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October 28, 2006

Guiding Light Episode to Feature Marvel Crossover

Now, super heroes are raiding the soaps!

Last month, I wrote about my surprise of a soap opera/superhero crossover. The news had broken that an upcoming story of a comic featuring the Marvel super hero team The Avengers would feature the residents of the City of Springfield, the fictional town which is the setting for the soap opera Guiding Light. The idea came from Marvel's consulting a designer from the soap for a wedding gown for a Marvel character, leading to an idea of cross-promotion.

I wrote, "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.'" I found that statement refreshing because it allows fans to cross lines that are usually ignored in today's world of niche audiences and target programming and marketing.

However, I questioned whether this partnership could ever go the other way, in that GL characters may make more sense in the world of the Avengers than vice versa. I wrote, "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.'"

Now, I'm eating my words, as next Wednesday's episode of GL is going to feature a story straight from the Marvel crossover. A sneak preview is currently available here, as well as a written preview of the episode. The episode, entitled "She's a Marvel," will avoid some of my concerns, though, by being a standalone episode that does not relate to the rest of the GL world, managing to avoid many of my concerns about the realism of the soap universe. While I don't think it's completely fair to claim that soaps are realistic, with the exception of Passions and perhaps Days of Our Lives, these shows are much better at dealing with the complications of everyday life for real human beings, rather than trying to bring the supernatural into these small towns.

The preview says that, "in a first for daytime television, Guiding Light is teaming up with Marvel Comics to produce a very special Inside the Light episode unveiling a new super-powered character. Taking a page from the Wednesday, November 1 episode airing on CBS, Marvel Comics will also release an eight-page comic back-up featuring some of Marvel's mightiest heroes (and villains) descending on Guiding Light's city of Springfield to determine if this new super-powered being is friend or foe!" There is a listing on the site of the various issues that the eight-page backup will be featured in.

In Marvel's own press release about the partnership, they reveal that next Wednesday's episode of GL will feature easter eggs for loyal Marvel fans. They write, "Another great aspect of this partnership is that Guiding Light and Marvel will be cross promoting each other to help drive fans not only to watch the episode but also to pick up one of the comics in a local comic shop. In addition to on-air promotions at the end of Guiding Light, will feature a page dedicated to helping Guiding Light fans find a retailer near them and know which titles feature this unique back-up feature. As an added bonus, this backup is added at no extra charge to the regular price of the issue. See the full list of titles below, and be sure to tune in on November 1st to see Guiding Light on CBS Daytime!" Marvel has created a site about the crossover as well.

The reaaction has been interesting among the fan communities. As Bob Sassone wrote on TV Squad, "I've been watching Guiding Light for almost three decades, and this might be the most bizarre news I've hard yet." As a longtime fan of both soaps and comics, I agree that this is pretty bizarre, even though the Marvel universe is certainly a soap opera for super heroes. And he had the same reaction I did: "Now this is new synergy, eh? I can understand NBC having an online comic to cross-promote Heroes, but a new superhero on a soap opera and a comic book?"

My prediction is that the comic book fans who don't enjoy the crossover will be fairly indifferent, while there may be a very vocal group of soaps viewers adamantly opposed to this intrusion on their show. However, with this being a one-day set-apart event and on a show like GL that have had some supernatural and dark stories in the past, it may be a little bit more acceptable.

And, not surprising was the reaction from the TMZ staff, who said, "In a marketing move created to finally satiate the underground fanboy/stay-at-home mom demographic, Marvel Comics will debut their newest superhero on the CBS soap opera Guiding Light."

But, I'm assuming both Marvel and GL knew there would be some doubters, and I'm actually in support of next Wednesday's episode, since it's going to be more of the What If? variety, taking a known GL character and giving her superpowers in a standalone episode. Works much better for me than the isle of the dead on DAYS for instance, since here they are teasing out a fantasy storyline while still preserving the narrative universe of the soap.

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