Event Fatigue Fatigue
Posted by Cullen Bunn on Nov 1, 2011
I don’t want to make any enemies here, but I’m gonna write about something that seems to get a lot of people hot and bothered—and not in a good way.
Let me tell you a story.
A couple of weeks ago, I did a signing at a local comic shop. It’s a great shop. The manager is someone I consider a friend. The employees are all top notch. The customers are cool and I enjoy talking to them.
At some point, the manager and I started talking about events. Y’know… Fear Itself, Siege, Blackest Night, Civil War, Flashpoint, Secret Invasion… It was a short but lively conversation. As we talked, a customer walked through the door and overheard us. He was an older gentleman. I’m guessing he’s been reading comic books even longer than I have. Anyhow, hearing what we were talking about, he loudly proclaimed:
“Down with events!”
He threw his voice so that everyone around could hear him.
“Down with events!”
He didn’t talk to me directly as he stormed toward the back of the store.
“Down with events!” he cried. “Don’t write gimmicks! Just write good stories!”
I looked at the manager and smiled. He just shrugged and said, “Event fatigue.”
I should have probably let it alone, but I just couldn’t do it. I felt like I needed to call bullshit on this guy’s statements. I walked toward the back of the store, and said something along the lines of:
“I don’t know. I think there’s plenty of room to tell great stories within an event. And it seems like people like them. I mean, event books tend to outsell non-event books.”
“I don’t like reading events,” he said. “I only like reading good stories.”
“Well,” I said, “going into shameless self-promotion. My comic book, The Sixth Gun, has been getting some pretty great reviews, and it isn’t tied into any events whatsoever.”
He wrinkled his nose. “Down with events!”
It was interesting that he said that, but the pile of comic books he was buying included Fear Itself tie-ins and most of DC’s The New 52 books. All event books. (If you don’t think The New 52 are event books, you may not fully understand what an event is.) Did he have a copy of The Sixth Gun? Skullkickers? Chew? Severed? Scalped? American Vampire? Brilliant? Nope, nary a one.
So I had to point that out.
“There are a lot of non-event books on the shelves, you know. A lot of them are very, very good. I know people like to complain about events, but why do you think the event books outsell non-event books by as much as 1,000 to 1?”
“I hate events!” he said. “I only want a good story!”
We talked a little more, but he seemed stuck on his “Down with events!” tirade. It wasn’t a bad conversation, but I’m pretty sure at some point I told him I was gonna pull the replica of Gandalf’s staff from the wall and beat him up and down the store with it.
And then he left, buying only his event books.
“Down with events!” he cried back into the store as he left—proud, I’m sure, that he had demonstrated his position so eloquently.
So, here’s the thing. Events are a fact of comic book life. If there’s going to be a shared universe, a shared continuity, the characters within that universe are going to interact. The result is often an event. The first event comic I got hooked on was Secret Wars, and I loved it. I liked seeing all those different characters thrown together. I liked seeing how the story in one book affected all the others. I still like them. Events are a way for publishers to bring their characters together, shake things up a little, and (yes!) make a little money.
Buy your event books. Buy your non-event books. There are great stories to be found in the pages of both. Don’t bitch about an event just because it’s an event. Read it and enjoy it or not based on its own merits. And for pity’s sake, if you are going to complain about how there are no good stories out there, then you owe it to yourself (and to everyone who has to suffer through your complaining) to read some books that might be outside your comfort zone.
I suggest starting with a little book called The Sixth Gun.
Today’s Comic Book Bucket List
Today’s foray into things to do in comics before I die is…
Write a Devil Dinosaur Story
I don’t know what it is about a big red T-Rex that I think is so cool, but I’ve always loved Devil Dinosaur. I remember so vividly reading an issue of that book while sitting in Mrs. Broadhurst’s 5th grade class.
Mrs. Broadhurst didn’t approve of funny books, but I had finished my test early, so there was very little she could say about me reading instead of sitting there twiddling my thumbs or throwing spitballs. I think that if she had seen the title, she might have thrown some kind of holier-than-thou fit. But she never noticed. That was a small victory that made that school day a little more bearable.
Cullen Bunn is the writer of The Damned, The Tooth, and The Sixth Gun from Oni Press and The Fearless from Marvel. He is also the author of a middle reader prose horror novel, Crooked Hills, from Earwig Press.
