'The Devastator' #8 shows what's so great about crossovers

The Devastator #8: "Crossovers" By Various Writers and Artists Edited by Geoffrey Golden and Amanda Meadows

People love crossovers. That’s not news, but I’ve never stopped and wondered why that is. What exactly is so cool about someone from Universe X running into someone from Universe Y? Or even people from different corners of the same universe meeting each other? And why do some crossovers work really well when others are so disappointing? The most recent issue of the humor anthology The Devastator explores crossovers in a way that’s of course funny, but also helps me understand what makes a great one, and why.

Devastator #8 features comics and pin-ups by a lot of great artists, as well as short stories, essays, infographics and epic poetry. On one level, it’s fun simply to read through and giggle at Box Brown’s Punisher/New Yorker mash-up or spot the references in Jim Rugg’s cover. But the more I read, the more I realized that The Devastator was scratching a crossover itch in a way that’s more satisfying than most of the actual crossovers it’s parodying.

One of the greatest crossovers of all time is Archie Meets the Punisher, something that gets referenced in a series of one-page Devastator comics by John Ford and Blaine Capatch about a character named the Beholder. The Beholder is a nerdy, fumetti analogue of Marvel’s Watcher and his greatest desire is to answer The Ultimate Question: “What happens when Archie meets characters that Archie normally wouldn’t meet?” As the anthology refuses to satisfy that whim, the Beholder periodically reappears to rant and make me laugh. Which is cool, but also makes an interesting point that the ideas behind crossovers are usually better than the execution.

Archie/Punisher is actually very good, and I don’t have a bad thing to say about it, but being good isn’t what makes it a classic. It wouldn’t matter if it sucked, what’s so great about Archie/Punisher is that it exists at all. Having an enjoyable story that somehow – against all odds – feels true to both Riverdale and a homicidal vigilante is bonus to the concept.

With most crossovers, that bonus isn’t there. For example, there were those X-Men/Star Trek crossovers that had some fun moments – like putting Professor X and Captain Picard together – but forgettable stories. That’s what makes the approach taken by The Devastator so great. It’s a rapid-fire barrage of crossover ideas that get in just long enough to be funny, then get back out again.

Like I wrote above, Devastator contributors use a lot of different formats to present their ideas, but my favorites – not surprisingly – are the comics. Asterios Kokkinos and Nate Pride’s “Imperial Walker, Texas Ranger” is a MAD Magazine-style parody about a softhearted engine of ruthless destruction. Elan' Trinidad and Chris Kawagiwa show what would happen if Yoda went on a date with Aughra from The Dark Crystal (“Lobster she ordered! Lucky I will be getting tonight!”). John Schnepp has a great story that could only be titled “Batman vs. Schmoo vs. Qbert vs. Boba Fett vs. Dr. Doom,” while J.D. Christensen and Malachi Ward depict an Internet mashmaking session that’s nothing but ridiculous ideas like Cake Boss on a Plane or David Bowie vs. Davy Crockett.

As much as I like the comics, some of the prose stuff is hilarious, too. Patrick Baker writes some awesome fan fiction (illustrated by Bryan Wolfson) in which a lonely nerd imagines himself wooing his crush away from her stupid boyfriend at a high school taught by Dumbledore and Beverly Crusher. Devastator managing editor Amanda Meadows has a great story too called “The Boxcar Boys Meet the Sweet Basin Twins in the Mystery of the Satanic Babysitters Cult.” It appears as a flipbook to the rest of the issue.

So what I’ve learned from all this is that it’s fun to make connections between things. It’s kind of like seeing a teacher at the grocery store. Putting different things together gives us a little charge. But more doesn’t always mean better. There are some great, longer crossovers, but they’re the exception, not the rule. As a rule, what makes a great crossover is a fun, clever idea presented in a way that keeps the focus on the fun and clever parts. That’s what the Devastator contributors do and that’s what makes this eighth issue so good.

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