Why Do We Really Read Event Books?
Since the announcement that Marvel’s Secret Wars will ‘End the Marvel 616 and Ultimate universes’, we’ve been overwhelmed with previews for upcoming mini-series, one-shots and ongoings that delve into Warzones, Battleworlds and the whole length and breadth of Marvel’s event history.
And I’m exhausted already.
I’ve spent the last hour or so going through announcement after announcement, trying to collect images, preview art, solicitations and exclusive interviews from a myriad of different sites (Marvel’s spreading out their exclusive reveals across dozens of news outlets in order to gather a larger crowd). My intention was to collate all of the new books coming out into one handy article in order to help keep myself (and you guys too) up to date with what’s going on without having to scour the confusing vastness of TEH INTERWEBS. While it is something I’m still working on (I’ve come too far to give up now!) there genuinely has been a LOT of content thrown at us over the past month or so.
It got me thinking. About Secret Wars specifically, but also about Event Books in general.
With Convergence coming out from DC at around the same time, we’re entering that familiar ‘event season’ that long time readers will be familiar with. Every single time there’s a big event, marketing will have you believe that it’s
“The Biggest Thing EVER”
“Nothing will be the Same AGAIN”.
While time will only tell on the latter, I hesitate to say they may very well be right on the former. Don’t get me wrong, there have been many major events in the past that have shaken up the status quo in some fashion (Marvel’s upcoming universe-changer is named after one of them after all). However it’s worth noting that
in a few months you won’t be able to buy any issue of either Marvel or DC that aren’t affected by either Secret Wars or Convergence.
Think about that for a second. For a couple months (at least) you won’t be able to buy Superman, Spider-Man, Avengers, Batman, The Flash, X-Men or Justice League. Not to mention all the new fan favorites like Gotham Academy, Ms Marvel, Hawkeye, Batgirl, Harley Quinn and so on.
None. For months.
There’s obviously an argument to be made here for the casual reader or the new fan that both Marvel and DC have succeeded in bringing in to books like Ms Marvel and Batgirl over the past 6 months – what will they do? Are they expected to come back when it’s all over, or dive on in to these massive events? Which brings me onto my main point here, which is more of a commentary on how and why we read event books.
Let’s look at Marvel’s inspiration for this year’s inevitable blockbuster; the original Secret Wars, the 12 issue series from 1984. Pretty self contained (there were no spin offs or tie ins to speak of), Secret Wars proved extremely successful, and spawned a spin off the following year.
Since then Marvel and DC have released ‘Events’ fairly regularly to varying degrees of success, but one of the things they all have in common is that they inevitably lead to a spike in sales. As they like to tell us;
We keep making them because people keep buying them.
Buy why do we buy them? Ask any longtime fan (hell, even some new readers) and they’ll tell you that at some point they’ve suffered from ‘ event fatigue’; that exhaustion that comes from ever escalating crises (pun intended) and unavoidable crossovers all piled on top of another; one ends, another begins. Yet the sales figures reflect something different entirely. If anything, we can’t get enough.
The original Secret Wars was self contained, so the argument could be that you didn’t have to read it; if you were reading Fantastic Four or Uncanny X-Men or whatever, all the heroes were whisked off to Battleworld by the Beyonder at the end of one issue and were back by the start of the next. The event itself was actually playing catch up – in the main books they’d all been back months by the time the series was over.
However, every book was subtly affected.
Spider-Man returned with a black suit. The Thing didn’t return at all. Any number of little changes had happened that meant if you as a reader wanted to know what had happened, you’d have to go out and buy Secret Wars.
‘Original Sin’ pulled something similar just last year. If you were reading Jason Aaron’s Thor and not indulging in the main event book, that’s fine. Except that between one issue and the next, suddenly the Odinson was unworthy to wield Mjolnir, and you – a reader who had not missed a single issue – were potentially left confused.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m genuinely excited for Secret Wars and for Convergence, and I’ll be buying the books like everyone else. The major upside of ‘Events’ is the creativity that this sort of change inevitably brings. Not to mention the wealth of new books that are coming out of both of these series that look like a boat load of fun. There’s a part of me however that feels as though I have to buy at least the main series, because otherwise how would I know what happens next? In the past this has been true but it’s never more prevalent when literally every single book is being replaced.
How can I avoid Events when Events are all there is?
In the end, I’ve no doubt the sales figures will be strong for both Secret Wars and Convergence, but of course they would be. If you want to read new comics with Spider-Man, Batman or Superman, you have to buy into the events at least a little. You’ve literally no alternative.