Monday, March 04, 2013

Storytelling: The Ongoing

The unadorned cover to Batman #700.
More than twice Sim's Cerebus,  but
there's no end in sight for Bruce & Co.
Peter Parker was married. Now he isn't. Superman died in battle with the super-scary extraterrestrial Doomsday. Four Supermen showed up to defend Metropolis and some thought they might have been the original reincarnated. But then he wasn't dead, after all. Bruce Wayne was recently lost through time and somehow crawled back to the present. And his back was broken a couple decades ago but he got better. And he has a son. Had a son. He's dead now, too.

But for how long?

It used to be the rule in comics that the only death you could count on was Captain America's sidekick from WWII: Bucky Barnes. But even he's come back from the dead, too.

And Jason Todd who was brutally murdered by the Joker and whose fate was decided by readers calling in to a toll-free number. Not texting, but calling from their landlines. Now Todd has returned as the villainous Hush.

I guess Uncle Ben is still dead despite the alternate reality Ben who showed up some time ago.

Good lord, what's wrong with change being permanent?

It was pointed out in a comment on this post that ongoing series make choices for financial reasons rather than artistic ones. Even James Bond is not immune.

The reasoning behind this, I suppose, might be that in real life change happens and it's difficult to reverse. Yes, you can remarry the same person (ala Liz Taylor) but death - at least in real life - is permanent. We have yet to bring back the dead though they can be preserved in theory. Writings and films and videos and such help in that respect.

So our storytelling reflects the fantasy that we can change things, that we have power we don't have in real life. People don't really die, they don't really get married and have to struggle through a relationship when things get tough. That nothing's permanent.

I mentioned James Bond up above, didn't I? Well, in fifty years how much has Bond really changed? In the film of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Bond falls in love and the girl is killed. (If you don't know that it won't hurt your enjoyment of the film and if you're a Bond fan you already knew it, anyway. Right?)

In the books, the follow up is You Only Live Twice and Bond is sent out on a mission to get him back in harness because he's devastated by his wife's death. Yeah, they got married. Did you know that? If you only ever saw the movies with Sean Connery and Roger Moore, you didn't know that. George Lazenby gets short shrift (and maybe justifiably so) but still, OHMSS has more emotional punch than any of the more famous films. That is until Daniel Craig took over and the last three movies have gone for the gut.

Those films (especially Skyfall) are the exception to the rule. Yes, Bond is timeless, but there were a number of movies that shouldn't have been made. Don't you agree?

Because the Bond books that Ian Fleming wrote that were made into films were made out of order (You Only Live Twice precedes OHMSS) early on, there was just very little resonance from one film to another. And even less from one actor's portrayal of the character to another. That is until Craig recalled the best of all of them.

As much as I liked a few of the Bonds between OHMSS and the remade Casino Royale, they didn't really need to be made. Other than for monetary reasons, that is. Between For Your Eyes Only and Goldeneye, there's not one I like at all. And between Goldeneye and Casino Royale, I saw only half of one of the films.

And I've pretty much stopped reading any Superman or Batman titles. Since both were relaunched as part of DC's New 52, I've picked up one issue of Superman and put it back on the rack. Just not interested. Not interested in the editorial direction and not interested in spending the money.

The fantasies are wearing thin. It's hard to get excited about characters who are changed for short periods and then revert to what they've always been. Superman isn't married in the New 52 and Lois Lane doesn't have any idea he's really Superman. Sigh.

One would think that given the success of The Walking Dead not just in comics but also on TV that there would be a bigger drive to create new stories. Not just Batman stories or James Bond stories but new stories.

Awake (starring Jason Isaacs on NBC) was a breath of fresh air but it didn't fly. There are others. You have your favorites, I'm sure. Firefly among them, right?

Look, I've been going on and on but you're getting the idea. Series are okay as long as they have a definite ending. Like Harry Potter. Like The Sopranos. Within those series, characters grew and changed, headed toward that inevitable ending. The series I'm looking forward to seeing finish is Lev Grossman's that began with The Magicians and continued with The Magician King. I can't tell you how much those books blew my mind and I want more. But there's an ending coming.

I'm good with that. That makes room for more stories and leaves these as they should be: complete.

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