Thursday, September 16, 2010

Cross-comic Events

For decades the events in one comic book pretty much stayed in that comic. No matter how momentous, only one hero or team would be involved. Marvel changed this a bit. When city blocks in New York started sinking, the FF had to convince the Avengers to let them handle the situation. Regardless, this was confined to a few panels in a single comic book.

Heroes did meet each other but not often. Marvel had a lot more cameos and team-ups than DC but, again, these were limited. One of the most memorable was an Iron Man/Sub Mariner fight that was continued across both characters' strips.

During the 1970s, there was a little cross-over between comics. Newly-hired writer, Gerry Conway, introduced a common villain to all three comics he was writing - a mysterious and forgettable figure called Mr. Klein. Artist Jim Starlin came with a stable of characters that followed him from his first assignments on Iron Man to Captain Marvel and eventually Warlock.

Steve Englehart was a huge fan of Starlin's and wanted to be part of Starlin's plot. Accordingly, in Captain Marvel, the mad titan Thanos sent a fleet to attack the Earth. It was stopped by the Avengers, in their own comic book. The Avengers battled the Defenders in a multi-issue cross-over.

For Halloween one year, Conway, Englehart, and Len Wein did a crossover between Thor, Batman, and the Beast (this was the first Marvel/DC cross-over and was unauthorized). The cross-over was limited to the supporting cast and some events (i.e. a car being stolen).

In the early 1980s, Jim Shooter changed everything with the Secret Wars. This was a 12 issue limited series staring nearly everyone in the Marvel Universe. It was also the first company-wide cross-over. All of the affected heroes were called to Central Park where they vanished. When they returned things had changed. Some changes took place during the Secret Wars. Others took place in the heroes' absence. A few happened right after the heroes' return. Spider-Man returned with a new costume. Tony Stark, who had been drunk and living in a cardboard box finally sobered up. Storm lost her powers.

A follow-up changed the formula. Secret Wars 2 was a nine-issue limited series but each month additional chapters took place in different comic books.

That set the stage for DC's original Crisis event. Crisis took place in a limited series but spill-over events happened in nearly every comic.

For the next couple of decades, Marvel would have cross-comic events but they only had a lasting affect on a small core of comics featuring Warlock and Thanos. Marvel also had some cross-mutant events that mainly affected the various "X" teams. DC did some fine-tuning on their original Crisis reboot.

Things changed again in the last few years. Marvel launched their Civil War story arc which covered a total of something like 80 comics. It seems like they have had one major event after another since then. DC has done the same thing. In both cases the goal seems to be packaging a major story arc so that it can be sold as graphic novels.

I think that these big events have been overdone. They lose their impact after a while and they become self-limiting. It becomes too difficult for the casual reader to follow a few comics.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Can you please clarify where we can learn more about this mysterious figure "Mr. Klein" in Marvel Comics. I can't find him anywhere on the internet.