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My Top 5 Favorite Moments From The Justice League And Avengers Crossover

by Troy-Jeffrey Allen

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Originally proposed as a comic book event in 1979, JLA/Avengers was ultimately scrapped after four years of drafting. The way the story goes is that fan-favorite artist George Perez (and, truthfully, the only artist who could pull this off) had completed about 21 pages of Roy Thomas’ script before the whole project ultimately collapsed due to editorial conflicts. 

Jump forward to the early 2000s, and the JLA/Avengers crossover was put back on the table. An agreement was made between Marvel and DC. Artist George Perez would rightfully return and at the time Avengers writer Kurt Busiek would script.

Needless to say, executing a JLA/Avengers mini-series was still a monstrous task. And while the end result might not please every die-hard fan, it is an impressive and terribly well-balanced experience. One that allows major and minor characters their moment to shine. The comic is now a relic of a bygone era (more on that below). All the more reason to recognize its accomplishments!

Here are some of my personal favorite bits from the 2003 JLA/Avengers mini-series. Just because I wanted to. 

Spoilers ahead...

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5. Batman and Captain America Kinda...Sorta...Get Along

Like I mentioned earlier, just about every character gets their moment to shine in JLA/Avengers. That’s in no small credit to writer Kurt Busiek’s air-tight knowledge of DC and Marvel lore. The earliest and most immediately gratifying example of this is when Batman and Captain America square off. Both of these cowled heroes are known for being tactician (a detail Busiek is clearly aware of), so after Cap and Bats are done sizing each other up they both realize quickly that the match is going to end in a stalemate. Or as Batman characteristically admits to Cap: “It’s conceivable you could beat me, Avenger. But it would take you a very long time.” From there, they both agree to focus their attention on who or what is causing their two universes to collide. This leads to another great moment where, later on, Captain America realizes that he and Batman have both lost a sidekick (above). Steve tries to use this realization to relate to Bruce, but Bruce isn’t particularly interested in a heart-to-heart and just wants to focus on the mission. Typical.

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4. Darkseid Tosses the Infinity Gauntlet Like A Parking Ticket

The plot to JLA/Avengers is understandably elaborate (it would have to be given it involves two colliding realities), but the long and short of it is that both teams are being played against each other in a game to retrieve the most powerful items in their respective universes. One such item turns out to be the Infinity Gems!

In one of several “Holy $#!+” moments, the Avengers and the JLA both run headfirst into Darkseid brandishing a fully blinged-out Infinity Gauntlet. Everyone -- Avenger and Justice League members alike -- stop dead in their tracks at the sight. There is a catch, though. The gauntlet doesn’t work in the DC universe because it belongs to the 616. So Darkseid just tosses one of the most dangerous weapons in the Marvel Universe like it was a cheeseburger wrapper on a highway.   

Darkseid is...disinterested.

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3. Hercules Makes the Mistake of Introducing Himself to Wonder Woman

Marvel's Hercules is known for his bravado in the Marvel Universe. In the DCU, however, Wonder Woman knows him only for being a (**ahem**) “despoiler of Hippolyta.” Needless to say, when Hercules announces himself to an already pissed-off Wonder Woman...he’s met with a Themysciran knuckle sandwich!

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2. Superman Hates it Here

One of the more hilarious ongoing jokes in JLA/Avengers is Superman’s utter contempt for the Marvel Universe. More than a few times, he notes how “backward” it is. This is doubly funny seeing how Marvel has long been considered “the world outside your window.” That is to say, while the DC characters live in a brighter world (don’t tell Zack Snyder!) Marvel characters live largely in the “real world.” Complete with corruption, discrimination, and economic disparity.

The funny thing about this is that back when JLA/Avengers was published, this perspective of the Marvel Universe vs. the DC Universe was pretty common amongst fans. While DC stories would definitely dovetail into dark topics, DC was often considered to be the shinier universe. A universe where the good guys would struggle but could ultimately still win.

This had a lot to do with Marvel’s rise in popularity in the 1960s due to their focus on heroes who dealt with their personal flaws, their own anxieties, and ripped-from-the-headlines issues. As for DC, truthfully, this perspective of the big two became a bit erroneous around the 1970s. Regardless, it definitely persisted until recent years.

In JLA/Avengers, Superman becomes a mouthpiece for this longheld point of view. Surprisingly enough, it’s Aquaman who points out to Superman that the Marvel heroes' world is “stacked against them.”

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1. Superman vs. The Avengers

This is a moment so big in JLA/Avengers that I won’t spoil it too much here. All I’ll say is something happens between Superman and a Marvel hero that changes the tide of battle between the two teams. This results in ALL the Avengers delivering a beatdown on Superman as if they were initiating him into a gang. The preceding moments are awesome and jaw-dropping alone, but the subsequent reaction of the Avengers is...hilarious. It also deftly underlines Superman’s point earlier about the difference between the two universes. The DC heroes pride themselves on playing by the rules. But the Marvel characters have enough personality flaws to make them totally unpredictable.

Wrapping It All Up

Last week, something kind of interesting happened in the world of superheroes: A major Marvel Studios release and a major DC Entertainment release were both unleashed on an all too eager public. I’m of course referring to Zack Snyder’s long-awaited director’s cut of the Justice League (on HBO Max) and the hotly-anticipated debut of Falcon & Winter Soldier (on Disney+). Because of the intense conversations surrounding these respective properties over the last few days, I’ve had to acknowledge that times have certainly changed. Those once amusing comic shop debates about Marvel vs. DC have mutated into something so much bigger!

Don’t get me wrong. Some of these characters were never niche, but their pervasiveness -- as far as the general public was concerned -- used to ebb and flow. Which really left it up to the comic fans to keep the flames burning for their favorite heroes (and villains) month to month. I’m not just talking about the big guns like Superman, Spider-Man, etc., either. Now, even characters like Cyborg and Batroc The Leaper are in the mainstream! Which opens them up to be scrutinized and audience-tested to meet the demands of the larger corporate entities that own them. Some of this isn’t that different from before (Time Warner has owned DC Comics since the 1970s), but the way these characters are perceived and handled is very different. In 2021, the DC vs. Marvel grudge match now has larger stakes for the media companies that own them. This also means that things like 2003’s intercompany crossover JLA/Avengers is likely a thing of the past. As evidenced by the fact that you only get this colossal event on the secondary market. All the more reason to recognize it, enjoy it, and cherish it.   

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Troy-Jeffrey Allen is the producer and co-host of PREVIEWSworld Weekly. His comics work includes BAMN, Fight of the Century, the Harvey Award-nominated District Comics, and the Ringo Awards-nominated Magic Bullet.

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