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Gotham City's Spider-Man? Marvel & DC almost did a company-wide origin swap in the early '00s

In one of his recent newsletters, Marvel editor Tom Brevoort explains how the role reversal almost turned the two biggest comic universes upside down

Image credit: DC, Marvel

Could you imagine Marvel's Dark Knight, Batman? What about DC's webhead, Spider-Man? With such distinct styles in both comic and movie form, it's hard to imagine either of the Big Two's heroes making a home in the others' universe. And yet, in the early '00s, that's almost exactly what happened.

The story comes to us (or rather, is reiterated to us) from longtime Marvel editor Tom Brevoort's Substack nesletter, Man with a Hat. In the eighty-third newsletter of the series, Brevoort details a story that's only been written about in the rare oversized slipcover edition of JLA/Avengers. A four-issue company crossover that came out in 2003, JLA/Avengers was edited by Brevoort, written by Kurt Busiek, and drawn by the legendary George Pérez. Here's Brevoort on the crossover:

"When we first sat down together and plotted out all four issues, there was going to be a section in the third issue dedicated to the idea that the DC heroes were created in the Marvel Universe and the Marvel heroes were likewise created in the DCU."

Wild, right? If this comic had gone as originally intended, Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, and Wanda Maximoff would have called the DC universe home, while Clark Kent, Diana of Themyscira, and Barry Allen would've called the Marvel universe theirs.

Appealing as the idea might have been, however, executing it was easier said than done. Brevoort again:

"Kurt [Busiek] wrote at least two entirely different drafts of such sequences, but neither of them really worked. And the reason was that, while the Marvel and DC Universes of, say, the 1960s were very different places, by 2000 when we were doing the book, they had aligned a lot more closely that we had thought about."

"Eventually," concludes the editor, "we discarded this entire avenue and did other things."

To be fair, the "other things" the team decided to do were still pretty special. JLA/Avengers was a milestone in comics, recently reprinted in small amounts to honor the passing of George Pérez. Besides that, the story also marks the last time the companies would officially cross paths, a brief moment of friendship in what's now considered a bloody rivalry taking place on the big screen.

Perhaps things would be a little nicer on that front if the characters had spent a moment, even a brief one, in the others' shoes.

Er, home reality.

If you're into DC and/or Marvel flicks, rivalry or not, check out Popverse's guide to upcoming superhero movies.