This is the first in a series (of indefinite length and regularity) where I look at instances when comic book writers had to adjust their stories to deal with being blocked from using certain characters due to crossovers.
We begin with Captain Atom’s disappearance during Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis’ Justice League crossover, Breakdowns.
Breakdowns was the final storyline that Giffen and DeMatteis did during their long run together on Justice League International. It opened with the United Nations liaison to Justice League International, Maxwell Lord, being shot and nearly killed. Justice League America and Justice League Europe come together to help solve his attempted murder. However, they are held up by the NEW liaison, who fires a number of the members of the two teams – Blue Beetle, Ice, Elongated Man and Captain Atom. The four heroes than team up together to uncover the conspiracy behind Max’s attempted murder and they believe it was the villainous Queen Bee, the head of the country, Bialya (and a old foe of the Justice League). However, what they don’t know is that the Queen is being framed by Jack O’Lantern of the Global Guardians working with Sumaan Harjavti, the brother of the former President of Bialya. You see, Queen Bee took control of Bialya from Harvati’s older brother and now he wants revenge (and control of the country). The Queen Bee has been brainwashing the Global Guardians to do her bidding. In exchange for helping Harjavti take the Queen Bee down, Jack O’Lantern would be given control of the Guardians.
So the four fired heroes work with Crimson Fox (who is rich in her secret identity) to sneak into Bialya in Justice League Europe #30 (by Giffen, Gerard Jones, Darick Robertson and John Beatty) to take down the Queen Bee…
While there, they discover the brainwashed Global Guardians (Ice used to be a member of the Guardians) and are confronted by Jack O’Lantern. In the ensuing battle, Little Mermaid of the Guardians is killed…
The Justice League is then sent to Bialya by their new liaison (who is secretly working for the Queen Bee) to arrest their former teammates.
In Justice League America #55 (by Giffen, DeMatteis, Chris Wozniak and Bruce Patterson), Harvati watches it all go down as the two factions of Justice Leaguers battle with the Guardians. Harvati then blows up the whole underground installation, revealing to the world that the Queen Bee has been brainwashing the populace to make them loyal to her (making them her drones, as it were).
So the battle is over. The Justice League then prove that their new liaison was a drone of the Queen Bee and they now have to wait to find out what will happen next with the United Nations.
However, before the next part of Breakdowns happened, a funny thing had to be dealt with. You see, there was a crossover going on in the Summer of 1991 called Armageddon 2001, where a guy came from the future to find out which current superhero would become a villain in the future known as the Monarch. Monarch was originally going to be revealed to be Captain Atom, but due to it being leaked ahead of schedule, it was famously hastily re-written so that Hawk of Hawk and Dove instead became the Monarch and Captain Atom was just taken off the board along with Hawk/Monarch at the end of the story. Here it is from Armageddon 2001 #2 (by Denny O’Neil, Dan Jurgens and a bunch of inkers)
So now, right in the middle of their own story, Giffen, DeMatteis and Jones have to deal with Captain Atom’s absence. Here’s the thing, though, they’ve already written him out with the ORIGINAL Armageddon 2001 ending in mind, as Justice League Europe #31 opens with Catherine Cobert (the embassy chief for Justice League Europe) having nightmares about an evil Captain Atom…
And then the rest of the issue is just re-dialogued from them being sad over their former teammate becoming a villain to now simply mourning their fallen teammate.
It’s quite odd stuff, especially because remember their battle in Bialya in the previous part? At the end of that story, abruptly, Ice leaves the team…
This is because Giffen and DeMatteis had to work in ANOTHER 1991 crossover, the Wonder Woman-based War of the Gods…
that deals with various mythological gods, well, warring. And Ice’s Nordic people are being beset by the Norse gods. That is also dealt with in Justice League Europe #31 (Power Girl is also absent for a little bit because of War of the Gods).
So yes, in a fifteen-part storyline wrapping up their run, Giffen and DeMatteis (and Jones) had to have one issue to just be about working in not one but TWO outside crossovers into their story!! And one of them was re-written at the last minute!!
It’s the sort of thing that likely drives comic book writers nuts, but they handled it as well as they could!
If YOU have a suggestion for a good example of writers having to adjust their stories to deal with crossovers, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
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