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Thursday, August 23, 2012

X-amining The Uncanny X-Men and New Teen Titans #1


"Apokolips...Now!"
1982

In a Nutshell
The X-Men and Teen Titans team-up to defeat Deathstroke, Darkseid and Dark Phoenix. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Walter Simonson
Finisher:Terry Austin
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Louise Jones
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
Consulting Editor: Len Wein

Plot 
At the Source Wall, New Gods Metron and Darkseid strike a deal: Darkseid receives the Psychon-Wave device while Metron receives a Omega-Phase Helmet that will allow him to pierce the Wall. Darkseid goes to Earth, and uses the Psychon-Wave to extract from the X-Men their memories of Phoenix. The X-Men are awakened by a screaming Kitty, just as an apparition of Phoenix appears before them and begs for their help before disappearing. At Titans Tower, Raven has a prophetic dream of a fiery bird attacking her. Recognizing it as the Phoenix, Starfire summons the rest of the team. As the Titans come together, the X-Men visit Jean's parents, who received a similar visitation. Just then Professor X alerts them to reports of strange occurrences at places where Phoenix manifested her power. The X-Men depart to investigate, while Starfire tells the Titans about Phoenix, and Deathstroke the Terminator is sent by Darkseid to the "last siphon point".


The Titans track Phoenix to the X-Men and attack the mansion, but only Professor X is there. Suddenly, a group of Para-Demons attack, thinking the Titans are the X-Men, and capture them. In New Mexico, Deathstroke is using a psi-phon to gather up Phoenix's residual energy when the X-Men attack. Though they destroy the machine, they are defeated by Deathstroke and taken to the Source Wall, where Darkseid and the captured Titans are waiting. Darkseid uses the X-Men's memories and the gathered energy to recreate Dark Phoenix, planning to use her to transform Earth into a hellish planet under his control. When Darkseid and Dark Phoenix leave for Earth, the heroes' restraints vanishing. Combining forces, the two teams manage to locate Metron's Moebius Chair, capable of interdimensional travel, and follow Darkseid to Earth.


They track down the villains and attack, but Dark Phoenix has already begun transforming Earth. Professor X and Raven use their powers to drain Dark Phoenix's energy, causing her to reabsorb the energy she unleashed, stopping Earth's transformation, but it isn't enough to save her. She attempts to use Cyclops as a host body, but his love for Jean is too strong, and she is forced to flee him. Angry that she was resurrected and teased with life, she uses the last of her strength to attack Darkseid, taking him back to the Source Wall and imprisoning him there. As the heroes celebrate their victory, they wonder who sent the Phoenix apparition, while at the Source Wall, Metron returns from his journey, pleased with the knowledge he acquired.

Firsts and Other Notables
By no means the first Marvel/DC crossover, this is the first appearance of the X-Men in such an issue. With both the X-Men and the Titans the stars of some of their respective company's best selling titles at the time, it made sense to pair the two together. This issue is written by Chris Claremont and was distributed by Marvel; a follow-up, to be written and drawn by the regular New Teen Titans team of Marv Wolfman and George Perez, and distributed by DC (and rumored to feature Brother Blood and the Hellfire Club as the villains) was planned but never came to fruition.


This issue is drawn by Walt Simonson, husband of editor Louise Jones, just prior to the start of his legendary run on Thor. He will shortly hereafter fill-in for Paul Smith on an issue of X-Men, and eventually become the regular penciller on future X-Men spinoff X-Factor. He is joined by longtime former X-Men inker Terry Austin.

Technically speaking, this issue exists outside regular X-Men continuity, occurring on a world in which the Marvel and DC characters co-exist (Robin mentions going to either the Justice League or the Avengers for help). This world has been deemed Earth-7642 for the truly minutiae-obsessed.

For any Marvel Zombies unfamiliar with the New Teen Titans, they are a group of teenaged heroes, many of whom are sidekicks to heroes in the Justice League (Robin/Batman, Kid Flash/Flash, etc). Like the X-Men, the group has been around since the 60s and, at the time this issue was published, recently saw an influx of new (non-sidekick) members (such as Starfire and Raven) join their ranks, thus re-branding them the "New Teen Titans". Inspired in part by the style and success of the "New X-Men", New Teen Titans also features strong characterization and ongoing subplots alongside traditional super-hero action, which, like X-Men at Marvel, will be an influence on the rest of DC's superhero titles thanks to the critical and commercial success of the title. 

The Titans chief antagonist is Deathstroke the Terminator, a mercenary who utilizes 90% of his brain to gain enhanced abilities. As grim'n'gritty comics gain popularity in the 80s and 90s, his edges will gradually soften until he becomes more of an an anti-hero and becomes a representative of various 90s comic book trends alongside characters like Cable, Lobo or Venom. Darkseid and Metron are both part of Jack Kirby's "New Gods" saga, the story of a group of god-like beings from the Fourth World who end up drawing Earth into their ages-old conflict. The former has dreams of conquest while the latter desires knowledge. The Para-Demons are Darkseid's lackeys/shock troops. Thanks in part to Super Friends (as well as a some truly good stories) Darkseid is one of DC's better known villains outside of Lex Luthor and the Batman rogues.   

