Saturday, April 27, 2013

More on the over-coordination of comic-book universes

A couple of weeks back, I wrote a long article about how much +DC Comics and +Marvel Entertainment's insistence on putting out a large, multi-title crossover every single year (along with smaller ones in between) disrupts the normal pattern of story-telling in each individual series.  In that article, I stated that the companies have a, "foolhardy tradition of producing a universe-spanning crossover every summer."

Two days ago on IGN, the editor of DC's Justice League line, Brian Cunningham, actually admitted that they do this on purpose (I'm not sure I've ever seen it admitted up-front before, but maybe it has).   Indeed, he used the same word I did ("tradition") to refer to these idiotic, series-disrupting events, stating, "Summer is traditionally the 'big summer popcorn extravaganza.'"  This year's will be DC's Trinity War (which is what the interview is about), but with that one sentence, Cunningham shows exactly what the editorial/managerial thinking is at the DC front office.  They are doing exactly what I accused them of doing a couple of weeks ago: they deliberately produce a mega-crossover every summer. It's now become a "tradition."

This one is a bad tradition, Mr. Cunningham.  Stories should evolve of their own momentum, and should not be forced into the rigid mold that requires a crossover at the same time every year. It is exactly this foolhardy "every summer is a popcorn extravaganza" mentality that is the problem.

Interestingly, in the interview, IGN asks Cunningham why it's a crossover and not a stand-alone miniseries.  Here, Cunningham's answer is either untruthful, or naive. He claims they're doing this story as a crossover because it feels more like it's "part of the fabric of the DC Universe." My guess is, this is a line that DC throws out to avoid admitting the truth, which is that in today's publishing atmosphere, crossovers are produced solely and exclusively for sales-hype purposes, and have nothing to do with the stories themselves.  This crossover is not something that evolved, slowly but surely, out of the brilliant minds of several writers.  It was imposed upon them from above (i.e., "Next summer you will produce a JL, JLA, JLD crossover").

I simply refuse to believe that Cunningham is ignorant of this fact, but even if we take his words at face value his answer is silly.  Tons of one-shots and mini-series are produced every year by both DC and Marvel, and nobody considers them any less a part of each universe's "fabric" than if they appear in ongoing series. Indeed, in an atmosphere were most comics get terminated and re-numbered to issue 1 every few years, one could argue that all series are now mini-series, and that the true, ongoing series no longer exists.

This is just a follow-up of my previous article, so I won't say a lot more about this topic.  I just thought it was interesting that Cunningham used the same word I did ("tradition") and that he openly admitted to it. Again, I'm not sure I've ever seen them admit to doing these crossovers every year on purpose -- they usually like to pretend they are "just doing it for the story" and rarely admit to purposely publishing comics just to sell them. Even Cunningham didn't say those words here, and he probably doesn't realize what he openly admitted to doing (or else he probably would not have made the statement).

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