Coda: Gerblog Phase One

The day ends at dawn again, but that’s okay.

I’ve spent it looking for a personal reason to stay alive and continue working — beyond paying the rent, I mean — and I may have found one. It has to do with analyzing and understanding the fan appetites that make the crossovers work commercially, and then finding a way to apply that knowledge toward making such a project work artistically, as well.

Grant Morrison’s carrying off a nice variation of it his multiple *Seven Soldiers* miniseries, so it *can* be done.

I’ll talk tomorrow about my number one criterion for judging comic book stories — *all* stories, really — and we’ll proceed from there.

8 Responses to “Coda: Gerblog Phase One”

  1. Bart Lidofsky Says:

    Sometimes, a young child will do something that everybody around finds humorous. Getting positive attention from all the adults around is a strong stimulation for the child. But lack of understanding of the subtleties cause and effect will cause that child to follow a simple logic: If a behavior creates a positive result, persist in that behavior. So the child will perform the same action again, and again, and again, until the adults are sick of it.

    When people think in compartments, and do not see the big picture of cause and effect, similar results will take place. In the entertainment field, when the movie STAR WARS first came out, people who wanted to imitate STAR WARS’ success looked at the movie, and said: STAR WARS had lots of high quality special effects. If we put out a movie with high quality special effects, it will be a hit, too.

    Unfortunately, with all the money being spent on special effects, there was little left on things like acting, direction, writing, etc. And a lot of people in Hollywood were scratching their heads, trying to figure out why their sure-fire formula failed.

    Combining two characters in comics is a good way of combining audiences, especially if one thinks that the audience from one, when exposed to the other, will become interested in the other. Crossovers is a good way of getting the casual reader to sample the rest of the publisher’s product. If a good story with good motivations and strong hooks can be created, it will work. But, once it works, compartmentalized thinking comes in. As opposed to a crossover being a means to an end, it has become an end in and of itself. And the wall between the business staff and the creative staff keep an understanding from taking place, even if it could. So the companies, like the young child, just keep doing it again, and again, and again, until the readers become sick of it.

  2. Mark Haden Frazer Says:

    Grant’s making it work (somewhat) by using ‘The Easter Egg syndrome’. There are various, interlocking bits of information in all the SEVEN SOLDIERS series, which, taken by themselves, simply advance the story. But taken as a whole, for the more observant reader, are… well.. like finding lil’ literary bits of chocolate wrapped in tin foil.

    People like that.

    It also helps that when he’s inspired, Grant can write rings around virtually anyone else in the industry.

    But it’s a balancing act: Most comic fans don’t have the attention span and/or literary background necessary to appreciate complex plots & storylines. I recall A LOT of readers complaining about Grant’s INVISIBLES… even his JLA stuff… saying that it was too damn hard to follow.

    Grant was lucky in the respect that he had all the major DC icons at his disposal… which leads to Tip #2: If you’re dealing with ultrasuperpopular characters, you can pretty much do whatever you want. Destroy Gotham City. Make the good guy go horribly evil. Clone the main character & send him off traveling for a decade. Kill off entire planets… none of it matters, because in order to have a complete set of (fill in the blank) the hardcore fans will ALWAYS come back for more. Shock value + beloved character + special crossover series equals $$$$.

    Tip #3: The best story in the world will not sell unless it has pretty pitchers. A Phil Jimmenez is worth his weight in gold because a) He’s very good & b) His work is very Perezesque, and as we all know, familiarity breeds content.

    And finally, a good marketing ploy… not used enough in the comics industry, but give it time… is limited availability. Case in point: When the CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTH HC came out, DC told everybody “This will NEVER be reprinted in trade. If you really want this, get yer $50 out NOW or it’s tough shite.”

    And then they screwed up the printing & had to send them all back. And then it came out in trade anyway… but you get the drift: If you make someone think they can’t have something, even if it’s complete & utter crap, they’ll want it all the more.

