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WIZARD: THE COMICS MAGAZINE #116 (Cover A) (May 2001) Wizard Press

cover:  Humberto Ramos
Sandra Hope
Liquid! Graphics 
Date:  May 2001
Cover Price:  $4.99
Publisher: Wizard Press

Alternate Cover
Includes a 5-page sneak preview and news article on JLA/AVENGERS.

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    WIZARD: THE COMICS MAGAZINE #116 (Cover A) (May 2001)
    Wizard Press

     March 29, 2001 | World's Mightiest Crossover
    From WIZARD #116 (May 01)
    transcribed by Vu

    18 years after scrapping the original project, DC and Marvel Comics come to terms on a 'JLA/Avengers' crossover.
    By Mike Cotton.

    George Perez couldn't stop watching his mailbox. Perez, a pioneering artist on DC Comic's Crisis on Infinite Earths and more recently Marvel's Avengers, had issued an ultimatum to the top two comic publishers in early October of 2000: Get me a letter of intent to start work on the long-awaited JLA/Avengers crossover by December 15 or I'll sign an exclusive deal with CrossGen Comics. After that there would be no crossover- at least not with Perez.

    The artist had already signed an exclusive deal with CrossGen founder Mark Alessi, but the deal allowed Perez one out until the middle of December. The JLA/Avengers crossover granted Perez a one-year reprieve from his exclusive contract to take a full 12 months to create the masterpiece fans had begged for between Marvel's mightiest heroes and DC's premier super-group.

    This was a project Perez had lobbied for for over 20 years. He'd even gone as far as drawing more than 20 pages of the book in 1983 before it was torpedoed by intercompany squabbles. Months passed as verbal promises and rumors new, but day after day, Perez's mailbox was devoid of official word from the two companies. Finally, December 15 arrived. Alessi had already called twice to ask Perez if his mail had arrived. Every time the phone rang, Perez wondered if it was a call telling him there would be no letter of intent coming and no crossover.

    Perez's stomach churned as he sat impatiently, waiting for the mail. Just as Perez was about to lose hope, a FedEx truck screeched to a halt outside his Florida home.

    Perez didn't even make it back to the house before ripping open the envelope. The joint letter from DC and Marvel was filled with legalese but its meaning was clear to the 46-year-old artist--he was back on the JLA/Avengers project he'd left unfinished in 1983.

    "My God, it's really going to happen," Pérez screamed to his wife, Carol. "They're finally going to get it together. I'm finally going to get to do the project I've waited my whole life for."

    Pérez couldn't contain the giant grin spreading across his face. He started to think about the work ahead of him. Before he could even finish the though, the phone rang again - it was his former Avengers partner, Kurt Busiek, the man Marvel tapped to write the four-issue, nearly 200-page crossover planned for mid-2002.

    "Can you believe this?" ask Busiek.

    After a long pause, Pérez admitted what his friend and partner already knew. "It's been a long, long road, Kurt. I just hope this time I get past page 21."

    Although Busiek already knew the story, Pérez told it to his good friend again.

    Liefeld Owns Lost Pages
    Rob Liefeld grew up a George Perez fan.

    When Perez made stops throughout southern California in the late '80s and early '90s, Liefeld made sure he was there. When Liefeld hit it big in comics himself on projects such as Cable and New Mutants as well as co-founding Image Comics, he never forgot how much he admired Perez.

    And when the original JLA/Avengers was scrapped back in 1983 due to company squabbles, Liefeld called Perez to ask what he was going to do with the 21 pages he'd penciled for the project.

    "I think at teh time George didn't know what he was going to do with them," Liefeld said. "I kept calling him about them and when he was ready to sell them he finally called me -- I jumped at the chance to get my hands on them."

    In past years Liefeld has shared the "dream project" with fans by displaying pages of the unpublished work at comic conventions. Liefeld said it was his excitment about the project that made him want to make the pages accessible to fans.

    "These pages were meant to be seen by everyone," Liefeld explained. "I wouldn't want to keep them locked up - I want everyone to enjoy them. It's just great work. George is doing great work now, but this wa the peak of the style he was working in them."

