Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Of Simulations And Memes

Our friend pillock (nee plok) over at A Trout In The Milk has launched a new meme that asks "what would your big-ass Crossover Event be?" He actually let me off the hook on this one, but I figured I'd play anyway since it ties in to some thoughts about the Marvel Editorial Simulation that I just finished up.

The simulation placed me as editor-in-chief of Marvel and the other three players as editors of several Marvel titles. Our goal was to increase the overall sales by 20%. That's a tough mandate in any mature industry and I figure the only way to achieve that in comicdom is by A) making sure that you're existing sales don't slip appreciably and B) introduce new material into the market. Many of the people who are buying Wolverine (for example) month after month buy the book to find out what the character is doing. They might buy Uncanny X-Men if he appears there as well, but they're not as likely to buy, say, She-Hulk unless he makes a guest appearance there.

Ah, but by introducing a large crossover event like "Civil War" immediately throws the character into a much larger storyline that runs through multiple titles. So even if Wolverine does NOT appear in each issue of Civil War: Frontline there are going to be some of those Wolverine fans buying it because it's part of the larger story Wolverine's involved in. It's a cynical approach to selling comics but, frankly, it works. And as long as fans continue to purchase books on that type of criteria, Marvel (and DC) are going to continue producing those types of stories. The sales numbers continue to bear that out every month.

So that's part of my background thinking into why, within the context of the simulation, I felt we had to put out some kind of crossover event book.

Now, as I've mentioned repeatedly on this blog, I haven't been all that keen on the overall direction the Marvel Universe has taken. Lots of anger, lots of war, lots of hatred, lots of polarization among the supposed heroes... So my thought was to remove with a vehicle that could allow everyone to get behind: natural disasters. What if the Earth were rocked by a sudden seismic shift in all the tectonic plates? Earthquakes, tidal waves, tornados, mud slides... the works. All at the same time. The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. To wit:
  1. Literally hundreds of story springboards. Not only do you have the disasters themselves, but there's also possibilities for ancillary events (i.e. a prison break made possible by an earthquake destroying prison walls) and follow-up (i.e. trying to help clean up after a flood)
  2. Real-world analogies that can provide contemporary relevance. Katrina, anyone?
  3. Villain opportunities. Even the bad guys can get behind trying to save their own family's lives, making them more sympathetic.
  4. Incredible visuals. Imagine the city of New York with only two skyscrapers remaining: the Baxter Building and Stark Tower. What about Hercules trying to hold up the Parthenon?
  5. There's a rising tide of ecological awareness, and this could certainly play into that trend.
  6. Minimal scheduling problems. Each title within the crossover could handle the story in its own manner, so a delay in shipping the main title would not hold up any other books, as we saw with Civil War.

One of "my" editors, Phil, also brought some intriguing story ideas to the table with this, as well, so that it even flowed more organically from the current status. What if the data was available to predict these catastrophes and genius-at-large Reed Richards missed it? Further, what if Dr. Doom foresaw the problem and presented it to the world (after all, what good is ruling the world if it's been decimated) but Reed dismissed it as an error? It ends up being a mirror of Dr. Doom's origin where Reed noticed a misplaced decimal point in Doom's calculations. Since Marvel has turned Reed into a villain, let's close the circle and put Doom as the hero.

Phil also built in this idea where several of the world leaders -- notably Doom, Black Panther, Namor, and Magneto -- banded together to help protect the world from disaster under the identity of the Defenders. A new spin on the original concept and one that, personally, I think holds more weight that the last attempt or two.

That's the type of thing I would put together as my big crossover event. Within the context of the simulation, Phil got J. Michael Straczynski and David Finch to work on it and the first issue sold 170,000. A fair piece shy of Civil War #1, to be sure, but still around double what I would have put it at.

So, there you go, pillock. My crossover (and reasoning behind it) as I saw things for the Marvel Editorial Simulation 2007.

1 comment:

plok said...

I actually thought this idea had a good amount of possibility to it, even if it's set (as my crossover event ideas are not) in the era of Quimby and so must play by the Quimby rules...so, nice one, because that's a much stricter meme you've done! It's clear that there's a push on to make T'Challa a bigger player in the MU, and at least online, people are clamouring for more DOOM...and Namor's already in the Illuminati mix, so that all works. But the thing I really like is the incorporation of Magneto, since that could actually take something I think sucked as a character bit (House Of M), and turn it into a functional arc. Magneto's definitely the number one guy you'd want dealing with massive natural catastrophes, if you think about it...he just has to wave his hands, and collapsed buildings pick themselves off the ground, so rescue teams can go in and look for survivors. Great stuff! The other guys can put boots on the ground, and are loaded with technology and super-smarts and in the case of Namor a terrific array of versatile powers...but Magneto would probably be the workhorse, wouldn't he?

My one suggestion about this on the Sims blog would be that T'Challa is extra-suspicious of Magneto because he has some third or fourth-hand information that suggest something really big went down not long ago that Magneto was in the middle of...and his panther-senses let him know that Magneto's guilty, that he's hiding something, etc...nicely setting up the collapse of your Defenders later on.

In other words, it isn't my idea of the world's greatest crossover, but within the parameters...I think you slipped some potentially rich material in there, and I gotta admit, that's pretty damn cool.

Although I confess I would have doubts about the Sue-Namor-Reed triangle playing out as it does in the end...

[whale falls on me]