With Marvel's Secret Invasion in full swing and DC's Final Crisis mere weeks away, it's worth looking at just what it is about superhero comics' crossover summer events that make them the four-color equivalent of your first sexual experience. They're something you get all excited about ahead of time before the actual incident goes by quickly and leaves you ultimately unfulfilled. Or maybe that's just me. Experience has taught us that there are some easy steps to follow when creating a superhero crossover involving many fan-favorite characters that will, inevitably, lead to sales success. Utilizing them can take you from near obscurity to something approaching success or, at least, your own soon-to-be-cancelled spin-off from the Avengers.
"Nothing Will Ever Be The Same Again!": What you have to remember at all times is that you should use this line, or variations on it, at all times when talking about your event, but fail to actually follow through on it. On the rare occasions when you appear to follow through, leave yourself at least two different ways of getting out of it if the fan backlash becomes too loud. Case in point: Marvel's Civil War can easily be undone if all of the pro-registration heroes are revealed to have been undercover aliens or brainwashed into becoming fascist dictators. Or, for that matter, if the Scarlet Witch re-writes reality, as per-House of M. Or Mephisto gets rid of another marriage. Or one of another hundred of reasons.
(The corollary of that statement is "What the hell happened?": There should be a point in the center of each event where even the most jaded fan feels the stirrings of something resembling hope that maybe, just maybe, this one will be different and actually mean something. A plot point, perhaps, which promises the potential of real change and growth for characters or a situation. This point should be immediately followed by a return to the status quo or as close to the status quo as is possible while still pretending to be something new. Think of the aftermath of Civil War where none of the "unregistered" heroes had to actually deal with the fact that they're theoretically being hunted down by government forces and breaking the law. Yes, I know that the New Avengers keep being threatened with arrest every couple of issues. But each time that they do, those threatening arrest always change their mind and let them walk away, so it really doesn't count.)
"No-one Gets Out Of Here Alive!": No "event" is complete without a superhero or two dying. What you have to remember is to make sure that the superhero dying is one who is well known enough for fans to feel something approaching nerd emotion but not popular enough to actually matter. See: Any of the body count in DC's Infinite Crisis. I mean, people got their arms ripped off and their heads punched off their bodies, and besides the fact that they were Teen Titans, I have no idea who they were. This idea ties in tightly with...
"From Out Of The Ashes... A Hero Reborn!": If you're killing off some characters, it's only fair to renew some trademarks at the same time. The ideal crossover book will set up multiple new comics to spin off, most if not all of which will be critical and commercial flops that ultimately sully whatever credibility your event will have. For example: Civil War spun out Heroes for Hire, World War Hulk spun out Warbound and Gamma Corps and Infinite Crisis spun out (deep breath) The Trials of Shazam, OMAC and a Creeper book that I can't even remember the name of.
The most important lesson to remember when crafting your ideal superhero crossover epic, of course, is "Everything Can Be Solved With Punching": Sure, it makes the rubes lay down their hard-earned dollars by having some kind of psychological hook to sell your story on ("The heroes of the DC Universe have ideological differences regarding killing!" "The heroes of the Marvel Universe don't know who to trust because of alien invaders!"), but just remember this: There is no problem that can't be solved with good, old-fashioned violence. And if there is, then that's not something that people will want to read (Who really remembers, for example, DC's Genesis, where superheroes tried to discover the shared root of their superpowers without punching, or The Final Night, where superheroes tried to relight the extinguished sun without punching? Exactly). Look at some recent greats: Infinite Crisis started with Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman having fallen out over the murder of a supervillain, and by the end had turned into everyone punching an evil Superboy. Result? Happy fans.
Civil War was initially about whether superheroes needed to be trained in order to be superheroes, but ended with Captain America whaling on Iron Man before losing when he was too much of a pussy to beat his privileged face into mush. Fans may have been upset when Cap lost, but it wasn't because he had the better argument - It was because he had given up punching. That's why he had to die. Almost everyone who has ever read a comic agrees that the greatest recent crossover was World War Hulk, because it started with punching, and then kept punching for each and every issue following. Yes, the conclusion may have disappointed, but that's only because they replaced punching with a deus ex machine laser beam that made the Hulk happy and non-Hulklike or something like that. If it had ended with someone punching the Hulk to death? Comics could've just given up as a medium right there and then; it wouldn't have gotten any better.
So now you know: Promise change, fail to deliver, kill off minor characters, service trademarks and have lots of punching. Follow those simple instructions and one day, you too may be the one person fans pretend could manage to kill Batman.
Marvel & DC - The Summer's Events In A Nutshell [Comic Nerd]