A Work in Progress
At one point, Cyborg swings by the wreckage of the skyscraper destroyed at the end of X-Men #155, giving a rough estimation of when this issue occurs.


Claremont hits on a couple X-Men staples right at the beginning: Xavier admonishing Wolverine for calling him "Chuck", Colossus being described as "nigh-invulnerable" and Cyclops using his power to shoot pool.


Wolverine mentions he doesn't like his claws, which is, I think, the first time that's ever been mentioned.

The alien Starfire knows of Phoenix, her people having been visited by Lilandra and warned of her threat during "The Dark Phoenix Saga".


Starfire has a "warrior rage" to match Wolverine's "berserker rage".


At this point in his career, Robin has graduated from "Boy Wonder" to "Teen Wonder".

Frost Industries is name dropped as one of the location where Deathstroke gathered lingering Phoenix energy, and the X-Men battle Deathstroke atop the butte in New Mexico where Cyclops and Phoenix had sex in issue #132. 

Storm manages to trigger an avalanche that traps, but doesn't kill, a group of Para-Demons.


I Love the 80s
Deathstroke mentions that he uses the full capacity of his brain, instead of the only 10% most other people use, giving him superhuman abilities. The whole "humans only use 10%" of their brain statistic is one of those things I totally bought into as a kid, thanks in part to characters like Deathstroke, and was bummed to learn it had been debunked (studies show we do, in fact, use the vast majority of our brains on a regular basis, so there's no special abilities locked away in there...). 

Also, Deathstroke, despite being the sworn enemy of the Teen Titans, knocks Robin out but doesn't kill him. And later, Darkseid and Dark Phoenix not only leave the X-Men and Teen Titans alive, but presumably free them before leaving them stranded at the Source Wall.


Claremontisms
This issue features yet another faux return of Phoenix, a little more genuine than Kitty's ruse in #157 but still not a technical resurrection (as its out of continuity and self-contained). He also once again refers to Phoenix' power as a symphony.

Young Love
Colossus gets mad at the thought that someone may have hurt "Katya".


Later, Kitty flirts with Changeling and has him morph into a large dragon, upsetting Colossus that she shared their "special character" with the Titan.


Turnabout is fair play though, as Kitty becomes jealous when Starfire plants one on Colossus to learn Russian (yes, that is how her power works).


Claremont confirms that Cyclops and Phoenix did indeed consummate their love on that New Mexican butte. 

For Sale
This issue is ad-less, save for a DC house ad on the inside back cover.


Chris Claremont on the differences between the X-Men and the Teen Titans
“As far as characterization [the X-Men and Titans are] not really [alike]. One of the things I discovered when plotting the X-Titans was that if there are similarities, they are superficial physical similarities, and once you go beyond that, the differences are really quite dramatic. I find the X-Men much richer and more three-dimensional and more easily identifiable than the Teen Titans. But I also think Marv [Wolfman] would probably find the Teen Titans richer and more three-dimensional and enjoyable than the X-Men. This is because I know who the X-Men are and he knows who the Titans are.”

Sanderson, Peter. The X-Men Companion II. Stamford: Fantagraphics Books, 1982. p119

Teebore's Take
While in the grand scheme of things, this issue isn't terribly important to the ongoing narrative of X-Men (what with it technically being out of continuity) it is nonetheless tremendously fun. Most intercompany crossovers usually are, just for the sheer novelty of seeing Marvel and DC's characters interact with each other (for moments like, here, Cyclops and Robin shaking hands or Wolverine taking on Deathstroke), but Claremont ups the ante with a big, cosmic story that allows Walt Simonson to simply go nuts, lending the book a kind of manic energy. Claremont uses the cosmic setting and narrative freedom to bring back Dark Phoenix, in a form, without fear of retribution from Jim Shooter (and while Magneto probably maps more closely to Deathstroke the Terminator as the X-Men's chief villain, using Dark Phoenix makes sense given both the involvement of Darkseid and because she was the villain of the story that really put the X-Men on the map). Claremont does his best to integrate the Teen Titans into the story, and most get a character beat that at least seems genuine based on my relatively limited understanding of their characterization at this point in their histories, but at the end of the day, this is first and foremost an X-Men story, one that represents well what the main title was doing at the time: mixing Silver Age energy with Bronze Age characterization to create a fun and engaging story. In that regard, reading it at this point in our "X-amination", it's really the swan song of Claremont's traditionally superheroic take on the characters.  

Next Issue
We first return to the regular series with Uncanny X-Men #168, then take a look at the seminal "God Loves, Man Kills" in Marvel Graphic Novel #5.

