The Devastator #8: “Crossovers”
By Various Writers and Artists
Edited by Geoffrey Golden and Amanda Meadows
People love crossovers. That’s not news, but I’ve never stopped and wondered why that is. What exactly is so cool about someone from Universe X running into someone from Universe Y? Or even people from different corners of the same universe meeting each other? And why do some crossovers work really well when others are so disappointing? The most recent issue of the humor anthology The Devastator explores crossovers in a way that’s of course funny, but also helps me understand what makes a great one, and why.
Devastator #8 features comics and pin-ups by a lot of great artists, as well as short stories, essays, infographics and epic poetry. On one level, it’s fun simply to read through and giggle at Box Brown’s Punisher/New Yorker mash-up or spot the references in Jim Rugg’s cover. But the more I read, the more I realized that The Devastator was scratching a crossover itch in a way that’s more satisfying than most of the actual crossovers it’s parodying.
Legal | EC Comics writer and editor Al Feldstein and the estate of Mad editor and artist Harvey Kurtzman have taken steps to reclaim the copyright to their early work under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 (the same provision invoked by the heirs of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster). Feldstein has already reached an agreement with the William M. Gaines Agency, which holds the rights to Tales from the Crypt and other classic EC comics of the 1950s; the deal will bring him a small amount of money and the freedom to use the art any way he wants in his autobiography. Kurtzman’s people are in the early stages of negotiations with Warner Bros./DC Comics, which holds the rights to Mad magazine. [The Comics Journal]
Graphic novels | BookScan’s Top 20 graphic novels list for October makes for strange bedfellows, with The Walking Dead Compendium Two at No. 1, Chris Ware’s Building Stories at No. 2, and the third volume of Gene Yang’s Avatar: The Last Airbender at No. 3. It’s an interestingly mixed list, with the usual sprinkling of manga (Sailor Moon, Naruto, Bleach), a volume of Stephan Pastis’ Pearls Before Swine compilations, and four more volumes of The Walking Dead. And bringing up the rear, at #20, the perennial Watchmen. [ICv2]
Comics | With the success of The Avengers film, Kendall Whitehouse discusses the narrative techniques comics have “explored and exploited,” including “multi-issue story arcs, crossovers, team-ups, reboots and multiple title tie-ins,” noting they not only help sell more comics but also have blazed the trail for complex stories: “The story has now become a world unto its own that allows the reader to explore whichever dimensions are of the greatest interest. Follow the events from the perspective of Iron Man or Thor. Or just peruse the core series and ignore the supplementary story elements. The series presents a nearly unbounded narrative universe for the reader to experience. It is easy to interpret this with a cynical eye as nothing more than a series of cheap marketing tactics designed to pump sales. And yet, when well executed, something larger emerges.” [Knowledge@Wharton Today]
Retailing | Saturday’s Free Comic Book Day also served as the grand opening for Aw Yeah Comics, a store in Skokie, Illinois, owned (as the name suggests) by Tiny Titans creators Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani and retail veteran Marc Hammond. [Skokie Review, Time Out Chicago]
Creators | How did Darwyn Cooke get involved with the Before Watchmen comics? “I was kind of dragged into it kicking and screaming by [DC Comics Co-Publisher] Dan DiDio. He had been discussing this for what does amount to several years now, and the first time he had approached me about it, I had actually turned it down simply because I couldn’t see doing anything that would live up to the original. And, it was about a year later, the story idea that I’m working on now sort of came to me and I realized that there was a way to do the project, and I had a story that I thought was exciting enough to tell. So I phoned Dan up and said, ‘Hey, if you still got room, I’m in.’” [Rolling Stone]
Creators | Ron Marz discusses Prophecy, his upcoming comic that turns the whole Mayan calendar thing into a crossover event that will bring together an eclectic group of characters, and defends the idea of crossovers in general: “If your objection is “they’re not in the same universe,” or a crossover somehow offends your sense of continuity, I’d suggest you’re missing the point. More than any other medium, comics are about unfettered imagination, about making the impossible possible. If you’re going to let some perceived “rules” prevent you from telling an exciting story, you’re just not trying very hard. Having a sense of wonder, of discovery, is much more important than following some set of perceived rules and regulations.” [MTV Geek]
