Saturday, June 7, 2014
THE 100 GREATEST CROSSOVERS OF ALL TIME #14
I had a real jones for the works of Michael Moorcock in the early 1970s after the 1972 crossover between Elric and Conan in CONAN THE BARBARIAN #14-15. However, over time I don't know that I was quite as enthused about Moorcock's own crossover-concept: the Eternal Champion.
I've long thought that Moorcock formalized a facet of heroic-fantasy authorship that usually appears by instinct. Most of Robert E. Howard's heroes mirror one another in character, as do those of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jerry Siegel, and many others. In Moorcock the author's tendency to make most heroes conform to a "type" becomes a characteristic of an entire "multiverse." Though Moorcock's celebrated fantasy-heroes-- Elric, Corum, Dorian Hawkmoon, etc.-- inhabit many different planes of being, most of them shared the same mental outlook. Most are usually gloomy misfits tormented by their own misdeeds and by a sense of cosmic injustice.
Trouble is, while such heroes are interesting individually, they're not quite as interesting when they meet each other. In the 1972 "novel" THE SLEEPING SORCERESS-- actually a collection of three separate novellas featuring Moorcock's most popular character, Elric of Melnibone-- the albino-skinned protagonist encounters two other heroes. Both are, like Elric, aspects of the "Eternal Champion," a sort of archetype that remains constant in many multiversal domains. One is "Prince Corum," who had his own series of adventures around the same time as Elric. The other calls himself "Erekose," though he's not entirely identical with the character from the one-shot 1970 novel THE ETERNAL CHAMPION. For one thing, the Erekose-warrior in this story is explicitly black-skinned. I have not recently reread ETERNAL CHAMPION, but as I recall no reference is made to the race of the original Erekose. I assume Moorcock was having a bit of fun playing around with the racial identities of his heroes in different incarnations.
The crossover-novel brings the three heroes together in the equally eternal city Tanelorn, where they battle the magic of an evil sorcerer. It's a decent enough story, but loses some punch given that all three heroes sound and act pretty much the same. Further, this sequence of SLEEPING SORCERESS was originally derived from a similar section in the 1971 Corum novel THE KING OF THE SWORDS. Since they're pretty much the same story, I decided to count the Elric version as "best crossover," simply because it stands upon its own better as a crossover-tale. Further, it's a good basic representation of Moorcock's "Eternal Champion" concept, though perhaps not its most complex manifestation.