Now its at this point I would warn you all, SPOILERS AHEAD! Even those many of these I’m discussing are available to the public and can be bought at your local comic book store, online, or any fine place where books are sold and even for checkout at your local library, but I understand, hard economic times so hey try digital copies of these. But for those who must be warned.
SPOILER WARNINGS AHEAD
I have loved reading comic books ever since I began reading them as a young child. The world and characters of superhero books always fascinated me. Now I do of course read outside those with non-superhero type books but that’s a discussion for another time.
Today we’re discussing event crossover comics. These are like the big summer blockbusters for the comic book industry and mostly done by DC and Marvel. Some are contained to one primary title but more often than not, its also a big major crossover of say like all the Batman books or the entire publishing line of the company. I decided to do this after reading the one the most recent events from DC, Death of the Family.
Event comics have been around for a long time. The first notable one being Marvel’s 1984-85 big crossover event, Secret Wars, written by Jim Shooter with art by Mike Zeck and Bob Layton. It spread across many of Marvel’s titles at the time. The plot revolved around the cosmic entity known as The Beyonder. He’s fascinated by the Marvel heroes of Earth so like any other reasonable entity, he transports a group of heroes and villains to Battleworld, a planet created by the Beyonder. Pretty much, it was a bigger, superhero version of The Most Dangerous Game. This series is significant for something else, in the epilogue set years later, Alicia Masters, the girlfriend of Ben Grimm AKA The Thing from the Fantastic Four, was replaced by Lyja, a Skrull spy. The Skrulls, a race of shapeshifting aliens, were first introduced here and would later become a mainstay in the Marvel Universe. This led to a sequel, Secret Wars II a year later.
But the earliest one everyone seems to remember is 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC’s first crossover event, written by Marv Wolfman and drawn by George Perez. the story came out around DC’s 50th anniversary and revolved around the concept of the Multiverse in the DC Universe and involved several character deaths thanks to the plans of the Anti-Monitor to crusade across time to bring about the end of all existence.
In issue 7 of Crisis, Kara Zor-El AKA Supergirl dies and The Flash AKA Barry Allen dies in issue 8. These were impactful on the DC Universe in the way Uncle Ben to Peter Parker was and Thomas and Martha Wayne to Bruce. Barry’s death led to Wally West becoming The Flash and an instant fan-favorite. Supergirl’s death impacted the whole universe and is one the central points brought up whenever Crisis is discussed. Three years later a shape-shifting alien named Matrix adopted her appearance. Supergirl later had her own solo series relaunched in 2004. The biggest impact of Crisis being the removal of the Multiverse and thus creating one singular universe for the DC Comics world to live in and thus creating the Post-Crisis continuity that lasted until 2011. Erasing everything, it gave everyone there a clean slate, well everyone that survived Crisis that is.
These events were huge sellers for both companies and set upon a trend of there being huge type crossover.
Arguably the first big event that ever got any sort of notice was the Death of Superman in 1992. Now for a more in-depth, educational, and more informative look into this event I highly recommend the documentary, Requiem & Rebirth: Superman Lives! from the Blu-Ray/DVD release of Warner Brothers first release in their line of DC Universe Animated Original Movie line, Superman: Doomsday, an animated adaptation of the Death of Superman.
The creative teams across all four Superman books at the time, Superman, The Adventures of Superman, Action Comics, and Superman: The Man of Steel, came to a summit meeting with one goal, create a year’s worth of stories for Superman. Get content for the next year and well they decided it was really against Superman’s character to be lying to Lois. So Clark Kent reveals himself to Lois, they get engaged, and plan a wedding. Problem is ABC was setting to air Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and they wanted to do a wedding as well, but first. So the big event was postponed until the show had reached its wedding. So they decided to just kill him.
It all came to a head in Superman #75 in November 1992 and it was huge. Not just the comic itself, but the reaction. Faux funeral services were thrown, editorials written across many local and nationally printer newspapers, letters written to DC. The event was huge and in someways had set the standard now for how event comics will go, but the biggest impact was not the death, but it was the return of Superman. Superman came back after they had stopped publishing Superman books for a while. You couldn’t get away with this today with Twitter and so many comic book websites on the internet that could have possibly spoiled the big reveal. This set the notion for many people that in comics, you can bring the dead back to life. This notion that Superman killed death.
Now often some heroes will be killed off but come back, but its not always permanent. It continues today and will.
The Death of Superman was DC’s biggest success. It later lead to a year later Batman’s big event, Knightfall which introduced Bane. This was more about the breaking of Batman, rather than the death.
Events can range from as long as months to taking on a whole year and that can be polarizing. Comics are published once a month. So if you have say like a 4-5 issue arc in the upcoming issues of Daredevil, you’re still eating up about half your year’s publication, but telling serialized stories are the norm of comics today with events being collected in trades right away now.
Marvel, I believe is way too event happy, in my opinion. Each year it seems they need to have a new one. Marvel events in the 90s were nothing really special worth talking about and is where I think we should talk about event fatigue.
Civil War was published by Marvel in 2006-2007, written by Mark Millar and drawn by Steve McNiven. The story about the Superhuman Registration Act, a legislative bill which required the mandatory registration of any person based in the United States with superpowers., was huge. It had its own main book but spread across the bulk of Marvel’s titles as tie-in stories. Tie-ins are stories that relate to the big, main story but are in a different book, like in the case of Civil war with Spider-Man and Iron Man being such huge figures in the story that the main story tied into issues 532-538 of Amazing Spider-Man and #13-14 of Iron Man among many. Some times the tie-ins are a necessity because they feature some heavy things that go on in the main event title. This frustrates many, many readers.
Now there are readers who don’t care for the big events going on and just want to read the book they regularly read but because its so heavily tied into this story that’s going on and when that happens, sales for those books begin to dip a little and some big time because some people will have no indication of when the big event goes one. It happens so often nowadays. The main title story book maintains decent to great sales while the tie-ins. This kept on going with Secret Invasion, Dark Reign, Fear Itself, and more recently, Avengers vs. X-Men. DC is guilt of the same thing as well with events such as Final Crisis, Blackest Night and Brightest Day, Flashpoint, and the most recent Death of the Family which has multiple tie-ins connected towards the main story going on. They can’t seem to slow down, thinking oh we need to get ready right away for another one so more people will start reading. Its just year after year with them and sometimes, one event leading into another. There needs to be longer breaks honestly between event comics.
Events can more often than not change the status-quo on a certain book, but of the universe. Enter the DC New 52 from September 2011. DC relaunched its entire universe and started publishing 52 new #1 books across their entire line. It was met with praise and criticism. Its still going strong today and has helped DC excel over its competition.
You rarely see these other event type comics are publishers like Image, Dark Horse, IDW, Oni Press, and Boom Studios. They have superhero books but its more often than note creator owned heroes and books. Some great ones but ones that don’t garner anything like I’ve discussed.
Event comics are make and break, but they more often make. They can entice or push away many readers. I said to many my friends I want to challenge DC and Marvel to do a year and a half without any events going on to see what sales do or go back so being one-in-done issues or some simple little two parters. Most likely that’s not gonna happen as these are sellers but what needs to be done I think is that events need to be more self-contained in their own stories. But hey what do I know? I’m just a reader who spends money on these books.