Catnip Bombs Away!

Filed in Webcomic review

(From Evil Overlords United, a part of the Crossover Wars. Click on image to see it full-sized.

In many ways, crossovers have shaped the growth and selection of my reading habits. When I started reading Clan of the Cats, it had just started a crossover with College Roomies from Hell. I was quickly drawn into reading two comics within a week of starting this addiction. CotC later had crossovers with Alice and Elf Life, which again led me to new strips in turn. I think perhaps half of the first dozen comics I started reading were because of crossovers with comics I was reading. The rest were suggestions from fans of CotC and CRfH.

Perhaps the greatest crossover I can recall happened in Webcomic History has to be The Great Framed Escape. Halfway through 2001, Damonk had an escape attempt from his webcomic. The characters ended up fleeing through a couple dozen comics, sometimes dragging other characters along for the ride, and causing a lot of mayhem and mischief. The crossover was plagued with unexpected problems including timing, missed updates, and the like. Still, some 30 comics participated in this event, if only including brief cameos and the like. It culminated with a massive cross-comic ending of Derek of Framed and Jo-Beth of Jo-Beth escaping their comics and vanished not to be seen again until finally Damonk dragged them out of retirement in Naught Framed.

Crossover Wars is perhaps an attempt to outdo TGFE. It started innocently enough over at Evil Overlords United… well, okay. Innocent might not be the operative word here. Basically they were out to take over the universe of webcomics but were having some technical issues. Rather than work through it themselves, they attacked Cameo Comics (a comic started in the tradition of open-sourced character Jenny Everywhere) and abducted the webcomic creators of that world, forcing them to do their bidding and using the trans-dimensional technology stolen from CC to start their invasion of other comics.

In doing so, it unleashed Scale, the character that the creators of CC were working on. Of course, when you look at the start of Cameo Comics, they are literally talking about an ìall-out war between webcomic dimensions” and a rescue mission, which leads to the question: which came first, the chicken or the egg? But seeing that Cameo Comic and Evil Overlords United started within a week of each other, very likely both emerged from the same twisted minds like Athena emerging from Zeusís brow after a particularly bad migraine.

Naturally enough I didnít learn about the crossover until the invasion snuck into Rogues of Clwyd Rhan (which I was introduced to thanks to crossover fanart/a one-shot comic with Clan of the Cats). I tried to ignore the crossover with the blasÈ arrogance Iíve treated almost every crossover since CotC/CRfHís crossover dragged me into the world of webcomics. But then the Crossover Wars cropped up like dandelions in other comics I read, such as Candi and Sharing a Universe. Finally I had no choice but to forsake my non-involvement policy concerning crossovers and looked into the hub site keeping track of the varied festivities.

Crossovers often serve two purposes. First and foremost crossovers exist to introduce new readers to your comic (and introduce your readers to another comic as well). The second purpose is to tell a story, but unfortunately this is often secondary and the crossovers are tainted by decades of crossover tradition inflicted upon us by the superhero comic genre, in which the hero(es) of both comics run across each other and then start pounding the snot out of each other until a greater threat emerges to force them to work together. There have been exceptions (rare shining jewels in the sea of fertilizer that most crossovers are) and there have been variations on that theme (such as Marvelís The New Warriors/X-Force crossover in which the two teams even commented on ìdo we have to fight each other now?” before joining forces to fight mind-controlled teammates, or the CotC/CRfH crossover where cross-group fighting was a near-friendly-fire incident after both sides encountered zombies, and later mistaken identity about Chelsea in panther-form as she was attacking were-coyote Roger) but for the most part crossovers exist for the protagonists of both comics to get into a ìwho has bigger muscles” contest.

CW has invoked a third purpose, one not seen since the days of The Great Framed Escape: a sense of whimsy and fun. I mean, weíre talking about the antagonists of various comics joining forces and working together, sharing resources and troops to take over the worlds in which they exist, and then other comic worlds in turn. If Damonk wasnít in hiatus, hiding from Kitten Collective ribboning swarms hunting for him and Josh Phillips with the intent of ribboning each notary to their artists desks and force them to resume drawing updates for their respective comics, then I fully would expect to see him joining in the silliness.

