It was mentioned elsewhere on SFF that for Marvel Comics (related to X-Men and Avengers crossovers):

... cross-overs between comics were much more rare, and tended to be the focus of the book...
This is somewhat in contrast to today, where different books often reference or cross each other.

Is there a defined point when this change in storytelling occured which made cross-references frequent or was it merely a result of a gradual rise in frequency?

Was there a proposed in-Universe reason for the change? (or a non-obvious "increase sales" out of Universe reason)?

  • I think that when they say "that time period" they are referring specifically referring to those sagas themselves, and those sagas benefit from not having any un-XMen involvement. There were certainly loads of crossovers before and after. May 2 '12 at 20:11
  • "Why" is easy, as you alluded to: $$$. Have a look at how many tie-ins to AvX there is, or Batman's Night of the Owls (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_of_the_Owls#Night_of_Owls_Crossover), and if you want the "full story" you need to buy/read all of those. It's a personal pet peeve already.
    – dlanod
    May 2 '12 at 22:29
  • Ok, so, which is it. Were you asking about the introduction of joint titles, or just the rise in cameo appearances? "The Avengers" is of course a crossover-title in itself created in 1963 using characters from other titles (mostly from around 1961-63 and 1941). May 29 '12 at 3:04
  • @GorchestopherH - Both, really. May 29 '12 at 14:05

The seminal cross-over event that started Marvel on its path to mega-crossovers was: The Secret Wars published in 1984.

Though the Avengers were known to create megastories with a diverse collection of heroes, it was the Secret Wars and Secret Wars II that proved the viability of cross-overs both storywise and financially.

Wikipedia sums it up nicely:

The series was conceived by Marvel Comics' Editor-in-chief Jim Shooter:

"Kenner had licensed the DC Heroes. Mattel had He-Man, but wanted to hedge in case superheroes became the next big fad. They were interested in Marvel's characters, but only if we staged a publishing event that would get a lot of attention, and they could build a theme around. Fans, especially young fans often suggested to me 'one big story with all the heroes and all the villains in it', so I proposed that. It flew. Mattel thought that kids responded well to the word "secret", so after a couple of working names bit the dust, we called the story 'Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars'.'"

Shooter also explained:

"We went through a number of ideas for names for the toy line and series. Mattel’s focus group tests indicated that kids reacted positively to the words “wars” and “secret.” Okay. / Mattel had a number of other requirements. Doctor Doom, they said, looked too medieval. His armor would have to be made more high-tech. So would Iron Man’s, because their focus groups indicated that kids reacted positively...etc. Okay. / They also said there had to be new fortresses, vehicles and weapons because they wanted playsets, higher price point merchandise and additional play value. Okay. / When time came to actually do it, I realized that only I could write it."

Crossover titles included: The Amazing Spider-Man; Avengers; Captain America; Hulk; Iron Man; The Thing; Fantastic Four; Marvel Team-Up; Thor and Uncanny X-Men.

A sequel titled Secret Wars II was published from July 1985 to March 1986.


Although I like Thaddeus' answer, I'm not sure the OP was referring to the "mega-crossover" books.

So, if I guessed correctly: No, there is no defined point when this change in storytelling occurs, it varies saga to saga.

The Phoenix "Saga's" are stories that would suffer under non-XMen intervention. It's a different kind of story.

XMen and other Marvel titles have always enjoyed frequent crossovers, but when entering a saga that a crossover would be a detriment, they keep them out.

Captain America and Thor showing up in the Phoenix Saga would have diluted the personal dynamics, and (in my opinion) would have made the struggles "a bit silly".

Even in the very early Uncanny XMen of the 60s there were significant crossover appearances of the Avengers and Fantastic 4's.


In addition to there being frequent crossovers since the 60s, I'd like to point out an other reason for the gradual rise is crossovers in general (besides Mo Money).

In the earlier days the use of crossovers was mainly a crutch to wean people onto a series. The X-Men enjoyed mentions of various Fantastic 4's which gave people a quicker understanding into characters like Angel, who was often paralleled to The Human Torch.

As time went on, and more and more characters were established by Marvel there became more reason for crossovers due to the diverse character sets. As more characters are added, more of them share parts of their past or locations (just as a function of diversity, eventually an X-Man showed up who was from Captain America's generation, etc).

Most of the Marvel universe is made up of groups of people, heroes, villains, and misfits. It only makes sense that as that universe grew that parts of it should logically overlap, and that can be reflected in the storytelling.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.