Geriatrics Corner: Crossovers

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Ladies and gentlemen, we at the Giving Groin are pleased to announce a first here at the blog: the first team-up post by our two best contributers, Goki and AA, in a new column series, Geriatrics Corner. Join us two old geezers as we draw upon our wealth of comic-reading experience to put modern events into historical perspective. We promise not to stop until every one of you young whipper-snappers has been educated on the way things were back in the day…or until we go in for our hip replacement.

Today, we tackle one of everyone’s favorite events, the crossover. Read on to see what crossovers used to be like in the good old days, and how this summer’s blockbuster crossover events stack up.

Disclaimer: The following does contain some spoilers. If you have not read Final Crisis #1, and do not want a major development in it ruined, do not read further. Also, there are a couple brief spoiler references to old crossovers. So, if you somehow don’t know that Barry Allen died in Crisis on Infinite Earths some 23 years ago, then well, you’re fucked just by reading this note.

 

MrStanza = David/AA/davidry214

Gokitalo = Geraldo Rivera/Gokitalo

PROLOGUE: OLD PEOPLE HAVE POOR MEMORY

MrStanza: Sorry I blew the crossover chat for Tuesday, I completely forgot
Gokitalo: Hey no problem, I actually forgot we were doing it
MrStanza: Well, I was thinking, maybe we could do it more like you and Spiff did that one comic (I forget which), where he wrote his review in paragraphs and you responded. I prefer that system to an AIM free-for-all
Gokitalo: Me too, actually. More concise, but just as effective
Gokitalo: Eeexcellent. If you’ve got time, want to do it now?
MrStanza: when do you leave for europe again? I keep forgetting
Gokitalo: Saturday
MrStanza: yikes
Gokitalo: Yeah, it looms ever closer
MrStanza: as in two days, or a week from that?
Gokitalo: Two days
MrStanza: then yeah, we should do it now

QUESTION 1: WHAT DO YOU THINK OF CROSSOVERS?

MrStanza: As a general concept, I think they’re a great idea. They bring together characters and teams in ways that they wouldn’t normally get to interact, and they can be a lot of fun for readers. Problems can arise, and we’ll get to those later, but I’ve always liked the idea of crossovers.
Gokitalo: My sentiments exactly. I personally love the IDEA of a crossover. It’s the chance to see the various characters we love from different titles interact with each other like inhabitants of a cohesive universe. However, the EXECUTION of crossovers hasn’t always been the best… nor has it always been easy.

QUESTION 2: WHAT MAKES A GOOD CROSSOVER?

MrStanza: Well, you have to know your scope, which depends on how many people/books the crossover encompasses. I’ve seen crossovers where the villain didn’t seem to match how big the company wanted the event to be. You need writers working well in tandem with each other, and ideally, you don’t expand it too far. There’s nothing more annoying than buying a “crossover issue” that barely relates to the big issue. And if you do expand it far, make sure it has a lasting impact that reflects that size.
Gokitalo: Truth on all accounts. For me, a good crossover needs someone or something that will challenge all the heroes, as well as be compelling on an action and emotional level. The characterizations should be solid and the plot should be tight and hole-free. And yes, every issue of a crossover should play an important role in the crossover itself (“red skies,” anyone?).
 

QUESTION 3: WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE CROSSOVERS? WHAT MADE THEM WORK? 

MrStanza: Well, there’s the obvious choices, like Crisis on Infinite Earths and Secret Wars. I’d also add my favorite X-book crossover, X-Cutioner’s Song.
MrStanza: What made Crisis work was that they had the scope down very well. It was the event that literally remade the DC Universe, so it meant anything and anyone was fair game. It’s rare in comics to go in knowing anyone could die, but that one pulled it off. Every issue felt like an ordeal.
MrStanza: With Secret Wars, it was a lot more fun. The basic premise was kinda silly when you stopped to think about it, but you got to see all your favorite heroes and villains together in one place, and that made it fun. It knew what it was. It didn’t try to be too grand, but nor did it trivialize the event.
MrStanza: Of my favorites, X-Cutioner’s Song most played up one good thing you mentioned: characterization. It’s hard when you bring together that many different personalities to still pay close attention to development, mindsets and actions, but that story pulled it off beautifully.
Gokitalo: True, I hadn’t thought about that with X-Cutioner’s Song (I’m afraid I wasn’t too fond of it). But yeah, Crisis on Infinite Earths is definitely one of my favorites as well. Not just because it was an “anything could happen” cross-over, but also because you didn’t have to read anything outside of it to get the story. For example, you didn’t need to know what happened to Blue Devil after Crisis #9 or anything like that
MrStanza: good point
Gokitalo: I actually find that a lot of the crossovers I like didn’t take place in ongoing series, but mini-series. Crisis, Infinity Gauntlet, Identity Crisis (with caveats). While you could argue important developments of a character should happen in their own book, a mini-series can be a great way of keeping these big stories self-contained
Gokitalo: Although an exception to that rule would be the recent Sinestro Corps War story in the Green Lantern books. It took place in two ongoings, but was definitely one of the stronger crossover stories I’ve read, thanks to the riveting characterization and strong plotlines
Gokitalo: I’m sure there’s plenty more (considering how many dozens of crossovers there’ve been), but that’s what I remember off the top of my head

