Cronin Theory of Comics – “Avoid the Big Event”

by  in Comic News Comment
Cronin Theory of Comics – “Avoid the Big Event”

This really has to do, I think, with the reason why so many writers are doing shorter runs on books nowadays.

When you look back at the “classic” storylines, you are likely to rememeber the “Big Event.”

Heck, DC Comics, in its trade paperback department, has pretty much acted like they did not have any comic published after 1970 and before 1994, and yet they still have trades for both “The Great Darkness Saga” and “The Judas Contract.”

Because those both were “Big Events.”

So I can understand the impetus of current writers to want to each try to write the “Big Event” during their run on a title.

The reason, though, why this coincides with shorter runs is because, in my opinion, if you want to have a sustained impressive run on a comic book, you CAN’T have a “Big Event.”

This is because, if you spend all your time leading up to a particular story, that story might be excellent, and you may always be remembered for it…but once that story is over, there really isn’t anywhere else to go.

For instance, after Elektra was killed in #181, Daredevil was still an excellent comic book. However, when you reread the run, Miller is clearly just treading water after #181, as he has HAD his ending…but the book still kept going.

Byrne and Simonson avoided this by not HAVING any one “big event” during their Fantastic Four and Thor runs. There were memorable issues, to be sure, but no one overarching story (except, perhaps, for Simonson’s last issue of Thor).

Other examples of when the big event just killed any momentum on a run.

1. The Judas Contract – People can rattle off so many classic Teen Titans stories PRE-Judas Contract. How many POST?

2. The Great Darkness Saga – Giffen has even commented that he and Levitz had basically peaked early, and Giffen specifically mocked the stories they followed up the Saga with.

3. Terminal Velocity – Waid had already dulled his momentum with the Return of Barry Allen, but Terminal Velocity just finished it. Flash #100 was, for pretty much all purposes, the END of Mark Waid’s Flash run. The fact that he managed another 40 issues after that is…well…odd.

4. Under Siege – I would still buy Avengers with Stern post-Under Siege, but let’s be honest, the title pre-Siege and post-Siege were dramatically different. And the former was much cooler than the latter.

5. Longbow Hunters – Did Grell EVER top this? Kinda weird to have your momentum killed BEFORE you start an 80-issue run. Still good stuff, but 80 issues of direction-less stuff.

6. Hawkworld – I know this was never trumped. The ongoing, in retrospect, was probably a mistake from the word go.

7. Dark Phoenix Saga- I hesitate about this one…because I think Claremont originally HAD a “Big Event” planned for X-Men #150 involving all the same characters, but that was trashed when he was forced to kill Jean in #137. However, since the X-Men under Claremont (besides a couple of interludes for Days or Future Past and God Loves, Man Kills) never really reached any major heights after this story, I guess I will tentatively count it.

8. Tony Stark’s Alcoholism – Michelinie had a really good run on Iron Man going when he went into the long Tony’s Alcoholism plot. But when the storyline finished, the rest of his run, while still good, really meandered.

9. Armor Wars – Michelinie II had the same problem. Once the major storyline was over, the plot just really meandered until he left. Some good stuff, though.

10. Pantheon War – Peter David did a pretty good job avoiding the “Big Event,” even managing to combine the Hulks without stopping any momentum, but #425 was finally the straw that broke the camel’s back. The book really meandered over the next 40 issues (not all of that was David’s fault, he also had Onslaught to deal with, plus two completely unsuitable artists in Sharp and Medina).

11. Supergirl/Buzz – Like Hawkworld and Longbow Hunters, this was an example of a book having a good storyline, finishing it…then having 60 plus issues on top of that. Even if you enjoyed Peter David’s Supergirl, I don’t think anyone would really put up much of an argument that, after the first storyline, the book really fell off big time. That’s because the first story told the tale, for the most part. Notice that there has only been one Supergirl trade (until the ridiculous “upskirt” run at the end).

12. Firestorm – Ostrander had a really good “on the run” storyline that concluded with Ronnie and a Russian fellow being merged together as a NEW Firestorm. The story really should have ended there – I think Ostrander’s run would be regarded a lot better if it did.

13. Welcome Back, Frank – I think even Ennis knew he really did not have anything left after this story, hence the recent MAX relaunch.

Anyone know of any other examples?

Of either a run that managed to avoid “Big Events” or a run whose momentum was cut short by a “Big Event”?