Let's say you're the writer for Marvel's new Pugnacious Paste-Pot Pete ongoing. You'd like to do the obvious thing and bring in Unus the Untouchable for a six-issue grudge match. But the X-office has just solidified plans for its "Unus-ted We Stand" crossover, in which Double-U plays a leading role. Who decides who gets to play with the Untouchable?
Two of Marvel's top editors weighed in on this very question (albeit using far less absurd hypothetical examples) on Monday. First, in his weekly Cup o' Joe column here at CBR, Editor in Chief Joe Quesada fielded a question from reader Andyb regarding the reported inability of Avengers writers Dan Slott and Kurt Busiek to use the X-Men characters Nightcrawler and the Beast in their respective runs. Though he averred that more often than not the answer to whether a character could cross from his or her usual franchise to another title is "yes," Quesada explained that the decision typically rests with the writers and editors of that character's usual "family," who receive priority in terms of their customary characters' handling:
For example, back when Brand New Day started, Steve Wacker and the Spider-Man creators, of which Dan was one, asked that there be a moratorium on classic Spidey villains in other Marvel books. The reason for this was because they were appearing in so many titles, that they were losing their impact and the Spider titles were suffering because of that. I agreed with this logic as the plan was to let some time pass and then allow the Spider group to revamp and reintroduce the villain heavy-hitters.
That same day, Executive Editor Tom Brevoort discussed the issue in greater detail. Writing for his Blah Blah Blog on Marvel.com, Brevoort explained that he'd had to help referee a character dispute between several creators earlier in the day—the kind of conflict, he said, that can result precisely because Marvel is usually so accommodating in terms of letting its different franchises use one another's characters. Because the writers' first loyalty is generally to the story they'd like to tell, Brevoort says Marvel editorial, whose first loyalty is generally to the long-term health of each franchise, has a mechanism in place to help settle such disputes:
So we've got some guidelines about how this all works out. Principle among them is that each character has a home title or a home office, through which their appearances should all be coordinated, so as to minimize conflicts. At a level above that are the Executive Editors, Axel Alonso and myself, keeping a broader eye on the various goings-on in our divisions. And above that is Joe Q as EIC and Dan Buckley as Publisher.
Even still, Brevoort says that characters from one "home" sometimes use another as a sort of timeshare, thus shifting the distribution of responsibility for that character over time. Wolverine's regular appearances in New Avengers, for example, give Brevoort's Avengers office more parity with the X-office in terms of determining Logan's status than it used to have.
Given this decade's emergence of the Avengers as Marvel's new flagship franchise—a success based in part on how the team now draws on traditionally non-Avengers-based characters like Spider-Man and Wolverine—and the years-long dominance of massive line-wide event comics as the storytelling mode of choice, the question of who has the final say over such crossover appearances is as pertinent as ever, and seeing how the sausages get made in that regard is pretty fascinating.