Comic crossover troubles

Justin Cook – Comic Relief (Cara Smith/AQ)

I consider comics not only just a form of entertainment, but also a legitimate art. But it’s really hard to make this argument when the giants of the industry whore their work out for quick sales. What started as an innovation has become a clumsy cog in the machine.

Marvel comics has massive crossover events like clockwork. For the uninitiated, this means they dream up a huge temporary change to the status quo that happens to run simultaneously in all of their popular characters’ books. There’s also more than one mini-series directly tied to the event.

This practice officially started in 1985, when Marvel released the Secret Wars limited series and DC released Crisis on Infinite Earths. These both had consequences to the main continuities of their respective worlds and brought all the big players from each company together for the first time.

At first this trick was used sparingly. I’d say it was Marvel’s House of M crossover that changed things. It was on a bigger scale than anything before. It changed the dynamic of the entire Marvel universe (although nearly all of its repercussions have since been reversed, in true comic fashion).

Then right after this was Civil War, an ambitious event of epic proportions that has yet to be matched. But then the whole concept became diluted. It went directly from one event into the next. Each successive attempt has been less impressive, although Avengers v.s. X-Men still tops the embarrassing Fear Itself.

The stories have grown less interesting and more blatant in their attempt to squeeze the cash from wallets of fan-boys/girls. Although Marvel are undeniably the worst, DC has their fair share of these company-wide crossovers too.

If you wanted to get every story that was a part of these events, you’d be buying dozens of comics every month. The sales show that this is a profitable business model. Sales rise above their typical amount. Yet there’s been more and more criticism from fans.

I believe that these events have a large effect on comic piracy. Unless you’ve got some serious disposable income, you’re not likely to buy every comic that’s part of an event. This could lead you to miss something important. As a result, it’s just easier to download the comics online from a BitTorrent website.

As an event is published, online pirates upload weekly packs, putting the comics all in one convenient place and even in the proper order. Or, if you can wait until the event is over, you can find the whole thing packaged together in chronological order, with every tie-in present. Honestly, I don’t know how anyone could’ve followed all of the subtle plots within Civil War without torrenting it.

I don’t think there’s any disagreement that fans are growing increasingly disillusioned with this method of corporate cash-in.

Events may drive sales up for the fiscal quarter, but I believe it’s only hurting the industry in the long run. A few years ago, torrenting comics was a specialty. Now, you can find them on any notable torrent site.

It’s possible lesser-known companies have gained traction from fed-up fans. The big companies have huge corporations behind them (Walt Disney and Time Warner), so they’ll always dominate the movies and merchandise markets. Still, they might want to start concentrating on good story-telling if they’d like to remain at the top of comic sales.

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