    Not that I’m cynical or anything, you understand… 🙂

  3. Bryan Headley Says:

    I hope one of your criteria turns out to be, “does not destroy established characters.” Too many of these damned crossovers involve the “turning” of a character, who immediately goes off and destroys, rapes, pillages something. What good is that, in the longer view?

  4. Richard Bensam Says:

    Seven Soldiers is the exact opposite of the industry-standard crossover event in SO many ways that it can’t really be considered an example of doing the latter correctly. Its closest relative is Kirby’s interlocking Fourth World series. This may be one reason even the titles that don’t actually feature variations on Kirby characters — Mister Miracle, the Guardian, Klarion the Witchboy — still riff on Kirby styles. The opening of Shining Knight echoes Kirby’s format strongly. (Oh, and it downs a wounded pegasus on the streets of New York; now where did I see that before?)

    As for the commercial success of the more standard marketing events, there’s a big halo effect from the advance hype and the promise that fans will be in an uproar at the allegedly shocking changes. I found myself giving in to morbid curiosity and reading an issue each of Infinitely Crass and House of Morbidity simply to find out what other readers were going on about. Publishers play into this “you’ll need to read this continuity-changing event or you won’t understand our comics anymore, and THIS time we’re finally getting it RIGHT” pitch because they need to keep an ever-decreasing audience captive somehow. Grant does his thing because it’s the story he wanted to tell. Huge difference.

  5. A.L. Baroza Says:

    The fan community lurches between the contradicting desires to see things get shaken up in their heroes’ universe, and yet not upset the status quo in any significant way. Ultimately, because these are corporate properties, the conservative view wins out, and Peter Parker will never age past 30. Occasionally an event creates a change that sticks, so Barry Allen is still dead (as far as I know). But there’s no reason to think that it can’t be reversed at some point in the future. Event comics that use top-tier characters will never change their larger icons in any significant way for any extended period of time, which is why the expected “big death” in Infinite Crisis will probably be reversed eventually.

    Morrison’s Seven Soldiers involves Z-list characters, so audiences will indulge his re-imaginings of them. Also, he has a fair amount of popular cachet as a writer who revamped minor properties in a way that pleased the fans, like Moore and Miller before him. It’s Morrison’s reputation that’s driving sales on Seven Soldiers more than any inherent interest in the characters themselves.

  6. Steve Gerber Says:

    *Very* astute comments. This is going to be an interesting discussion.

  7. david Says:

    Er, it seems like i’ve missed the wave on this post, but regardless – i have a friend who’s recently sworn off crossovers due to the fact that almost every major DC and Marvel book, currently, seems to be involved in their respective 500-issue spanning arcs.
    i keep trying to push 7 Soldiers on him, all the same, explaining that, as was stated above, its focus seems more on story and readability than collectability.

    The only other comment i have to add to this matter is that Morrison has done something very smart: his crossover is not really a crossover. If the series were simply called 7 Soldiers, and numbered from #1 – #30, it would work primarily the same way. The fact that he’s split it up as such has almost made it more fun to buy – rather than the daunting task of keeping up with 8 different titles just to catch one important line.

  8. Cory!!Strode Says:

    My problem with crossovers is that they don’t deliver what they promise. You can’t say that “this is going to change things FOREVER” any more because it will be reversed by the next creative team/editorial meeting/movie license, so the “shocking change” holds no appeal.

    The other BIG difference is that Morrison haqs proven himself as a writer, so you are going to get a decent story under all of the crossover stuff. The big crossovers fo the 90’s all suffered from wanting to have Big Changes, but having to cram so much in that there wasn’t room for a story with character arcs, decent character interplay or tight plotting.

    At the heart of any story is character and plot. The Easter Eggs and cleverness of Grant’s writing does no good if he doesn’t have an interesting plot and characters youi can connect with. THAT’S why I love his work so much.

    Just like Steve’s work when he is on top of his game…he can have the wildest, most insane plots with tons of asides and cleverness, but without the character for the reader to connect with, it’s just showing off.

    Just think of big crossovers this way: How many have you gone back and read because the story touched you in some way?