QUESTION 4: WHAT ARE SOME OF THE PITFALLS OF CROSSOVERS?

MrStanza: As for pitfalls, some of it can go back to villains. If you don’t have a villain that captivates people, the whole thing can fail. One big problem can be trying to use new or fairly new bad guys, like Our Worlds At War did.
Gokitalo: Oh ho, yes. Imperiex!
MrStanza: It’s not fair to the buyers, who might want a big event but have trouble caring about someone new like that, and it’s not even fair to the villain. Imperiex could’ve been a pretty good villain under less pressing circumstances, but trying to make it the focal point of a big crossover fell flat.
MrStanza: Another pitfall, of course, is too many books. Again with OWAW (an easy crossover to find faults in, despite some legit high points), there were a lot of books that did nothing to advance the story at all. When that happen, it not only turns the reader off to that issue, but the entire event.
MrStanza: Finally, I’d say you need a good post-crossover plan. Companies always promise that their big event will “change everything,” but lasting change is hard. Killing off Aquaman in OWAW was pointless, because everyone knew he’d be right back, and he was. Killing Barry Allen in Crisis, however, was huge, because DC had committed to keeping that one around.
Gokitalo: Wow. Truth to everything. I say you not only need a villain that can take on all the heroes in your crossover, but you also need a COMPELLING villain. Imperiex had some intriguing aspects to him (being a force of nature, like Galactus), but not enough to make him an interesting character
Gokitalo: Another problem that’s plagued crossovers in the past is consistency. For example, if you have a story that occurs in four or five different ongoings by different writers, it’s very possible someone will write a character differently, even wrongly. Sometimes costumes will get mixed up, certain events will be contradicted or glossed over or what have you, and that just leads to more confusion.
 

QUESTION 5: DC and Marvel have been pumping out crossovers like crazy lately. What’s been good about them? What’s been bad? Are they milking the crossover cow too much?

MrStanza: Well, both crossover have been a mixed bag so far, but they at least seem to have very solid bases to them, so I think they’ll ultimately be OK.
MrStanza: Marvel’s current big event is Secret Invasion. The good: an easy hook, which helps easily spread it to all book/teams. Using Skrulls who have replaced heroes means that anyone could be affected, so the “why you should care” is well-established. And, Skrulls are an extremely well-established villainous group that we’ve probably all read something with.
MrStanza: The biggest problem I’ve had so far is the over-expanding, something which is a pretty common crossover problem. Ideally, every issue with the crossover tag would advance the story in some way, while still letting the central series tell the main points. There have already been a lot of fairly worthless SI tags, and it’s not even half done.
Gokitalo: You know, I think Secret Invasion and Marvel’s other recent crossovers, e.g. Civil War, have one huge advantage over DC’s recent crossovers and events: accessibility.
Gokitalo: Look at Secret Invasion: shapeshifting aliens replaces Marvel heroes, villains and citizens. That’s a plot anyone can understand, and it’s being told in a way where you don’t need to read anything else to get what’s going on. Civil War was the same way: all you needed to know was that there was a Superhero Registration Act and it split the hero community in half
MrStanza: Good point. I only read parts of Civil War, and not always parts that were right after each other, but I could always pretty much tell what was going on. Marvel also has the advantage of their first page, the “last time” page, which I kinda wish was an industry standard (despite the fact that I was at first being skeptical about it).
Gokitalo: I agree! Those “last time” pages are the perfect tool for ongoing comic books.
 
 
Gokitalo: As for DC’s latest crossovers…

MrStanza: Well, I can’t comment on Infinite Crisis or 52/Countdown, since both occurred while I was out of comics, but I heard a lot about how they had scope/villain problems, or in the case of 52, problems with overexpansion/too many issues.