26 comments:

  1. Last year I did 30 days of blogging on comics...I used this issue to represent what comics mean to me..."tremendously fun" indeed!

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  2. Sorry, for my own sake of clarity, the post was entitled:

    30 Days Of Comics: Day 29: A Comic That Best Demonstrates Your Taste In Comics

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  3. @Mock: Last year I did 30 days of blogging on comics...I used this issue to represent what comics mean to me

    Very cool! I'll have to check out your post.

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  4. I really should track down and read this someday. It's just that I've never been a fan of inter-company crossovers that start with the premise of the characters all inhabiting the same planet. Even now, when I've outgrown a lot of the more anal tendencies I had as a younger reader, that one still bugs me. So many of these stories could count if they'd just used a dimensional warp or something as their starting point (as did Marvel vs. DC and Avengers/JLA, the only two inter-company crossovers I own).

    "Apokolips...Now!" was, with the exact same punctuation, the title of an epic two-part episode of the Bruce Timm/Paul Dini Superman: The Animated Series. Obviously it's a play on the movie Apocalypse Now, but the same punctuation makes me wonder if the Superman title wasn't a reference to this particular comic, as well.

    I've always wanted to read New Teen Titans, but have never gotten around to it. I see that DC is publishing some nice Omnibus volumes of the series, so I may just pick those up sight unseen, so to speak, given all the great things I've heard about the series. If nothing else, it'll be worth it for George Perez in an oversize format. Wasn't Wolfman on the title for practically as long as Claremont wrote X-Men? At least, I seem to recall he was still writing it around the time of the "Death of Superman" storyline.

    "At this point in his career, Robin has graduated from 'Boy Wonder' to 'Teen Wonder'."

    Maybe it's the influence of Batman: The Animated Series, but I've always liked this iteration of Robin more than any other. Dick Grayson, a full-grown teenager, away at college and adventuring solo or with the Titans and occasionally with Batman, but still as Robin rather than Nightwing.

    "...upsetting Colossus that she shared their 'special character' with the Titan."

    ...huh? This never came up anywhere else, right? Is it a reference to "Kitty's Fairy Tale" (in which case that Lockheed would've been the "special character" of Kitty, Colossus, Illyana, and everybody else who was listening at the door)? It's good that we know these two haven't consummated anything, because if they had, I'd really be wondering what "Lockheed the Dragon" might be code for.

    Also, I love how comics always say "Translated from the _____." I have never once in my life asked someone if they speak the Spanish, or for that matter had anyone ask me if I speak the English.

    "...Starfire plants one on Colossus to learn Russian..."

    You mean "the Russian". Also, Nightcrawler's reaction there is fantastic.

    "This issue is ad-less, save for a DC house ad on the inside back cover."

    Interesting, since it was published by Marvel. I wonder if DC ran any Marvel house ads in the crossovers they published?

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  5. MOCK! I just realized that you're on Byrne's site. Somehow the name and avatar didn't clue me in, but when you posted both here and there about your 30 days of comics, I finally put two and two together.

    I don't post or have an account there, but I lurk frequently to see Byrne's pearls of wisdom.

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  6. I lurked forever...I only have personal AOL and gmail accounts which are no go to join up....finally sucked it up and used my school account....figured it might be fun to get in on the conversations!

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  7. Nice writeup, Teebore!

    I like that we get a theory from Scott that this might not actually be Jean or even Phoenix but merely a representation of her made out of, basically, memories and residual energy. Yet the fact remains that this is far closer to a genuine return/resurrection of the character than any other until the Jean Grey retconning occurs — the other teases having been, as you point out, Teebore, just teases — and even though this is a non-continuity story, presumably everything but the shared-world aspect should hold plotwise, meaning that what Darkseid is doing to resurrect Phoenix should work in an actual issue of X-Men to whatever extent it works here.

    I also like how the similarities and differences of the characters are on display — Raven's serenity and susceptibility to emotions playing off of Storm and Wolverine, Starfire likewise sharing personality traits with that pair as a noble warrior more in touch with nature but also more passionate or feral than most humans, Changeling hearing Wolverine get called "Logan" and wondering if they're related (kinda stupid, maybe, but expected 1908s comic-book dialogue).

    Kid Flash's discomfort at learning that Colossus is Russian was another little in-character bit, by the way, as he was previously shown to be adversarial with the original Starfire, a.k.a. Red Star, a Russian superhero who became an adjunct Titan.

    I very much like how all of the heroes, even though some of them are quite powerful (and both teams at this point have experience in outer-space battle), are obviously dwarfed by the scale of the godlike opposition. Simonson literally indicates this on more than occasion with long-distance shots of groups of characters.

    The Phoenix symbol on Scott's chest after she took him as a vessel was just an awesome little touch, something that worked especially well since Cyclops has no chest insignia and just about the most boring costume possible.

