Sequential Underground #11 – Indie Crossovers and Universe Building

Sequential Underground

The podcast by indie comics creators for indie comics creators goes universal!

Dan, Shawn, and Nick discuss universe building and crossing over indie comics characters. Could Blue Wraith handle a crossover? Did Shawn put himself in a pickle by crossing-over his own comics? Is Super Haters more crossover-friendly because it’s a humor comic?

Then we talk about existing indie comics that crossed over in the past including Dynamo 5, Goon, Savage Dragon, and TMNT.

And we close things out by talking about our dream crossovers for our own indie comics! Also, mark your damn calendars for March 21st and THIS.

14 Responses to “Sequential Underground #11 – Indie Crossovers and Universe Building”

  1. 1 ross

    how come you guys get to talk about all the cool stuff and i’m stuck talking about X-Men cartoons?

  2. 2 nick marino

    hahahahahaha ahhhhhhh… that would be my fault.

    seriously, though, considering that the James Hong Marathong is over we can start talking about stuff like this. i’d love to do that.

  3. 3 ross

    TMNT crossed over with Cerebus and Usagi Yojimbo in the old Mirage comics.

    @Nick: i like your description of my Wet Moon characters. “unghhhh. the worrrld. unnggghhh.” pretty accurate.

    i think you and i have talked a bit about crossovers, Nick, but usually i’m not crazy about them, i feel like it diminishes the worlds of each thing and compromises the context. depends on what it is, though, some characters are very “static” and lend themselves well to that, like Big Two characters or TMNT where you could pluck them out of their comic and put them in another and nothing would change about them, they’re ubiquitous characters that have a more static, unchanging personality/persona; or something like Super Haters that’s more joke- and moment-based and the setting doesn’t seem to play a factor.

    but i think stories with characters that change or have more really specific settings don’t work in crossovers for me, i can’t get past the logistics and it ends up watering down the characters and feeling kind of hollow because it doesn’t impact any of the characters and it tends to discard any themes or metaphor of the original character since those things don’t really hold any weight when you romp two stories together outside of their original space.

    for some characters it works, like the Turtles. the Turtles meet up with Savage Dragon and then they go home and they’re the same as they were before they met him. the Turtles never really change, like Donatello is basically the same person in TMNT #1 in 1984 as he was in final issue of TMNT volume 4 that came out last year, so there are tons of adventures you could squeeze in inbetween and leave everything unaffected.

    it doesn’t work for me with all unchanging characters, though, and in those cases it’s about the internal context. something like Freddy vs. Jason, which works in theory but i don’t want those two characters to co-exist. i want Jason to be in his own world where he’s special and singular, but once Freddy, and possibly other supernatural slashers now that the door is opened, also exists in that universe it loses its weight and becomes too amorphous and meaningless. the characters feel less like characters to me and more like archetypical collections of traits that can be passed around but can’t ever really react to anything because they’re not allowed to change. another context example is Alien vs Predator, i hate that shit. they aren’t characters at all, i know, they’re just faceless monsters, but the context is so important for each of them that once you romp them together it’s just stupid.

    i told Nick about this already, i think, but recently somebody suggested a crossover with some of my characters and his, and i had to really think about it. i get hung up on the logistics like when would the crossover take place, if it was his book with Wet Moon, say, because the characters are always changing in each book, if not their personalities then their hairstyles change or they gain weight or acquire some other trait, there aren’t any archetype versions of those characters so you’d have to pick when in the existing volumes the crossover would take place, you’d have to fit it in, or you’d have to do something in the future of the Wet Moon timeline so it leaves the series untouched. and you’d have to have the character not remember anything about the encounter, since this guy’s characters are superpowered heroes, because if a Wet Moon character had an encounter like that it would change them and they’d probably tell the other characters about it or something. and then if you did use a static archetype version of Cleo from Wet Moon for example, then it’s not really the same character anymore, and then the crossover just becomes a hollow exercise in… something, i don’t know. most people seem to respond to me with “come on, it’s just for fun!” like i have a stick up my ass or something.

    then something like Shadoweyes is similar, where the characters change in specific ways, but it also has the extra element of taking place in another universe so if you crossed over it would have to involve dimensional travel or whatever. which is fine, i like dimensional travel, but it still has the problems of how does it change the characters, and if it doesn’t change the characters, like if Shadoweyes’ world view somehow isn’t changed by encountering other superpowered characters, then what’s the point. it loses the believability. and it makes Shadoweyes less special, i think, as a superpowered creature, if there are other super-people similar to her running around or if there’s magic or whatever, it compromises the character’s context and what the story is about.

    i’m trying to think of some crossovers that i’ve liked other than the TMNT stuff. maybe some the jokier ones where it’s less weighty and just the creators goofing off, like in Slapstick where he met up with a ton of other Marvel characters and did stuff like dump a bucket of water on Ghost Rider’s head, stuff like that is funny to me because the crossover is part of the joke. i don’t even really like in-universe crossovers like in the Marvel Universe but i’ve ranted about that elsewhere ad nauseum, heh.

  4. AudioShocker Shoutouts!

    Gello Apocalypse webcomics

  5. 4 ross

    MAN, i wrote a lot. i cannot be concise.

