Talking Heads and Double Page Spreads. The Anatomy of A Crossover
(please note, the following was written BEFORE reading the final issues of Siege or Blackest Night. Or for that matter, Astonishing X-Men 1)
So, YOU want to write for The Big Two? Well, you can keep honing your skills on those short, personal stories with a point and a theme if you LIKE, bub, but we know where the real money is, right?
That’s right, true believers, THE CROSS-OVER!
So settle back, grab a copy of The DC’s Who’s Who and The Marvel Handbook and you too could be writing REAL comics pretty soonish, if you follow this easy guide to the perma-event culture:
We’re gonna get a big name artist who’s really good but notoriously late with deadlines to do it. When it ships late, we’ll get the guys to say “The retailers should have ordered something else, then.” YEAH STUPID RETAILERS. EXPECTING US TO LIVE UP TO OUR PROMISED SHIPPING DATES AND STUFF! IT’S NOT LIKE WE’D BITCH IF WE WEREN’T PAID ON TIME OR ANYTHING! FASCIST PIGS WHO KEEP US IN BUSINESS BY ORDERING COMICS…ER…
Just to kick off, it’s got the biggest, baddest, nastiest threat of all TIME, EFFENDI. We’ve had secret aliens, monsters from other worlds trying to wipe out humanity because Earth is the centre of everything. You gotta be BIGGER than that now. Maybe… maybe when COUNTRIES COLLIDE. Yeah, THAT’S the stuff. Japan possessed by the spirit of Galactus against Belgium channeling Darkseid… Space Baddies that wear shorts and skirts. BECAUSE JACK KIRBY SAID SO!
So now we have a concept, we need a crappy realpolitik analogy for WHY these guys are beating the hell out of each other. OOH, ooh. What if… what if the countries represent real corporations. Like that bit in issue 4 which is JUST like that kid who showed up to school on Coca-Cola day wearing a Pepsi t-shirt. YEAH, THAT’S it… no, it’s not JUST super-heroes hitting each other. It’s SOCIAL COMMENTARY, DAMMIT! And who better to provide detailed insight on politics than some rich white guys who write super-hero comics for a living? WHO?
So, first, kick the story off with a good ten to fifteen pages of all the good guys chatting about this threat. Maybe a double page spread of all of them sitting down. Perhaps a quadruple page spread of the different biscuits that they eat whilst arguing that the threat is indeed, a threat. As opposed to a thing that is not threatening, oh no it’s not, oh yes it is, I’m Wolverine and I’ve seen bad things and this is, indeed, a thing which is bad. Grr. Ah, but I am Reed Richards and only by acting utterly out of character can I provide a reason for not using my intellect to sort this out in, oh, I don’t know? Four pages or so? Ah, but I am Iron Man, I can see the future. Except for the bit where I need to delete my own bloody brain. Or maybe the bit where I clone Thor and he kills my mate. That would have been good had I seen that coming, probably. Oh, but I am Captain America. Here is a speech about doing good stuff. Which mainly involves hitting BAD people. Especially Norman Osborn. Who is a baddy and has weird hair. Did you hear that he has funny hair? Why yes, he does have funny hair. Perhaps this is an untapped vein of comedy that we can bleed for another ten years. Look, here is an office and Norman shouting whilst possibly becoming The Green Goblin again. WHO’D A THUNK IT?
Shit, the readers are getting bored. LOOK, EXPLOSIONS! HERE IS A BIG THING, SEE IT EXPLODE!
Ah, we might have gone once too many times to the well with the BLOWING UP of STUFF! Oh, what if we kill some KIDS? DIE, POWER PACK/THE TEEN TITANS, DIE!
No? Okay, what about…..BATTERSEA DOG’S HOME!
HA! THERE, DEAD PUPPIES WITH THEIR ENTRAILS SPREAD OUT LIKE A BUTTERFLY BY THE SENTRY. CRY NOW, GO ON! HA! NOW YOU HAVE TEARS ON YOUR COMIC AND MUST BUY ANOTHER COPY SO YOU MAY SELL IT ON EBAY TO PEOPLE WHO DON’T LIVE NEAR COMIC SHOPS! OR WAIT FOR THE DIRECTOR’S CUT IN TWO MONTHS (Who “directs” a comic, anyway?)
