OPINION - 5 Items for a Perfect Comic Book Event
At the two big publishers, Marvel and DC, there has been a reliance on the Event/Crossover in recent years. It could be to shake up the status quo, bring certain characters to the forefront, or to provide a clean slate to allow new readers to jump on. Sadly, in recent years this has become something that makes fans of the Big Two roll their eyes. They have almost become a joke in their respective communities. Events/Crossovers have become a money grab, have told lackluster stories, or have caused readers to suffer from Event Fatigue. Since we all love epic Events, The Twisted Cape will provide you with the steps we believe make Events/Crossovers perfect.
Timing, Timing, Timing No, this isn’t the same word repeated again and again, but rather refers to 3 different things. The first timing refers to how often the book comes out. Should the book come out once a month, like Marvel’s Infinity Gauntlet? Is the story big enough and ambitious enough to release weekly without sacrificing quality, like DC’s 52? These need to be considered up-front so readers (and retailers) know when they are able to purchase a book. The second timing is all about being on time. This is a BIG deal. Think about it like this – you go to a restaurant and place an order. You’re hungry and the server tells you it’ll be about 15 minutes. If an hour and 15 minutes goes by and you have no food, you are certainly not happy and if you decided to stick it out, you may be giving the restaurant staff dirty looks due to your lack of food. This is similar to comics, except you aren’t waiting for life giving sustenance (although you may feel that you are). Think back to Marvel’s Civil War event which was excellent. This book suffered several delays frustrating readers everywhere because the story was so enthralling, and the artwork was spectacular. DC had a weekly book called 52 a few years back and if they didn’t deliver on their promise to put out a weekly book, they would have lost much credibility with their fans. The final timing should have an asterisk next to it because it feels like a special circumstance that only happens occasionally. When the book affects the larger narrative in your universe, especially when you are on a defined timeline, it’s critical to make sure that there is nothing that affects your endgame. Consider DC’s Doomsday Clock, which is the culmination of The New 52 and Rebirth. This event takes place a year in the DC Universe’s future, is a 12-issue event, and in the end all the books in the universe were supposed to link up and tell a more complete story. However, the book was delayed leaving a 2-month gap between issues 3 & 4. This can be corrected, but if it isn’t, the regular stories will pass the event and leave gaps in the narrative until the event catches up.
Tie-Ins It’s been said that it’s tricky to rock a rhyme that’s right on time, but I disagree. It’s far more tricky to craft a series of Event Tie-Ins that are as enriching as the main story, yet aren’t essential to making the event a success. Sadly, more often than not, this feels like a money grab by publishers. If you have Batman or Spider-Man anchoring an Event Tie-In, it’ll likely get people to buy it due to the fact that they are popular characters. However, that doesn’t satisfy the people who faithfully buy your comics. Obviously, the Tie-Ins should be connected to the overall narrative, but they also present a unique opportunity. The ability to see how what’s happening on a larger scale affects the corner of the world focusing on your Tie-In lead gives you the ability to tell a deeper story. The story told should be meaningful and impactful for the character, but not robbing the main story of it’s big moments. The difference here can be seen in Marvel’s Civil War and Secret Empire. In Civil War, Spider-Man’s decision to unmask at the end of issue 2 is further explored in the Spider-Man’s Tie-In which gave his internal struggle with this several layers. Conversely, in Secret Empire, the Deadpool tie in sees Wade make some decisions that took away from his standing in the hero community, which then affected his regular book. This could be frustrating for readers; this was a story that wasn’t touched in the main book, yet it affected Deadpool’s status quo. This should have been avoided, but it wasn’t.
