Welcome to SBC’s The Panel, a chance for you to put your burning questions – comics-related or otherwise – to a group of comics professionals.

The Panel lives or dies by your contributions; please email them to panel@silverbulletcomicbooks.com and we’ll add them to the list…

This week’s question comes from Freddie Nunez and is as follows:-

“Are indefinitely ongoing series really necessary in comics, or should every story/series have a beginning, middle and end – or at least be issued as sets of mini-series rather than having books numbered in the hundreds?”


Donna Barr:

I hate “To Be Continued.”

That’s why each and every issue of my books can stand on their own. People can hate ’em or love ’em for themselves — and sometimes a new episode will make people love something they hated before.

YOU can stop writing. I’m not going to.

Just try to stop me. Many have tried. As for what that means about OTHER people’s writing — I do not give a Flying Intercourse at a Perambulating Pastry. My writing is the only writing that matters to me.

Donna Barr has books and original art at www.stinz.com, webcomics at www.moderntales.com, www.girlamatic.com, and has POD at www.booksurge.com Nothing she won’t try, at least once.


Vince Moore:

I really think the decision on whether to have something be an ongoing or a limited is purely creative. There are pro and con arguments for both choices, but it’s all about what works best for the creators and the creation. We’ve just witnessed the end of Cerebus, a 300 issue limited series. Dave Sim told many wonderful and strange stories during that time. Could he have continued? Of course, if he wanted to do so. I think the origin of this argument is that “old” ideas and books don’t have the power to attract today’s young audience. I think that’s a bullshit excuse, quite frankly. Something dreamed up by the pro-indy side of the comics biz. Look, newness wears off fast, faster these days than ever before. Maybe long running books need a new coat of paint every now and then. But let’s let the choice of whether to go for the long run or the short term be solely that of the creators. The marketplace will be attracted to whatever catches their eyes today and something different tomorrow. I say let’s promote variety of all kinds, rather than trying to make everyone fit the same slot. I like seeing books up in the mid to high hundreds as well as new mini-series. All the traffic can bear.

Vince Moore is the writer of Platinum Publishing’s upcoming book, Kid Victory & The Funky Hammer.


Alonzo Washington:

This or that. Infinite series, mini-series, one shots or graphic novels. It’s still a comic book to me. I think we should have all forms of comic books series. The more different the better. In the Omega7 titles I have different titles carry on story lines from a different comic book title. That’s how I like to roll. However, the next man might want to do it another way. So be it. I think the comic book industry needs a bunch of new approaches. Series diversity may help. Peace!

Alonzo Washington is the creator of Omega Man and a noted black rights campaigner.


Scott Allie:

Fans seem to like ongoing series, readers have been brought up on them, and they still sell better than anything else. In my life, a given series begins and ends when I start to and then cease to read it, but plenty of people want to stick with characters or a title for a long, long time. Questions like this, I think, stem from the comics’ industry’s self-loathing attitude that we should be doing it like whatever other medium we’re trying to dryhump at the moment. DVDs, film? They’re comics, and they evolved out of periodicals, and they’re mostly still periodicals. My personal reading tastes gravitate toward series with beginnings and ends, but I don’t look down my nose at an issue in the triple digits if it’s well done.

Scott Allie edits and writes for Dark Horse – a trade of The Devil’s Footprints is just out, and is not only a superb collection but is an excellent story too.


Jesse Leon McCann:

I think there’s room for all types of stories, and we should never limit what creators can do with story formats (besides the formats we’re already limited to, like page count per issue.) THANOS last week had a monthly number, but it was quite clearly subtitled “Samaritan” part 4 (of 6). It doesn’t seem to be a problem. I like stories that wrap-up in one issue. I like stories that arc over several issues. There’s room for both without worrying about the numbering format. Also, I think if a series is a monthly, it should continue to be a monthly– keeps everyone involved on their toes, and gives the fans something to look forward to!

Jesse Leon McCann is a New York Times Best-selling Author. He’s currently editing the fourth Simpsons TV Episode Guide for Bongo Comics/Harper Perennial, and writing stories for DC Comics’ Looney Tunes and Cartoon Cartoons.


Vito Delsante:

There is something positive to be said for both. Looking at Action Comics, one can’t help but feel like they are apart of history whenever they read an issue… 815 issues! That’s incredible! And it is still being published. But on the other hand, you can’t help but feel that at some points in its history, the quality slipped.

