Wednesday, June 8, 2011

1983 - JLA/Avengers Crossover (also known as the Team-Up Controversy)

With the Superman and Spider-man crossover sequel and the Batman vs The Incredible Hulk Special all reaping significant commercial success, DC and Marvel decided to green light the next two crossover specials: Justice League of America and the Avengers, and the New Teen Titans and the X-Men.

Dick Giordano headed DC Comics editorially as did Jim Shooter on the Marvel Comics side. Already juggling a heavy workload, George Perez bowed out from the New Teen Titans and X-Men crossover to do the JLA and Avengers. Gerry Conway was asked to plot the epic story with Roy Thomas providing the script. The crossover special was scheduled for the summer of 1983.

Gerry Conway, who had written both the Avengers and the JLA, had come up with the basic plot he hoped balanced both companies’ characters and interests (grabbed from Back Issue #1):

“DC’s Lord of Time and Marvel’s Kang the Conqueror “coveted an infinitely powerful stone that was backtracking through the time stream. Kang and the Lord manipulated the members of the Avengers and the Justice League into combat in different ears, with the acquisition of the gemstone as the catalyst for each battle. Those clashes pitted heroes with similar powers against each other - Batman vs. Captain America, Superman vs. Thor, Green Arrow vs. Hawkeye, Martian Manhunter vs. She-Hulk, Atom vs. Ant-Man, the Flash vs. Quicksilver, you get the idea - affording each publisher’s heroes equal time.”

Jim Shooter rejected Conway’s general plot on February 25th (as detailed in Marvel Age #19, October 1984):

“I’m afraid that the first try at the Avengers/JLA plot isn’t acceptable, or even close. The problems are many, but there’s no point in listing them and getting bogged down in details because the whole things just doesn’t make sense. Why is any of this stuff happening (other than because the writer says it is) and why are all these people doing strange things? I find very few solid reasons or motives for the actions of the characters.”

When Jim Shooter learned that Perez had started to draw the issue, Jim Shooter sent Dick Giordano the following letter on May 18th, 1983:

“Around February 25, I received a copy of the proposed story plot. I read it, found it entirely unusable, and sent you a letter to that effect, a copy of which is attached. Shortly, afterward, we spoke on the phone and you agreed that the proposed plot was not acceptable, and that a revised plot would be forthcoming. At the end of our conversation, anticipating the possibility of a missed communication on a project this complex, I stated that nothing should be considered approved by Marvel until you received approval in writing from me. I gathered that you understood and agreed.

“Some time later, I received a call from Len Wein who wanted to discuss my objections to the plot and work out possible solutions. We discussed a few of the flaws in the plot in some detail, but largely we spoke only in broad generalities. At the end of our conversation, Len asked if I felt comfortable enough with our mutual understanding of the revisions being made to allow work to begin on the art. I said no, emphatically, and insisted upon seeing a written out revised plot. I felt that our discussion had been too general to grant plot approval.

“Yesterday, I heard from various sources that George Perez had begun penciling the story, though I still hadn’t received a revised plot. I called you immediately...

“I will be glad to look at copies of the twenty pages that you say George has drawn, along with a revised plot. Possibly the pages will be useable or salvageable...

“Again, no work on this project is to be considered approved until you receive approval in writing from me.”

Giordano then provided Shooter with a copy of the revised plot, to which Shooter replied, dated May 20:

“What we have here is substantially the same plot that I rejected before with a few little touch-ups. As I stated in my first letter, this thing has major problems. It doesn’t make sense. It’s going to have to be written almost from scratch. Sorry.”

In the DC Comics’ “Meanwhile...” column from January 1985, entitled “Justice League of America vs. The Avengers: The Death of a Dream”, Giordano offered a rebuttal of Marvel Age #19 which he termed was “Marvel’s version of the events behind the JLA/Avengers team-up controversy”. Also, he pointed out that he was “mildly curious as to why no one is willing to take credit for the writing the Marvel Age article. (...) You’ll notice my byline at the top of this column, so at least you’ll know who is responsible for all that is printed here.”

Dick Giordano wanted the deleted parts of his letter to Jim Shooter of May 26th published, which had been selectively edited for the article in Marvel Age #19. However, this version in the Meanwhile column wasn’t complete either. I present the Frankenstein, patchwork version of the letter for your consideration. The sections in normal text are taken from the Meanwhile article, which the sections in italics are from Marvel Age #19.

“The contract stipulates for example, that each company should appoint a staff editor to each project,... In this case, the editors so appointed were Len Wein (Dc) and Mark Gruenwald (Marvel) ... When the plot was delivered, you decided to become personally involved (counter to our previous team-up experiences) and forced my involvement at a hands-on editorial level.

You had some problems with the plot. The motivation for the events was weak. I agreed with you and we set about to fix the plot. When we thought we had it de-bugged, Len called you with an outline of the changes, to which you responded positively, saving you felt the changes would work. Len reported that conversation to me with the request from you that a new written plot be submitted. I thought this request to be logical but largely a formality and ordered George Perez to start drawing before the new plot was typed. In doing so, I had no intention of ignoring your wishes. I understand your conversation with Len to be a tacit approval of our modifications and desired only to keep the project moving. I have since apologized to you for this seeming breach of protocol and trust that this unintentional mistake is note one of the reasons for your rejection.

“Yes, there still remain some questions left unanswered in the plot, but no more or less than are left unanswered in most plots. More often than not, these questions are resolved while the work is in progress and I’m sure that you’ll agree the levels of skill possessed by George Perez, Roy Thomas, Len Wein, and myself are sufficient to resolve these plot “holes” to everyone’s satisfaction, and I would surely submit the material in its subsequent more finished stages and welcome your input at that time.

“Incidentally, I’m sure that you recognize the difficulty in producing a script that is truly wonderful given the extreme limitations inherent in a team-up venture of this kind; everything and everyone must be left just as we found them and all events and actions must end in a tie. There were plot weaknesses in Chris’ X-Men/Teen Titans last year, but everyone who bought the book (all those people!) seemed not to care. I didn’t

“Finally (and at a more practical level), if you insist on starting all over, we will have to name a new creative team as previous commitments will force the withdrawal of all the current team members ... Further, I must then insist that you supply a detailed, written list of changes requested.

“The storyline makes sense to me and everyone else here and our contract stipulates that ‘Marvel and DC shall jointly agree on mutually acceptable modifications’ and I can hardly agree with your modification if I don’t know what they are.

“Perhaps we should jut put this back in the hands of Mark and Len and George and Roy and trust that these seasoned pros, three of whom have worked well for both companies, won’t embarrass themselves or Dc and Marvel. Whichever way you choose to go, I respectfully request that you respond as quickly as possible. TIMES A WASTIN’!

“Warmest Personal Regards,
Dirk Giordano
Vice President - Executive Editor”

Jim Shooter then provided Giordano with a list of his specific issues with the plot in a letter dated on June 15. Giordano then passed them along to Roy Thomas who rewrote the plot and delivered it to DC on July 28thand a copy hand-delivered to Marvel Comics.

No further correspondence was heard from Marvel, not even an acknowledgement of the rewritten plot. Giordano met Shooter at the San Diego Comic Con that summer on August 4th and Shooter had the draft, but hadn’t read it. This contradicts what was said in the Marvel Age article, which said that had Giordano given Shooter a copy at that Con. Shooter refused to approve the new plot over the Con weekend as he wanted Mark Gruenwald and Roger Stern to review it.

By August 22, Giordano had received no approval or rejection from Shooter. A frustrated George Perez pulled himself off the project.

However, Shooter had sent a follow-up letter dated September 28th:

“These are the problems with the latest version of the Avengers/JLA plot:
- Ant Man should not be included. He isn’t an Avenger and would not be involved.
- Quicksilver must come from Attilan, where he lives, which is on the moon.
- Thor’s hammer cannot follow a trail through time. He lost all such abilities a while back.
- Hawkeye is married now, a fact which should be mentioned in the scene with Black Canary.
- vision has demonstrated emotions - he should not be affected by the Shiva Egg because he is non-biological, not non-emotional
- A Quicksilver/Flash race is ludicrous since Flash run at light speed and Quicksilver can’t even manage the speed of sound. Perhaps Flash should race Captain Marvel who can attain the speed of light in her energy form.
- Quicksilver would also be unable to help Flash energize the makeshift cosmic treadmill in any physical way.
- Firestorm and Captain Marvel are probably not evenly matched as mentioned since Firestorm controls nuclear energy and CM can become any energy, including nuclear.

“There are other small glitches, but they can be covered in dialogue. They don’t affect the pictures.

‘Presuming that you correct these minor problems, the only thing remaining to be settled before the plot is given to an artist is the selection of the artist. Don Heck, who you said was under consideration, is alright with us. If he’s the man you want go ahead and start. If you wish to propose someone else, we’ll be glad to listen.”