    All that said, I must add that Dark Phoenix should've been paired up with Trigon, Raven's father — a much more fittingly intimate Titans villain. I'd rather have seen the New Gods stuff pop up in a JLA/Avengers crossover that involved, say, Thanos wanting to take over Apokolips.

    Xavier in Metron's chair is an inspired bit, though.

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  8. @Matt: I really should track down and read this someday. It's just that I've never been a fan of inter-company crossovers that start with the premise of the characters all inhabiting the same planet.

    While I get that — I really do — I would recommend getting the first Crossover Classics TPB collecting what in retrospect is considered the first wave of DC/Marvel crossovers. Even though X-Men/Titans had switched format away from that of the of the first three, all treasury editions, after the planned JLA/Avengers blew up and the Titans/X-Men sequel never happened there wasn't another joint production for about a decade. Such crossovers are no longer as special, I guess, and the nostalgia that the original issues bring me is part of the appeal, but I think that they're pretty interesting artifacts as well as pretty fun, if weird, reads on their own for all the problems that they present.

    Also, I've said here before that I'm a huge fan of Wolfman/Pérez New Teen Titans, so it's no surprise that I heartily endorse you picking it up. That's something I've re-read more recently than a lot of other stuff of that vintage, and I will caution you that it's about as dated (in terms of the melodramatic writing style, I mean, but obviously the fashions and references too) as the X-Men stuff we're covering now — to the point that I winced on occasion despite my affection for the material. I don't know how it will go down for someone with less knowledge of DC so many decades after the fact; all things considered, though, it holds up as good, boundary-pushing material for its time, and, yes, a few years into the run the Pérez art just explodes with tight, fine awesomeness.

    Wolfman did write Titans for about as long as Claremont wrote X-Men, it's true, overstaying his welcome by a long shot (through many lineup changes and the early-'90s spinoffs to what by then was just The New Titans, namely Team Titans and Deathstroke) — although Pérez returned briefly to re-energize him in the middle of the otherwise Wolfman-minus-Pérez decade, and there is some material after Pérez's first departure and before that return that's worth reading, coming across better in large chunks in most respects because of the long-term plotting even though in other ways the redundancies can grate.

    @Matt: It's good that we know these two haven't consummated anything, because if they had, I'd really be wondering what "Lockheed the Dragon" might be code for.

    I'm so glad I finished swallowing my drink before I read that.

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  9. @Teebore: This issue is ad-less, save for a DC house ad on the inside back cover.

    I think Teebore's not counting the fact that the credits page — inside front cover, if memory serves, but I don't have my original copy handy to check — is mostly a Simonson drawing of Kitty, standing next to "Marvel Comics Is Power" chiseled from rock, adding in a small word balloon "And we're cute, too!" The Crossover Classics includes that after the story, but like Teebore says I recall the DC ad, which was printed "landscape" style (you had to turn the issue on its side) and was just a typical DC house ad promoting weird-in-context stuff like Arion and Camelot 3000, being on the inside back cover of the actual issue.

    What's also stuck with me all these years was that the official indicia title of the issue is the supremely awkward Marvel and DC Present Featuring the Uncanny X-Men and the New Teen Titans.

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  10. Blam -- "...I will caution you that it's about as dated (in terms of the melodramatic writing style, I mean, but obviously the fashions and references too) as the X-Men stuff we're covering now..."

    Your warning is noted. I still feel a sort of nostalgia for comics of the 80's even when I didn't read them in the first place, since I lived through the decade. I've recently discovered many Marvel comics from the Shooter era that I didn't read the first time around through Marvel's current collected editions, and while I won't say I love all of them, I've enjoyed more than I would've expected considering I have no fond memories of the stories themselves.

    So I'll go ahead and give the Wolfman/Perez Titans a try -- whenever I finally get around to them -- and see what I think. I'm pretty sure I won't be disappointed.

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  11. @Matt: I really should track down and read this someday

    It's definitely worth it, even given your disdain for shared universe crossovers. The shared universe bit isn't even that big a focal point in it.

    I've always wanted to read New Teen Titans, but have never gotten around to it.

    Ditto. I've read a few scattered issues, but never a sustained chunk of it. I have the first three or our archive editions of it that I picked up way cheap, so, like everything else, it's just a matter of finding the time.

    Dick Grayson, a full-grown teenager, away at college and adventuring solo or with the Titans and occasionally with Batman, but still as Robin rather than Nightwing.

    I'm a big fan of Chuck Dixon's Nightwing run, so that's my preferred iteration of the character, but if we're talking simply "Dick Grayson as Robin", I definitely like his Teen Wonder years best, like you, probably because of BtAS.

    I have never once in my life asked someone if they speak the Spanish, or for that matter had anyone ask me if I speak the English.

    It's not a phrase used in speech "Do you speak English?" but I think it does get used in writing, or when talking about a translation, ie "'angel', from the Greek word 'angelos'". I seem to recall encountering in German classes in high school in college, so as nonsensical as it may seem, it's at least not limited to comics.

