Somewhere in the vast reaches of comics there is a place where fans and creators meet. It is that well to which creators go to draw inspiration. It is that moment in time that always makes the fanboy giggle with glee. It is the very heart of what keeps people going to comic book stores and what keeps the characters fresh and new month to month or week to week. It is magic, it is adventure, it is fun. Sadly, there is a green shadow that has shrouded this place of mystery.
Beyond the power of our favorite creators, it is the kryptonite of every comic collecting fanboy. Yes the land of inspiration and love for our favorite super heroes is under attack by the giant known as….The Company-Wide Crossover. (Cue loud foreboding music now.)
Crossovers have been a part of comics for years and will always be a part of comics. I have no problem with that. When done well, the crossover event is an amazing spectacle of wonder. The crossover used to be the Wrestlemania of comic-dom. It was the event where all questions were answered, the climactic battle took place between good and evil, and as a collector, you knew you were gonna have to save up to be able to be a part of the amazing event.
Marvel had a couple of years in which the crossovers were contained in annuals. One of my favorite Annual crossovers was Atlantis Attacks. It started out in Silver Surfer Annual #2 and concluded in the Fantastic Four Annual #22. Throughout the series an evil force attempted to call on a more powerful nearly omnipotent evil force, some of the top heroines of time were kidnapped to be used as brides and carriers for the evil force, and all of our heroes had to battle side by side in order to save the planet. This wasn’t a huge company-wide crossover where you had to buy the annuals and fifty issues of other comics to know what was going on, all you had to do was drop a little extra on the annuals. It was a great way to introduce casual readers to other characters they may not be familiar with and tell a fun story of good vs. evil at the same time. Other annual crossovers included the Evolutionary War (which was the first annual crossover that Marvel used), Days of Future Present (a sequel of sorts to Days of Future Past from the X-Men books), The Return of the Defenders, The Lifeform Storyline (Which had a disturbing story told in the Incredible Hulk that year), The Terminus factor (was a good one) and others that I know I’m forgetting. After Atlantis Attacks, (huh, alliteration.) Marvel went the route of containing their annual crossovers to four or five parts and would often crossover books that seemed otherwise unconnected. That was a neat chance in some cases to get to see characters who seldom interacted work together.
One of my favorite Marvel crossovers of all time is Secret Wars. Now, I know there are some people taking a collective gasp of unbelief, but I loved the idea of heroes and villians being trasported to a planet for the sole purpose of fighting to the last man standing. Marvel kinda slipped up as they started Secret Wars and had a year to go, but in the regular books that were affected, the aftermath of the Secret Wars came about 11 months too soon. I loved Secret Wars though. It was just pure unadulterated fun.
Today, though, Secret Wars would hall prey to variant covers, delays, and storytelling so dark you need a flashlight to read the book. (But I guess there are a lot of people who like that stuff.)
D.C. had the penultimate crossover event in Crisis on Infinite Earths, in which they completely reworked their continuity. It was a gutsy and hugely successful move for them and the continuity they created worked well for years…until Infinite Crisis…which has once again shifted the continuity of DC and set up 52 which gave way to their current crossover event Amazon Attacks and Countdown which are apparently only the set up for Final Crisis. (no telling what that will do.)
Marvel stepped away from crossovers when Joe Quesada stepped in as editor-in-chief. A great move at the time considering they had a lot of work to do with individual titles, but then House of M came along…I’m still not sure what that was all about. Then we got Avengers Disassembled which gave way to Civil War. While Civil War was going on, Annihilation was taking place in space (And most people seemed to prefer that to Civil War), Hulk was off-planet becoming a king and leading to his return to start World War Hulk, and here we are with both companies planning and working to shove the next big crossover on us.
They just aren’t special anymore. Even when Captain America is shot and killed. To me (because I don’t get to read comics much anymore) World War Hulk is one of the funnest rides in comics in a while. It’s not being very well recieved though. Nor is Amazons Attack in DC. Come to think of it, Countdown isn’t the most critically-acclaimed series ever. The problem is…the fans are burnt out. The green fog that has shrouded the land of fanboys and tainted the inspiration of some of the most talented creators out there, I’m afraid, is money.
I’m not calling anyone a sell out, I’m just saying that maybe we should go back to the days when crossovers were special and didn’t require a second mortage to follow. That’s just me though.