Gokitalo: 52’s problem was that they shifted away a bit from the main focus, which was to reveal all the big secrets of DC’s one-year jump, and instead focused on the characters whose stories they were telling. This didn’t really affect the series in terms of quality, but it did falter slightly in its mission
Gokitalo: As for Infinite Crisis, while I thought Geoff Johns did a nice job of recapping the important points of Crisis on Infinite Earths, it relied on a lot more backstory than say, Civil War or Secret Invasion. Plus some fans may have felt lost at some scenes if they hadn’t read some of the various lead-ins (OMAC Project, Day of Vengeance, etc.)
Gokitalo: Then there’s Final Crisis
MrStanza: Final Crisis is difficult to judge with only two issue out, but we’ll do so anyway.
Gokitalo: Good point So far… well, you get the general story, but it’s very easy for the casual DC fan to get lost
Gokitalo: Or the newbies
MrStanza: There’s some strengths that you can see right away. For one, they got one of the best writers of the past two decades (and a personal favorite of myself and Goki), Grant Morrison, to do the main story.
MrStanza: And they have some intriguing plot points, and a lot of cool one-shots and such by great creative teams coming up. But looking at the schedule, I think DC is going to do a pretty good job of not making readers buy too much, which is a big plus.
MrStanza: Of course, probably the biggest problem is, like you said, accessibility. I’ve read up on a lot since the first issue, so I feel like I understand it better than I did after first reading FC #1. But I admit, it’s still a little out there for me.
MrStanza: Another problem I see, or I should say potential problem, is villains. You have classic villains like Darkseid involved, but he (and the rest of the gods) are in an odd period of transition, so they’re harder for readers to identify with than usual.
MrStanza: And another main villain, Libra, is new, which is always a risk when undertaking something this potentially big. I’ll elaborate more on a specific problem I have that somewhat relates to Libra, after you give a few thoughts on those things.
Gokitalo: Well, he appeared in an issue of Justice League of America many years ago, but yeah, he’s a bit of an enigma right now. Not to mention that the crossover is dealing with many things that aren’t terribly easy for the casual fan to understand, like the multiverse and the New Gods. You made a good point when you said the New Gods aren’t at their most recognizable right now because they’re in a state of flux. And also, can you just imagine the confusion people unfamiliar with Kamandi had when he showed up in the last few pages?
MrStanza: Honestly, I’m not even remembering that off the top of my head
MrStanza: Another problem I have early on with FC, and this very well may not be a problem at all by the end, is what happened in #1. Two very well-established characters died, but neither in ways that big characters are typically killed in.
MrStanza: Oh hell, SPOILERS
Gokitalo: BRING IT
MrStanza: The first one, Orion, I was fine with, because it obviously gave way to the whole investigation angle. Furthermore, with the gods in a state of rebirth, it looks like he’ll be right back (and may already be, for that matter).
MrStanza: The second, Martian Manhunter, was much more sketchy. And with a Requiem issue coming up, this one looks planned to stick for a while. And that I kinda have a problem with. Sure, characters often die in crossovers, and in big, unverse-altering ones, that can include some major characters, like Barry.
MrStanza: But when Barry died, he gave his life to defeat something big. And I know not all deaths have to be heroic sacrifices–one of my all-time favs was Marvel’s original Captain Marvel dying of cancer. But it seems like it should mean something. And early on, this very major death seemed designed mostly to add to the reputation of Libra, who at the least is still very unknown to most of us and mysterious to all of us.
MrStanza: I think if you’re going to kill someone that big, (and though he’s always had trouble in getting a solo title to sell well, J’onn was still extremely big), it should be something of a grand event unto itself. This one felt like it was just trying to lend instant credibility to this crossover.
MrStanza: And I think that might have been a poor way to start out. Obviously, I might have a completely different opinion in five months, but since we’re tossing out criticisms, that’s one that’s been weighing on me.
Gokitalo: Oh, I suspect there’s a twist with the Martian Manhunter coming. Especially considering where Grant Morrison decided to bury him (see JLA One Million, which is *gasp* another crossover!).
MrStanza:  Well, I hope you’re right, but to me, DC seems to be telegraphing that they meant this death. 

QUESTION 6: Do you think after DC and Marvel’s latest crossovers are done, they should do more? Should they relax for a bit, or delay the next ones?