    (Then again, it could just be ingrained in me as being perfectly normal because of all the years I spent reading it in comics...).

    You mean "the Russian". Also, Nightcrawler's reaction there is fantastic.

    Touche. :) And it is.

    @Blam: Nice writeup, Teebore!

    Thanks. This one seemed a little trickier than most.

    Simonson literally indicates this on more than occasion with long-distance shots of groups of characters.

    Nice observation.

    The Phoenix symbol on Scott's chest after she took him as a vessel was just an awesome little touch

    I loved that too. I really should have pointed it out.

    All that said, I must add that Dark Phoenix should've been paired up with Trigon, Raven's father

    From what little I know of the Titans of this era, that seems like it indeed would have been more fitting. I mean, Deathstroke makes sense, but as I understand it, he wasn't even the definitive Titans villain when this was originally published that he is now.

    Teebore's not counting the fact that the credits page — inside front cover, if memory serves, but I don't have my original copy handy to check — is mostly a Simonson drawing of Kitty, standing next to "Marvel Comics Is Power" chiseled from rock, adding in a small word balloon "And we're cute, too!"

    I forgot to mention that too. It is indeed on the inside front cover.

    What's also stuck with me all these years was that the official indicia title of the issue is the supremely awkward Marvel and DC Present Featuring the Uncanny X-Men and the New Teen Titans.

    I toyed with the idea of titling this post "X-amining Marvel and DC Present Featuring the Uncanny X-Men and the New Teen Titans #1", but just couldn't bring myself to do it. :)

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  12. @Teebore: Deathstroke makes sense, but as I understand it, he wasn't even the definitive Titans villain when this was originally published that he is now.

    He was about as much an established Titans villain as Trigon was, and in his own way almost as intimate.

    The organization called HIVE (name-checked in that weird dream where I ended up at your taco-bar party) wanted to hire him, but he declined, so they gave his son Grant powers like his but the powers literally burnt Grant out, compelling Deathstroke, a.k.a. The Terminator back then, a.k.a. Slade Wilson, to pick up HIVE's contract on the Titans out of honor and revenge. Trigon was/is Raven's extradimensional demonic father. Neither had, I don't think, appeared in more than one major story arc at this point, and while Raven's struggles with the part of her whose powerful malevolence came from Trigon was an ongoing deal, Deathstroke probably became the more ongoing presence in actual fact during and after The Judas Contract, the culmination of the Terra storyline that found his other son, Joseph, joining the Titans as Jericho.

    My objection is more to Darkseid over Trigon than to Deathstroke, although it is oddly random for Darkseid to have hired Deathstroke. Then again, Kirby had Darkseid and the other Apokolips villains do business with terribly mundane Earth crime lords, so there's actual if unconvincing precedent.

    @Matt: Dick Grayson, a full-grown teenager, away at college and adventuring solo or with the Titans and occasionally with Batman, but still as Robin rather than Nightwing.

    Him becoming Nightwing was actually one of my favorite things to happen to Dick Grayson, to the Batman mythos, and to the DC Universe overall at the time, because even though (Super Friends on TV, and reprints of course, aside) he'd been away at college and billed as "Robin the Teen Wonder" for my entire life, all through the '70s, it struck me as odd even as a kid that he would still be running around in short sleeves, hot pants, and booties, forced to use Batarangs, et al. instead of his own gimmicks. Once the Titans re-formed in The New Teen Titans, some of this was ameliorated as he was now leader of a team that was far less of an autonomous Junior Justice League than before, but he still deserved his own adult identity.

    I miss the pre-Crisis universe. Heck, I miss the pre-Flashpoint universe, and all of the slightly variable universes in between Crisis on Infinite Earths and Infinite Crisis.

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  13. @Matt: "Apokolips...Now!" was, with the exact same punctuation, the title of an epic two-part episode of the Bruce Timm/Paul Dini Superman: The Animated Series. Obviously it's a play on the movie Apocalypse Now, but the same punctuation makes me wonder if the Superman title wasn't a reference to this particular comic, as well.

    I liked the X-Men/Titans one-shot well enough, and that S:TAS episode was very good, but I've always found "Apokolips...Now!" to barely even be a pun. Apokolips is an entirely intentional (and very Kirby, and very comic-book in a bad way in general, not that Kirby is bad) homophone for "apocalypse" to begin with. "Apokolips...Now!" is such low-hanging fruit that it's practically a root vegetable instead.

    The reuse of the title is probably just coincidence, even given the punctuation, but I suppose one could ask Dini or Timm. I haven't been in touch with Timm since I had to drop out of the comics world a decade ago, but he joined Twitter a month or so back; Dini's there too.

