As a young comics fan during the late 70's and early 80's, some of the biggest thrills of that time were "company crossovers", those rare occasions when rivals DC and Marvel Comics combined their forces (and top characters) into a single story. Characters who had previously met each other only in our daydreams were not only officially meeting each other, but were teaming-up for an adventure as well (after the obligatory misunderstanding/fight, of course).
Immediately following the successful 1982 X-Men and Teen Titans crossover, the candidate for the next crossover was an absolute no-brainer: a meeting of DC and Marvel's premiere super-teams...The Justice League and The Avengers.
Sure enough, work began on just such a project in 1983, with fan-favorite George Perez assigned to do the artwork! Since Perez had enjoyed long stints on both JLA and Avengers, he was the perfect guy for the job. Sadly, the project fell apart when Marvel and DC got tangled up in editorial disputes, but not before Perez had already penciled nearly 21 pages of artwork. Ouch!
However, after two decades of wondering "what might have been", fans (like me) were rewarded for their patience when DC and Marvel reached an agreement in 2001: JLA-Avengers was finally going to be a reality.
Naturally, an enthusiastic George Perez was tapped to do the artwork, along with writer and recent Avengers collaborator Kurt Busiek. Both men had (and still have) a knack for juggling huge numbers of characters, so they seemed to be the ideal team to pull of such a challenging project.
But we had no idea just how challenging Busiek and Perez were prepared to make it for themselves.
Not satisfied with simply staging a meeting between the then-current JLA and Avengers line-ups, the creators devised a story that would involve literally every member of the respective teams from every incarnation, iteration and time frame.
As you'd expect, the four-issue epic was worth the twenty-year wait. But as great as the story was, the most memorable part of JLA-Avengers remains the stunning artwork. Perez went far above and beyond the call of duty to deliver a career-defining "love letter" to both his fans and the legendary characters themselves. No single piece of artwork demonstrates that love more than the cover of JLA-Avengers #3 (2003), as both the front and back covers feature the mind-blowing spectacle of every member (past and present) of the JLA and the Avengers (click on the image for a super-sized larger view):
JLA-Avengers #3 (2003), by George Perez
Besides his obvious illustration talent (and patience), Perez is also one of the premiere page designers of the comics field. Not only can he draw any character under the sun (each with their own subtly unique facial structure), but he can also arrange them in dazzlingly complex formations, patterns and visual planes. As a cartoonist with a similar affinity for detail-packed compositions, Perez always blows my mind with the sheer audacity and surprising clarity of his mega crowd scenes...which never fail to capture the power, energy and sprawling grandeur of superhero comics.