Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Just another reason why comics are awesome

So I'm sitting in my living room with the six-month-old Demon Child, and I'm watching Magnum, P.I., because it's a great show. Admit it, suckers!

So Magnum and Higgins and Rick and T.C. are doing their wacky thing, and I look at the guest stars - Gerald McRaney and Jameson Parker. Who the hell are those guys, you ask? They're freakin' Simon and Simon! That's right, it's a crossover!

Television shows used to do this occasionally, even when it wasn't a spin-off situation. It's fallen out of favor these days, but in the Golden Age of Television (the 1980s - duh!) it showed up once in a while. When it did, we should all remember why comics are awesome - shared universes.

Yes, shared universes have gotten a bad rap recently. And attempts to create them from the ground up have failed miserably. And hoity-toity writers like Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore have dismissed them. Screw you, hoity-toities! Remember when Morpheus visited the Justice League and Scott Free had that freaky dream and J'onn saw Morpheus as a Martian god? Awesome. Remember when Swamp Thing trashed Gotham City to get his woman back? Awesome. So screw you, Gaiman and Moore! And what about American Gods, Neil? Aren't you using others' characters in your fiction? And what about League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Alan? What the flying fuck is that?

Now, crossovers can get annoying, and it is weird to think that a place with a Gothic horror creature like Swamp Thing exists in the same universe as brightly-colored heroes like Superman, but that's part of the fun. I don't necessarily want guest stars all the time in every book, but I think it's kind of cool when someone from another part of the DCU or the Marvel U shows up in a book, even as a cameo. I like it when Daredevil is kicking the crap out of the Kingpin in issue #300 and Peter Parker just happens to be there taking pictures and letting him do his thing. That's just one example, but it's neat when shit like that happens. If you don't want to live in a shared universe, Neil and Alan, don't use the characters and tell your own stories. That's fine and dandy. Just because I live in the same universe as George Bush, that doesn't mean I'm going to run into him at the Safeway. But don't bash the conventions, you hoity-toities! Have some fun with them, for crying out loud!

By the way, Morgan Fairchild was also a guest star on the episode of Magnum. Best episode EVER????

Oh. And I know those writers want to write their own things without being bound by the conventions of a shared universe. That's fine. Just don't pick on the idea - it helped you get your start, didn't it? Neil? Alan? Anything to say? Didn't think so.

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Blogger Bill Reed said...

I preferred the Magnum/Murder She Wrote crossover(s?) myself.

But, yes, Magnum is one of the best shows ever. I need to get the DVDs.

12/13/2005 03:19:00 PM  
Blogger David C said...

Have you seen this site that links (nearly) all of TeeVee Land via crossovers?


12/13/2005 03:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Vic Fluro said...

I'm curious - where exactly did Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman dis shared universes so badly? Do you have a link?

12/13/2005 03:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Nick Nameless said...

If I remember correctly, Moore wrote somewhat glowingly about the benefits of dealing with a shared universe for his introduction to the first Swamp Thing trade. It was in reference to the JLA appearing in one of the Woodrue issues. Maybe I'm just remembering wrong - I couldn't find text of it online. It certainly doesn't mean he couldn't have said the opposite somewhere else, either, but that's the first thing that came to mind.

12/13/2005 04:03:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

The Magnum PI/Simon & Simon episode WAS, indeed, a great episode (and Simon & Simon was a fun show, on its own, apart from the greatness that is Magnum PI).

That being said, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was built ENTIRELY upon the concept of a "shared universe," so Alan Moore certainly is not against the idea.

The only time any writer complains about shared universes is when their stories are forced to be constrained by someone else's stories. Or, in other words, the good writers having to abide by stories that shittier writers came up with. THAT is when a shared universe becomes a pain in the ass.

"You can't use Colossus, he's dead!"

"Wonder Woman is dead, her Mom is Wonder Woman now."

"Wally West is no longer the Flash, some other guy is, work with it."

"Captain America is in a suit of robotic armor - work that in"

"The Thinker died in a Suicide Squad/Doom Patrol one-shot seven years ago, sorry."

12/13/2005 04:13:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Nobody ever lets me pick on Gaiman and Moore, even though it's fun. Moore did speak of both the "absurdities and charms" of a shared universe in the introduction to the first Swamp Thing trade. Gaiman, I could have sworn, picked on a shared universe concept in the letter pages of Sandman, but I'm probably wrong. I just like picking on those two gentlemen, even though I love their work.

And Brian, that's part of the annoying thing about shared universes, but also part of the fun. CAN you take a shitty concept and make it work? If you can, more power and glory shall be yours! (Kind of like Gaiman making the 1970s Sandman work in the context of his own series.)

12/13/2005 04:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Vic Fluro said...

If you're really desperate to pick on Moore, I'm sure you could find something you could make fun of in any one of the dozen exhaustive interviews with him that are floating around the net. He unashamedly worships a glove puppet, for example. I'm sure you could spin some wacky observational yucks off of that if you felt like it.

But what it looks like you've done here is set up a straw man and then stuck Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman's faces on it, which doesn't really work unless you've got proper quotes to back it up. Anyway, I don't want to be a killjoy so I'll stop...

