I believe I’ve said it before—been doing this a few years now, folks, hard not to repeat myself—but I do believe and also appreciate that the respective DC and Marvel Universes have distinctive DNAs. This is a good thing. It doesn’t make one better than the other, it just makes them different, and for fans and creators alike, this is a good thing. It also doesn’t mean anything is mutually exclusive, be it a style of storytelling or a type of character or whatever, but certainly I do believe if you’ve been around, you can tell when a comic hits perfectly on what makes either world singularly special.
Anyway, I’m getting into a whole other story—and really not one I have the patience or coherence to write, so just corner me at a con some time and buy Rickey a drink—but I do have a point.
One series that not only illustrated what gives Marvel and DC their respective shines via their apex representatives was a personal favorite of mine: JLA/Avengers by the brilliant Kurt Busiek and George Perez. The story was all about how while each Universe is awesome in its own way, the characters most ingrained in one can’t really cope with how the other does business (the examples Busiek chose to focus on were Superman feeling the Marvel heroes didn’t do enough to make their world a paradise while Captain America was uncomfortable with the level of idolization the DC champions achieved).
But it’s not a hard and fast thing. Indeed, I think some characters who have had distinguished and entertaining careers in the Justice League would perhaps thrive even further or at least show another side as Avengers.
And yes, the flipside also applies, but please, let me milk two posts out of this.
So I thought to myself about who would be the best candidates to make the World’s Greatest--Earth’s Mightiest jump, but before we get to my final five, here are a few who didn’t quite make the cut and why…
Green Lantern (Hal Jordan): He’s certainly got the swagger, but I don’t think the Avengers would be able to put up with his long absences quite as well as the League has in the past (they’ve parted ways with folks all the way up the ladder to Thor because they couldn’t put in the time).
Red Tornado: The Avengers already have The Vision.
Blue Beetle: Honestly, no good reason, he was just number six and I wanted to stick to an even five.
Guy Gardner: I think if anybody could straighten him out it would be Captain America, who possesses far more patience than Batman, but more likely he’d just quit after two issues like The Hulk.
The Flash (Wally West): Too obvious an answer from me, but also, he’s the ultimate team player and would likely work well with any group, so it’s not an interesting selection.
THE MARTIAN MANHUNTER
J’onn J’onzz is a cornerstone of just about every incarnation of the Justice League; it’s inarguable and he’s proven himself time and again. But despite how many aliens, robots, etc. may have joined the League’s ranks over the year, it’s very much a team designed to showcase the epitome of humanity—or at least folks who look human—and while beloved, The Martian Manhunter has always been something of an adopted outsider who must work to fit in. The Avengers, on the other hand, are considerably rougher around the edges, not unlike the Justice League International team on which many would say J’onn most thrived. Rather than struggling to prove himself the equal of Batman or Wonder Woman, MM would probably dig being the calming influence to wild cards from Quicksilver to Wolverine just as he was to Guy, Booster, Beetle and friends. Indeed I could see J’onn as being the glue that holds the Avengers’ menagerie of mutants, mystics and monsters together and becoming recognize as one of the Marvel Universe’s most potent and powerful heroes as he does it, no longer needing to tone down his considerable skill set just so Superman doesn’t feel insecure (c’mon, you totally know he does). On a team where former criminals and guys with bad complexions tend to be the norm rather than the exception, The Manhunter From Mars would find the home he’s long sought.
Despite the fact that Vixen has a strong power set, a fierce personality and some natural leadership skills, she’s never quite broken through to the Justice League’s A-list and a lot of that has to come down to timing. For better or for worse, she’ll always be seen as having cut her teeth in the Detroit Era League, and while there’s really no shame in that—hey, J’onn and Aquaman did time on that team—it seems to leave this lingering “not ready for prime time” feel. On the Avengers, that generally doesn’t seem to be a problem. Cap’s Kooky Quartet of him, Hawkeye, Quicksilver and The Scarlet Witch was basically the Detroit League two decades early, and they all went on to be legendary Avengers. Heck, looking at today’s roster, did anybody but a young Brian Michael Bendis really ever believe Spider-Woman and Luke Cage would achieve the legitimacy they have? While the best of the best tend to shine on the Justice League, the Avengers are more about second chances and extending a hand to could-be contenders, and that sounds like Vixen all over. She’s got the ferocity of Wolverine, the fashion sense of The Wasp and the track record to date of Tigra—the girl was born to be one of Earth’s Mightiest!
We’ve seen in 52 and his solo series how great a hero Booster Gold can truly be, but the Justice League has only ever really tolerated him and his antics, not embraced him and tried to make him feel welcome. The Avengers have dealt with far worse members than an opportunistic scam-seeker and kept them around long enough for them to do some good (Quicksilver again, Moondragon, Swordsman, Doctor Druid, USAgent, Sersi, Hank freaking Pym—and I could go on). With some mentors like Captain America, Hawkeye and The Wasp who actually give him a chance and show some patience with him, Booster could really live up to his potential and feel supported while doing so rather than having to be the greatest hero you’ve never heard of (though that does remain a pretty cool angle). He’d also be a pretty natural protégé for Iron Man, who could show him both the right way to manage money as well as the potential pratfalls of wealth—there are honestly few more conscientious millionaires in comics than Tony “Won’t take defense contracts” Stark”—and probably hit it off with Spider-Man as well.
She’s led the Justice Society and has enough power—pun unintended, but there aren’t many other ways to put it—to mop the floor with just about anybody, but strangely Power Girl has never really had a seat at the big table as far as the Justice League is concerned. It could be that Superman and Wonder Woman more or less already fill the slots she’d comfortably fit into. It could also be that PG is a bit brash and headstrong for the League’s oft rigid chain of command. Over on the Avengers, they’re not only always eager to load up on heavy hitters—it wasn’t too long ago they had The Sentry, Ms. Marvel, Wonder Man and Ares all on one roster with Iron Man to boot—but spunk helps more than hurts. Hawkeye spent years mouthing off to his elders then ended up getting handed his own West Coast branch and becoming one of the team’s most celebrated chairmen. If Power Girl doesn’t fit in straight away, I’m pretty sure her combo of battle savvy, proven intelligence and willingness to stand up for what she believes in would earn the respect of her teammates real quickly. Honestly, I don’t just think PG would be a great addition to the Avengers, I could see her leading the darn team.
I can’t think of many former villains who have managed to turn their careers around as members of the Justice League; frankly, the standards the DC Universe, heroes and citizens alike, demand from their standard bearers makes it a tough road to hoe. Across the street, some of the most trusted and respected Avengers started off as bad guys: Hawkeye, Quicksilver, The Scarlet Witch, Swordsman, The Vision, The Black Widow, Wonder Man, Namor and Ares are just some of the folks who started on the wrong side of the tracks and ended up proving themselves worthy of being counted among Earth’s Mightiest. Major Disaster made a solid go at reformation, but whether it was the pressure or Batman shooting him dirty looks, he high tailed it to the black ops squad at the first opportunity and never got another shot at redemption before biting it in Infinite Crisis. With a burning need to turn his life around—his soul belonged to Neron, remember—and cool abilities like being able to create localized earthquakes, Disaster could have been a solid Avenger—or at least a decent Thunderbolt.