  6. 5 nick marino

    no need to be concise!!! all good stuff there.

    the way you said everything made me thing about why i think it’s difficult for a lot of indie books to crossover and i think it’s this:

    the idea of the fantastic (or the exciting or the unusual) being introduced into an otherwise mundane reality is an extremely dominant theme in many indie comics, not to mention all of fantasy storytelling. and because that theme is so present, it’s really hard to cross things over and make it feel believable. for example, something like Shadoweyes is so tough to crossover in a dramatic, believable way because the character is such an anomaly to begin with. to introduce another anomaly from a different reality (like you said, Ross) challenges the character’s mentality . it would be nearly impossible to imagine a world in which Shadoweyes isn’t totally shaken to the core by running into Spawn or Speedball or the Huntress.

    i think the reason why corporate properties have an easier time crossing over is because licensors are always trying to identify the most iconic versions of said properties, and they offer up versions of the same character in different situations everywhere you go. and therefore even if Iron Man’s armor is a couple years behind in his latest inter-corporate crossover (Transformers / Avengers, for example), it doesn’t really matter because that character can be found in all kinds of armor (new and old) on t-shirts and lunch boxes and notebooks in Target. so the character remains in a somewhat perpetual state business-mandated “iconicity” regardless of the events that transpire around him/her.

    Popeye could meet up with Aquaman, and at the end of the day, both will just return to their respective lifestyles and shrug it off. but if you have a character with a much smaller scope of reality, you’re locked into the idea that everything counts, making that respective storytelling reality less flexible.

    what i was really driving at with this episode (but didn’t get there) is:

    as an independent creator designing a universe for your story, is it better to maintain a malleable sense of reality, gifting that world with the ability to interact with others and remain fundamentally unchanged?


    is it more meaningful to have a situation where everything matters, with the concept of a crossover acting as a potential detriment to the delicate sense of reality that (hopefully) makes your story more gripping?

  7. 6 Stephanie Wilkerson

    @nick i think it depends on the story you wanna tell with eotu Seth and I wanna tell fun science fiction stories but still has a greater story to it but just enough where new people don’t have to pick up every book to understand whats going on unlike the other stories i wanna tell i do see a cross over with them because i have an idea that i want to exercise with and i really don’t want another persons character mucking it up with there continuity and other sorts.

    @ ross I see what you mean by what your saying i look at crossover as a experiment that would be really neat to try i dont really think it waters down the characters in said crossover look at the goon crossover with hellboy that worked out really well both characters acted like they would in there own worlds and thats all i got to say.

  8. AudioShocker Shoutouts!

    Shadoweyes webcomics

  9. 7 nick marino

    @Shawn (NOT STEPH!): i agree with you about how a crossover doesn’t necessarily water something down. and Ross, i guess that means i disagree with you… but only to a point. i just think that some crossovers allow the characters to remain in tact without challenging the magic that’s there when stuff is unexplained. and other crossovers can actually make a character more endearing when you realize what they’re not. BUT i do think that crossovers require more suspension of disbelief than a self-contained universe, and asking a reader to suspend too much disbelief too fast can sometimes cheapen the reading experience. so in that sense, i agree with Ross more than Shawn.

  10. 8 ross

    Shawn. man. you gotta try out periods sometime, haha. or did you try them out and they weren’t for you? :\

    anyway, i did say it depends on the character for me, and i haven’t read the Goon but i think he and Hellboy are a bad example in regards to all the stuff i was saying because they’re the type of the character i said i’d be fine seeing crossed over. they’re both static Ninja Turtles type characters: they don’t really change, their designs are always the same, and maybe importantly their respective world/setting is a “kitchen sink” kind of world where anything and everything does or could exist and there isn’t any strong thematic throughline regarding to internal context that would be disrupted by another character showing up, similar to how Ninja Turtles or the Marvel and DC Universes are, etc. so they’re perfect for that sort of thing. and i don’t think it waters Hellboy down at all because so much of what he’s about is all the zany adventures he has, and it seems like Goon, which i’m not as familiar with, is the same. Hellboy is also very episodic and in every installment he’s basically the same character every time and there are gaps in the timeline or whatever where you could squeeze in any number of other adventures without affecting him as a character, so again, it works for me.

    @Nick: i think your fantasy-meets-mundane observation is a big thing. so many comics that get crossed over have a really similar fantasy level and their characters usually don’t question that these other things exist so you can have a million crossovers with them and nobody’s mind is going to be blown or their lives irrevocably changed.

    i’m not sure there’s an answer to your 2 questions, though, it all depends on what the story is and what it was designed for or what its context will allow without being disrupted. obviously i prefer the second option, where a crossover could be a detriment to the believability of the setting/context/story. i think a lot of people are doing those kind of kitchen sink “fun” adventure comics these days so crossovers work for those, there’s no real possible detriment there because it’s basically a web of smaller adventure stories and there’s a million ways you can plug things into that.

  11. 9 Stephanie Wilkerson

    @good point ross as for the run on sentence im just lazy

  12. AudioShocker Shoutouts!

    Gello Apocalypse webcomics

  13. 10 ross

    who is stephanie wilkerson?!

  14. 11 shawn atkins

    my fiance and i keep forgetting to sign out of her account

  15. 12 nick marino

    @Ross: speaking of non-indie crossovers, i normally hate the way people don’t question things or they only question them briefly. something i loved about the Infinity crossovers and even Civil War is that the characters act like it’s completely unheard of, and things are actually changed afterwards.

    so acknowledged that i enjoy that type of meaningful crossover, it just seems more and more problematic to even attempt a meaningful crossover between unrelated indie properties.

  16. AudioShocker Shoutouts!

    Shadoweyes webcomics

  17. 13 Scott Austin
  18. 14 nick marino

    @Scott: OMG! I forgot about that!!! Did they ever publish all the issues?

  1. 1 The Comics Podcast Network » Sequential Underground #11
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