- Preview: The Sixth Gun #7 - written by Frederik Hautain on Dec 20, 2010
- Preview: The Sixth Gun #20 - written by Richard Boom on Mar 22, 2012
- Preview: The Sixth Gun V.4: A Town Called Penance - written by Richard Boom on Nov 23, 2012
- Preview: Fear Itself: FF #1 - written by Richard Boom on Jun 27, 2011
- Preview: The Sixth Gun #12 - written by Richard Boom on Jun 28, 2011
- BF Awards 2011 - Best Writer Independent: Cullen Bunn - written by Jason Wilkins on Jan 19, 2012
- The Siege You Saw Coming: Bendis Talks! Part 4 - written by Matt Adler on Jan 28, 2010
- Prepared for Warfare - written by Adrian F Zettlemoyer on Jun 15, 2006
- The Blackest Night Falls: Black Hand - written by Fletch Adams on Jul 7, 2009
- Unearthing Deadman - written by Fletch Adams on Sep 17, 2009
- The Sixth Gun #3 - written by Jason Wilkins on Aug 19, 2010
- Flashpoint #5 - written by Joshua Yehl on Aug 31, 2011
- The Sixth Gun #6 - written by Jason Wilkins on Nov 24, 2010
- The Sixth Gun #12 - written by Jason Wilkins on Jun 30, 2011
- The Sixth Gun #14 - written by JasonClyma on Sep 1, 2011
- Everything Old is New Again - written by Cullen Bunn on Aug 9, 2011
- A Comic Book Bucket List - Part 2 - written by Cullen Bunn on Aug 30, 2011
- Back to the Past, Ahead to the Future - written by William Gatevackes on Dec 22, 2009
- Come With Whedon If You Want to Live - written by William Gatevackes on Mar 30, 2010
- Marvel Under Siege - written by William Gatevackes on Jan 5, 2010
VashNL Nov 2, 2011 at 6:21pm
Sure, there are a lot of non-events book out there, but I do, in a way, agree with the down with events sentiment. Why? Well, I think it's mostly because there seem to be too many events following each other up. I mean, Fear Itself just finished and already we're on Spider-Island, with X-men Schism in between.
Now, I'm not a big fan of the Spider-Man comics so I'm skipping on Spider-Island, but I do try to follow the X-Men and opted not to go fo Schism.
I've followed the Marvel events, I'm a big Marvel fan as you can tell, since Civil War and I liked that idea a lot. However, soon after we had World War Hulk, Secret Invasion, Dark Reign, Siege, Heroic Age, Shadowland and ultimately Fear Itself. Mind you, these are the events I followed, I'm not mentioning the ones I didn't.
Almost every comic series has a tie-in with a certain event, even though some are pretty useless. I'm a big fan of Ghost Rider, but the short battle of the new GR and Sin felt kind of random and tacked on. I understand the need to incorporate such an event, but I feel that the reasoning behind it should be stronger.
My idea for events is that there should be less of them, take a longer break between the big events, and work on individual storylines a bit more. But hey, that's just me.
Jason Wilkins Nov 2, 2011 at 7:07pm
Think that may be the well-thought out argument Cullen was looking for in the LCS Vash. Now, I'm sort of in the middle. I don't really bother with the event comics unless I'm assigned a review but at the same time, there's no denying their $-making ability, as Cullen suggests. I agree that event comics get tiresome, especially when they come one after the other in rapid succession but at the same time, I too remember Secret Wars and the joy it brought every month seeing those killer Zeck pages/covers with all the big names present. I think you're onto something suggesting a longer gap between events. Allows for more solid character development that can make the events resonate that much more. Having said that, to simply shout "down with events" is just plain moronic. Great comment Vash!
JasonClyma Nov 3, 2011 at 12:21am
This may induce an eye-roll or two, but I thought Final Crisis was not only a fantastic event book, but was surrounded by some great tie-ins. Events can be fun, you get the feeling that the story is "extra" important and is taking place on a grander scale; it's only when they are rooted in a bad story that the whole line can be dragged down (I'm looking at you Fear Itself AND Flashpoint). Blackest Night is a great story, for example, but by the time it came to an end I never wanted to see a black ring again. The idea of events isn't the problem at all, it's the over saturation of tie-ins; do we really need three issues tie-ins, or could they be better produced in a single issue one-shot?
By the way, Cullen, thanks for plugging my review!
Bart Croonenborghs Nov 3, 2011 at 4:59am
Also, I think the IQ level involved is overrated in the sense that fans feel obliged to follow them, otherwise they can't make sense out of their monthly titles anymore. I just read the sollicited text and I feel I can follow everything just fine going from Fear Itself, Schism, Blackest Night etc. Mostly they are build out of one solid idea which is then milked to the extreme and surrounded by super duper action scenes. How hard can it be to follow without reading it? (Possible exception being Morrison's Final Crisis)
Cullenbunn Nov 3, 2011 at 4:30pm
Bart, it almost seems like you're suggesting that events should be skipped just because their events. I may be reading that wrong, of course. But I don't care if Schism, for example, ties into nothing or has 200 tie-in issues, it was an amazing read. Of course, I think I see events a little differently than most people.
