Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Uncanny X-Men and The New Teen Titans Marvel / DC Comics, 1982

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.


Hate Filled Poster said...

I have this book and love it to this day. It was my first introduction to the Titans.

David Campbell said...

You know, I actually really dug Thorion so perhaps I should revise my definition of "stupidhead..."

Jer said...

"Blighted the comic landscape with their stupid stupidness" is one of the lines I've read in a while. I'm going to start using stupid stupidness in conversation now.

And old-school Claremont rocked, but at some point people stopped feeling comfortable editing his work or something. It's like no editor can pull him aside and say "This sounds stupid - fix it" anymore.

David Campbell said...

Word up on that.

Jer said...

Scott -

At least you didn't think that Darkseid was a rip-off of Jim Starlin's Thanos. I had a friend when I was a lot younger who was absolutely convinced that DC created Darkseid as a rip-off of Thanos.

Knowing what I know now, that's incredibly funny.

Ian said...

I love Simonson. I have this book and look forward to reading it (I'm going through the Titans books right now).

One correction though: I believe those big blocky sound effects are John Workman's, who worked with Simonson on Thor and Orion. Since it was X-Men letterer Tom Orz doing this book that might have explained the lack of sound effects.

David Campbell said...

Brill wins.

Also, I must correct myself: I imply that Claremont created Omega Red, and I think it was actually Jim Lee who came up with the character, who sucks.

Anonymous said...

You know, if I ever became a cyborg and had tons of metal grafted on to me, I would be expecting some of the results. Obviously, I would be stronger. I would have weapons. I wouldn't be able to swim, and rust would allways be a concern. What I wouldn't expect is the ability to swing from rooftop to rooftop.

Anonymous said...

Hee! I remember that issue. I was reading both the Titans and X-Men at the time.

The Titans' first "Deathstroke the Terminator" story arc, "The Judas Contract," remains probably my all-time favorite superhero story.

Anyone else rememeber the unoffical Titans / DNAgents crossovers?

David Campbell said...

Now G. Bob wins. That's a good point about the roof swingin.'

I have never even heard of a Titans / DNAgents book. Somebody send me a link if there's any info out there.

Kevin Church said...

It was completely unofficial; characters that were rough analogues of the two teams appeared in each other's books, as was discussed in a recent issue of Back Issue. Evanier and Wolfman decided to have a bit of a laugh and apparently, some fans took it far too seriously and said that the two men were insulting each other by parodying the other's works. Nice to know that flying off the handle about something in a comic book isn't a blogosphere invention.

Anonymous said...

Dave, you make me laugh every post. Thou hath the rulingness, and thou maketh the stupid stupidness to flee! Thanks, dude.

Anonymous said...

Awesome, got the link from Brill Building.

Yeah, anyway, Teen Titans/DNAgents was my first comic of ever!!

I then bought solely Marvel, mostly toy franchises, moving on to Spidey then X-Men for the next 12 years or whatever.

Johnny Bacardi said...

Well, the handy one-panel introduction to Cyborg was efficient, true...but it points up the problem I've had with Claremont since, oh God- 1982? His ponderous pretentiousness just shines through.

The captions just sound so solemn and deadly earnest (and yet I think Claremont thought he was being witty or something) that they make me cringe, just like practically everything the man's written that I've had the misfortune to read since he lucked out with Days of Future Past.

I'm not a fan, can't ya tell? :)

B2 said...

Wow -- I had that comic, and I remember it wsa this huge deal cuz of the cross-over... now if only i could find my Micronauts/X-Men cross-over.

Mark W. Hale said...

I read this something like 12 years ago in a Marvel/DC crossover tpb my friend had. All that stuff was awesome, but this was just... wow. Didn't rememeber that Simonson drew it, so now I'm probably going to have to hunt down a copy of it.

(I always thought Dark Phoenix looked really sexy on that cover.)

Anonymous said...

Days of Future Past was kick-ass. I was 13, sure, but it was still kick-ass.

"Decompression" is bullshit. Warren Ellis was reading some manga one day, and dollar signs appeared in his eyes to the bright and happy sound of a cash-register chime. Good for him: If you could work just one day a month, wouldn't you? But I'm not spending my three bucks on it.

Amalgam was dumb, but I kind of liked the Superman one. What?? I DID, REALLY!!!

Also, you are hilarious. This is what blogs are all about. People writing about what they care about, not what they're SUPPOSED to care about.

Woody! said...

That's a great point about the "I... Darkseid" comment. You can't get away with that in any other medium other than comics. Go ahead. Say it out loud yourself. I know you want to. Report back to us on how that went. Especially if it was to the pizza guy.

Anonymous said...

Treacher sucks. You suck.

You make me want to dig through the boxes in my closet and read all my X-Men comics.

No, wait. I don't have to. I'm buying the collections book by book.

The Brood was the second-creepiest X-Men story. The creepiest was when Magneto had them all captured and unable to express themselves except as infants. Brrrr.

I loved the classic Claremont X-Men.

And I have all the 80s Titans books, too.

Anonymous said...

(Oh. The suckitude is because I thought I had kicked the comics habit.)

David Campbell said...

Meryl, it's true: Treacher sucks. (Imagine a winky face here)

Soon-to-be-rich Dad said...

You guys are dorks. Of course, so am I.

thekelvingreen said...

The idea seems to be that they're both teen teams, but even in the eighties, the X-Men came across as much much older than the Titans. I mean, does anyone think that Cyclops and Robin are within five years of each other? Then again, Cyclops has always seemed about forty, even when he *was* a teen...

Anonymous said...

After reading your post, I will have to dig out this comic and reread it (it's been nearly 20 years).

Two moments have stuck with me through two decades:

1. Starfire going apeshit all over Beast Boy because his turning into a green bird (like she hasn't seen that a hundred times before)sends her into a "phoenix reaction frenzy." This section of the book is as contrived, forced and melodramatic as anything Claremont has written at his worst, and was so flat-out stupid it almost made me close the book right then; and

2. The climax where Phoenix turns on Darkseid -- which made me very glad I didn't.

Keep blogging, brother! I check in every day, and it's always worth the visit.

Chris Arndt said...

When this story came out Robin would be either 17 or 18. He has been in college for some time so he's likely 18 and almost 19.

Cyclops should be between 20 and 23 at the time. Don't ask me for concrete justifications, I'm just using Spider-Man's aging as a basis for comparison and measure.

Anonymous said...

Claremont had nothing to do with Omega Red. His "last" X-Men comic was X-Men #3, and the first Omega Red story began in #4. Written by John Byrne, I believe.

Anonymous said...

Claremont had nothing to do with Omega Red. His "last" X-Men comic was X-Men #3, and the first Omega Red story began in #4. Written by John Byrne, I believe.

Anonymous said...

Damn, "Walt Fucking Simonson". Crap your pants funny. I just got through going through my old comics. My two favorite series as well. I remember getting the crossover and thinking that I had reached frickin nirvana. I just finished reading some of my old Warlord and now will go back and read the NTT and TT series again and the go back and read my X-Men, The Wolverine miniseries and try to remember where the fuck I came from.

Anonymous said...

Dark Claw Rules!!!!!!!!!!!!! Say what you want about the other comics but leave Dark Claw alone

Shane said...

I loved this book. I read an interview years ago that Walt Simonson specifically said he purposely drew this book as similar to John Byrne's style of art as possible.

Anonymous said...

Quick question: I own more than one copy of this comic and noticed that one copy has a barcode in the bottom left corner and the other copy is just a white box and inside says Distributed by Marvel Ent.... with no barcode. Does and know why one copy has a barcode and the other one does not?

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