    With JLA/Avengers now set for 2002, Liefeld even has some plans for the old pages.

    "I've always thought it would be cool to have Jim Lee inked one page of it, George to ink a page, Frank Miller ink a page and have Alex Ross paint over one of the pages," Liefeld said. "So, who knows, maybe we'll get that done and put them on display again." MK

    1982 looked to be a great year for comic fans - based on the success of the Superman vs. Spider-Man team-up in 1976 and fresh off the success of the X-Men vs. Teen Titans one-shot earlier in '82, DC and Marvel signed a contract to produce other crossovers, including one featuring the Justice League of America and the Avengers.

    After amazing fans with his work on New Teen Titans and Avengers, Perez was slotted to draw the story, and DC Executive Editor Dick Giordano assigned Gerry Conway (then-writer of JLA) to write a plot for the book in late 1982.

    Months later Marvel Editor-in- Chief Jim Shooter received the plot from Conway but immediately rejected it, reportedly saying in a letter to Giordano, "I'm afraid that the first try at the Avengers/JLA plot isn't acceptable, or even close."

    After talking to Mark Gruenwald, Avengers editor at the time, Shooter listed his problems with the story and reportedly told Giordano that Perez should not begin penciling the project until he'd seen a new plot.

    Unfortunately, Perez had already completed 21 pages of the original plot. When Shooter heard rumors the artist had begun without approval from Marvel, he immediately called Giordano. After talking with Shooter about the revised plot, DC editor Len Wein had apparently given Perez the go-ahead, believing the plot was close enough to start work on even though it was being rewritten. After months of more miscommunication between the two companies, Giordano turned over Conway's plot to Roy Thomas in July to be reworked for Shooter's approval.

    By August of '83, Perez was doubly frustrated at both the fact that he'd drawn 21 pages of a book that might never see print and that the project was at a standstill. After the San Diego ComicCon in late August, Perez finally had had enough and resigned.

    In a September 1983 interview, Perez blamed Shooter for the delay and claimed Shooter never wanted Perez on the project. In the interview, Perez lashed out at the process of an intercompany crossover.

    "They blew it," Perez said. "I mean, whether they want to accept the blame or not, I don't care."

    Shooter denied Perez's claims, saying he only wanted the best possible plot coupled with great art. But it was already too late--the project was dead. It would take 18 years, a new millennium and three Marvel editors-in-chief before the JLA and Avengers finally shared a book.

    In early September of last year, Joe Quesada was still settling into his new office as Marvel editor-in-chief. It was late in the day as he slumped into his chair and looked over his desk at two wish lists. One contained his immediate things to do: fix Spider-Man, fix the X-books and contact talent such as Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore who hadn't worked for Marvel in years.

    On a separate sheet of yellow legal paper in huge red letters, one project was listed and then circled in thick red marker-JLA/Avengers.

    Quesada picked up the phone and asked Avengers editor Tom Brevoort to come down the hall and tell him why no one had ever done a JLA/Avengers crossover. The new EIC regarded Brevoort as the Mr. Know-It-All of Marvel history. Quesada listened to the tale for almost an hour before boiling it down to one point. "So, you're telling me it's been basically one big pissing match for the past 18 years?"

    Quesada didn't need an answer as he paced around his corner office overlooking Park Avenue. "You how what? Those 18 years are history," Quesada said. "I don't know it, so basically it doesn't count. Let's start from scratch and make a call to DC."

