Gorillas Riding Dinosaurs | Days Missing and Non-Serial Series
This week’s column isn’t so much a review as it is an observation and a request for your thoughts and recommendations. One of the things that appealed to me about Archaia and Roddenberry’s Days Missing series when I learned about it at C2E2 was the non-serial aspect of it. Rather than unfold a long-running plot about it’s main character and the people and things that threaten his goals, Archaia and Roddenberry chose to present the series in almost an anthology format. Though one in which the same character appeared every issue and always had adventures that followed a similar formula.
I’m reminded of some of the TV shows I used to watch as a kid. Today, shows like Lost have changed the television landscape to the point that every show has to have some kind of over-arcing plot. Even detective shows – which you’d think would be perfect for a simple format of stand-alone episodes – have meta-stories like Will Jane Ever Catch Red John? or Will Castle and Beckett Ever Tell Each Other How They Feel? Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but there’s something pure and refreshing about shows where it’s just our heroes fighting this week’s bad guy or trying to meet this week’s challenge.
Comics are the same. Even when the latest company-wide crossover isn’t besieging them, most comics stories can’t wrap themselves up in a single issue. The Writing for the Trade phenomenon is so standard and familiar that it isn’t even worth griping about anymore. That’s what makes a book like Days Missing stand out.
After the break: What it’s about and do we want more of it?
The first volume of Days Missing contains five issues. Phil Hester and Frazer Irving wrote and illustrated the first and fifth installments with David Hine/Chris Burnham, Ian Edgington/Lee Moder, and Matz/Hugo Petrus creating the stories in between. In each issue, a mysterious, mirror-eyed being named the Steward watches over humanity from his other-dimensional library and identifies key dates on which our future survival is not at all assured. In each story, the Steward finds it necessary to intervene and save us from ourselves before folding the day away into the fabric of time so that history doesn’t remember its ever occurring.
It’s a great idea for a series and the story possibilities are as endless as the genres in which they can take place. Hester and Irving open the series with a crisis around an out-of-control, modern-day virus. Hine and Burnham then present a story about the real-life Frankenstein’s Monster that inspired Mary Shelley’s tale. Edgington and Moder reveal what happens when a scientist at the Hadron Collider comes too close to discovering the Steward’s existence while Matz and Petrus explore the pros and cons of Hernán Cortés’ plans for South America. Finally, Hester and Irving return with another account of something dangerous run amok; this time nanotechnology.
Though crossing and re-crossing the boundaries between science-fiction, horror, and historical fiction, each story has a couple of things in common: they all follow a basic formula in an exciting way and they all reinforce the themes of the Steward’s love for humanity and his tragic loneliness that results from his dedication to his mission. You sit down to each story with both a general idea of what to expect and an eager anxiousness to see how this particular creative team is going to play with it.
Of course, that’s just the first volume of Days Missing. The second volume is going to follow a longer story arc that was set up in Hester and Irving’s final story from this volume. And again, I’m not complaining about that (especially since it’s going to be Phil Hester writing it). I like longer-form stories as much as anyone and it’s certainly nice to know that the Steward is a real enough character that we can explore his motivations and concerns on a more personal level.
But I’d love to see a third volume of Days Missing that returns to the anthology-like format of self-contained issues. I think there’s a need for that in comics. So I have two questions for you guys.
First, would you also like to see more adventure series where each issue is a self-contained adventure with no over-arcing story? Or is there no room for that in today’s comics?
And second, if you do like the idea, what other series would you recommend that are already doing this? I can think of DC and Marvel’s kids series – which are awesome – but what else am I missing?