Theme parks | Disney CEO Bob Iger said the company has begun preliminary design work that will pave the way for Marvel superheroes to one day appear alongside familiar characters in Disney theme parks. Iger told shareholders attending the annual meeting Tuesday that the company has been working on some concepts, but hasn’t announced anything yet. Disney is currently developing attractions based on James Cameron’s Avatar film for its Animal Kingdom park in Orlando, Florida, which are expected to be ready in 2015. [Los Angeles Times]
Comic strips | Alan Gardner counts 57 newspapers that aren’t carrying this week’s Doonesbury comics, which address a Texas law requiring women requesting an abortion to submit to a transvaginal ultrasound. But according to Universal UClick, no papers have dropped Garry Trudeau’s strip. [The Daily Cartoonist]
Publishing | John Jackson Miller discusses the Rule of Eight, which holds that independent publishers start to falter once they put out more than eight titles per month, and goes into the nuances of the theory with its originator of the idea, Marc Patten. [The Comichron]
While Marvel publisher Dan Buckley has been denying that Marvel does crossover events, IDW has been celebrating them. Its zombie series Infestation crossed over with four well known properties: Star Trek, Ghostbusters, Transformers, and G.I. Joe, and they paired two unlikely bedfellows with their Star Trek/Legion of Super Heroes crossover as well. Now they are playing matchmaker again, and this time the two properties sound like like they might be natural partners: Doctor Who and Star Trek: The Next Generation. And it’s not just the good guys who are teaming up: The Borgs and the Cybermen will be forming a partnership (excuse me, “unholy alliance”) that will force The Doctor and The Captain to work together against the common enemy. The writing chores will be shared by Star Trek: Infestation writers Scott and David Tipton and Doctor Who writer Tony Lee, and the artist will be J.K. Woodward (Fallen Angel).
Libraries | A middle school library in New Brunswick, Canada, has been asked to remove Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim’s Dungeon series for review after the mother of a 12-year-old student complained about the depictions of sex and violence in one of the volumes. The CTV News reporter goes for the easy gasp by showing the scenes in question to a variety of parents, all of whom agree they don’t think the book belongs in a school library, and in this case the mom has a good point: The book received good reviews but is definitely not for kids. [CTV News]
Publishing | John Jackson Miller has been looking at the fine print in old comics — the statement of ownership, which spells out in exact numbers just how many copies were printed, how many were sold, etc. One of the highlights is Carl Barks’ Uncle Scrooge, which sold more than 1 million copies, making it the top seller of the 1960s. “It’s meaningful, I think, that the best-seller of the 1960s should come from Barks, whose work was originally uncredited and who was known originally to fans as ‘the Good Duck Artist,’” Miller concludes. “Fandom in the 1960s was bringing attention to a lot of people who had previously been unheralded, and Barks is a great example. He changed comics — and now comics were changing.” [The Comichron]
I’ve been meaning to check out Jeremy Whitley and M. Goodwin’s all-ages comic Princeless ever since reading an online review of it last month, and now it looks like my procrastination has paid off–Princeless: Save Yourself, the collection of the first volume, will include a new story featuring a Princeless/Skullkickers crossover by Skullkickers writer Jim Zubkavich and drawn by Goodwin.
You can see Goodwin’s sketches of the characters, from her Deviant Art site, above. The collection arrives in April.
Conan the Barbarian meets his dumber alter ego in April when Dark Horse presents a four-issue Conan/Groo the Wanderer crossover. While Conan is clearly the brainier of the two mighty warriors, Groo creators Sergio Aragonés and Mark Evanier are scripting the comic, so Groo will have the home-team advantage. Thomas Yeates is handling the art and Tom Luth the colors. Yeates has penciled other Conan comics as well as Dark Horse’s adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ The Outlaw Prince.
While April 1 would be a logical release date for a book like this, the chances are that no one would believe it, so it’s due out on April 18.
I was surprised when Bil told me he read Zippy in his local Arizona paper and liked it. He didn’t even qualify his opinion with the usual, “Of course, I don’t always get it.” Until then, I hadn’t paid much attention to The Family Circus, but I slowly began to see that you could read more into it than what appeared on the surface.