Story Paying attention to the story almost seems too obvious to even talk about so we won’t. Just kidding! We definitely need to touch on some story requirements. First, the story should be something that has been built organically. Creating some odd scenario with no purpose or place isn’t fun to read. The best stories are ones that happen naturally and begin with a mystery. For example, when Bendis did his Avengers Disassembled/New Avengers stories, there are shadowy figures discussing their next moves. These figures aren’t revealed until later, but hints had been dropped for quite some time up until the Secret Invasion storyline was revealed. Sometimes it’s just necessary that these Events/Crossovers just be simple fun. Readers don’t always require deep, universe altering events. It’s ok to utilize the multiverse to tell a story that you otherwise couldn’t, like Marvel Zombies. Conversely, it’s awesome to see recent events like Dark Nights: Metal take years of character history and stories and incorporate them into a larger narrative. These characters and universes have a long, rich, detailed history. Incorporating that history is good in two big ways: it gives a nod of appreciation to long time readers and encourages newer readers to go back and explore some of those stories. Finally, don’t spoil it! A few times in recent years, companies have tried to get around leaks by spoiling plot points themselves, in some cases before the book even releases. That’s a counterproductive practice that frustrates consumers who are working hard to avoid spoilers and experience the story the first time.
Go Big or Go Home This concept is fairly simple – comic book fans are loyal, so we deserve the biggest, best moments that companies can deliver in multiple ways The initial piece of this is to avoid doing a lot of ‘small’ events. Marvel is doing this now with it’s Legacy relaunch, making many series have events and crossovers. This is a huge contributor to event fatigue and slumping sales. Events need to be big and should include many heroes in your expansive catalog. Crossovers are cool too, but again they need to be big crossovers. Think about the first time you saw Batman and Superman cross books, or the X-Men cross paths with the Fantastic Four. Those interactions are huge and often fun to work through. These events are often used to say goodbye to a character or reintroduce them to the larger universe. These should be big moments as well. Think about how Captain America was killed at the end of Civil War or how Batman was killed at the end of Final Crisis. These were both huge, impactful moments that are remembered for a long time and in some cases covered in the actual news. There are resurrections that have been equally as impactful such as Colossus or Barry Allen who both died heroically and then were brought back to tell more stories. Next, it’s imperative that the stories have long lasting impacts on at least one character or, on a larger scale, an entire team or faction. One item that sticks out recently is out of Original Sin:something is whispered to Thor making him unworthy to carry Mjolnir anymore. This spins out later allowing another to claim the mantle of Thor, while the Odinson remained unworthy. Lastly, a simple request – give us oversized issues. These stories are great. The art is breath-taking. Give us big, meaty issues to work through with twists and turns that make us want more. This is critical in first and final issues of the event because they have the most ground to cover. The first issue needs to lay groundwork for those who are just interested in the Event and may not have been around for all the set up. The finale needs to deliver a satisfying conclusion and set up any changes to the status quo.
Fan-Friendly, leading to positive Word of Mouth This also seems like a no-brainer. However I think the love of doing the event knocks this out of mind for publishers. There are several items that help keep things fan-friendly, leading to an enjoyable reading experience. Initially, the event should provide some type of fan service. Put these characters in a situation that is fun for readers or pair characters in new and interesting combos. Neither the DC nor Marvel Trinity would exist without taking the initiative to provide fan service. Next, it should be easy for fans to follow. We don’t need a confusing, convoluted storyline that just frustrates. The goals should be clear. We should have our heroes and villains by the end of the first issue, even if we don’t know the goals of each character at the start. Clear continuity should also be a goal. We should be able to easily place when a story takes place in relation to the rest of the stories in the universe. Readers shouldn’t need to resort to finding a reading order online. It should make perfect sense right away, and if it doesn’t, adding a quick editorial note should clear it up. Continuity is a strength of the comic book world and messing that up can take away from overall enjoyment. Finally, there should be something at least twice per event that causes a big word of mouth reaction. We’ve already covered some of this, but consider a big death or resurrection. Possibly the reveal or solving of a huge mystery. Or replace a ton of your characters with Skrulls. Or mindwipe Batman. Those absolutely caused buzz in the comic book world. These moments should generate positive buzz, especially since the opposite would cause readers to step away from your event.
So there you have it. 5 big items to perfectly craft a comic book event. Keep it here on the Twisted Cape for our thoughts and views on more Comic Book staples.