Next we’ll have a normally happy-go-lucky character react in an utterly bizarre way. Maybe they could wear some kind of bondage outfit with spikes. Done that? Oh, what if… if The Hulk follows them about and punches them in the bum each time the word “Puppy” is mentioned. AS A REMINDER OF THE DEAD PUPPIES! Crappy analogy for survivor’s guilt FTW!
Now finish a cliff-hanger, preferable SOMEONE standing while they say something…OMINOUS, LIKE!
Going well, so far. Now, onto the most important bit. SPIN-OFFS!
What you’re looking for is this:
– Try not to mention that if this story was so important to the central character, surely this story would be happening in their own book rather than a separate mini series.
– A baddie, dangerous, but not so dangerous that they’d make a difference in the core title.
– Probably drag up some supporting character we’ve not seen for a bit and put them in danger.
– Maybe a THREE page monologue explaining why the bad guy is a bad guy. “I did some stuff, now I am dead, I’m going to eat your BRAIN!!!! WITH CHIPS!!!!”
Bugger, still pages to fill.?
How about reprinting the script to the comic you just read? That’ll take up half a comic, right?
Still not enough? Er…
DOUBLE PAGE SPREADS! HERE’S A RECAP OF STUFF THAT HAPPENED TEN MINUTES AGO. IT”S NOT SPACE-FILLING, IT”S DECOMPRESSION, INNIT?
Okay, our hero takes out the baddie. Now they go back to….
The main book. Shit, we’re nearly out of plot, oh wait,
the dialogue by…
never having anyone…
We should never finish.
Now let’s that see that
But this time…
Cut to… TV Screen: We SEE BELGIUM.
“AARGH, I AM BELGIUM AND I
WILL NOW RESTATE MY GOALS
THAT HAD BEEN MENTIONED BEFORE.”
OF THE LEG OF JAPAN!
(Phew, 2 and 3 done, then. NOW A PAUSE FOR A MONTH WHILE WE DO A BUNCH OF ONE SHOTS THAT TELL THE SAME STORY OVER AND OVER AGAIN FEATURING DIFFERENT CHARACTERS! ALSO VARIANTS!!! FEATURING DEADPOOL SAYING SOMETHING WRY AND KNOWING!!! FLOGGING A DEAD HORSE FTW!!!)
Oh lord, we’re heading towards the end, shit, what can we do. KILL A WOMAN! Not one of the big names, but what if we say, stick She-Hulk’s tit in a blender? Wonder Girl gets her arse in a skip, but not just any skip, but a SKIP OF THE DARKNESS! THAT EATS……ARSES!
Break out some re-coloured Michael Turner art for the next cover. Not like we’ll need to pay him. HA, We’re EDGY, kids. LIKE TEH INTERNETS! REFERENCE TO TWITTER HERE!
One more issue to go. What if we tie this whole thing into some lesser selling comics to give them a sales boost… er, reveal a plot point without which the rest of the series doesn’t really make a lot of sense?
Well, we’re at the end of the story now. Er… how should we wrap this thing up? WHAT ABOUT A FEW DOUBLE PAGE SPREADS OF ALL THE HEROES POOLING THEIR POWERS AGAINST THE BIG BADDY… YEAH, that’ll be worth a few quid on the 2nd hand art market… move the plot forward in a compelling fashion. Somebody hits somebody quite hard, there’s a speech and then CUT TO THE BAD GUYS PLOTTING SOME BADNESS! To be followed up in a new title to fill the gap that will be created by the ending of the series…
It will enhance the line as a whole.
THAT’S how to hack your way through a job at The Big Two. You’ll be remembered, honestly, and if you’re really lucky, all your work will be collected when you DIE in a handsome hardcover omnibus. They’ll do jack and shit while you’re actually alive and in need of medical aid while they get rich off your creations, but hey, your life’s work will bought by some rich people and stuck on a shelf, and that’s what’s IMPORTANT, right?
Oh for those of you wanting to know how to actually get a job in comics, try HERE.
And with that, I’ve done more than either issue of How To Break Into Comics The Marvel Way. I didn’t even charge you $8.