MrStanza: Well, of course they should (and will) do more at some point, but I think both of them need to relax a bit and take some time off. For Marvel, it’s because they’ve had several big events come relatively one after another, going from House of M to Civil War and now to Secret Invasion. This time, they ought to take more than a year off, let creators develop things more in their own titles without the interruptions. Frequent crossover interruptions led to Peter David becoming disgruntled in his first X-Factor run. I don’t bring that up just because I love PAD, but because in general, you want your writers to feel they have their own latitude
MrStanza: DC has had a string of crossvers recently as well, but for them, I think it could be more of an issue of taking a breath and recovering, if indeed Final Crisis has as many big impacts as they claim it will. If this is to be a universe-altering story, then they need to give some time to develop the aftermath of that universe before doing another big event.
MrStanza: Although I’m OK with both companies doing smaller crossover, like DC’s upcoming Blackest Night within the Green Lantern books, or if Marvel wants to do a X-cross (still, not too many), or if Bendis wants to do countless tie-ins between his Avengers book.
MrStanza: But yeah, take a break now from the big stuff.
Gokitalo: Yeah. I think more self-contained crossovers wouldn’t hurt too much, but huge crossovers need to be put on the backburner, for a while. Otherwise, they lose their impact. And like you said, writers should get the chance to develop their own stories. Dwayne McDuffie has had to write three or four tie-ins to events in Justice League of America, and has only just now had the chance to fully return to his main storylines
 
 
Final Questions:

What is the #1 thing you want to see from each current crossover?

Gokitalo: Honestly? I just want them both to excel. I want them to resonate positively with readers no matter how versed in comic continuity they are.
MrStanza: Well said.

Very favorite crossover ever, if you had to pick one?

MrStanza: And you can only pick one, or else Spiffy won’t give you your weekly ration of…meat
MrStanza: (Note: Edit that line to make it funny somehow)
But no such edit would occur!
Gokitalo: NOOOOOO
Gokitalo: Man, that’s a tough one. I guess I’ll just pick the obvious one and say Crisis on Infinite Earths
MrStanza: Yeah, it is tough, and I hate to be predictable (and I’m sure it’d be more entertaining if we disagreed), but when push comes to shove, I just have a hard time picking against Crisis. It’s too good.

D’ENOUEMENT: DECISIONS

MrStanza: (anything else?)
Gokitalo: (Nah, I think we’re good)
MrStanza: sweet. You editing or me?
MrStanza: I’m fine with either, though I probably won’t do it tonight if it’s me
Gokitalo: Same here. Hmm…
MrStanza: want me to?
Gokitalo: If that’s okay with you. Tomorrow’s going to be a bit busy for me with packing and what-not
MrStanza: yeah, I don’t doubt it. Final question: any thoughts on what to call our line of teamup columns (if we want to name them)?
MrStanza: I thought about “Geriatrics Corner,” but I’m open to anything
MrStanza: or maybe “The Geriatrics Ward” would be better
MrStanza: (with the idea being that we’re the “old-timers” of the blog)
Gokitalo: Ha, those are good ones
Gokitalo: “Old, But Virile”?
MrStanza: lol
Gokitalo: Geriatics Corner works fine, I think
MrStanza: ok, sweet
MrStanza: I’ll post that sometime tomorrow then
MrStanza: pleasure working with you, sir
Gokitalo: Likewise! I think this turned out well
MrStanza: me too, we’ll have to keep this up
MrStanza: Anyway, I think I’ll save this and head out, but if I don’t talk to you (fairly likely), have an awesome trip
Gokitalo: Thanks, David! You and Spiff have fun while I’m gone, you can update the blog as often or as little as you want
MrStanza: and be safe, cause we can’t afford to lose a blog member. No one would be interested in just Spiff and I bitching at each other. You’re the cream filling in our oreo
MrStanza: and since we’re a collective groin, take that cream filling comment however you’d like
Gokitalo: YES

EPILOGUE: MAYBE JUST THE ITALIANS

MrStanza: (P.S. For some reason, i imagine a lot of Europeans having venereal diseases, so be safe about that too )
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4 Responses to “Geriatrics Corner: Crossovers”

  1. spiffyithaca Says:

    I’m really glad you guys did this and got together! Great stuff, and I agreed with all the points, even though I hadn’t read a lot of what was discussed.

    The disclaimer was hilarious, and my highlight.

    I have a feeling Final Crisis and Secret Invasion will both be pretty damn successful crossovers when it’s all said and done.

    And while it might’ve been more exciting, I liked how you guys both agreed on Crisis, it just shows how great it really was.

  2. spiffyithaca Says:

    Also, idea for round 2: maybe what makes a good villain and some of your favorites? You kinda touched base on it here with Darkseid, but I don’t know, I liked that idea

  3. gokitalo Says:

    The disclaimer made me cry with laughter.

    Your idea for the next one is insanely brilliant, Spiffy (and I’m not saying this because of what we did in the parking lot on that beautiful Friday night) and we probably will do that at one point, if David’s keen. We’ve got another one planned though, one involving a writer we both have much man-love for.

  4. spiffyithaca Says:

    I can’t wait for both! DO IT!

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