Let me just start off by saying that this is NOT an Infinity War review post. I have no intention of doing one of those; I said my peace on Facebook and that was enough. What this is, however, is me recognizing what Infinity War did best and relating it to something all creatives should learn how to do: world (or universe) build. The entire reason Infinity War is being heralded like it is is because it had ten years of films that led up to it. That’s ten years worth of characters, individual movies, and the occasional team-up. That's ten years worth of character development, ten years worth of hype, and ten years for fans to get attached to the characters and in some cases the actors and actresses who play them. It is what made the ending of Infinity War so intense and it is what will make us go back to see Avengers 4 and the new phase that will come after it. The MCU dominates because of the money funneled into it, yes, but it also dominates because it has created a world accessible to nearly anyone, and thankfully, creators independent or "mainstream" can do that same thing.
This past weekend I went to WICOMICON, the indie comic con that emerged after the Universal Fan Con debacle. While there I got to have a lot of fun and meet/see again a few great people. One of the people I got to see again was one of the brilliant minds behind Arclight Comics and my frat brother: Ed Williams. Ed and I got to talking about some of everything (some of our convos will be on Youtube. Check them out as they’re uploaded), one thing being creating a shared universe. He talked about how at Arclight they build each character’s individual story so if characters were ever to meet, people would be more connected to at least a few characters. These characters all share a world that has dozens of entry points, and it is these connections that make the overall experience even greater. You see, if you build individual stories you get the time to flesh out characters that people can relate to (which you should be doing as a creator ANYWAY), you're more likely to build stronger fanbases. Since Arclight's mission is to show that everyone can be heroes regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, ability, or whatever, they have a number of characters that they can flesh out and use to connect to a number of audiences. That makes the series better and can pay off better if you (or they) ever decide to bring some of the characters together.
It's what the MCU has done so well leading up to Infinity War and why they have been so successful. And, despite how people may feel about the Arrowverse, it is what it did leading up to Crisis on Earth X and why people loved it far more than the Justice League movie. Marvel’s movies and DC’s TV shows have created an interconnected world where people can follow their favorite characters and still be able to have a connection to something larger through that character’s perspective. If you only watched Black Panther, you will still be invested in Infinity War when the Avengers bring the fight to Wakanda. If you only watch The Flash, seeing all these other characters that love Barry and Iris come to town for their wedding will make you appreciate them as well. A shared universe helps to give your audience more options for how to enjoy your work, and give you as a creator more ways to expand your audience. If the MCU was just Iron Man, they would miss out on the fans of all the other superheroes and if the Arrowverse stopped with its namesake it would never have been able to survive. Creating a shared universe or at the very least building an expansive world helps to give your creative work longevity and relatability, but the big question is how to achieve that.
Ed ended up telling me about how much meticulous planning goes into creating the Arclight world and making sure the characters can stand on their own. I felt that, because even though the Elemental series is based on this one group of people there is a lot of world building and creation that goes into my writing. I would advise any creator, whether they’re a prose writer, comic book creator, filmmaker or screenwriter to develop a series bible for whatever they want to create. Series bibles are usually for TV shows, but it helps for any long form work to have a readily accessible source of series information. This can help you to plan out over long periods what you want your work to do, and if you do have to bring in other people it gives them a set of rules to work from. I have one and the Elemental series is just written by me. The Elemental series bible has character history and descriptions, basic plotlines, character development, chapter outlines, descriptions of locations, cultural ideas, and more so I always know where this series is heading. I can always change the path to the end goal along the way, but with a roadmap to follow I can ensure that no matter what happens I know where I’m going.
Which just further explains why it is so important to take your time with your creations. It takes me about two years to write a book and even that is on the short side. There is nothing wrong with sitting back and making sure that your work is quality before you release it. Get those interactions right, flesh that character out more, and make sure that the plot makes sense before you try to bring in anything (or anyone) else. It took the MCU ten years to get to Infinity War and it took the Arrowverse seven years to create a TV Justice League. If longevity is your goal, you have to be willing to play the long game. Yes, we’re living in a world where indie creators are getting more and more shine, but without proper planning that won’t do any good for your series. You might not have the millions to create the spectacle that is Infinity War, but you can definitely make something similar on your own budget and your own time. And who knows, maybe yours will be the next major shared universe that brings people of all ages, colors, and creeds flocking to the movie theater, TV screen, or bookstore.
Can you think of anything else that would help in creating an expansive world/universe? Do you think shared universes are a good thing for creators? Feel free to leave your comments, questions, and concerns below and don't forget to like, share, and subscribe!