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  14. My two cents on inter-company crossovers. Although I don't have a strong preference for doing these using the shared- or separate-universes "framework", so to say, the former holds a certain fascination for me. Part of the reason is probably nostalgia, as I think of it as an old "genre convention" (although one that for its very nature we see seldom at work). Indeed, I love the tiny bits of dialog where someone -like Cyborg in this issue - comments on how strange it is that the protagonists have never met before.

    By thinking a little bit more about it however, I also realized that, although this approach may seem lazy and sloppy at first, it is quite the contrary, because the writer is in some sense acknowledging that the the reason why the characters inhabit the same universe is not really important. It is as he/she were saying: "Ok, I have to tell you a story starring Superman and Spider-Man TOGETHER. How cool is that?? However, I have only 72 pages to tell it. So don't lose time and let's start right now, and just pretend they both live in the same universe, ok?". In this respect, it really resembles a child's play (you know, when you used to make World War II soldiers fight together with Micronauts... I think you got the idea).

    Moreover, there are only so-many tricks by which you can get characters from different universes together, and they grow old very quickly. Of course, as long as they are just a way to get the characters together, I don't complain and consider them on the same footing as the "shared-universe" trick. However, if you want to make a plot point about it, you better make it well. Avengers/JLA handled the whole "cosmic entity(es) trying to alter the fabric of reality(es)" cliche' and worked it in-story quite brilliantly, and much of the success of that crossover is due to that. On the other hand, in Marvel vs. DC, they had (as far as I remember) to create two new entities from scratch, which looks lame to me.

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  15. Some more sparse thoughts:

    I second Matt's sentiment about the (New) Teen Titans. I have read very little of them but always thought it was worth to track down the Wolfman/Perez run and read it sometime. More recently I read one single issue that was present in the Outsiders' Showcase volume (another nice serendipitous discovery) because of a cross-over between the two groups, and it reinforced the sentiment. By the way, have the Wolfman/Perez stories been reprinted recently in a format other than Omnibus? These are gorgeous, and I admit that Perez's art definitely deserves it, but they are quite expensive.

    One last thing that I forgot to comment on earlier: the panels that you reported where Scott is playing pool using his optic blast (other than being, for once, a depiction of a "funny" use of its terrible power) vaguely recalls me that one aspect of Cyclops' mutation is an instinctive understanding of geometry (no kidding). This is how he can perform all those stunts where he shoots a target (or even multiple targets) by making the beam repeatedly bounce over "reflective" surfaces. At least, I remember he used to do this a lot in the good ol' days.
    Now, I could be misremembering, but I have the feeling that I read this on the Gamer's Handbook of the Marvel Universe , that was basically an adaptation of the Official Handbook for the Marvel Super Heroes Role Playing Game . So - given that I am not making the whole thing up - the original source was probably the OHOTMU. Do any of you guys remember this? If so, was it ever stated in the comics?

    In any case, this is terrific. "Cyclops, what is your mutant power?" " My gift - my curse - is my terrible optic blast, that I can never forget of, or people may die. That, and geometry."

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  16. Max -- "By the way, have the Wolfman/Perez stories been reprinted recently in a format other than Omnibus?"

    I know DC put out some Archive editions years ago, covering maybe the first 20 or so issues of the run, but that's their version of the Marvel Masterworks, so they're also pretty expensive. Other than that, there are trades of specific storylines, like "The Judas Contract". Nothing comprehensive, though. I'm surprised there isn't a Showcase volume or two (which is DC's version of Marvel's black & white Essentials).

    Max -- "Do any of you guys remember this? If so, was it ever stated in the comics?"

    Cyclops's "inborn talent for spatial geometry" (or something to that effect) was mentioned during the Claremont/Byrne Muderworld storyline, when he destroys all the bumper cars with one zark. I'm not sure if it was ever referenced before that. It also pops up in the Brent Anderson fill-in right after Byrne left, when he clears a pool table while no one is looking. I know the ability to ricochet his blasts shows up often, but I don't know how often his geometric ability is referenced. It was indeed in the Gamer's Handbook (nice to find a fellow Marvel RPG player here!), and I'm sure it must've been in OHOTMU as well.

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  17. I keep forgetting to mention that a great example of working a crossover into both characters' continuity is 1999's The Incredible Hulk vs. Superman. No multiversal cosmic entities warring like JLA/Avengers nor even Access jumping universes like DC vs. Marvel — but no head-scratching "How is it they've never met?" either, because the story's mostly in flashback, basically saying "Of course they would've met."

    Clark Kent and Lois Lane, married, are watching something about the Hulk on TV and Clark thinks back to encountering him during his early days as Superman. The only weird part is that — since Marvel keeps retconning itself within continuity (adding elements as well as sometimes subtracting or glossing over elements that didn't work, the gist being that whatever was published most recently is the real story) whereas DC tends to retcon itself with definitive events, although it'd still only done so once (Crisis on Infinite Earths) at that writing — the flashback is said to be contemporaneous with the original early-'60s Lee/Kirby Hulk #1-6 run and Byrne's mid-'80s Man of Steel. Writer Roger Stern and artist Steve Rude, as you'd expect, make it work.

