The concept of “crossover” is a very strange and relatively modern one.  I imagine that, in ye olde dayes of yore, a storyteller who wanted to have Heracles meet Gilgamesh didn’t have to create a time-vortex omniversal space/time breach to do so (or in the case of Angela’s recent Marvel Universe debut, a ten-issue plotless boondoggle) she probably just said “Okay, this one time?  Two guys totes met, y’all…”   Audiences and storytelling tropes have gotten more sophisticated over the centuries (for better and for worse) and as a result, today’s readers want explanations to rationalize why Spider-Man wouldn’t participate in the Crisis On Infinite Earths.  Luckily, with modern corporations slowly merging into Skynet, the likelihood of unusually diverse holdings and potential team-ups increases, such as the new reality of Wolverine, Fozzy Bear, Chewbacca and Goofy sharing rights-holders and thus being able to team up as “Fuzzy Feller Force!  (The rejected options were “Wocka Warriors”, “GROOOAAAAOOWR”, and “SniktBubBubBubSnikt.”)

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) still wonders if Age Of Ultron wasn’t actually created to reveal Miracleman, with the Angela debut a necessary legal compromise, asking: How much setup is really necessary for a crossover-type story to work?  Can Superman and Spider-Man just meet up and start punching Alex Luthor?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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  1. June 28, 2013 at 11:50 am — Reply

    I thought they already did???? With no set up. I still have that big ass giant book somewhere.

  2. June 28, 2013 at 1:06 pm — Reply

    I don’t see why the Archie/Glee crossover had to be set up with alternate universes. It’s not like they operate with different laws of physics.

    According to the Wold Newton Universe (google it) all fiction is a shared universe, and Steve Rogers, Buck Rogers, Roy Rogers and Shaggy Rogers are relatives.

  3. Gary
    June 28, 2013 at 1:45 pm — Reply

    I feel like the setup is only important when you’re trying to make the cross-over canonical with the characters’ larger stories. For me personally, I hold very lightly to canon, so no, I don’t really need much setup.

    Side bar: if you have compelling characters to begin with, you don’t really need to throw in more characters. So, in general I look down on crossovers and the whole super-team idea anyway. To me they typically take away from what makes the individual characters interesting.

  4. Dave
    June 28, 2013 at 1:57 pm — Reply

    I don’t really care about the setup if the story is good. It doesn’t matter what it takes to lead up to the epic team-up that I want to see between Donald Duck and Howard the Duck, as long as the initial meeting is well done.

  5. Hezzie
    June 28, 2013 at 2:27 pm — Reply

    pretty sure i read a spiderman/batman crossover some 15 years ago where the setup was pretty much “batman goes to new york for reasons. Spiderman sees him. They shake hands and off they go to steal a plot device potion from ras’al ghul”.
    Pretty good story and no further explanarions needed.
    Thats the kinda mashup story i likes.

  6. June 28, 2013 at 5:45 pm — Reply

    I don’t mind a brief recap setup, something with a quick “This is what this guy/team is like, and this is what this guy/team is like”, but sometimes they try TOO hard.

    Sometimes the setup can be expanded on if it fits the plot, like when there was the whole DC/Marvel crossover and the different timelines were a huge part of the story, but it isn’t something that works every time.

    Look at the old Batman/Spider-Man crossover that came out just before the DC/Marvel crossover event. Rather than explain two separate universes, it had The Joker AND Carnage being treated by the same doctor, and Batman and Spidey teamed up as if they came from the same universe (and Spidey even made a joke about waiting for Superman to ask for his help). It didn’t need a huge setup or explanation that they don’t really exist in the same universe, it just jumped right in to a story. And it actually worked pretty decently.

  7. Oldcomicfan
    June 29, 2013 at 3:55 am — Reply

    Perhaps I am cynical but cross-overs are nothing more than a money grab, and always seem to follow the same plot. The main villains from comic A and and comic B change places in order to obtain maguffin C and take over the universe. Hero D and Hero E cross each others paths through inexplicable event F and mistake each other for the villain who caused inexplicable event F and beat the living daylights out of each other. The heroes are then defeated by the other hero’s villains with ridiculous ease thanks to the aid of maguffin C and then the heroes rise up from the ashes and team up to defeat both villains and destroy maguffin C, again with ridiculous ease. After a cheerful moment of handshaking, the heroes inexplicably return back to their own comics where the supposedly earth-shattering events of said crossover, and the existence of maguffin C are never referenced again. So save your money and buy just one cross-over book and read it again and again and swap out the interchangable heros and villains in your mind because it’s always the same story. If you’re very, very lucky they’ll put in a very good art team, and if you’re even luckier you might get an actual GOOD story like Superman vs. Mohamad Ali, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

  8. Luis Dantas
    June 29, 2013 at 4:26 am — Reply

    I don’t see why just meeting up wouldn’t be setup enough. Maybe when continuity is a consideration, but really. These days we have Jason Todd being alive for reasons no one even bothers to know anymore.

    Nor is the crossover such a novelty. Edgar Rice Burroughs made the third Pellucidar book a crossover with Tarzan – and counting fully for both series’ chronology, too. Then we have the Cthulhu Mythos books.

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