Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Thinking Way Too Hard About: Crossovers

Image by AbyssWolf
I'm a sucker for crossover stories. I'm fascinated by the thought of creating a new story by combining characters from multiple other stories. Sometimes the settings are mashed together with very little explanation, just some hand-waving about dimensional rifts or a magical summons. Other times, there is an elaborate backstory that combines threads of multiple stories to create an amalgam universe. The author can either lift the characters from their original settings as they originally appeared, or re-interpret the characters to match the new setting.

One of my favorite examples of this is the Super Smash Bros. franchise, which combines characters from many Nintendo games. I never owned a Nintendo system more advanced than a N64, but I was always excited to see the official art and fan art that surrounded each new title, as people drew these characters interacting. Watching them fight can be cool, but my favorite art is where they're just hanging out and being bros.

A more serious example of the genre is the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series by Alan Moore. Moore combines many Victorian and pulp-era stories to create a dynamic world. The series has its flaws, as Moore shows his usual tendency to give in to self-indulgent prose, and later books get too caught up in mimicking the styles of the source material to the point that they seem to completely lose interest in telling an interesting story. Nevertheless, I love the idea of combining characters from existing literary works and creating new adventures for them.

Both DC Comics and Marvel have teams composed of stars of their own comics: the Justice League and the Avengers, respectively. While not combining universes, these stories bring together characters with their own back stories, villains, and settings and combine them in interesting ways. From what I understand, the DC and Marvel stories were pretty self-contained before the comics for these teams introduced the idea that all of the stories were taking place in the same universe.

Another well-known crossover is the Alien vs. Predator franchise, which started out as a single comic but was so successful that it eventually spawned several more comic series, some bad movies, and some pretty good video games. The pairing of the two races as hunter and hunted has become so accepted that some fans don't realize that the whole thing started with a fortuitous crossover and took off from there.

Crossovers are a great way to justify writing fan fiction. If you set your fan fiction in a single world, then you're writing something that the creators of the show could have done if they had wanted to, but didn't. This is fine sometimes, but if the reason that you're writing fan fiction is that you wish that certain characters had ended up together, or that certain characters acted in different ways, or because you really think that the show could benefit from one more character who is an idealized version of you, then you're selling the original creators short. If, however, you take from several intellectual properties, then you are creating something that could otherwise never have been. In my mind, creating crossover fan fiction is also more creative and makes a better writing exercise.

Of course, I'm biased when I say that, as I have toyed with the idea of amalgam fictional universes as well. Several months ago, my friends and I joked about a "Battlennium Enternity" universe that combines every major science fiction series we could think of, and is exemplified in the phrase "They can't stop the long life and prosperous good hunting from being with you."

Do you have a favorite crossover? Do you have some favorite series that you think should be combined? Is your secret He-Man/Hardy Boys crossover entering its fifth volume? Let me know in the comments!


bluefish said...

Did you know good old Robert E. Howard wrote crossovers? "Kings of the Night" is a Bran Mak Morn/Kull crossover. And pretty much anything in the Cthulhu Mythos has some sort of crossover element.

I'm not sure what my favorite crossover is. But I would like to some day see a Harry Potter/Snake Plissken crossover called "Escape from Azkaban." The tag line? "Snake! I thought you were a muggle!"

Baron von Chop said...

Snake Plissken: the only man worthy to inherit Alastor Moody's magical eye.

Doomfinger said...

I doubt this counts as a proper crossover, but at one time I entertained the idea of writing a story in which every single conspiracy theory and religion/belief system is true at the same time.

Baron von Chop said...

That's awesome! So are the Space Nazis, the gray aliens, the Illuminati, and the Lizards all competing to control the world, or do they work together?

a'misa chiu said...

watching Thor (and Natalie Portman) made me think of this. as if NP didn't belong there, she was just doing her other dayjob from ballerinaing, and thor just popped in, you know, the old banishment deal. i guess thor's brother than reminded me of too many x-men characters and it just made me a bit.... loopy.

Baron von Chop said...

Thor was an awesome movie, but the one you describe sounds excellent too, a'misa!