Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #207 by Drew Barth

Cross Face

One of the major questions in comics over the past forty years has typically centered on how they would work in the real world. How could Batman function in a place like New York? Could Spawn just walk down the street? Are those comics set in the “real world” meaningfully based in the real world? It’s the kind of thought exercise that gets listicled to hell and back. The better question is what would happen if these characters, as characters, were brought into our actual world? This is a portion of the foundation of Donny Cates, Geoff Shaw, Dee Cunniffe, and John J. Hill’s Crossover.

The main question asked by Crossover is “what would happen if Comics as a whole were dropped onto Denver?” The answer to that is, of course, mayhem. Our world, as it is, isn’t ready for the characters from every comic to suddenly burst through a hole and into our world. But we react the only way we know how: cordoning them all off, creating a militarized zone around that hole, and rounding up any and all characters that have escaped. Also a religious fervor surrounding comics on par with the publication of Seduction of the Innocent. However, when a small girl named Ava, a refugee from the comics world, appears in Ellie and Otto’s classic comic shop, they need to bring her back home.

Crossover also asks, “what would happen if these characters met their creators? Would their writers survive?” And the answer is “nothing good” and “no” in that order. Creators like Brian K. Vaughn, Chip Zdarsky, Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Avon Oeming appear in the pages of Crossover, as does series writer Donny Cates, and are confronted by their creations. Most of these sections are written by those creators, with Zdarsky getting an issue for himself with art by Phil Hester and Ande Parks, and it’s incredibly interesting to see how they contend with their work. It’s tongue-in-cheek, but it’s also the kind of inward-looking honesty that feels genuine while it’s telling a joke. How do you, as a creator, look one of your characters in the eye and tell them that you’ve made their life miserable because it’s entertaining?

Crossover is a lot. The first thirteen issues of the series wrapped up a couple months ago with a new arc coming, hopefully, this year. But it’s also the kind of series that needs to be read in full to wrap around everything that’s happening. It’s a comic story about helping comics survive in this world and get back to their own, but also about creating stories and how they can get away from you. Some of those stories come back to kill you. 

Get excited. Get cross.

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Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331, 485, & 510) resides in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida.