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September 24, 2006

Soap Opera/Comic Superhero Crossover?!?

Here's a project that crosses over into two great interests of mine but whose success I'm still not quite sure of...sort of like how two of my favorite foods are chocolate and pasta, but I'm not sure I want to put hot fudge on my penne anytime soon. It seems that the two company's approach, though, may just make this counter-intuitive crossover work.

Either way, I have to give the folks at Marvel Comics and Procter & Gamble Productions points for originality for the upcoming plan to incorporate the City of Springfield, the fictional home of the residents of the daytime drama series Guiding Light, into a storyline for the famed Avengers team of super heroes.

According to a Newsarama interview with Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada, the idea for this soap opera/comic book crossover came after folks from Marvel consulted with a designer from Guiding Light regarding a wedding gown for Storm of the X-Men. According to Quesada, Marvel's Sales VP David Gabriel "broached the idea with them about doing a bit of audience cross-pollination and they loved the idea."

I'm in the process of a small group study this semester with Henry Jenkins in which I am considering my own attraction to types of entertainment that have narrative universes that are large enough to become immersed in. I've found that my own interest in pro wrestling and soap operas come from this aspect of their narrative, that there is too much programming to ever be able to master, too much history to ever be able to know, and a wealth of former characters and storylines to draw off of.

My thesis project on soap operas, studying my longtime favorite and Guiding Light's sister show As the World Turns, can be explained by this, too. To know the history of the thousands of characters and the 50 years worth of storylines that have been on that show is impossible, but it leaves a wealth of potential stories to explore throughout the show's past.

Although I haven't regularly read comic books since I was in high school, I know that my love for the superhero universes can be explained in the same way, especially with Marvel, which has incorporated soap opera-style storytelling in the adventures of its heroes over the years.

The crossover seems an interesting one, as it seems the target demographic of soaps and comic books are drastically different. However, Quesada says that the Avengers-GL crossover "is just one more way that we're trying to reach out beyond our usual audience in an effort to expose those who don't know anything about the greatness of comics and hopefully come back with a few new converts."

In an age of niche targeted demographics for almost everything, that's a refreshing statement to read. With the way things are currently structured, almost every entertainment property has a surplus audience that most writers/producers/performers ignore. Because of the immersive natures of both story types, I can see a very compelling reason why soap opera fans would love comics if they were ever exposed to them in a way that interests them. Hopefully, the Marvel writers can present a compelling story that also stays true to the characters of the soap.

And I'll definitely have to say that the world of comics can fit the characters of GL in much better than the televised Springfield could handle the Avengers. This is one time in which transmedia storytelling would not play well, as soaps generally strive for realism, a realism that really would be ruined by having a team of superheroes invade the town "to determine if a new super-powered character will be a friend or fiend."

Conversely, the folks at GL may be hoping to introduce a few of their characters strongly in the comic series and convince a few people to give their daytime show a chance.

But the Avengers should just consider themselves lucky that they didn't come to Springfield during the Roger Thorpe era, or they would have a power on their hands not even a super hero could control!

Thanks to Geoffrey Long for pointing me to this story.

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