AiPT! Roundtable: On the creative merits of “event” comics



Hey, how’d everyone love that SECRET EMPIRE event??? Wasn’t it great paying $4-5 apiece for 10 issues of a fascist Captain America?

Well, we kind of liked it, but everyone seems to put the bad-mouth on “event” stories. They’re artificial. They prioritize plot over character. They derail other books with tie-ins.

Or do they offer the writers of those tie-ins the chance to get more eyes on their work, and put their characters through different tribulations than they would ordinarily? And isn’t it just cool to see all your favorite characters come together in one, big, action-packed story?

Plenty of people SAY they hate events, but somebody’s buying ’em, although it may be a case of diminishing returns (Secret Wars sold more poorly than most). But CREATIVELY, are they as bad as people say? Do the readers really HATE them as much as they say? We’ve brought the AiPT! braintrust together for another Roundtable to figure it out.

Chris Hassan: Well first, I definitely don’t hate them, because they’re just words and pictures printed on pieces of paper. The paper’s innocent. Who hates innocent paper?

But comic book mega-events – yes, I would say I have “event fatigue.” There have just been too many, and I honestly don’t think they’re all necessary. One every few years is fine, especially when they’re masterfully set up, like Secret Invasion was.

But when there’s one every quarter, you begin to see it as nothing more than a sales gimmick. The story at the center of the event could be great, but that doesn’t hide the fact that the orders for an event came from up high.

At the end of the day, I want my favorite creators to tell the best stories they can, on their own terms. How much can they truly do that if every few months they need to pump the breaks and tie into a mega-event?

Russ “Dog” Dobler: Well, if you believe Marvel’s editors, while they do NEED events to keep the lights on, they’ll claim that each INDIVIDUAL one happens “organically. ” Nick Spencer started a story with huge ramifications, and somewhere along the line, they all realized there was only one way it could end. Even Civil War II came about after kicking an idea around and someone finally saying, “You know what this is, right?”

And they also say that very few tie-ins are “mandated.” Unless it would be silly for a book NOT to tie-in, writers usually get the choice. Some clearly like the sales boost, and/or the chance to play in a different sandbox.

Chris: Even if Civil War II did come about organically, did they have to slap the “Civil War” name on the cover? At the same time a major motion picture was in theaters with the same name? That aspect of the story certainly feels editorially mandated. Much like the Original Sin event that moved the original Nick Fury off the Marvel stage to make room for a more movie-friendly character…with the same name (convenient how that works). Oh, and remember how Axis revealed Magneto’s children weren’t actually his children or mutants… just like their Marvel Studios counterparts.

Are the creators behind these events powerless? No, of course not. But I do feel like there are certain plot points that need to be included to suit the big bosses’ master plan.

David Hildebrand: Event fatigue is real! I only gave Secret Empire a chance because I was intrigued with Nick Spencer’s Captain America run, despite all the hate he was receiving.

After Civil War II, I told myself, “No more!” Civil War II had potential but when it got toward the end and all those pretty splash pages emerged as what I thought was nothing but an ad for future books, I was DONE! I wanted a solid ending, not a commercial!

Secret Empire had a couple of lagging moments but I thought it was a solid story overall. I got tired of seeing people complain about the story, especially since the ones complaining aren’t the ones walking into stories buying the books.

I am going into DC’s Dark Nights: Metal event with my fingers crossed. Once again, I am only reading it because of the creators. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo make a great team, so I’m gonna give this one a shot.

David Brooke: I think events are necessary to a certain extent and I understand the “fatigue” aspect, since there seems to be at least one big and thre minor events every year. Let’s be honest; it’s a way to pull a bunch of titles together in a crossover to sell books and hopefully pull up the sales on lagging titles.

That said, telling a wide-scoping story across titles feels bigger and more worthy of a reader’s time. The $4.99 feels justified when you can tell Marvel or DC is dumping more resources into the final package (I’m looking at you, lenticular covers!).

Not every event is great, and as Chris pointed out, there’s certainly some management choices steering these things, but for every event you disliked, someone else probably liked it. I was a huge fan of Secret Warsthough, and was never really into any of their events until Secret Empire. Did that sour my experience reading other titles at Marvel? Not really.

David H.: My big thing with events is that I want the effects of the story to have a lasting impact somewhere in the Marvel/DC universe. Granted, I knew Captain America wasn’t going to stay the supreme leader of Hydra, but there should be lasting impacts that make me feel like the event meant something other than to get my dollars.

Chris: I’m glad you mentioned “getting your dollars,” David, because the cynical nature of events is a big reason why I’m fatigued.

I believe Avengers vs. X-Men was the last event where I bought every tie-in book. I’ll admit, it was fun. But once the dust settles, not many of those tie-ins were necessary, the same way a lot of the Secret Wars’ tie-ins weren’t worth my money in the end. Comics are more expensive than ever and I just can’t justify spending $4.99 for every issue of the main event series, plus all the tie-ins.

