Today marks a new event. Or, at least, it may as well. Certainly, somewhere in an office high above our heads, touching the clouds, there are men in suits and ties deciding that, once again, it is time for another new Marvel Crossover Event. Somewhere on the ground, a fan with a microphone and a speaker loud enough to blow the eardrums of passers by screams at them to stop, to calm down, to give us all a chance to breathe after whatever the latest one was, but what those men hear is We love events. Please give us more events. We will give you gold and diamonds and bonuses and our devotion if you crossover everything all at one time.
This is not what we have asked for, ladies, gentlemen, and all in between.
Marvel has, without a doubt, been running hot and cold with fans for months now. As quickly as they’re bringing new readers in, they’re losing them, and as many fans as they please with one book, they lose more over confusion and irritation with this, that, and another thing. In this case, “this” refers to the confusion of crossover events, “that” is the confusion of restarting numbering over and over, and “another thing” tends to be the prices of their comics. In this piece, we’re only going to tackle “This”: Crossover events as a whole. All that is too much for just one article. We can save the rest for another time.
In the past year, Marvel has hit us with “major” events stacking on each other repeatedly. Secret Wars bled into 2016, followed fairly closely by Civil War II. During that event, they started releasing IVX and before that was over, we were given Monsters Unleashed. They have already started setting up for Secret Empire. These big events don’t even include the plethora of mini crossovers they’ve had going all over the universe, ones that have made each series they’ve touched incomprehensible unless you bought everything else in the series. (i.e.: Avengers: Standoff, Spider-Women, Apocalypse Wars, Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy, Grounded, Sitting in a Tree, and Til Death Do Us. I may have missed some. I certainly hope not, but I may have.)
These series affect the Marvel world at large. They are a major part of each series they touch, and in many cases, their impact will be referenced again and again for years to come. I am not and never will say that these series are bad. There are a lot of people who don’t like them, that’s for sure, but I thought Standoff was neat, I liked a lot of the individual series for Civil War across the Universe, and I read every single Monsters Unleashed part and side story at the beginning of each week. The writing is great, they choose wonderful artists, and the ideas are sometimes pretty cool. (Have I said how much I loved Monsters Unleashed? I loved Monsters Unleashed.) But, working in a comic store, I speak day to day with the average comics consumer. Every day, there is at least one loyal Marvel fan who’s not sure how many more events they can take. There are loyal fans of series who either have to drop out until the crossover is over due to limited funds or will give up a series altogether because they can’t imagine missing out on a whole series. To an executive, creating more product that a customer has to buy to buy another product will increase revenue. To a customer with bills to pay, having to buy two products when they only wanted and expected one is an unforseen and taxing burden. To a small business like most comic book stores, this can start to look like a death knell. For many stores, a subscription service pulls a comic for a customer to pick up, which has an impact on their ordering. If the customer doesn’t want to pick that comic up, they can put it back out. If that happens over and over again, then the shelves are full of this comic that casual readers cannot pick up because they won’t have even a partially complete story. The store is stuck with product that won’t move, but they’ve already spent money on. They keep ordering Marvel comics, though, because in the world of comic books, Marvel and DC are supposed to be your safe bets.
This isn’t every store. Some stores are big enough that they don’t have to operate this way, lots of places aren’t even specialty stores and won’t hurt much from a small order of comic books that don’t move. This isn’t the only reason comic stores struggle sometimes, this isn’t the only damning factor in the industry, and Marvel is far from the only culprit. However, they are one of the two big hands of the industry. If they clapped with DC once, they could turn the page of every small publication trying to make a name for itself. (Don’t worry, they won’t. They’re too busy quietly saying that DC is smelly. True fact: found in, you guessed it, a kriffing crossover series.) If a company with that much power over the industry as a whole, and over fans, refuses to hear what is said rather than what it wants to hear, then how do we convey the message other than to stop buying? How do we do that? How do we support underpaid artists and writers and editors and colorists and all of the people that make this content for us while making businessmen hear us? How do we make them understand that no, Marvel, for the last time, diversity is not the problem?
You tell me, reader.