It’s easy to say crossover

Illustration by Alex Ross from “Crisis on Infinite Earths”

That of the crossover it has always been an easy-to-grasp narrative mechanism, a guilty pleasure capable of titillating the most childish and playful part of every spectator. One of the very first cases should even date back to 1890, when the Scottish writer Andrew Lang thought it best to bring together in his Old Friends: Essays in Epistolary Parody characters based on other literary works, drawn from titles such as Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen e Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. Even earlier – in 1874 – there should be mention The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne, where we find numerous references and characters taken from Captain Grant’s children And Twenty thousand leagues under the sea.

As interesting as these early experiments were, it was with the arrival of the cinema that things got fun. In 1910 the Dane Viggo Larsen turned Arsène Lupine against Sherlock Holmes, of which there should even be five chapters. In 1943, Universal distributed Frankenstein vs. the Wolf Man with the legendary Lon Chaney Jr. in the role of the werewolf and an unprecedented Bela Lugosi in the role of Frankenstein’s monster. This was followed by a series of other titles where various classic monsters crossed their paths, up to The Frankenstein house of 1944 in which the creature, Dracula and the Wolf Man are reunited by a plot to say the least delusional.

In 1962 Ishirō Honda headed instead The triumph of King Kong, in which Godzilla had the opportunity to contend with the primate brought to the big screen by Merian C. Cooper. Also to be remembered King Kong’s heirs – Italian title of Destroy All Monsters – also directed by Honda in 1968 and including all the major Toho giants.

Taking a step back and focusing on the world of comics we have, in 1940, the first crossover from Marvel with the meeting between Namor and the Human Torch in Mystery Comics 8 and the first appearance of a supergroup of heroes in All-Star Comics 3, where we see for the first time the Justice Society of America sitting around the same table. This is the start of a trend that had its maximum expression in 1984, with the arrival in US comics of the first mega events of the US comics industry: Secret wars for Marvel Comics and Crisis on the infinite Earths by DC Comics. Two miniseries – both consisted of 12 issues – designed with the intention of involving as many heroes as possible, making them interact as never before and giving readers back a narrative universe strongly upset by the events told in those pages.

We also began to think about a narrative flow parallel to the main title, consistent with the events but which required the reading of other books in addition to the central ones. It was a huge success, which kicked off a season not yet over, amidst infinite crises, identity or final, civil wars, invasions and secret empires, various apocalypses, bright days and dark nights.

Paradoxically, the greatest result of this editorial strategy was in the world of cinema, with the arrival of Marvel Cinematic Universe by Kevin Feige. A titanic undertaking that, simply by translating mechanics on the big screen that comic readers know by heart, has led to the production house taking over 27 billion dollars from 2008 to today. Many consider it the greatest of Disney crossovers, but evidently they pretend not to remember this trilogy.

Beyond any consideration, one of the reasons for this success is undoubtedly the ability to obtain a strong homogeneity among all the productions, occasionally leaving the reins loose enough to have a minimum personality peak on the part of the directors and avoid having a television effect that is too coercive with respect to the finished product. This is why Taika Waititi can afford a particularly lively color palette, Sam Raimi a few touches of the macabre and James Gunn his over the top releases.

With the explosion of the Avengers phenomenon even at Warner Bros. they had hurried to find their own precise visual identity, hiring Zack Snyder as supervisor of the entire DC cinematic universe and giving him the responsibility of researching the right alchemy that would lead to the much-delayed Justice League movie. Curious how the director came to this role after the success of The man of Steela film he directed but produced by Christopher Nolan following the stratospheric receipts of his Batman trilogy and modeled almost on the same idea, complete with regular David S. Goyer and Hans Zimmer hired to give a sense of continuity to the whole operation .

Anyway Snyder didn’t work as it should and DC’s biggest takings were led by James Wan’s kitschy excesses for Aquamanfrom the usual glacial Nolan and from the incel epic of Joker by Todd Phillips. In other words, the real money came to DC when everyone did what they wanted. To demonstrate that consistency and homogeneity are not always the optimal solution, and to prove it to us is the history of the crossover itself. Because if on the one hand we have those who love to make everything as compact as possible, on the other there is a long tradition that makes cacophony and confusion its strongest weapon.

After a short period of public beta, Warner Bros. fighting game season 1 officially kicked off on August 15. MultiVersus where to give it a hell of a lot are characters belonging to every intellectual property of the production company. So we have Batman, Superman, Steven Universe, the Iron Giant, Arya Stark, Shaggy, Velma, Tom & Jerry and so on. Considering the planetary success immediately collected by the video game, it was inevitable to expect a constant river of leaks about the next characters integrated in the rooster. At the time of writing this article Rick & Morty, Black Adam and Stripe (from Gremlins). Only rumored instead Gandalf, Harry Potter, Godzilla, the witch of the Wizard of Oz, the Animaniacs, Johnny Bravo and a series of increasingly unlikely characters linked to series as far as possible from each other.

