What makes a fictional universe good? In this requested episode of Overrated, Vox’s Phil Edwards explores the past and present of fictional universes to try to figure it out.
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Want to read more? Check out Sean Howe’s book about Marvel: https://www.amazon.com/Marvel-Comics-Untold-Sean-Howe/dp/0061992119
And explore Tommy’s Universe:
The Master List
Fictional universes and crossovers have been around long before the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Green Hornet radio show had a crossover with the Lone Ranger that kicked off the trend. In comics, the Marvel Universe started long before Stan Lee was at the helm.
But these crossovers have a problem: They can privilege business relationships ahead of storytelling immersion and really interesting universes. As the Tommy Westphall Universe shows, crossovers often become a map of business decisions rather than of integrated fictional stories, and that leads to worse stories.
This problem plagues the MCU as well. When Marvel engineers crossovers, they aren’t thinking about a universe transformed by superheroes — they just want more quips, explosions, and cash. Or at least that’s Edwards’s argument — do you think the MCU works?
Overrated is a series that takes a look at the things we all know — the books, the trends, and the ideas that have become iconic — and answers the question: “Why is this so famous”?
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