Crossovers are tricky.
When I started as an editor at Disney Consumer Products, my boss, Greg Crosby –– a former Disney Animation writer-artist who believed in the traditional Mouse ways –– told me not to mix characters from different movies.
It made sense. Bambi’s a pastoral fable, Alice in Wonderland a psychedelic fantasy, Lady and the Tramp a love story with a realistic edge (despite the conceit of talking animals), Robin Hood a swashbuckling adventure, and so on. Insert characters from one into the world of another, and you can weaken or even break the world’s tone, style and feeling. I’ve heard that the company forbids the Disney Princesses from looking at each other in posters and other official merchandise; they can face us but not interact with each other. At the rare times when characters do interact, as in Ralph Breaks the Internet or the TV series House of Mouse, they do it in neutral territory, outside their milieus.
But –– to move from traditional Disney to super-heroes –– it’s fun to toss your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man into Thor’s Asgard or the street-fighting Birds of Prey into Wonder Woman’s Paradise Island. The contrasts and mismatches between the world and the trespassers create new possibilities for action and character development. One of the best examples is the DC-Marvel crossover JLA/Avengers by Kurt Busiek and George Pérez. It provides smart character interactions and even emphasizes the qualities that make each world special. It’s out of print and expensive, but get it if you can.
Still, I wonder sometimes if DC and Marvel use crossovers too promiscuously.
Batman traditionally grapples with grotesque, twisted evil in a dark urban underworld; putting him out in space with shiny Green Lanterns and near-mythical New Gods can feel, well, wrong. The Punisher’s a grim, street-level vigilante out to slaughter lowlifes; he wouldn’t fit the Guardians of the Galaxy’s fabulous, extravagant cosmos.
I like crossovers. But they’re tricky and touchy, and I’d like proprietors of intellectual properties to mix characters and worlds only to do something new and fresh.