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I don't generally read the kind of comic books that feature crossovers so I haven't experienced the concept very much first hand. therefore, seeing N6's hate of them has me curious.

 

What are the pros and cons? In theory it sounds cool. After all, what was the Avengers movie but a crossover? So how does it go bad?

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Crossovers can be cool. My first ever was when Simon & Simon crossed over with The Whiz Kids. Or that time Booker and 21 Jump Street joined up on cases.

 

In comics, it's a double edged sword. If you have a couple characters teaming up, and the storyline crosses over their respective books, it's not so bad. Sometimes even fun to see the characters interact.

 

I read a lot of X-Men, and there are a crap ton of X-books that try to stay in continuity with each other and they cross paths. It makes the world feel real and bigger.

 

The downside that Six, and I as well, despise isn't the average cross-over as much as the EVENT comic. Marvel and DC both abuse the paradigm. They used to be fun-- but now they've become the norm. Marvel decided to treat their universe like TV seasons with 1 or 2 big events a year. DC is constantly self-referencing it's own confusing continuity and celebrating it for some reason.

 

The problem is, if you're not into the big event and it crosses over with a book you do like, you're thrown off the rails. I'll use DC as an example. I really don't like DC that much, in terms of characters or creative directions or even the talent they have working for them with the exception of Scott Snyder on Batman. His run has been amazing, possible my favorite take on Batman since Frank Miller in his heyday. JUST reading Batman has been fun. But-- when Batman must intersect with larger DC storylines I get confused because I'm not following those books. If I want to know what's going on, now I have to buy six other books-- which is exactly what they want me to do, hence the hatred. I KNOW they are milking me. This is the entire reason they do it-- to force people to get other books in hopes they will stay with them.

 

When this used to happen once every couple years you could deal with it-- it was about a story and having an actual event. Now, it is completely about trying to force people to buy more comics.

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Ever since Secret Wars and Crisis on Infinite Earths brought in the big bucks back in '85 or so (each being beloved in their own respective ways), Marvel and DC have each averaged one major company-wide crossover per year ever since. At first each crossover felt like a must-read event, but after so many years you could tell this was becoming a corporate-mandated thing. Usually it's not one or more writers telling the editors, "Hey, I have this cool idea for a big crossover. Can we do it?" It's more like, the editors come to the writers and ask, "Okay, so we need to get this year's crossover going. Whaddya got?" Or worse, the editors ordering them, "We've decided such-and-such is this year's crossover. Deal with it."

 

I've read complaints over the years from writers who were working on a given series, had their own plots and subplots set up and ongoing, everything mapped out for months and sometimes years in advance, only to have their plans derailed when an editor told them one or more future issues would now be crossover tie-ins. They either had to rewrite their carefully laid plans to accommodate this intrusion, junk their plans and just do crossover story only, or step aside for one or more issues while some other writer took their paycheck for a few months and wrote the crossover issues instead. And I've read more than a few comics where you could tell the crossover issues weren't exactly a happy, welcome challenge for the regular writer.

 

It's something that's come to bug me ever since, every time I see it happen to a series that was going awesomely, and then it turned terrible for the span of the crossover, and then it tried to go back to being awesome, depending on whether or not the crossover had any lingering effects that messed up the writer's long-term outline. Some writers have even walked away from series altogether when given the ultimatum of "crossover or get out".

 

Hypothetical example:

 

You're running Buffy season 6. You've got a lot of plot lines laid out -- Buffy's return from the dead, the Xander/Anya thing blossoming, Willow and Tara as the doomed lovers later on, the Terrible Nerd Trio putting their heads together, Giles planning to vacate, and so on. You've decided episode 7 is gonna be the one where Buffy admits she was happy in Heaven until her friends resurrected her under the mistaken, unflattering impression that she was suffering in Hell and needed to be rescued. And you're gonna make a musical. Songs are written, the cast is rehearsing, at least one of them is rushed through singing lessons, some light choreography is involved. Everyone's working hard but really hyped for this thing that all leads up to a key confrontation between Buffy and her friends that's kind of a big deal, and you're sure the fans will get a kick out of it.

 

And then the CW executives show up at your office two weeks before the airdate you picked months ago and they tell you that no, we need episodes 7 and 8 to be a crossover with our new hit series Smallville. Clark Kent comes to Sunnydale hot on the trail of some meteor-freak, and he and Buffy need to meet, flirt, fight the freak, punch vampires, and the fans all die happy. P.S.: screw your musical plans, and if there's time for that Buffy/Scoobies argument, feel free to cram it into the last thirty seconds of episode 8. Annnnnnd GO.

 

This, more often than not, is how comics crossovers frequently work according to the numerous anecdotes I've read from comics writers over the past 20+ years, and how I came to loathe them when I could see this kind of nonsense in action.

 

Also, another aspect:

 

Every crossover crams anywhere between 10 and literally 500 characters into a single story, and the odds of the writer(s) getting all those characterizations correct are a million to 1, even if Best Editor Ever is playing traffic cop. The odds of more than three characters getting to do anything meaningful for more than one panel are even slimmer. In most cases what you get is armies of good guys versus armies of bad guys, all of which add up to one very large poster cut into the shape of a comic book. If you replaced 90% of the forces on both sides with faceless henchmen, odds are great that it wouldn't affect the story one bit, except it would contain fewer merchandise faces. I guess if the costumes mean more to you than the characters inside them, they make for pretty pictures even if their words and actions mean nothing within their own context.

 

Also, what Tank said. I read the series I like, and if I have to buy other books so that the series I like will continue to make any sense, I get downright resentful, especially if it's another series -- or a dozen other series -- in which I will have zero interest under all possible circumstances, crossover or not.

 

Other comics fans lap this stuff up like cats slurping milk from a saucer without caring whether or not the milk is fresh or pasteurized. I lost that taste a long time ago.

 

The effects in other media aren't quite so devastating, but they're privileged to different circumstances. X-Men: Days of Future Past, even after a second viewing the other night, remains one of the most brilliant crossovers I've encountered in any medium in years. Granted, it helped if you watched the first six X-Men movies that led up to it, but those were released over a 14-year period, so fans have had time to catch them all at their leisure.

 

Now imagine if DoFP were the culmination of a twenty-movie crossover, and those twenty movies had to be released in theaters over a precise three-month span, March-May 2014, and they didn't start writing eight of those movies until November 2013, and also they wanted thirty more mutants added in the mix somewhere for merchandising purposes, but they had to meet that deadline anyway, because that's what Fox wanted, because $$$$$. No matter what shape they were in, Fox insisted all twenty films had to be released during those three months. By any means necessary, even if it meant using swede-level effects and any actors available on zero-minute notice, down to the Pauly Shore/Tom Arnold/Paris Hilton level if need be. Period.

 

Now how much do you think you'd like crossovers?

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