Each fighter with a well-recognizable aesthetic – mainly those related to animated series – is rendered with a graphic style consistent with what made him famous, helping to generate a tasty visual confusion effect and, beware of the forbidden word, fun. We are still a long way from the chaos and visual anarchism of the much more famous Super Smash Bros. from Nintendo, but the path taken seems one of the right ones.

In the magnum opus of the master Masahiro Sakurai we have arrived at the follies of the chapter Ultimatewith its 89 characters from over 40 different video game series (from Mario to Minecraftpassing through Person 5, Final Fantasy VII And Metal Gear Solid) 114 scenarios and 1068 music tracks. All in the name of the greatest possible variety, without making any problems about how coherent things can be with each other (with the exception of the gameplay, the very compact and ultra-technical one as per tradition).

A few months ago there was a lot of talk about the unexpected return of Cip & Dale: Special agentsprotagonists of a feature film that makes visual confusion and accumulation its raison d’etre. In addition to characters drawn from an infinite series of intellectual properties we also have different animation techniques (or simulations), complete with different frame rates between character and character. Disney’s answer to The Amazing World of Gumball, created by Ben Bocquelet for Cartoon Network by putting together characters born for projects that were then rejected. Again coherence and homogeneity are the least of the thoughts, in favor of a visual anarchism that has rewarded the series with great success and a series of seasons that are increasingly convulsive and full of surreal humor.

Curious how this type of approach, usually rather irreverent, a few years ago found one of its outlets in a context exactly the opposite. Let’s go back to the Christmas holidays of 1990, when a whole generation of kids were put in front of the TV to watch Our heroes to the rescueMcDonald’s financed anti-drug cartoon in which an incredible cast of animated characters (the Smurfs, Alf, Garfield, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Winnie the Pooh, the Muppets, Slimer of Ghostbustersthe Looney Tunes and Michelangelo of the Ninja Turtles) must save young Michael from crack and marijuana.

The medium-length film was a disasterbut for a child to see all those characters so different from each other in the same product he produced a short circuit. Even a product that was meant to be educational reached camp peaks that were really hard to ignore. This was a very different choice from what was made later, for example, by crossover between adult series Archer And Bob’s Burger where the game is all about finding the characters of the second drawn in the style of Adam Reed’s production.

Or we could mention the extraordinary Batman / Elmer Fudd by Tom King and Lee Weeks, little gem passed too quietly. What I’m talking about is a way in which the crossover does everything to be less elegant as possible, where the accumulation does not lead to blockbuster scenes but to a din that goes beyond how epic the staged narrative can be. What Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw tried to do in Crossover without the right amount of courage and brazenness.

Suffice it to see what they managed to combine those of the Archie with the mythological Archie Meets The Punisherwhere two designers were working on the tables at the same time, John Buscema for the Punisher and the criminals the vigilante hunts e Stan Goldberg for the cast of Archie. The result is delusional and absolutely essential. The script is based on an unlikely mistake of person, and we have all the best moments when Frank Castle and Microchip find themselves strolling in an idea of ​​the United States that is the antithesis of the one where their stories are set.

An oasis of peace quite different from the eternal New York of the mid-1980s in which the vigilante and his assistant seemed to live. Decadence and crime around every corner are replaced by a reassuring time limbo based on a past that never even existed – you know Stars Hollow? – where the biggest problem is the love triangle between Archie, Betty and Veronica. The script remains negligible, but seeing the most violent of Marvel anti-heroes return to his world swaddled in a pure varsity-style cardigan, complete with an embroidered R on the chest, is priceless. It is about a light and totally playful approachaware and proud of its inconsistency, capable of delivering incredible pearls to posterity.

An example impossible to forget in this sense – also for being one of the few examples of productive crossovers – is The legend of the seven golden vampires, a feature film born from the merger between Shaw Brothers and Hammer Film Production. The former masters of Cantonese martial cinema and the latter a symbol of English Gothic. The film was co-directed by Roy Ward Baker (The spaceship of the lost beings, The mark of Dracula) And Chang Cheh (among the thousand direct masterpieces it is worth mentioning at least the entire trilogy of One-Armed Swordsman) and looks like a pastiche without head or tail between the two narrative strands.

Not a film to be delivered to posterity but a great experiment in entertainment cinema, funny enough to still be fondly remembered nearly fifty years after its release. Not a small result for a mess.

Read also: Secret Wars and the time that never exists

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It’s easy to say crossover