We mentioned the other day that the late Bil Keane once did a Family Circus crossover with Bill Griffith’s Zippy. Griffith has a nice piece at The Comics Journal that explains how the crossover came about and reinforces what everyone says about Keane being a nice guy but also sharper than his genial comic would lead you to believe; he also posts the Zippy strips that feature Jeffy and the Family Circus panel that features Zippy in all their surreal glory.
What are they putting in the water at the Sanrio Corp? The parent company of Hello Kitty is letting its prize property wander off in some mighty odd directions: At Comic-Con International, the company mentioned a Hello Kitty/Street Fighter crossover, and now it’s Hello Kitty meets Tony Tony Chopper in a Sanrio/One Piece mashup. And that’s not all: Look for Luffy D. Monkey and the rest of the Straw Hat Pirates, who will be entering the world of Hello Kitty for some good clean Kitty fun. Apparently this involves cross-species-dressing, and the pirates will have to figure out how to make do without knees or elbows, because it’s Kitty’s world, and they are only living in it. (Actually, I think it would be much more interesting to see One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda turn Hello Kitty into one of his exaggerated, energetic characters, but that’s just a pipe dream.) Watch for a wave of pirate-infested HK merch in fine import shops everywhere this fall.
DC Comics has been criticized for the sheer brutality and wholesale slaughter depicted in its blockbuster crossovers and events, where characters are decapitated, disemboweled and devoured with a frequency that approaches parody. But is it possible that Flashpoint, that concludes next week just as “The New 52″ debuts, has a butcher’s bill that makes the body count of Final Crisis seem like, well, kid’s stuff?
Like a U.N. observer, Funnybook Babylon’s Chris Eckert surveyed the sprawling battlefield — no easy task, considering there’s the core title, 16 miniseries and a handful of one-shots — and emerged with a death tally that’s staggering, as entire nations fell in alternate-timeline global wars involving Aquaman’s Atlanteans, Wonder Woman’s Amazons, Gorilla Grodd’s armies, and other factions.
“Given that everything is going to be returned to The New Normal at the end of it, DC has gone hog wild with killing people off in Flashpoint,” Eckert wrote. “It’s not just ‘shocking’ death scenes for beloved intellectual property: the Flashpoint Earth got seriously depopulated.”
Cue the Welcome Back, Kotter theme music: At a live press conference from NYC’s Midtown Comics today, Marvel unveiled “Fear Itself,” a line-wide event beginning in March. Featuring a prologue one-shot by Ed Brubaker and Scot Eaton, tie-ins, spin-off stand-alone miniseries, and an April-launching seven-issue core limited series by Matt Fraction and Stuart Immonen, it’s very much in the vein of past mega-events like “Civil War,” a comparison company personnel made repeatedly at the presser. If anything, it sounds even bigger than “Civil War,” as the two core Marvel franchises who’ve traditionally been kept at arms’ length from the big events of late, the Hulk and the X-Men, look to be playing an integral role right along with the Avengers, Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and so on.
Over on his message boards, writer Mark Millar teases a crossover between three of his creator-owned properties — Kick-Ass, Superior and Nemesis — with some art by Leinil Francis Yu.
“Leinil’s just finished some layouts here, but it’s a nice teaser for everyone,” he said about the art. “The picture really says it all: Nemesis, Superior, Hit-Girl and Kick-Ass. The first Millarworld crossover event.”
No other details were given in terms of what this is or where it might appear, but his Clint Magazine might be a likely venue.
Update: It’s three covers.
The Source brought the news last week of yet another crossover, and it’s a doozie: Turns out the Tiny Titans live right near Riverdale, and at last they are going to meet up with their counterparts, Little Archie and his pals. It looks like the result will be extreme cuteness, with Tiny Titans artist Art Baltazar coming up with a fresh yet familiar look for the Riverdale set. (It’s interesting to speculate on what the crossover would have looked like if it went the other way, with Archie artists drawing the Tiny Titans.) It looks like this is going to be a series, with Tiny Titans/Little Archie #1 making the scene in October.
Meanwhile, at First Comics News, would-be Archie writer Jeff Krell, the creator of the long-running gay comic Jayson, explains why, after almost 30 years of his own comic, he still yearns to write about Riverdale. You can tell that both he and interviewer Mark Haney are longtime Archie fans, and there are a lot of intriguing insights and ideas there.
The Archie folks are heading to SDCC this week, of course, and their schedule is here, on their excellent Archie News blog.