The next interview in our homage to the classic 90s crossover, DC vs Marvel, is with editor Chris Duffy. At the time of the crossover’s publishing, Chris Duffy was assistant editor for DC on the project. Chris’s involvement leaned more toward the Amalgam comics that were published after the third issue of DC vs Marvel, but he still shared some memories of the overall project.
jman: So…let’s start with this: How did you come up with the ideas for JLX and Lobo the Duck? Did you pick the team members for JLX? Or just the concept? How about the storylines? Did you come up with those as well?
Chris Duffy: I didn’t come up with anything besides the names. As I recall, the way the Amalgam titles were created (on the DC side at least, that’s where I worked—remember half the Amalgam books were by Marvel and the other half by DC) was that all the editors, including assistants and associates, wrote a list of names of book title ideas and gave them to Archie [Goodwin], Mike [Carlin], and Denny [O’Neil]. I don’t remember my other ideas but I was happy with JLX . Clearly it was some kind of mix of the JLA and X-Men. But how the concepts behind the titles all fit together with the other books to form a “universe” was up to the real editors and writers and artists. I was just a little associate editor at the time and no one was gonna trust me with a real Amalgam comic.
When we did Amalgam 2, I remember being totally psyched with coming up with Lobo the Duck—the two characters who really didn’t fit in with their respective parent companies, but who had some kind of following. I can’t believe they chose it but of course I was pleased. I left DC soon after for Nickelodeon Magazine (which was the job of my life) but before I left DC, I begged Pete Tomasi (who edited the Lobo the Duck book) to make sure I got credit. He promised to do so but then didn’t. Grrr…
jman: In regards to the DC v Marvel crossover, how many people were actually involved? Who had final say as to what stayed and what had to be omitted?
CD: No idea of the actual total… Carlin and Gruenwald masterminded it and Ron Marz and Peter David wrote it. I have a memory of Ron doing more heavy lifting in terms of logistics. Every editor had to read and approve the script and art (I assume that was true for Marvel as well). Any editor could object to or ask for changes on parts of the script that involved their character or characters, but it was known that this was an event created to get some attention and that everyone should be as cooperative as possible. In other words, no saying “you can’t have Aquaman (or whoever) because he got turned into a clam this month.” This was about boosting sales, not territory.
jman: Which company were you working for at the time? Did you have any particular loyalties to a particular company/character/individual that made it easier or harder to work with/for?
CD: I worked for DC. Loyalties… not really. I thought it would be good for DC to win, since I think everyone was imagining Marvel would trounce us. Did we win? I don’t even remember, to be honest. As a kid I liked Marvel more, so I felt pretty neutral, what with me working at DC but having grown up with Marvel characters. I liked that Aquaman beat Namor because it made no sense intuitively. And as I recall Aquaman won because he could talk to fish! Loved it. (Though I still think Namor is a better character. Possibly one of the best comic characters ever!)
jman: A project like this has got to have a lot of legal issues, especially with the storied rivalry between the two companies. It couldn’t have been an easy process. Was one company more protective of their properties than the other?
CD: Not that I recall. We were trying to create something that would get a lot of eyes on our books. The market was in collapse mode at the time. Carlin and Gruenwald were best friends and both in charge of their respective rival “universes”….they really saw it as a coming together and not a rivalry. I’m sure some folks closer to the legal side would have more to say. One legal thing I remember being looked into along the way was whether we could each trade a character for a year or so (like She-Hulk living in the DCU for a year while Marvel got, I don’t know, Orion or someone). Ultimately, that idea was shelved, though I don’t know why.[Editor’s note: That would have been freakin’ amazing!]
jman: There are difference in the creative processes between Marvel and DC. Different cultures, different processes. With DC publishing issues 1 and 4 and Marvel publishing 2 and 3, was that ever a problem during the crossover?
CD: I think Marvel still was more of an artist-driven company at that point. They put a “hot new” artist on the series, whereas DC tapped Dan Jurgens—rewarding a guy who had done a lot for the company (and who was good at crowd scenes). That says a lot about the differences at that time. The processes didn’t seem very different though. There were very few conflicts (if any) that I recall about issues 1 and 4 versus 2 and 3.
jman: How did the whole project come together? Who’s idea for the crossover was it to begin with? Where did it originate from?
CD: I assume it was Gruenwald and Carlin, though I don’t know who spearheaded it. Gruenwald was always interested in shared universes and alternate realities.
jman: How was it decided which writers/artist would work on the crossover?
CD: As I recall, everyone agreed on Ron Marz as writer. Super nice guy, easy to work with, good at juggling lots of disparate elements, was doing work for both companies. And Peter David was easy to agree on—name writer, worked for both companies. See above regarding artists.
jman: In regards to the story itself, where did that idea come from? Were Ron Marz/Peter David told: “Here, DC vs Marvel. Do what you will”? Or did they have some sort of structure to work with before hand?
CD: I don’t recall who came up with the structure, but I believe the writers were told to create a guy who lived between the two universes (or in both?) and the basic structure of how it would progress. It wasn’t a story so much as a sports event, so the structure didn’t strike me as all that complex. But you should ask the writers, of course.[Editor’s note: And we did!]
jman: How long did it take to flesh out the whole story for the crossover? From start to finish, how long did the creative process take?
CD: No idea—but while I believe we were on a tight schedule, I don’t remember it being an impossible crunch. Timing was critical, but I remember DC hit its ship dates.
jman: How were the battles between the heroes picked? Granted, some seem pretty obvious, but others not so much.
CD: As I said, I believe the whole deal was co-concocted by Gruenwald and Carlin, but I give Mark the edge….the Amalgam idea just seems like something he’d love. I don’t know for sure though. Yes, that idea was always the payoff, at least from the time I started hearing about it. And the Amalgam books were about 100 times more interesting than the DC vs. Marvel series itself. I think everyone felt that at the time too.
jman: What are you currently working on?
CD: I edit SpongeBob Comics for United Plankton Pictures, and various anthologies for First Second (Above the Dreamless Dead—a book of comics based on WWI poems—and Fable Comics, a book of adaptations of Aesop, and other, fables into comics form.) I still read superhero comics sometimes to check in on things, but mostly I work on comics for kids.
jman: You pick the ultimate battle. Who is it and who wins/who loses?
CD: Puritans versus Zoroastrians—obviously, Zoroastrians win because of their love of fire!
Many thanks to Chris Duffy for taking the time to answer my questions!
And don’t forget to check out the whole behind the scenes, spellbinding story of DC vs Marvel on this week’s Almost Internet Famous Internet show!