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Wednesday, April 01, 2009 

Dixon on the problems with crossovers

The Examiner interviewed Chuck Dixon, who brought up the issue of too many company-wide crossovers (via Newsarama blog). First, here's what he says about Robin/Tim Drake's father:
Tim was unique among the other Bat-characters in that he wasn't a total orphan at the time. Was there ever any pressure to kill off Jack Drake?

All the time! I kept Jack alive for years past the point my editors wanted him dead. Their reasoning was always that Tim having a parent with all the limitations of that provided too many complications to Robin’s story. They saw that as a negative. I saw it as a positive. I’ve never made a secret of the fact that I used the first fifty issues of The Amazing Spider-man as a dramatic template for Robin. Those stories got much of their suspense from the dangers Peter Parker faced if his identity were revealed. For Tim Drake, the stakes were even higher. The reveal of his identity would have affected his family and also unraveled the secrets of the entire Bat organization. You don’t throw away solid gold like that.
I can guess what he's hinting at: Jack Drake was vaguely similar in his role to that of Aunt May Parker in Spider-Man's world. And now, look what was done: they killed him off in Identity Crisis, in one of the most tasteless, digusting ways possible. And that's something that still needs to reversed and repaired.
Many Bat-writers have complained that the constant crossovers disrupted things for them and changed plans. What was your experience with this?

Crossovers are the Frankenstein monster created when the direct market became the entire focus of the comics business. The first crossovers had phenomenal sales and the temptation was strong to do more. But they quickly became just anemic stunts designed to give sagging titles a sales boost. They gave up on trying to sell regular comics on a title-by-title, month-by-month basis and went for the easy-peasy marketing ploy of the crossover. Now superhero comics are pretty much all-stunts-all-the-time and the law of diminishing returns has set in.
And some of the worst "story developments" came as a result of these crossovers too, as too many DC titles had elements stemming almost directly from the x-overs forced upon them and were made to build upon that. And now, even Marvel has been affected by this, Spider-Man included, recalling what they did to him in Civil War, and what it led to next.

However, I'm going to have to disagree with the following:
I think Marvel’s succeeded more in this area recently. I say this from a writer’s perspective. Something like the recent Secret Invasion epic. That’s easy to write for but challenging as well because it emphasizes story. You can wring some drama, suspense and humor out of that kind of thing. But when you have a stunt where everyone is reacting to someone’s death, well, where do you go? Where’s the story?
Whoops, I think he's veered off base there, and it doesn't matter if he's trying to be diplomatic. A story where Janet VanDyne is theoretically killed off? I don't think so. Secret Invasion is just one of the pointless overload of crossovers that's sunk recent Marvel output, just like House of M and Civil War. Because of this, any "story" it supposedly emphasizes is nullified. Why, it's actually just the thing Dixon is arguing about! I'm disappointed if he's undermining his whole argument by sugarcoating one of the very crossovers that was written for just what he mentioned: a sales-boost for almost every sagging title involved that has little or nothing to do with good storytelling. A better idea might've been to cite Secret Wars or Operation: Galactic Storm. Not that they're truly better, but the advantage the very first crossover had over many of today's efforts is that unlike some of DC's x-overs, it wasn't intended to set a new direction for the MCU by pointlessly killing off notable characters, big or small, or turning them into villains. It was just intended as adventurous entertainment.

There's one more thing he mentions here that's surprising:
Any stories that you weren't able to tell (Batman, Nightwing, Birds or Robin) that you can reveal? Any stories that originally had a different ending but it went in another direction?

Nothing I can think of right now except that my plans leading to ROBIN 100 and beyond were pretty cool and I regret not being able to do that story. My plan was to have Tim quit as Robin and become the new Blue Beetle under Ted Kord’s guidance. Batman would pick Steph to take on Robin’s role. Tim would then be featured in a six-issue mini as Blue Beetle until events in the Batbooks would bring him back to the fold. The idea coming out of this would be a BB ongoing in which Ted gets the idea to create what amounts to a Blue Beetle franchise. He creates what amounts to Blue Beetle Inc and has a representative in every DCU city. I was shot down on this one over and over. As soon as I left the title they did a kind of pale version of the story I had been proposing for more than a year.
So let me get this straight. Before DC editorial went along and made Stephanie a replacement Robin in a limp 2-issue story that was canned very quickly, Dixon wanted to do something like that himself? I probably would have turned that one down myself if I were editor, but I'll grant him this - he probably would've handled whatever possible in a much more plausible, tasteful fashion than the writers of War Games, Identity Crisis, and Countdown to Infinite Crisis did.

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