Morrison's JLA work was amazing for making shit concepts work. I remember that amazing issue where Blue Superman uses his pseudoscience to tow the moon around... plus, his Kyle GL was one of the best-written characters in supercomics at the time.

12/13/2005 06:17:00 PM  
Blogger kelvingreen said...

Good old Magnum, p.i.. One of the greatest shows ever. And not only did it crossover with Simon and Simon and Murder, She Wrote (I think there's a comma), but it was set in the same universe as Hawaii Five-O AND they were going to do a Quantum Leap where Sam leaped into Magnum. True stories all!

12/13/2005 08:54:00 PM  
Anonymous thekamisama said...

I don't know what Neil Gaiman you are reading, but the hoity toity one I read made an awesome reference to Superman and Green Lantern a well over a year back in that Vertigo "Endless Nights" Hardback.
If you missed it the first time around, I will let you look for it and note..
During the story where the Endless meet with the stars of the universe in the early formation of the universe.
Krypton's sun is convinced by Despair what a great experiment it would be to create a vibrant living world, only to one day destroy it, leaving one sole survivor.
And Morpheus' first mortal love is of the race that the Guardians of OA decend from and she manipulates an early form of the green energy that the Corps will someday use.
Remember, this is the same guy who also did a "historical fiction" with Silver Age Marvel superheroes...
and that was all after he wrote "American God's"

12/13/2005 10:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael Bailey said...

This is one of the reasons I enjoy the LAW AND ORDER series so much. They are constantly crossing over with each other with characters sometimes moving from one show to the other.

Gerry Conway is one of the executive producers for CRIMINAL INTENT, so this makes sense.

Also you'll occasionally notice the names of comics professionals popping up as victims or suspects. LAW AND ORDER had the name John Byrne as a victim and Roger Stern as the name of a murdering doctor.

12/13/2005 10:59:00 PM  
Blogger Amber said...

My favorite shared universe example were the old Agatha Christie Murder Mysteries and the Wooster and Jeeves comedies. Both book series was a book series in each other's series.

Hey, I got a kick out of it when Wooster talked about the latest Agatha Christie while a murder suspect may be described as 'Like that Wooster fellow'.

Hmm. Better put something comic-like in here to make it look on topic.

The Amazing Slapstick and Ghost Rider! Now THAT was a crossover! Mmm-hmm.

12/14/2005 03:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Shirley Doe said...

The best part of the Magnum PI/Murder She Wrote crossover is when Jessica sees Higgins and calls him Robin Masters, to which Higgins hurredly quiets her.

I'm glad to not be the only TV crossover geek.

12/14/2005 09:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Typolad said...

Wait... Higgins was really Robin Masters?

12/14/2005 10:25:00 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

They never came right out and say that Higgins is Robin Masters, although Magnum always suspected it. Lots of clues that he was, but lots that he wasn't too.

12/14/2005 11:13:00 AM  
Blogger kelvingreen said...

Yes, it's one of the great mysteries of Magnum. Personally, I reckon that Higgins wasn't Masters, but just hinted that he was in order to freak Magnum out.

That said, I think they did answer it one way or the other in the final season (the weird one with all the ghosts and shit), but I've not seen any of that, so I don't know.

12/14/2005 11:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Higgins confessed to being Robin Master in the series finale, I believe, and during Ric's wedding asked Magnum if he recalled him saying that. Magnum was all, "yeah" and Higgins started laughing and said, "I lied."

hee. Love me some Magnum, PI

12/14/2005 04:14:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

I hated the Robin Masters mystery, because they TOTALLY pulled it out of their ass in the later seasons.

Robin was CLEARLY a real dude the first few seasons, but then Orson Welles stopped voicing the character (and he died a few years later - SHOWED HIM!), and the writers just invented this mystery.

So see, even Magnum PI liked to violate continuity...hehe.

12/14/2005 06:08:00 PM  
Blogger Marionette said...

I have a notion there was even a Murder, She Wrote/Love Boat crossover, but that may have just been a bad dream.

12/14/2005 08:41:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

They were on different networks, so I doubt it. That would have been truly bizarre.

12/14/2005 10:28:00 PM  
Blogger David C said...

I don't even think those two shows aired concurrently. No such crossover is on the list I linked, anyhow, and it's pretty obsessive.... :)

12/15/2005 11:37:00 AM  
Blogger John Donald Carlucci said...

Higgins was Robin Masters. Here is a clue no one ever mentions.

Jonathan Quayle Higgins (Quail=Bird)
Robin Masters (Robin=Bird)
Robin's Nest (The compound)

I'm sure there are more ties I could dig up.

Hell, Higgins was writing his memoirs for 8 years. This was cover for his writing the Robin Masters novels. He hired an actor to lead a jetsetter lifestyle because no one would buy Joan Collins-type novels from a stuffy British military man. Besides, would the society he loved so much give him any respect if they found out?


12/15/2005 11:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Gaiman has a problem with crossovers, perhaps it's a problem with *mandated* cameos, where a writer has to stick in some superhero character who seems superfluous in the context and tenor of the story being told.

That'd kinda suck. It'd be like if Fox TV had made the X-Files writers write in a cameo by Al and Peg Bundy, in an X-Files script that is otherwise serious.

It's understandable that the publisher has the right to do it, but a writer doesn't have to like the result.

12/17/2005 01:46:00 AM  

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