Ruby Nation

Ruby Nation
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Monday, August 22, 2011

How To Write A Fear Itself Tie-In comic

Step 1.) Check the comic you're writing to see if there's an overarching story in progress. If there is, put it on hold until the end of the summer.

Step 2.) Find an existing character (one who isn't necessarily connected to the comic) and give them a magic hammer with a merchandise-friendly redesign attached. Don't worry about wether or not the character will actually be merchandised.

Step 3.) Give that character a new name along the lines of "(Name), Breaker of (Thing)". The first name should be something punchy, even if it doesn't make sense in any known language. The second should be something that sounds ominous.

Step 4.) Now that you have your (Breaker), have them start randomly killing (Random Civilians). Don't worry about giving them a credible motivation, the (Random Runic Dialogue) should make them seem ominous enough to compensate.

Step 5.) Have the comic's existing (Hero/Heroes) drop everything they were doing to try and stop the Breaker of Something.

Step 6.) Show how no matter what powers the cast have, or what strategies they use, the (Hero/Heroes) do anything against (Breaker). At the same time, NEVER have (Breaker) inflict any lasting damage upon anyone who counts, beyond (Random Civilians)

Step 7.) Between the action scenes, intersperse talking heads of (Hero/Heroes) whining and crying about how they can't beat (Breaker). If you wish, you can connect it to some sort of larger sociological point about the economy or the war on terror or whatnot. Don't go too far with this point, lest you get away from the Formula.

Step 8.) Resume your comic's normal storyline after the Fear Itself event is over, hoping your existing readers haven't gotten totally sick of this shit.


  1. Ya know what this post reminds me? How awesome Halcyon is...

  2. Ha! I'd been wondering if I should mess with Fear Itself, since I'm kind of interested in Schism, and thought maybe I should also pick up whatever storyline(s) precede it, for context's sake, but I think now I will go with my first instinct and avoid Fear Itself.

    Crossovers usually annoy me because they always seem to mean some characters I don't know and storylines I haven't been following are going to drop into my Uncanny X-Men and create chaos for a while, and this one looks especially sprawly and messy. So if there's no really wonderful story pulling it all together ... blargh. I'll just have to resign myself to characters making semi-opaque references to the events of this crossover for x number of issues whenever I do pick up a new X-book again.

  3. And I still really, really can't shake the feeling that I've seen this before...ancient entities that prey on emotion, established characters being hijacked by these powers against their will, a chosen few getting toyetic costume designs to join the fight....

    Yeah, this is pretty much: Thor and Cap do Blackest Night.

  4. Don't forget the heroes getting their own toyetic costume powerup in the final act. At least "The Mighty" isn't as troubling as "White Power Battery".

  5. I see we're coming 'round to agreement on Fear Itself....

  6. Unfortunately yes, as I've lost any enthusiasm I had for the story after seeing it repeated a dozen times a month.

  7. I think this story might have worked better if it were a bit shorter -- maybe 5 issues rather than 7. Additionally, the Worthy gimmick is much of what makes this crossover line wide instead of the "Avengers Big Three" bit it spun from, and that seems to be much of what feels so repetitive about the whole thing.

    Personally, I'm quite unhappy with the use of Captain America elements: Sin/Skadi was never my favorite villain to begin with, and Bucky still felt more interesting than Steve. Indeed, by far the better of the two Cap books right now is the one set in WWII and centering on a still-living Bucky. Brubaker has said he always planned to re-kill Bucky; I think that he was wrong, unless he planned to do it more interestingly than this.

    Thor is obviously coming in for some lasting developments from all this, while Iron Man's title is at least finding some ways to advance the regular plotlines while the Gibbering Gargoyle and a band of sweary dwarves take up unnecessary space. It's telling, then, that the Cap books are essentially writing around the crossover -- one is skipping not only the death but its immediate emotional aftermath, and the other is finding a way to keep using the character anyway.

    Personally, I suspect it's because no one wants to spend any more pages than they have to explaining that the artificially-aged daughter of a Nazi supervillain swiftly and anticlimactically killed the artificially-preserved adult version of a World War II sidekick because an evil Norse god gave her an evil magic hammer for his own purposes.

  8. I'm enjoying the Brubaker/McNiven book with the returned Steve-Cap, even if it is an obvious status quo reset to gel with The Movie. However, I agree about the unfortunate end for Bucky. The most interesting new (effectively) character Marvel's given us in over a decade, and he's offered up as a sacrificial lamb for the crossover du jour.

    I know Bucky's convoluted backstory keeps him from being The Captain America, but you're right; he WAS more interesting than Steve. I at least hope Steve takes up something of Bucky's paraphernalia, the way Bucky used Steve's identity to regain the will to live. Perhaps Steve will start carrying a machine pistol on his hip as a reminder, given Bucky's love of firearms?

  9. I feel Brubaker's Cap has fallen into a routine in a way, though it's a very well-executed routine.

    1) Captain America is always the one being attacked out of the blue; he's never on a mission of his own choosing.
    2) The villain will always be tied to a mid-twentieth-century conflict, either WWII (if it's Steve) or the Cold War (if it's James). In fact, even if the villain is a newly-created character, it will turn out that he or she clashed with Cap in that period...or is the vengeful child of someone who did.
    3) The villain will strike psychologically as well as physically; in fact, the villain's physical strikes, though minor villain minions, will generally be deliberately ineffectual because the villain is out to "break" Cap and, trough him, America's spirit, before going on to other wickedness.
    4) Cap will never, ever figure the scheme/goal out for himself; he will spend the entire arc behind the curve.
    5) Cap will have a female sidekick who is a spy, and also his lover; alternately or additionally, a classic Cap-related character like Namor, NIck Fury, or the Falcon will be along. (When Bucky was Cap, this role actually passed to Steve Rogers in the Guglag arc.)
    6) The sidekicks *will* figure out the scheme before the finale by virtue of having the patience to actually pause and investigate rather than rushing from point to point as the villain intended.
    7) Cap will win a big fistfight against someone who is not the mastermind; the mastermind will then either escape, or be defeated (usually killed) by another, lesser villain whom they displeased or by one of the sidekicks.

    Every major Brubaker arc has hit at least six of the above points, with the excpetion of the current arc in the 1940s-era book. Perhaps not coincidentally, that one's being co-written by Marc Andreyko. Now, with Bucky, the idea works quite well.

    Bucky, as a brainwashing victim and a trauma survivor, can credibly respond to many assaults as if they are psychological strikes whether or not they are. (Not that this tack was ever really taken, but it was a possibility.) And the "downtime" segments with Bucky were inherently more interesting than those featuring Steve, who really only spent his time reeling from the latest psyche-out or fondly reminiscing about the good in America and/or the war.