It wasn’t hard to see why Perez would draw the conclusion that Jim Shooter didn’t want this crossover with him, especially finally approving the story after Perez had taken himself off the project. He had the following to say in a British fanzine, Chain Reaction, on September 30th

“I do not want this taken wrongly because I am a fan of Don Heck’s work. But Shooter knows full well that Heck will never sell the book, not because of any inferiority in Don’s work, it’s just that he is not a fan favorite and with a fan book this is definitely important. He is doing everything in his power to sabotage this ...

“I am not going to let Jim Shooter get away with this, and I’m going to use every available means to let people know what Jim’s done. If people don’t believe what I say, at least I’ve gotten it out of my system.”

Shooter in the Marvel Age article vehemently denies stalling the project to remove Perez from the book.

Sadly for the fans, Marvel and DC let the project die, each pointing the finger at each other, claiming that they were waiting on the other party.

Michael Eury in his article on the JLA/Avengers crossover in Back Issue #1, presented his conclusions:

“If I must assign blame as to why this greatest of stories was never told, the culprit is: A clash of editorial styles. These two editorial camps were incompatible.”

  • Back Issue #1, October 2003, TwoMorrows Publishing
  • Marvel Age #19, October 1984, Marvel Comics
  • Meanwhile, January 1985, DC Comics


  1. At least Shooter's list was a logical one (once he finally sent it).

    I have some issues with him and some of his decisions, but I think he does care about continuity and the characters.

    There are a lot of things I like about Shooter's work. A lot of what I miss from those old times is because of his strict care about continuity, something that does not seem to matter at all to Joe Q now...

  2. fascinating, but heartbreaking! very sorry that perez artwork was never allowed to properly see the light of day.

    also, i recall reading somewhere (i think in his blog, but i'm not 100% sure on that) about a lot of shooter's objections on this. obviously it was a bit self-serving (as all of these things are likely to be, that's not a shot at shooter in particular), but many of his objections made a lot of sense. he had a number of them not mentioned here, including one of the plot points being that superman was traveling through time at some point during the plot, is on galactus' space ship, sees that it's set to eat krypton, and sets it to eat another planet instead. oh gerry conway, you never let character get in the way of your plots!

  3. This whole spat I missed. As a kid I didn't get into the comic community beyond the comic rack till around 1988. for me it was mostly Garage sales and flea markets for my comics. but after hearing about it I always wanted to see what they would have done. thankfully a few years back we did get the crossover with Perez doing the art to boot

  4. Great post! It really is a shame these beautiful Perez pages never saw the proper light of day ... I believe they are even superior to the JLA/Avengers book George finally drew many years later...

    I know Perez never finished the 80s JLA/Avengers project, but it would be nice to see all the pages he did inked, colored and published in some format ...

  5. As someone who had long and eagerly awaited this team-up, the various stories and reasons presented over the years seemed to be confusing and often contradictory.

    You have taken it upon yourself to collect and properly assemble the various disparate snippets of information into a cohesive whole.

    Finally, the mystery is revealed.

    Although, as others have stated, Shooter's comments (albeit very late in the game) weren't bad ones.

    Such a shame that no one could "play nice" with each other on this one.

    We all lost out.

    Thanks for the work on this!

  6. Thanks everyone. Been working on this one for awhile. Still looking for an issue of Amazing Heroes that featured a few other interviews that I'd like to add to this piece...

  7. I wish the JLA/Avengers Team Up that was supposed to be released in 1983 would finally be released,& Let George Perez finish what he started way back them. Because No one else should do the art since George Perez worked very hard practically for never nothing,& since Dick Giordano unfortunately has passed away 2 years ago,I'm sure DC & Marvel will be able to find a good replacement embellisher. Please,Don't let the Original Story go to waste. Thank You & Good Luck.

  8. And 1 more thing,The Hell with contracts,they mean absolutely nothing,its just a piece of paper with writing on it. Thanks Again.

  9. Notice Giordano disingenuosly pretends to believe a plot is "largely a formality" and has Perez start drawing. What on earth is Perez supposed to draw without a plot to work from? So Giordano has him work from the rejected plot. A clear attempt to push it through because he figured once there are so many pages of Perez art it will become fair accompli. He figured wrong and then tried to squirm his way out of it and deflect the blame.

  10. The 2004 Jla/Avengers 4 issue crossover was really good and George even managed to throw in a homage to the first should- have-been crossover in 1983, explaining that they actually did have that crossover but it was simply forgotten by our heroes.Though it was kind of anti-climatic having to wait 20 years for this crossover to happen,I'm very pleased that George finally got some redemption for all his hard work on the first crossover.



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