    The various Batman/Grendel crossovers took a similar approach as well, although I'm not sure I read the two that came out some time after the first two.

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  18. Until the Batman and The Outsiders volume, the Showcase TPBs were limited to '60s and '70s stuff. I'd thought that was just a year or so ago, but a quick Web check says it was several years back, and I know that other '80s material like my beloved Ambush Bug has since been given the Showcase treatment, so that just lends credence to the other part of my supposition: Unlike BATO, as enjoyable as that was, the more celebrated Wolfman/Pérez New Teen Titans was probably held back until DC could squeeze as much dough out of upscale color hardcover reprints as possible, as evidenced by it going from an early, rare instance of fairly modern-day Archives material (the only one I can think of until the comprehensive Legion run started to catch up) to rerelease in the more recent Omnibus line. I suspect that we'll see a Showcase edition eventually.

    As far as Cyclops' spatial-geometry knack goes, yeah, we've discussed it here before. I think that it was explained as sort-of a necessary component or at least sensible fringe benefit of his optic blasts, not unlike Angel's keen eyesight or Cannonball's invulnerability when blasting off. What I've never quite understood is that even when Scott lifts his glasses, meaning that he's working without the fine-tune calibration that his visor provides, he's able to gently knock a billiards ball with just enough force to careen it around the table rather than blasting it across the room or just pulverizing it.

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  19. Blam -- Good point about the Showcase volumes. I'm more used to Marvel, where collections are all over the map.

    For example, when Marvel's collected editions really ramped up in the early 00's, we saw Uncanny X-Men released as Essentials (though that really started in the late 90's), then the Masterworks started up again, reprinting the original three volumes from the 80's and moving onto newer ones, then we got an Omnibus of the first four volumes of Masterworks, but that was something like seven years ago and there's been no follow up, because the Uncanny Masterworks have been very sporadic until relatively recently, when they finally went, more or less, to one volume a year.

    On top of all that, there have been trade paperback editions of "Dark Phoenix" and "Days of Future Past", plus a hardcover of the Proteus issues, plus an oversize hardcover of "Dark Phoenix", and probably some other stuff I'm forgetting.

    And none of this takes into account the latter-day stuff that's been published! As of right now (or very soon, based on recent solicitations), the following issues of Uncanny X-Men are collected in hardcover format:

    #94 - 167
    #210 - 214
    #220 - 227
    #235 - 305 (This is really quite amazing to me -- such a huge, continuous chunk of latter-day Claremont material, on into the start of the Lobdell era.)
    Plus assorted odd and ends here and there.

    Meanwhile, issues #94 - 272 are all in Essential format, plus random issues and story-arcs have been collected in various trade paperbacks, too!

    Anyway, some of their choices for format and for which issues to include can get a little frustrating, but mostly, it's an amazing time to be a fan of the X-Men and of high-end collected editions.

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  20. @Matt, Blam:

    just a quick comment to thank you both for the tons of info!

    I am quite busy with work now but I will join again the discussion soon (with some more questions, probably :-) )

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  21. @Blam: Him becoming Nightwing was actually one of my favorite things to happen to Dick Grayson, to the Batman mythos, and to the DC Universe overall at the time

    I too am a big fan of the Nightwing transformation (as well as Wally becoming Flash post-Crisis). The idea of legacy in the DC Universe is (was...) one of my favorite things about DC.

    Unlike BATO, as enjoyable as that was, the more celebrated Wolfman/Pérez New Teen Titans was probably held back until DC could squeeze as much dough out of upscale color hardcover reprints as possible

    I think you're right. A few years back I talked about this with John Ostrander at a con in regards to his Suicide Squad run, which had a Showcase volume solicited but then cancelled. Turns out DC opted to reprint the series as a run of full color trades rather than in the b&w Showcase edition (though we have yet to see either).

    I've also heard mention of the fact that DC instituted a new royalty program in the late 70s with its creators, giving them more money for reprints of their work from that point forward, which is why we see far more Silver Age Showcases than Bronze Age/modern ones (because the more recent stuff done under those new contracts would require DC to pay the creators more, thus trimming the profit margins of the collection).

    But since we're now getting stuff like the Ambush Bug volume you mentioned, it possible that DC has worked out a new arrangement or found a way to release Showcase editions of work done under that agreement profitably (or, that whole "increased royalty" theory has always been hogwash...).

    What I've never quite understood is that even when Scott lifts his glasses, meaning that he's working without the fine-tune calibration that his visor provides, he's able to gently knock a billiards ball with just enough force to careen it around the table rather than blasting it across the room or just pulverizing it.

    I honestly can come up with no good explanation for that. Other than "he's squinting", but that should only affect the width/height of the beam, not its force.

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  22. @Max: So don't lose time and let's start right now, and just pretend they both live in the same universe, ok?"