This is actually one (of many) reasons I’m excited about Marvel Legacy. They say every series will be an event. Yes please! I strongly believe in keeping the action in a single title. That goes for mini-series as well. Let me buy my series and just my series. Don’t make me buy an Avengers series on the verge of cancellation just to get “the full story.”

Dog: But if everything is an event, doesn’t that mean … nothing is an event? We’ve come full circle!

It’s funny, for all the complaints you hear about events online, if you go to a convention? People THANK the editors for having one big story they can dip into to get a “window” into the Marvel Universe at the time, without having to pay attention to the entire line. You can argue they aren’t seeing the best that’s offered, then, but isn’t it okay if people just want to see Spider-Man throw fists next to Captain America and Wolverine?

Chris: The age-old struggle … pleasing the die-hard Wednesday warriors vs. attracting the casual fans who love those fun Marvel movies.

Dog: Well, I think it’s been shown pretty conclusively that movies don’t get people into comic shops. Maybe the question we should be asking is, do people’s buying habits actually match their online statements? Or, are the “haters” just a vocal minority? You can say “don’t interrupt my story,” but if a book’s fanbase can’t float it for more than six issues, maybe a little interruption is just what it needs!

Do people’s buying habits actually match their online statements? Or are the “haters” just a vocal minority?

David B.: It’s worth noting I think a lot of folks want something to complain about too. They may say they hate Civil War II for a variety of reasons, but it brings them joy to do so.

Chris: I try not to pay attention to the “haters.” Taylor Swift said they’re just gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate. And the creators I talk to also don’t seem to give them the time of day. I do believe they’re a vocal minority.

The thought of publishers giving into the haters terrifies me. I didn’t read Secret Empire monthly (I will read it once the collection is released), but not for the reasons so many people were losing their minds over. The whole Nazi-Cap hysteria. Fandom, get a grip and remember how comic book storytelling works.

So, while I didn’t love that Marvel was putting out yet another mega-event, I applaud them for continuing to publish such a polarizing story. If you don’t like something, explain why without resorting to personal attacks on creators or fans who DO enjoy it. Let’s be civil in the comics community. The Civil Wars are for Tony and Carol.

David H.: I didn’t hate Civil War II to hate it. I really wanted to like it! And it had its moments but fell flat in the end for me.

David B.: I can see how there was extra Secret Empire hate and not just because Cap was a Nazi. That story came right out of Captain America and wasn’t really showing up in other titles until it actually dropped. It was an event that, if you weren’t reading Captain America, you probably felt like it hijacked your favorite monthly series. This is coming from a guy who loved the Cap run that built up to it.

Chris: Look, publishers can orchestrate major events. I just ask one thing — be organized about it. I think the New 52, while more of an initiative than an event, stands as an example of what not to do. Remember how quickly continuity errors and consistency issues across books became a major issue? Tell your mega-event, but make sure every creator involved is following the script.

Because I still don’t completely understand the fallout from Axis. What happened to the evil, inverted, Superior Iron Man again? And how did that gel with Jonathan Hickman’s eight months later stuff? What’s that? Secret Wars? That’s the answer? No, Secret Wars can’t explain away everything!

David B.: “Secret Retcon,” they should call it.

David H.: I didn’t touch Axis. And yes, Secret Wars had me scratching my head. I’m thankful DC Is keeping the tie-ins at $2.99; I might pick up Nightwing this week!

David B.: Secret Wars was certainly a tad confusing, especially how it ended. Though I think that was by design so they could integrate characters and mix things up.

David H.: I don’t necessarily want resolution, I just want things to make sense and work within the respective universe!

Chris: Guys, I’m going to be honest… I’m feeling like a whiny comics fan right about now. Can we relaunch this Roundtable on a more optimistic note that looks forward while still honoring the past? I guess what I’m asking is… what’s your all-time favorite event series that justifies the need for event series?

David H.: My favorite is the original Infinity Gauntlet. I still love that series to this day!

David B.: There’s too many to pick just one. I loved Annihilation, I really dug Death of Superman, but maybe my pick is House of M.

Dog: I guess I’ve never really thought about it. I liked the recent Secret Wars. I liked Onslaught at the time! And Age of Apocalypse!

Chris: Every issue of the original Civil War was a new surprise, and every issue of Secret Invasion had me wondering who was a Skrull, but I’m going to have to go with the Age of Apocalypse.

I had just started reading the X-Men books in the lead up to AoA and was thrust head first into this crazy, alternate reality. Being so new to the world of the X-Men, I seriously wondered if it was all going to stick – if this was the X-Men moving forward. It was great, and I don’t think it’s possible for publishers to ever repeat an event like that again.