And as with TGFE, there have been delays and glitches. For a week, the comic Pimpette didnít update, though spaces on the update site showed when it should have updated. (It appears to have been a technical issue as recently all of the back updates appeared. Considering the inclement weather that has been plaguing the world of late, itís entirely probable that loss-of-internet was the technical issue. At least the artist kept up on drawing the updates!) Other comics have also suffered occasional late or missed updates, including Cameo Comic. And the Squirrel Wars section was decidedly uninteresting as Starlineís Candi forced Menjou (the ferret) to fight the squirrels of his world, only to reappear two days later without any sign of what he went through. It would be another week before the updates showing his little adventure would appear on the net. Nor was I particularly impressed by that bit of the storyline. It almost felt like Starline loaned out her ferret-character rather than actively participate in the Crossover Wars storytelling.

Of course, one issue is that not all of the added comics have much to do with the storyline between CC and EOU. Some of the ìcrossovers” left me with the impression that the crossover existed as a means to create a new adversary for the protagonists to fight, rather than be a significant part of the meta-storyline.

Part of the problem lies in the very nature of comics and storytelling in general. With a dozen different cartoonists currently involved to some level with CW, hammering out a collective storyline by committee is nearly impossible. Few cartoonists are wiling to surrender creative control of characters theyíve worked long and hard to establish. As such, a number of subplots risk being little more than authorized cameos and brief mentions while antagonists from other comics are beaten up (eventually) by besieged protagonists.

Thatís not to say that all of the Crossover Wars is without merit. The core storylines (Scaleís Tale and Evil Overlords Chronicle) with EOU, CC, and more recently RoCR have proven fascinating and well-thought-out. Instead of being a slugfest, these two storylines have been just that: storylines. Iíve become interested in the characters and with their stories. Iím curious as to whatís going to happen, and what the motivations of the characters are (such as Celine who has issues with the G.R.A.I.S.E. from Melonpool). Actual thought has gone into part of this crossover. Okay, so itís the part of the crossover driving the rest of the Crossover Wars, but even so, itís refreshing to see. Whatís more, it helps set a standard for the rest of the crossover comics to strive for.

Even more than story, however, is the fact that Crossover Wars has captured the interest and imagination of readers. The Bunnies of EGS (blame Dan, he named them), the Boardies of CRfH (blame the fans, they named themselves), and FLEET (an inter-forum community of scifi roleplayers and warmongers) have gotten together on the EGS forum and have been talking about the Crossover Wars and how they need to ìprepare”… resulting in EOU noting the Bunnies mobilizing for war. (I suppose that Boardies and FLEET probably look like your generic EGS Bunny to an outsider.)

(No doubt the Kitten Collective Yarn Sphere that is dropping off this review on the doorsteps of EOU and CC will also end up mentioned in EOU as well, if only because the kittens tend to ribbon anything moving (as Casual Notice and The KAMics learned last year))

A lot of work went into The Great Framed Escape. Even with the crash of the Keenspace forums resulting in the loss of much of the crossover, it remains one of the premier events of webcomic history. Crossover Wars looks to be working to join Damonkís insane little masterpiece in the stars. At least until the next mad genius cartoonist appears to try another massive crossover in a decade or two.

Comics participating in the Crossover Wars (listed in order of first appearance):
Warning: Some of these comics are not work-safe. Though most of the unsafe ones are somewhat obvious, Iím adding an ì*” after their titles.

Evil Overlords United
Supermegatopia* (The site in general has lots of nude furries. The comic linked in the Wars is work-safe, however.)
The KAMics
M.Organ Art* (From what I can tell, this is hosted by the Crossover Wars site itself.)
Circle Arcadia
Rogues of Clwyd Rhan* (Technically not work-unsafe, but has naked male and female faeries in it so it’s up to you.)
Life & Death
The Dasien
Repository of Dangerous Things
Pimpette & Associates
Detective Fork
Legostar Galactica
Alternate Delusions
Dog and Pony
Sharing a Universe
Mechagical Girl Lisa A.N.T

Unfortunate Victims Suffering Consequences from Squirrel Wars and WCA
Magical Misfits
All the small things
Public Humiliation
Tangents Webcomic Reviews… hey, wait a second…

Robert A. Howard

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