For the sake of fairness and honestly, this post would like to acknowledge that there are tie-in issues that work well with events, and some truly do enhance the story for certain audiences at certain times. Nevertheless, the practice of creating “tie-ins” needs to stop.
The majority tie-ins are either unnecessary shameless cash grabs which comic companies use to jip their readers, or, at worst, divergent subplots that molest the pace of other narratives for no reason. No other medium of story-telling choses to divide key moments of its anecdote amongst itself. Traditional books, film, episodic series, or any other type of written entertainment would not dare disperse their story out of fear of losing interest due to audience inconvenience.
There are some longtime readers of comics who would argue that the medium, despite the occasional editorial mandates, is such a concise format of story sharing that it could handle a bit of sporadic molestation. A writer creates a script, a talented artist brings the story to life, then editorial reviews it—maybe—and the story goes off to print; the process is straightforward enough that the creative leadership’s vision should always reach the page. Nevertheless, the aspect of tie-ins that supporters of the practice forget is that tie-ins restrict the hand of the writer by forcing them to bend for someone else’s vision. Thus, crippling the very fragile ecosystem of creating quality comics.
The Tie-In Theory
In concept, tie-in comics are meant to facilitate a more interest in readers to characters or titles that their respective companies would like to do better in sales. Although the driving force behind the practice lies in profit, a benefit for the consumer is a new title to appreciate, which then leads to more readers enjoying more comics—always great.
However, in the reality of sales and consumer feedback, tie-ins in the last two decades appear to produce the opposite effect in readers. According to the general consensus among readers, both new to the medium and troupers of the industry, tie-ins turn comic book readers off. To the tenderfoot of comics, tie-ins add another barrier of confusion that most of them are not willing to risk their money on traversing. To those with experience, the gimmick of tie-ins is obvious and they are well aware that the ramifications of the issue will be minimum, at most.
Continuity Mix Ups Between Creators
To complicate matters further, at times where companies feel that every measure necessary to avoid potential plot leaks justifies secrecy, even between collaborating creative teams, sometimes causes continuity errors. By suppressing communication between creative talents, unsurprisingly, every so often tie-ins will create complicate the continuity of an event by misplacing a character or having a different detail. At times the mistake is forgivable, but more often than not, the error glares of outside meddling.
A very known, and not too old example of human error, is Christos Gage’s attempt to merge the events of Dan Slott’s Superior run with the event Age of Ultron. No reader of either series believed that during the destruction of mankind that Otto Octavius would bother putting up the front of being Peter Parker. The act was ridiculous and it came off that way to readers.
The Completionist Crowd
By the design of the concept, tie-ins, supposedly, are to provide supplemental support to a larger story, yet, in advertisements and in promotional campaigns, companies deem tie-ins as essential reading material. As many readers and most assuredly the companies are well aware of there are readers who carry the impulse to collect every single issue of every event regardless if they truly enjoyed the run. With the strategies employed in endorsing tie-ins and the known united disdain for the practice, the publication of tie-ins seems to be for the completionists and not average readers.
The last time the comic book industry curtailed their agendas to catch the dollars of completetionists and comic speculators one of the major publishing houses filed for bankruptcy and the other was sure to follow suit had it not been for the change in direction as a result of their competitor’s face plant. For those who might take offense know that being a completetionist is not a bad thing—in a free market, it is your choice where to spend your dollars—but an industry aimed at completetionist, if the 90s taught comic book aficionados nothing else, is bound to fail.
While many of the Villains Month issues were cool and lent insight into the head space of many popular villains, many plot lines never manifested into story later on after Forever Evil, and the holographic cover seemed desperate to boost sales and generate revenue from the speculator market.
Comics Without Conclusion
At the end of the day, tie-in comics are a glimpse and nothing more. Regardless if artists and writers can mesh their work well with the larger narrative taking the company’s attention, the payoff from reading a tie in can only offer so much. Any other written form of entertainment when wanting to add supplemental material to a concluded or on going narrative usually contains a whole story that can satisfy on its own. However, the majority of tie-in comics, due to the nature of the industry, end with a tease that readers to read another series to finish the story.
If anything, tie-in comics defeat the purpose of an event because then events no longer are full epics meant to be the crucial for continuity moving forward. Tie-in comics leave a lackluster taste, and a reader should be getting a full story whether they choose to follow an event or a series.