In which Mike attempts to keep it short…

§ June 20th, 2007 § Filed under Uncategorized § 1 Comment

…and probably fails miserably at it.

I didn’t mean for my alleged “analysis” of your responses to be spread over a couple days’ worth of posts, but I went on too long about the crossover thing yesterday and, as I said, I was just too darn tired to move on to other topics. So, let me wrap up the crossover issue (er, so to speak) as briefly as I can.

Speaking from the perspective of a person who sells funnybooks for a living, I can see when event fatigue does begin set in. Customers are excited at first, but as time wears on, and more and more tie-ins to the event crop up, and more delays occur, frustration and irritation begins to set it. For the most part, that doesn’t stop our customers from continuing to follow the events (though there is some attrition), but in the long run that doesn’t do much for the goodwill of the fans towards the big superhero companies.

As a reader, I don’t mind the event books so much. As a DC guy, I was pretty excited about Infinite Crisis, for example, even though by the end of that run I think I noted on the site about how I’d never want to see an Omac ever again. And, while I liked some of the crossover books, I was glad to get back to the main storylines once the event was over.

Now commentor Andy G said something smart about a crossover’s impact on regular titles, stating that a writer with some measure of skill can easily work with/around the “shared universe” story elements forced in by editorial edict. Andy specifically mentions Grant Morrison’s dealings with this sort of thing on JLA, referring to the “Electric Superman” and other temporary character changes outside of the JLA book. I should note, however, that of the three issues during Morrison’s JLA run that were explicit full-issue event tie-ins, one, as Andy noted, tied into an event series Morrison himself was writing, and the other two — an awful “No Man’s Land” Batman tie-in and a crossover dealing with however they were trying to “fix” Hal Jordan that month — were foisted off onto other writers.

But Andy is still correct…writers can route around the damage, as it were, and either contain the crossover’s influence, or perhaps spin off something new from it entirely, all without impacting the reader’s enjoyment. And to be fair, I think a lot of superhero writers are able to manage it well enough…it’s a skill you kinda have to have if you work for Marvel or DC. For example, I didn’t much care about Marvel’s Civil War event, and although it crossed over with Thunderbolts, a title I did greatly enjoy, for a few issues, it didn’t really bother me so much. I never felt a need to have to go out and get the Civil War series in order to make sense of the Thunderbolts issues, as everything I needed, or wanted, to know was right there in the Thunderbolts comic itself.

So, let’s see…to wrap up, then: I’ve got no real beef with crossover events, though spacing them out a tad may be in the publishers’ best interests. Yes, customers may still be buying ’em all at the moment, but burn out is setting in. As Eddie says, my little survey is hardly a scientific poll, since the respondents are pre-selected from that portion of fandom that actively seeks out additional information and interaction regarding their funnybook hobby, and thus may be more inclined to contemplate their comic-buying and reading habits, as compared to the folks who just buy their books once a week, read ’em and forget about ’em ’til the next new comics day. But, as the old saying goes, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

Other responses, in brief:

Less violence – Given we’re talking about superhero books here, for the most part, violence is inherent to the genre, and the increase in explicitness of the violence (more on-panel, and barely off-panel, dismemberments and shootings and whatnot) in a handful of titles could be a result of the “me too, me too” need to compete with movies, TV, video games, and so on. It’s an easy shorthand for “see, things are REAL serious in our super-adventures, here.” I have mixed feelings on the topic, myself. In some contexts, the violence levels are fine. In others, it’s gratuitous. As violence has always been. It’s more of a problem for me as a comic book seller, when it’s time to find a comic for a mom who wants “appropriate” reading for her kid, and insists on a superhero comic. “Well, here, this comic doesn’t have too many decapitations in it.”

More self-contained stories – I think companies are deathly afraid of letting any storylines wrap up cleanly, for fear of giving anyone jumping-off points for their readerships. It seems to me that, in the current marketplace, we don’t have a lot of readers looking for clean starting points for titles they can start reading. Instead, we have a lot of comic fans looking for reasons to dump the more marginal books they’re reading, and any kind of clean break can give them that opportunity. Plus, as the market continues its slow shift toward the trade paperback distribution model, the “written for the trade” series of six part stories probably isn’t going to go away anytime soon.

Word balloons on covers that actually describe the story inside – I’m all for it. Take a look at some Sgt. Rock covers to see how this type of cover can practically force a reader to pick a comic off the rack.

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