Every other week, Jason Shayer will highlight an issue or a run of issues pulled from the horde of comic book long boxes that occupy more room in his house than his wife can tolerate. Each of these reviews will delve into what made that issue or run significant as well as discuss the creative personalities behind the work. “Long Box” refers to the lengthy, white cardboard boxes most comics find themselves stored within – bagged, alphabetized and numerically ordered.
As a comic book fan in 1982, you just couldn’t ask for anything more. While The Justice League of America and The Avengers were caught in a spiral downwards in terms of quality and talent, The Uncanny X-Men and The New Teen Titans were making their mark in comic book history. Both titles shared a lot of similarities: a young core of rookie heroes each struggling with their own degrees of teenage angst, great writing, fabulous artwork, solid character development, and fine storytelling.
With the individual success of each title, it wasn’t long before both Marvel and DC realized that they could make even more money by publishing a crossover issue. But neither side cheaped out. While it seemed to be an issue creatively directed from a Marvel perspective, it certainly didn’t show in the final product. X-Men writer, Chris Claremont was called upon to write this issue and needs to be given some real credit for this issue. I also collected the New Teen Titans at that time and was impressed at how Claremont handled the Titans. Not only does he faithfully portray both teams, but he also handles their interaction very well, particularly the flirting between Kitty and Changeling.
However, the fan boy inside of me can’t help but wonder how a more collaborative effort would have worked out. Imagine Wolfman and Claremont sharing the plotting and scripting duties? Or Byrne penciling and Perez inking? Okay, so I had to settle for Walter Simonson and Terry Austin. I can live with that. They successfully captured the look and feel of both teams. Simonson’s dynamic art is just a pure pleasure to take in.
The story is as follows. Darkseid plans to recreate the Dark Phoenix by tapping into the memories of her former teammates, as well as drawing the residue of her power from a variety of sources. Despite their best efforts, each team is defeated and captured by Deathstroke the Terminator, who has been hired by Darkseid. Darkseid brings the Dark Phoenix back to life. Both super teams work together to free themselves and take on Darkseid, Dark Phoenix and Deathstroke in a climatic battle. Professor X and Cyclops convince Dark Phoenix that she’s being manipulated and she sacrifices herself to deal with Darkseid.
The Uncanny X-Men and The New Teen Titans Special was such a success that a sequel was planned. However, the sequel was supposed to have been handled by the regular New Teen Titans creative team, Marv Wolfman and George Perez.
From the New Teen Titans #38 (Jan. 1984)’s letter page:
“The second Titans/X-Men team-up will be published later this year if schedules are willing. George will be drawing it and I (Marv) will write. It should be a goodie. One advanced bit of info is the villains – Brother Blood and The Hellfire Club. Interested now?”
Unfortunately, the editorial dispute that grounded the JLA/Avengers crossover led to the cancellation of The Uncanny X-Men and The New Teen Titans sequel. That editorial rift between companies lasted for just over a decade until the Batman and Punisher crossover was published in 1994.
Jason Shayer has been trying his best not to grow up for that last 30 years and comics books are one of the best ways to keep him young at heart. He’s also known as the Marvel 1980s guy and has probably forgotten more than you’d ever want to know about that wonderfully creative era. Check out his blog at: marvel1980s.blogspot.com.