, who wanted to see him trash Superman completely and utterly.
Didn’t happen. While Thor got in a great full-page shot that closed out the first issue, and his struggle with Superman ran for almost the full duration of the issue, in the end, Superman laid Thor low. This was the outcome as decided at a meeting down in Florida at which Kurt Busiek, George Perez, myself and DC editor Dan Raspler blocked out the story. And it wasn’t done because of politics, or because of some need for a specific quid-pro-quo. It happened because the four people in that room felt that that’s what would happen given the circumstances, and the thrust of the story we were building.
And oh my god, the fallout!
It continues to this day in certain quarters. Irate Thor fans who feel like we “sold the character out” or, even more broadly, “sold Marvel out.” There were some even crazier conspiracy theorists who postulated that Kurt had arranged this outcome so that he’d be able to go to DC and write books for them (and even that he’d already been paid off by DC to throw the fight!) And many of the same people who had been staunchly campaigning for the battles to be conclusive were now crying in their beer, asking why we couldn’t have made it a draw.
It was a classic case of “you can get what you want, and still not be happy.” And the folks who didn’t like it took it personally, almost as though it was a slight or a slam at them. This is how involved we can all become with these fictional characters’ lives, how bound up in their stories we can become. Not everyone hated it—far from it—but the voices of those that did tended to drown out and dominate any discourse about the issue. (And I expect the same may have been true if the fight had gone the other way, and Superman had gotten laid out.) But I still think it was the right move for the story, and the right outcome for the characters, and so I don’t apologize for it.
Now, JLA/AVENGERS #3, that one I might apologize for a little bit.