    The Top 10 things WIZARD wants to see in the Avengers/JLA crossver

    1. The Fight: JLA VS. AVENGERS
      Yeah, some might roll their eyes and ask if the two teams have to fight, but c'mon, this is IT! THE fight! And note to Marvel and DC: let some of your guys lose to the other company's guys. Balance the overall score if you must, but let the creative team cut loose and give us the decisive fights that fans have argued over for DECADES! Specially...
    2. Superman Vs. Thor!
    3. Batman Vs. Cap!
    4. Green Arrow Vs. Hawkeye!
    5. Elite Bad Guys
      Kurt Busiek made everyone stand up and take notice with his new & improved Ultron, and that's the kind of familiar yet murderously upgrade threat the A/JLA team should face... something that makes a team with both Superman and Thor on it sweat!
    6. Squadron Supreme Joke
      This one's too good to pass up: when the Avengers first lay eyes on the JLA Hawkeye should be like, "Who are these Squadron Supreme wannabes?"
    7. George Perez has to draw it
      Yeah, we know he is, but we just like the sound of it: George Perez is drawing the Avengers/JLA crossover. YEAH!
    8. Fanboy Nods & Background Art
      Does anyone know comic trivia like Kurt Busiek? Can anyone draw more detailed backgrounds than Perez? Pull a Kingdom Come and pack those pages full of fanboy goodness!
    9. Second-Tier Interaction
      Just little stuff... like Snapper Carr feeling jealous over Rick Jone's Marvel's Captain Marvel not understanding why nobody else thinks DC's Captain Marvel using his name is a big deal, etc.
    10. Alfred Vs. Jarvis.. to the Death!
      Winner gets an hour in the love closet with Aunt Harriet.
    Brevoort shot down the narrow Marvel hallway and dialed Pérez's phone number. After quickly confirming Pérez was still able to do the project, Brevoort called DC Exective Editor Mike Carlin.

    After a brief conversation, Carlin referred Brevoort to JLA editor Dan Raspler. Raspler was blown away by the idea of finally seeing the two teams meet.

    "Just tell me what we need to to," Raspler said. "Let's get rolling and not screw this up. I can't believe we're actually talking about this."

    Raspler and Brevoort talked about who might write the project and eventually decided a co-writer system with Busiek and JLA scribed Mark Waid would be a perfect way to blend the characters from two high-profile books into one gigantic crossover.

    Unfortunately, Waid was obligated to other projects. "If only this would, have happened a few months ago," Waid lamented to Raspler. "Right now, I'm committed to CrossCen. I wish I could help out but I can't. And hey, Kurt knows what he's doing."

    Busiek had heard rumors for months that JLA/Avengers project could happen, so he wasn't surprised when his Avengers editor called to offer him the job.

    "I can't wait to get started," said Busiek from his Washington state office. "I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little scared, but I'm ready for it."

    It took more months of planning and even trips to Marvel's legal department by Brevoort to speed the process along, but by the middle of February 2001 cent were signed--and for the first time in almost two decades the JLA and Avengers were scheduled to meet.

    For the next two weeks, Busiek, Perez, Brevoort, and Raspler burned up the phone lines day and night. Ideas flew faster than any of them could keep track of.

    Everything from which villains would appear to whether the JLA and Avengers would fight each other or team up was discussed. Which characters from each team to use was also a major point of contention both now and back in '85 -- a fact Perez hew ah too well. But Busiek had an answer.

    As the editors ran down the current rosters for each team, Busiek broke in.

    "Fans want to see their favorite heroes--not just the Avengers or the JLA members who're on the teams now, Busiek said. "Who cares if Hawkeye is in the Thunderbolt now--he's an Avenger! I don't care if Firestorm isn't in the JLA, people want to see him."

    Everyone agreed. It wouldn't matter who was currently on the teams, and the mini-series wouldn't be bogged down with continuity. Fans would also see the JLA and Avengers both on Marvel's Earth and in the DC Universe.

    As everyone's excitement grew, it became obvious that the long phone conversations were taking their toll. Luckily, Orlando's MegaCon was just weeks away in early March. Arrangements were made to meet there to finalize the plot as well as announce the project to the masses during the three-day show.

    Although he didn't have a plot yet or even a rough idea of the story he'd spend the next year working on, Pérez couldn't wait to get started. With a piece of thick, blank Bristol board in front of him, Perez began to pencil. As the day passed, Captain America showed up alongside Superman, Green Lantern, and Vision shared a section and on and on - until eight Avengers and eight Leaguers were featured in a pin-up piece.

    After completing the piece, Pérez leaned back to admire his work - it was good to be back on the job after an 18-year wait. For the Avengers and JLA, it was well worth the wait.

    WIZARD Staff Writer Mike Cotton will appear as Rick Jones' sidekick.