The Story’s End

Robo Paper CopI’ve been musing about what most consider to be the pinnacle of comics; newspaper and super hero comics. They just go on and on, with no end. Storylines come and go and they have some some history to them but they basically reset. You can’t really kill off Superman or Snoopy, though you can throw your audience for a loop and have them missing for awhile.

I’m beginning to wonder if there is a shift in preference for stories that have closure. With soap operas being shuttered due to lack of interest, is that change of preference limited to young women (the target demographic)? Or is it a larger trend for the population in general?

The article also mentions wrestling, which has a soap opera model and seems to be going pretty strong right now. The Rock and Hogan have returned, so maybe wrestling is at least holding its own. I don’t happen to follow wrestling, but perhaps one of you do. Is wrestling getting bigger?

If viewers are becoming more interested in stories that finish, will we see more comics (and other entertainment) which are designed to end? I happen to think that superhero books would benefit from this and webcomics would be improved (both in quality and business-wise) if there was an expectation that this comic you are enjoying is not guaranteed to be still going next year. Enjoy it now. Buy the book or even the pdf so you have it to read later.

Desert KnightOf course, there will always be a Batman book available of some kind but new flavors could come and go. This year, perhaps a series based on the Dark Knight Returns is published, along with an animated style comic, Young Justice starring Batman and another Batman 2050 book. Next year, perhaps we’d see a campy Bat book, a Superfriends team up and a general Detective run. While you could say that this happens now, it would really be much better if the stories didn’t have to slave to story cannon and half done storylines handed off to different writers twice a year.

And wouldn’t Calvin & Hobbes be quite a different comic if Watterson was still making it now? Perhaps we (gloriously, I might add) would be enjoying 4 page C&H colored Sundays. Or perhaps Hobbes would be an orange car instead of a stuffed tiger, since Calvin is getting older. Of course, Watterson would be doing something more fun than I’ve sketched out but you know it would be different. He isn’t the kind of artist that would be satisfied drawing the same cartoon kid for fifty years.

Looking back to webcomics, creators are told to publish comics 3 to 5 times per week, never stopping. And don’t let up on the business side while you socially network and keep it fun and keep improving and … is it any wonder that most artists give up after a few years, at best? It’s a lot of work and life doesn’t always permit a fifty year investment in a comic.

Instead, artists might make themselves into brands as opposed to only clinging to one certain comic that they hope will someday make it worth all their while. If fans clamor for more of a certain comic, creators can return to it and make more of those. Granted, big hits don’t always come around and if you have one very successful comic then you are fortunate. But for the rest of us, variety is more likely to keep us creating and be better appreciated over time. You can’t force creativity into a schedule and all good stories come to an end.

If I wanted to sound dramatic, I would say the demand of the never ending story must end. Would you agree?

6 Comments

  1. Joshua

    I disagree. It’s worrying about continuity that is new(ish) and ought to come to an end. Audiences wanting more adventures of familiar heroes is literally as old as story-telling.

  2. Xiao Mao

    I would certainly agree, but then I’m not the average comic reader. Or maybe these days 25 -y-o women are the average reader, who knows.

    From a creator’s POV, I have a lot of different stories that I want to write and wouldn’t want to get stuck writing the same one for decades.

    From a consumer’s POV, I want to read stories where the characters change dramatically over the story. Seems par for the course, but it’s hard to have meaningful changes if the character is scheduled to come back next episode and do it all over again.

    It’s also easier for a consumer to read a finished work than try to get into a complex universe that’s been growing for 50+ years. I didn’t grow up reading comics; superheros have no nostalgia value for me. That makes me a really hard sell, you know? I’m not about to put down $5 for 20 pages of a piece of a piece of a story.

    I’m rambling now; I need to stop typing.

  3. delos

    Hey Joshua,

    Perhaps I’m too tired to understand your thought properly, but it seems we agree. I still want to see Batman, Superman and Spiderman (etc,) I just think we ought not to be slaves to fifty years worth of canon in their current stories.

    Or perhaps you disagree that artists should make themselves brands. There is certainly room to disagree about that, I suppose. It seems better, to me, that an artist shouldn’t avoid trying a couple of different comic ideas if one doesn’t keep their attention.

    Am I way off base somewhere?

  4. delos

    Oh – and thanks for sharing your thoughts, both of you.

    Xiao,

    Some people aren’t tied to the idea of a monthly book and ongoing characters resetting back to a baseline. There certainly is no reason why stand-alone comic stories (or even supers books) can’t also be made, even if soap opera style comics continue.

  5. “ongoing characters resetting back to a baseline”

    That’s the part I’ve tried to avoid in my Daily Grind webcomics. I try to write characters with pasts, presents, and futures, characters who grow and change as a result of the stories they live through every day in the comic. Of course, in 6 1/2 years of daily comics, I’ve only managed to cover 9 months of time for them, but still… :)

    Mike

  6. delos

    It’s a real accomplishment to be able to keep any kind of comic going for 6.5 years. Congrats!

    It’s also noteworthy to see the effort you’ve put into pasts and futures – the risk seems to be that the audience may never see all that you’ve created in those areas. Better to leave them wanting more, I guess.

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