Looking at Hellboy…a book whose success has come due to not oversaturating the market and really feeding the fans demand for quality stories…you can feel that Mike (Mignola) knows that in his head, he wont tell a story until there is a story to be told, and it makes the title(s), as a whole, solid and readable. Then there are the finite titles…your Starmans and Preachers and Transmets…books that had amazing creators that had a story to tell. As a creator, I would prefer to have the leeway of having a finite series…but I think that would only work on creator owned/endorsed titles.

There will always be a public for Batman books, and so due to that demand, you must always have a Batman or a Detective for them to read, therefore publishers have to provide them. Sure, there will always be the odd book cancelled and then relaunched, but even Fantastic Four reached 500 with double numbering. I think the comic purchasing public are, by and large, collectors from way back, so they tend to be the traditionalists that want a full run of any given title.

The real question is…do we need 8 X-titles? 7 Bat-Family titles?

Vito Delsante is currently pitching his creator owned mini-series, “The Mercury Chronicles”, with artist Jim Muniz. He can be seen in June’s “Batman Adventures Vol 2: Shadows and Masks” from DC Comics and in a forthcoming issue of X-Men Unlimited.


Brandon Thomas:

A story having a logical beginning, middle, and end has nothing to do with a title’s actual numbering. The serial nature that most titles are operating under makes constant renumbering, or reclassifying a defined arc as its own mini-series, just more trouble than its worth. Especially when you have titles returning back to #1 for the express purpose of spiking sales, there’s going to be a response that wants to see the issue numbers climb as far as they can possibly go. We’ve created an environment where numbers no longer mean anything, so conversely they mean everything. The market is making it nearly impossible for new titles to continue beyond a year anyway, so anything past issue nine is becoming a badge of honor. It establishes a degree of respect, a litmus test that proves a character’s adventures should be followed, because apparently they always have been.

Nothing to do with stories, everything to do with marketing and appearances. We all want to be a part of the never-ending story I guess…

Brandon Thomas is one of the writers of Spider-Man Unlimited #3, scripter of Youngblood, creator of Cross, and long-time Ambidextrous columnist.


Bob Layton:

Although there is some validity to the need of the” monthly fix”, there are concepts that should have a beginning, middle and an end. Given the varying tastes of today’s readership, a wide variety of products and formats is the best assurance of continued success. However, that being said, the collectable factor is taken out of the equation if everything goes into mini-series. The industry still operates, to some degree, on the perception of collectable value.

Bob Layton was writer/artist of the first comics mini-series, re-imagined Iron Man, and co-architect and editor-in-chief of the Valiant Universe. Now he’s masterminding the mass market launch of Future Entertainment, as well as their developmental movie projects.


j.hues:

This is a tough one. Personally, I wish that all stories would have a beginning, middle and end, but I can see why Marvel and DC would want to keep their franchises going into infinity. The problem, though, is that there can really be no character growth if you must maintain a status quo. Superman, I think, could be just as powerful if his story was over now. A product of the 30s and 40s he was instrumental in the war, he could’ve aged and ultimately retired and maybe his children are running around now. And there’s nothing to say that Superman stories couldn’t still be told (just set in that era). It’s a shame that the fans of such properties as Superman and the X-Men will never get to see how that story ends. Comics is the only medium where this can be the case, and while it may be alright for the newspaper format, it is frustrating to read something and know that when I die, hopefully many decades from now, if comics are still being produced, Peter Parker will still be a twenty-something young married guy who cracks jokes and the only way we’ll be able to get beyond that is with imaginary stories.

Personally, I think a really impressive superhero universe would be one in which time passes, heroes age and retire and die and the next generation steps up. Savage Dragon has the aging and progression going well so let’s see how it all ends. It is a true rarity in “mainstream” comics to have progression and growth, which really hurts our argument that comics can be literature. After all, virtually any and all literature has some sort of progression and growth and ultimately a resolution.

j.hues is the Public Relations & Marketing Manager for FUTURE ENTERTAINMENT. Creator of the daily webstrip “Rolling With The Punches Volume 2”, he has at various times in the past been a columnist, news editor, and manager of Missouri’s largest comics shop. His current shop is available online at his link.


