Before the stupid Marvel vs DC crossover and the stupid Amalgam stories blighted the comic landscape with their stupid stupidness, there was this inter-company crossover from the real Golden Age of Comics, the Eighties. I am referring, of course, to The Uncanny X-Men and the New Teen Titans, a one-shot published by Marvel and DC featuring their two most popular superteams. Yes, hard as it may be to believe, there was a point when Wolfman & Perez’s New Teen Titans was just as hot as The Uncanny X-Men. You see? That’s one of the many reasons why the Eighties ruled.
For me, as a kid growing up in the era of Miami Vice and The Evil Soviet Empire, this comic was pure geek bliss. Written by Chris Claremont in his prime and drawn by Walt Fucking Simonson, X-Men/Titans had everything my young comic-loving mind wanted, and none of what it didn’t. The story was pretty straight-forward: after some initial confusion, the two teams unite to face the combined threat of Darkseid and Dark Phoenix, with a little Deathstroke the Terminator thrown in for good measure. The Eighties Claremont was a master at juggling large casts and keeping things fairly accessible to new readers, and X-Men/Titans is a classic example of what Claremont does (did?) well. Every character gets a little time in the spotlight, and all their powers are introduced through cheesy expository dialogue that could only exist in comics. You get to see Wolverine fight Deathstroke, so that’s a plus.
I know I’m not alone when I say that I find Claremont’s current stuff a little underwhelming, and I think his mannered dialogue and writing style can verge into self-parody… but come on, you can’t tell me you didn’t dig all those Claremont stories back in the day. Deep in your jaded heart, don’t you hold at least one of those old comics dear, like a secret crush you occasionally, wistfully remember? Wolverine: Alone? Days of Future Past? The Trial of Magneto? The Mandarin/Psylocke/Wolverine storyline? What about Omega Red? Come on, you know you love Omega Red!
Perhaps I’ve gone too far. Omega Red clearly sucks.
What am I even talking about? I totally got off track…
Right. X-Men/Titans. One of the great things about this book is that unlike other inter-company crossovers, they make no attempt to explain how the two teams from different universes meet up; the reader is just supposed to shut up, have fun, and not worry about it. So in this comic there’s no inter-dimensional war or crisis or merging of realities or any of that shit. No, that would take up valuable panel space. Here’s how Claremont deals with the issue:
I think that’s brilliant, and kind of cheeky.
And take note that since the panels above are the first time Cyborg appears in the story, Claremont throws in a quick bit of exposition so that the reader is suddenly up-to-speed. “His name is Victor Stone – Cyborg – a cybernetic organism… a super-powered synthesis of man and machine. He’d rather be human.” Come on, that’s good shit. This is the sort of storytelling that’s out of vogue in today’s era of wide-screen and decompressed comic books. I’m just throwing this out there, but I think a lot of the writers today feel that such time-honored comic book conventions are too goofy or low-brow or something, which is kind of a shame. The kids, man! Think about the children!
I'm going to start talking like that:
"Who ordered the pepperoni special?"
"I... David Campbell!"
The art kicks ass. What do you want me to say? It’s Walt Simonson, dude. He rules, he always will rule, he’s great, end of story. Actually, the one thing that I noticed about the art? Almost no sound effects. I’m used to seeing Simonson’s distinctive blocky Thor sound effects, but here they’re used sparingly.
Reading this comic again brought back warm, moist feelings of childhood.* I leave you with a passage of florid dialogue from X-Men/Titans to remind us all of the sweet fabric-softener scent of that Golden Age, of lost youth:
Kitty Pryde: "You!! You're the thing from my nightmare! You're real!"
Darkseid: "I am indeed! Adults deny me, but children know me for what I am. That makes them dangerous, and worthy to be cherished, for in their innocence lies the universe's salvation, and in the loss of that innocence, my ultimate victory!"
Don't let Darkseid win, people. Go read an old comic book today.
*I have no idea what the fuck I'm talking about.