I read a lot of comic books as a kid. This series of posts is about the comics I read, and, occasionally, the comics that I should have read.
I was always on the lookout for things that were true events in my comic book reading. Part of that stemmed from the shrewd marketing of the comic book publishers themselves, who were always tagged their covers with an exploding starburst announcing an issue as a collector’s item or the holder of some momentous occurrence that couldn’t be missed. I also had a keen interest in the history of the characters I’d committed myself to, devouring any information I could find that spelled out the most important mileposts on the decades-long journey taking place. By extension, I was equally interested in the history of the publishers responsible for their exploits, and I knew with certainty that they didn’t really play well together. That meant a collaborative effort was big news.
In 1982, Marvel Comics and DC Comics arguably had no bigger characters than the X-Men and the Teen Titans, respectively. The former had gone from a longstanding also-ran within the company to a legitimate sensation, thanks largely to the angst-ridden writing of Chris Claremont, and the latter was similarly successful in no small part because of how expertly writer Marv Wolfman and artist George Pérez aped the style and approach of the Uncanny X-Men series. Whatever animosity and skepticism existing between the two companies, the prospect of mega-sales by pairing the two hot teams must have been utterly irresistible. Claremont was picked to pen the project and Walter Simonson, still a year away from his career-defining work on Thor, was picked to pencil it. Claremont was the regular X-Men scribe, but Simonson had no real connection to the team (which was partially why he was chosen, the publishers preferring a neutral artist rather than one of the regular pencillers for the respective teams), making it a little odd to see his distinctive, bold, personality-packed art leveled against Marvel’s merry mutants.
The X-Men were two years past the monumental, defining Dark Phoenix storyline, but Claremont and Marvel had already demonstrated a cheerful willingness to endlessly exploit the affection for it, even if it meant dragging poor Jean Grey back from the dead over and over again. For a comic book this big and important, there was no doubt that they’d revive Dark Phoenix. That created a little bit of an issue, though, as the Teen Titans didn’t have a comparably powerful villain in their rogue’s gallery. So while their more earthbound adversary Deathstroke the Terminator makes an appearance, to bring in a DC Comics foe more evenly matched with Dark Phoenix, Claremont had to reach back into the potent pantheon created by Jack Kirby during his nineteen-seventies tenure with the publisher. Only Darkseid would do.
This is what Simonson’s pencils are meant for: epic storytelling with explosions that look like they can set the entire universe atremble. Claremont liked that stuff, too. Though his X-Men comics were often cited as great examples of the pleasures found in small moments between well-defined characters, he loved casting them off on outer space adventures that were honestly something of a mismatch. And in a comic like this, bringing together characters who could only interact when a couple highly proprietary publishers briefly, hesitantly let their guards down, the main appeal was supposed to be the character interaction.
With few exceptions, though, I don’t have strong memories of how the Teen Titans and the X-Men bonded. There were no thrilling pairings, no exciting friendships to develop. There were pieces–popular pieces, it should be noted–in a glossy spectacle. Of course, as a twelve-year-old when the book was released, big ol’ spectacle was exactly what I was looking for. It wasn’t necessarily that great of a comic, truth be told, but it was a hell of a read.
Fantastic Four by Stan Lee and John Buscema
Contest of Champions by Bill Mantlo and John Romita, Jr.
Daredevil by Frank Miller
Marvel Fanfare by Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum and Paul Smith
Marvel Two-in-One by Tom DeFalco and Ron Wilson
Fantaco’s “Chronicles” series
Fantastic Four #200 by Marv Wolfman and Keith Pollard
The Incredible Hulk #142 by Roy Thomas and Herb Trimpe
Uncanny X-Men by Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum
Godzilla by Doug Moench and Herb Trimpe
Giant-Size Avengers #3 by Steve Englehart, Roy Thomas and Dave Cockrum
Alpha Flight by John Byrne
Hawkeye by Mark Gruenwald
Avengers by David Michelinie and George Perez
Justice League by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire
The Thing by Dan Slott and Andrea DiVito
Nexus by Mike Baron and Steve Rude
Marvel Premiere by David Kraft and George Perez
Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars by Jim Shooter and Mike Zeck
Micronauts by Bill Mantlo and Butch Guice
Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland
What If? by Mike W. Barr, Herb Trimpe and Mike Esposito
Thor by Walt Simonson
Eightball by Dan Clowes
Cerebus: Jaka’s Story by Dave Sim and Gerhard
Iron Man #150 by by David Michelinie, John Romita, Jr. and Bob Layton
Bone by Jeff Smith
The Man of Steel by John Byrne
Fantastic Four by Doug Moench and Bill Sienkiewicz
“Allien and How to Watch It” by John Severin
Fantastic Four Roast by Fred Hembeck and friends
The Amazing Spider-Man #25 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
Marvel Two-in-One #7 by Steve Gerber and Sal Buscema
The New Mutants by Chris Claremont and Bob McLeod
Dark Horse Presents
Bizarre Adventures #27
Marvel Team-Up #48 by Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema
Metal Men #20 by Robert Kanigher and Ross Andru
The Avengers by Roy Thomas and John Buscema
Fantastic Four by Marv Wolfman and John Byrne
Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra
American Flagg by Howard Chaykin