Josh Howard:

I’ve always been opposed to long term ongoing comics, especially in the case of books that only exist to keep a property alive and not because there are still interesting stories to tell. There are a few exceptions, but not many. In television, shows live their life and then they go away. Can you imagine if the same TV shows that were on in the 50s and 60s where never cancelled and were all still going today? Think of all the great shows we would have never gotten.

Stories should last as long as they need to, whether that’s 4 issues or 150 issues. But I think there needs to be a direction, or an end, rather than just keeping them on life support. Most major titles all go through a huge revamp every couple of years anyway, and creative teams switch even more often than that…so they are already essentially a series of mini-series strung together. Why not trim the fat and make it official? I also think this would encourage readers to try something new in between mini series because the same titles wouldn’t be sitting on the shelf month after month.

Josh Howard is the writer and artist of well-received ‘indie’ book Dead@17 for Viper Comics, the second series of which has just started.


Stephen Holland:

If you want to produce a creative work of aesthetic integrity, it patently has to have a beginning, middle and end. Craftsmanship requires structure, and structures require boundaries.

A building without foundations is unstable and will fall flat on its façade. A building without a roof lets water in, and, half-finished, looks messy. Plus, you know, an architect designs the building thoroughly, through many a draft, before a single ditch is dug or brick is laid.

And that’s how a novel is written. That’s how a canvas is painted. That’s how a film is made, and that’s how a score is composed. They, like buildings, are planned and then fully formed before being offered to the public. Otherwise Health & Safety would prosecute.

Although… There is such a thing as improvised jazz. Plus Dickens may have known where he was going, but he did serialise his books for public consumption as they were written, and no one disses Dickens these days. Both these disparate disciplines, however, have an end in sight, something to aim for, and so a structure throughout.

So there’s nothing shameful or new in Neil Gaiman releasing Sandman monthly. Similarly with From Hell, and with Cerebus (though I imagine it’s bloody tricky when you set yourself an absolute limit in terms of issue number you’ll conclude on). All three works still stand up as a whole, even if there are passages within which the author might, in retrospect, regret.

It’s a necessary evil within the confines in which the industry operates. Creating the whole of Sandman – writing, drawing, lettering, colouring the whole damn saga – before the work is released at all, would take a lot of funding few in this industry could afford. It’s labour-intensive, and the various craftsmen couldn’t afford to live without a monthly income for several years. A smaller graphic novel if you have a day job, sure, but epics like these?

Having reached my seventh paragraph (and having already gone back and altered its structure several times), it occurs to me that this is the first question so far on which I could write a doctorate. But I’ll cut myself short whilst regretting that I’m doing a disservice to the questioner, and say that what is relatively new in any medium is the open-ended structure most commonly associated with radio, TV soaps and corporate comics.

It’s to do with mass communication, its technical efficiency, and the profits to me made.

In which light I pose the following question: if it is desirable, artistically, to have a beginning, middle and end, why are there so many superhero series being written and drawn by a succession of baboons which go on and on with no end in sight?

Well, it has nothing to do with art. Eastenders (a UK soap opera, for readers of a transatlantic bent) is never going to win an Oscar, but it attracts the viewing figures in millions. It’s a brand name. It’s an occasionally entertaining but predominantly dim-witted, badly acted, endless cascade of increasingly melodramatic “events” designed to drag you to tune in for a quick fix of satisfaction, which has fuck all to do with art.

Similarly corporate superhero comics. Nothing to do with art, everything to do with maintaining undemanding loyalty. Keep the same title (requires less advertising), keep the same characters unchanged and alive (for merchandising purposes), and so keep as many people buying month-in and month-out regardless of which artistic ragamuffins they pay to tread the grinding mill of mediocrity.

It’s all about cash: they want your cash on a regular basis – no, sorry, on an infinite basis.

Stories: beginning, middle and end.

Answers to questions: beginning, middle and end.

This one has just ended. Aren’t you relieved?

Stephen Holland runs Page 45, a comic shop in Nottingham, England, with Mark Simpson and Tom Rosin. He appears monthly column in Comics International. For ever.

Stephen adores the current “Ultimate” Marvel range because there are currently but two writers there absorbed in an integral whole, however open-ended it may be. He is equally aware that to all good things there must come an end. Ultimate X-Men being an imminent case in point. Artistically.

 

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