Cullenbunn Nov 3, 2011 at 4:35pm
Jason, I also enjoyed the Hell out of Final Crisis. I didn't read all of the tie-ins. A few, yeah, but not all. I don't mind the tie-ins to events at all (not just because I was hired to write some of them). I think they can explore a part of the universe that might, by necessity, be glossed over in the core title. I get the frustration readers may have if the tie-ins are *required* reading for the main book, though. I think many readers want the tie-ins to send shockwaves through the shared universe. Otherwise, it's not shared.
Cullenbunn Nov 3, 2011 at 4:40pm
Jason W. - I tried to think back over all the events that have happened since Secret Wars... heck, since Contest of Champions... and I found that except for a brief stint in the 90s when I was a bitter, bitter struggling writer, I liked, say, 85% of the events I've read. Now, I don't read all the tie-ins. I read those that sound interesting or feature characters I like, so I probably missed some good and bad stuff along the way. Still, I don't think I could ever just write off events as a whole.
Bart Croonenborghs Nov 3, 2011 at 4:41pm
@Cullen No, I think fanboys have an irrational fear of 'missing out' and therefore feel obliged to buy event books and maybe a lot of tie-ins. But because of the action-oriented storytelling of event books, they are pretty easy to follow even when not following the mini-series. Mind you, I'm talking in general here, not singling out every event. I enjoy reading the odd event book once in a while.
Cullenbunn Nov 3, 2011 at 4:43pm
Vash - Well thought out.
I think we see events a little differently. I distinguish between "big events" like Fear Itself and Flashpoint; "mini events" like Spider-Island, Shadowland, Schism; and then the books like Heroic Age and Dark Reign, which aren't events as much as a state of mind.
VashNL Nov 3, 2011 at 5:36pm
Hm, you actually make a good point there if I try to see it like that myself. In that case, Civil War, World War Hulk, Secret Invasion, Siege and now Fear Itself were the main events. They were the only ones who had the Homefront-series as an extra tie-in, and they were touted as major happenings so you're right on that front.
Still, that is "The Next Big Thing" every year. Civil War started in 2006, World War Hulk followed in 2007, the year after it was Secret Invasion, then came Siege. Now that Fear Itself is at an end, I've already seen Marvel announce the announcement for the new "Next Big Thing" on Facebook, which is probably another earth-shattering event.
In the end though, those major events hardly even matter, because the status quo is soon returned to normalcy again. Sure, it took Steve Rogers a little longer to become Captain America again, but most of the time the major heroes go back to the state they were in before. For example: Spider-Man.
He gave up his identity during Civil War, which was a huge shock. Civil War ended and almost immediately (not sure how many issues it took, but it wasn't very long if I remember correctly), he (or rather Mary-Jane) struck a deal with Mephisto so that everyone would forget that Peter Parker is in fact Spider-Man.
I get that he wanted to save his aunt and the ones he loved, but to me it seemed the easy way out back then. Heck, it still does.
I like events, don't get me wrong, I'm just constantly miffed that once such an event is over, the status quo returns all too quick. The only event that really shattered the Marvel Universe as we know it was House of M/Decimation. But ever since that, no event had such lasting repercussions.
I could be wrong, but this is what I know right now on that point.
It would be awesome if after an event something would change for a longer time than just a few issues. Take Dark Reign, which could've lasted longer as a state of mind than it actually did. I don't know, I just want to see more long term consequences instead of going back to the same old stuff we already knew before "The Next Big Thing".
I know it's a risk to take, and I actually applaud the step Marvel took with Miles Morales as Spider-Man in the Ultimate series, but in the end it could pay off. I mean, The Human Torch died earlier this year, but I think he might return pretty soon. Why not go a on a little longer without him?
I'm just a little tired of major events and them ultimately having little to no effect in the long run. Space them out a bit. Instead of a major seven issues event each year, why not create a ten issues event about two and a half to three years after the last one? In the meantime, readers can follow their heroes in their own section of the Universe instead of having to deal with two to five issues concering said event.
Bart Croonenborghs Nov 3, 2011 at 5:41pm
I can honestly say for myself that even though I like to read event books occasionally, they spoiled me off serialised comics and were part of the reason for my switch to TPB's for superhero stories. Take Captain America f.e., in the beginning of the Brubaker run, the stories were nicely contained within its own series but once Civil War started and the Death of CA, you suddenly needed to buy a lot more (mini-)series than just CA and it made me drop the book altogether.
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