Thursday, August 5, 2010
Versus: the Avengers vs. the Justice League of America
Doug: Hello to all the great debaters out there! Today we're going to pass inspection on one of those really fun arguments, of any era really: which team is better, the Avengers or the Justice League of America?
Doug: First off, I guess we need to set up parameters for judging. I'm here to say that as a co-commissioner of this exercise, I'm going to vote for NO RULES! Let's just keep it an organic conversation, flowing from one thing to another.
Doug: So I'll start with a general thought/impression -- if one were to look at the first incarnations of each team, which would you prefer? In the Avengers, we're talking Thor, Iron Man, the Hulk, Ant-Man/Giant Man, the Wasp, and I'm going to say Captain America, too, since he now has "Founder" status. Over at the Distinguished Competition, the so-called "original seven" were Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Martian Manhunter, and Aquaman.
Karen: Honestly, with all the changes DC has made in continuity over the years, I have NO idea who the original JLA founders are considered to be! So I'm just fine with your line-up, Doug.
Doug: Where to go from here? If I was a writer, I think the Avengers team would be more interesting. As it played out with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, there was certainly more opportunity for internal conflict among team members. Over in the JLA, those guys (and gal) always got along. So point to Marvel. If I were an artist, I think I'd also rather work on the Avengers. Just the appeal of drawing Giant Man and the different scales to deal with would make books a greater challenge. Additionally, the settings that revolve around Thor's character make for interesting possibilities. Yes, some of the space adventures that could be explored through Green Lantern or J'onn J'onzz might compete, but overall I'd pick the visual possibilities of the Avengers. Oh, and never underestimate the appeal of Iron Man's ever-changing armors!
Karen: You've basically described why I couldn't (and still can't) really get into Silver Age DC books. They were all the same guy with different costumes and girlfriends (and Batman had Robin). The Marvel characters could easily be distinguished by dialogue alone. The Avengers line-ups featured a lot of very different personalities.
Doug: Of course, line-ups brings me to a beef I have with the JLA anyway, and maybe I'm sort of a hypocrite. I was going to say that it irks me that Superman and Batman are considered part of the original team, but then I guess handing them that status isn't all that different from Cap being considered a founder of the Avengers. But let's talk line-ups -- do you remember when I posted that Alex Ross Avengers Assemble print a couple of weeks ago? Let's take those Avengers: Black Panther, Hawkeye, Cap, Iron Man, Goliath, the Wasp, Thor, Scarlet Witch, and the Vision. Then let's go with a classic JLA line-up of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, J'onn J'onzz, Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Atom, and Green Arrow. Who ya got? I mean in a scrap, but also -- who would you like to read about?
Doug: I'd really love the adventures of that Avengers line-up. Hawkeye agitating everyone, Hank's angst, the Panther's nobility, the haughtiness of Thor, the moodiness of the Vision, the pomposity of Iron Man, etc. There's just some great characterization there. On the other hand, aside from Green Arrow, there isn't any potential for 3-Dimensionalism in that JLA group. I'm speaking historically, by the way. I know recent writers have given them (especially Batman and Wonder Woman) some personalities. But if you look back over the Silver and Bronze Ages, you'd just see some cookie-cutter heroes. You may have noticed I left Aquaman off that line-up. Yeah, cookie-cutter...
Karen: It's a no-brainer for me. Avengers has been my favorite team since I first picked up issue 92 and the subsequent rest of the Kree-Skrull War. While I've enjoyed certain incarnations of JLA, it doesn't come close for me.
Karen: Of course, if you're talking about a team to team match-up, that's a hard call. If it's a JLA that has pre-Crisis Superman, then I would say he, by himself, could beat that Avengers line-up! The guy could push the Earth out of orbit; essentially, he was God in a cape. But I thought Busiek and Perez did a nice job on the eventual JLA -Avengers throwdown...although I am still a bit peeved about Thor losing to that mortal...
Doug: Creative teams? You'd be hard-pressed to convince me that there's something better out there than Roy Thomas and John Buscema paired with either George Klein or Tom Palmer. I am a Dick Dillin fan, but his JLA isn't in Buscema's league. I'd offer that my second choice of Stan Lee and Don Heck, circa 1965-66 is better than the team of Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky.
Karen: I too love the Thomas/Buscema issues of Avengers, really the foundation for everything that followed. But I'd also throw the Englehart run in there, despite the presence of a strong regular artist. The Stern and Busiek runs were also great reads. For JLA, as I've said, my interests are limited. But I'd say check out Englehart's 12 or 13 issue run on JLA in the mid-seventies. He was brought in to "Marvel-ize" the JLA, and it's pretty interesting stuff.
Doug: How about villains? I guess Despero or the Crime Syndicate of Earth-3 would be the best-known JLA baddies. But can anyone over there hold a candle to Kang the Conqueror or Ultron? I say to thee NAY!
Karen: I can't say much here, as I'm just not as up on my JLA villains. Although I would venture to say that I'd take most Avengers villains over the likes of Starro. A giant starfish...wow.
Doug: How about interrelatedness of characters? In the Avengers there is the whole triangle of Vision-Scarlet Witch-Wonder Man, and about the time you toss in Quicksilver, Ultron, the Grim Reaper, and Magneto it's a Jerry Springer show waiting to be aired! Hank and Jan also add a family touch, even if that touch is often dysfunctional. Over in the JLA, Katar and Shierra Hol are there, Ollie and Dinah, and even Ralph and Sue Dibney... but it's not the same. There's just no tension, no real possibility for storytelling built off of that.
Karen: Well, I wouldn't necessarily say that. I think over time they've differentiated the characters enough that there's more personal conflict. On either team, the only characters that the writer can really play with are the ones that don't have their own books. For many years that would have been difficult on JLA, where most of the characters appeared elsewhere. But I'd have to agree that there's a rich mine of emotional gold with the Pym-Vision-Witch-Wonder Man relationships that I think the JLA would be hard pressed to match.
Doug: So I guess we could on and on, but I think it's pretty clear -- we're a couple of died-in-the-wool Avengerphiles. However, what we'd like to hear is a kind word from those among you who are JLA or DC apologists. Give us an argument -- we'd love to be in that conversation!