    That's always how I've looked at these kinds of crossover - let's not waste time with the "hows" and just get right down to it, though I definitely appreciate something like JLA/Avengers which managed to tie its story in with the in-universe explanation for the crossover.

    In this respect, it really resembles a child's play (you know, when you used to make World War II soldiers fight together with Micronauts... I think you got the idea).

    That said, I have to admit I was even too anal retentive as a kid to do that. My GI Joes never interacted with He-Man, because He-Man was of a different scale. Some Transformers could sub in as evil Cobra robots, because the Transformers were supposed to be larger than humans, but not all Transformers - because many of them were the same size as my Joe figures.

    So for the most part, my various fictional worlds stayed safely self-contained when playing with my toys. I was a weird kid...

    " My gift - my curse - is my terrible optic blast, that I can never forget of, or people may die. That, and geometry."

    Haha! Nicely done. Blam mentioned this as well, but Cyclops' geometry abilities is indeed a thing, though I've always read it as being a skill, not an outgrowth of/addition to his mutant power. That is, he's just really good at spatial geometry, and would be whether he was a mutant or not, the way people in the real world can just naturally be really good at geometry, or music, etc. It just so happens to be an intuitive skill that helps him use his power.

    That said, I have no idea if I'm correct; it's certainly possible one of the Handbooks or some such makes it clear that his geometry abilities are directly tied to his mutation. I just don't remember that ever being directly stated.

    @Matt: ...but mostly, it's an amazing time to be a fan of the X-Men and of high-end collected editions.

    Heck, it's a great time to be a fan of high-end collected editions, or collected editions on the whole. If I could go back in time to my thirteen-year-old self and tell him one day he'd have bookcases upon bookcases crammed full of books containing a good chunk of Marvel's output from the 60s through the 80s in one form or another (and that I'd also be able to read a lot of it comfortably on a portable computer), he'd call me a dirty rotten liar (before asking me how I traveled through time).

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  23. @Matt: I'm more used to Marvel, where collections are all over the map.

    I guess that's been a running thing for decades now. When I was working at a comics shop in the mid '90s, DC had a way more comprehensive and consistent backlist program than Marvel; Marvel was always getting a mouthful from retailers on both scores but especially just not keeping good sellers in print. From what little I see of Previews anymore, which is almost zero where Marvel's concerned, I was under the impression that it was much better about all that — but then, I don't look at it holistically, so Marvel could well be all over the map even as it keeps pumping out product; I can say just from looking on Amazon periodically that it seems to go from hardcover to softcover to upscale Omnibus awfully quickly, Mark Waid's Daredevil being a prime recent example, apparently letting the past format go right out of print.

    @Teebore: The idea of legacy in the DC Universe is (was...) one of my favorite things about DC.

    Me too. Me very too.

    @Teebore: I've also heard mention of the fact that DC instituted a new royalty program in the late 70s with its creators, giving them more money for reprints of their work from that point forward

    I'd forgot about that but you're right. This is why you'll see creator bylines (which I think came in with the royalties) for Paul Levitz & Joe Staton on The Huntress but not for Gerry Conway & Wally Wood on Power Girl even though they debuted less than a couple years apart. Kirby's New Gods and other '70s stuff was grandfathered into that pretty soon, I think, at Levitz's doing, but only in latter days of Levitz's tenure before he stepped down was there any acknowledgment of early DC characters beyond the Big Three, each of which had its own arrangement, with Siegel & Shuster's infamously not being done right until the late '70s, perhaps spurring the general change, with Neal Adams leading the charge.

    @Teebore: Cyclops' geometry abilities is indeed a thing, though I've always read it as being a skill, not an outgrowth of/addition to his mutant power.

    Well, I thought I got that from you, so... 8^)

    Amen (not to mention "Ha!") to your hypothetical discussion with your younger self.

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  24. @Blam: Mark Waid's Daredevil being a prime recent example, apparently letting the past format go right out of print.

    Marvel is still pretty terrible about keeping things in print. It's not too much of an issue when the book in question isn't so popular that there aren't still plenty of copies floating around places like Amazon, but for something that is popular, or for which a more affordable/preferred edition is truly no longer available, it's a real pain (and seems like bad business for Marvel).

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  25. My understanding is that Marvel's policy of not keeping things in print is an order from the very top -- Ike Perlmutter, the CEO. He does not believe in overprinting anything because he doesn't want any unsold product taking up valuable warehouse space. Or something like that. I read an article about him recently that spoke briefly to this point.

    But it comes down to the fact that, whether they say it or not, pretty much every single Marvel collection is a "limited edition" which will not go back to print except under very extreme circumstances.

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  26. @Matt: He does not believe in overprinting anything because he doesn't want any unsold product taking up valuable warehouse space.

    Ah, that does sound familiar. I'm pretty sure I remember hearing something similar during my Barnes & Noble days.

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