As someone who has studied writing, I know that each tale should have a beginning, a middle and an end.
There’s one place we’re all familiar with where this doesn’t hold true much of the time – in comics!
KEEP THOSE READERS BUYING!
There’s a very good reason why many stories in comics don’t end. The companies selling those books want you to keep coming back month after month to pick up and pay for their product.
If a story actually ends, there’s no guarantee that the reader will be back again next month. So we get parts of stories that come to some sort of conclusion, but not the main story itself. Every good jumping on point is also a place to easily jump off a book!
Also, editors need to have new creators step in and take over a book at times before a story ends up. If that’s the case, the new writer might take things in a different direction.
So they have to keep us readers on the edge of our seats, anxious to spend our money!
I don’t think that this family of books is the only one guilty of keeping storylines going on at times for decades, but I know that the X-Men titles had so much continuity that you literally had to have read years and years worth of books to be up to date in case a writer revived a character not seen in 100 issues or so.
Granted, some characters change over time. Take Scott Summers for example. He’s gone from leader of the mutants to being in love with Jean Grey to moving on to his romance with Emma Frost to being in charge of a group of mutants he shares with Magneto (his former worst enemy) to meeting himself from the past. It’s enough to give a guy a serious headache!
Then, too, Jean Grey was Marvel Girl, the Phoenix, the Dark Phoenix, unconscious at the bottom of a body of water in a pod having been replaced by the Phoenix entity. She’s dead, she’s alive, she’d dead again … yikes!
If you can keep track of all this, you’re a better person than I am!
Even today, the X-folks have ongoing, longer-than-life stories! Maybe that’s why the mutants aren’t quite as popular as they used to be!
One story still sticks with me over the years. As a Batman fan, I remember issues that focused on how other people related to Batman, and they were often the most poignant because nothing could really happen to Batman. But other people? Nearly anything could happen to them!
In Detective Comics #385, Robert Kanigher wrote the first story in the issue called “Die Small – Die Big!” In it, a “nobody” named Herbert Small decides to let criminals know he’s actually Batman’s secret identity in order to protect the Caped Crusader. Small lives in a tiny apartment with a silent pet canary, works as a mailman and idolizes Batman. When Bruce Wayne becomes aware of what’s going on, he tries to rescue Small. But Small takes a bullet meant for Batman, and is dying in Batman’s arms when he asks Batman to fulfill his last wish. Batman removes his cowl, causing Small to die with a smile on his face. As he passes, the canary starts to sing for the first time and Batman tells the reader, “Herbert Small didn’t die small … he died BIG!”
I remember seeing Batman’s tears rolling down his cheeks, and realized I was experiencing the same emotion. That story didn’t take months and months to reach its conclusion – just several pages. I miss those kinds of stories, honestly.
There’s one company I’ve been a fan of for several years because they’ve sold single-issue stories, and that is Kickstart Comics at www.kickstartcomics.com. (That’s not Kickstarter.com, the fundraising site, by the way.)
Book after book of theirs that I’ve read had a self-contained beginning, middle and end! I haven’t come across any new product from them in some time, but I hope they get back on track with their excellent storytelling!
My favorite book of theirs was Hero Complex, which was about Captain Supreme and his sidekick. They both refused to take money to fight evil, which caused them no end of personal troubles. The story ends really well, so I encourage anyone who wants to read a shorter story to try and find it!
Other great books they created included Nightwatchman, Head Full of Noise, Maximum High, Space Gladiator, Duplicate, Divine Wind, Knowbodys and Headache.
I hope they’ll be producing more great stories before long!
MOVING AHEAD WITH STORYTELLING
I don’t want anyone to think that I do NOT like extended stories. I do, and I loved Star Trek: Deep Space Nine because I felt they were great at it! I also love 24 and many other shows because they keep me glued to the tube from week to week.
But every so often, I love for something to actually END once in a while! Maybe more people would buy comics if that happened!
I hope that some comics writers will explore self-contained stories occasionally! It would be a nice change of pace to read a satisfying ending more often!
What do you think? Should comics tell both short and long stories rather than ongoing tales, some of which last for years? Please feel free to comment below![signoff predefined=”PayPal Donation” icon=”icon-cog-alt”][/signoff]