Robot 6

Quote of the Day | ‘I believe that stories should end’

courtney crumrin10-cover“I believe that stories should end. Otherwise, they don’t truly say anything, and are therefore not really stories. Certain stories create rich, inviting worlds, and I often feel a deep desire to to return there over and over again. But I usually find that, after too long, the story stops moving, becomes stagnant, and the world loses its meaning. I didn’t want to do that with Courtney’s world, as much as I would have loved to dwell there forever. Courtney had to grow, had to change. Otherwise, her adventures, her suffering, her lessons, would have been for nothing. And to change Courtney was to finish her story. I personally was less interested in the adventures of a mellow young witch who was wise beyond her years. But I wanted her to arrive somewhere near that peaceful place rather than just go on suffering. Otherwise, her stories wouldn’t have meant as much. Happily ever after isn’t much of a story, but it makes a great ending. So I’d just assume leave it at that.”

Ted Naifeh, on the surprise conclusion last week of Courtney Crumrin, a story he began in 2002

News From Our Partners

Comments

6 Comments

Well said. I think that goes a long way in explaining why people’s love of superhero movies rarely translates into better monthly sales.

Comic fans are the only breed of fan I can think of who accept that a story doesn’t end at the end of a book or as the credits roll. We allow mediocre writers to tell us stories over the course of MONTHS that could be told in a single issue by a more talented writer. When were comics selling most consistently and when were comics their most popular? When stories finished in an issue (or two). Readers knew that their money was going to a complete story, and they knew their attention would pay off with some kind of (however temporary) resolution.

I wish more writers would take the advice of ending stories. I don’t think Geoff Johns really needed to take 9 years to tell the GL story he’s been telling.

Pacing is a matter of taste, but I agree with stories needing endings. I agree with the complaint that every event shouldn’t just lead to the next event, the story shouldn’t just lead to the next story. Things like BKV’s work, Sandman, Lucifer, etc. are excellent examples of this. Many years to tell a good, detailed story with resolved subplots, but characters grow and change, then the stories end.

Stories from the big two are trying to have it both ways, having the character experience growth and change, but then reversing that due to whatever. Example: Barbara Gordon.

I understand that we can’t write an ending to the story of Batman, but it does rob it of some of it’s impact.

I agree with Josh, above. in terms of the economics of being a fan, we all want a story we’re buying to be building to some kind of payoff. I don’t necessarily mean that everything is tied up in a neat bow and everything is happy at the end (usually the opposite) but I mean some type of closure or finality. When that doesn’t happen and it becomes apparent that the story we’re reading is just to drag us into the next story which is just to drag us into the next story ad infinitum, it starts feeling like money we’re spending is just wasted on a game of chance where we’re hoping for any kind of reward but being perpetually defeated. There is a natural gratification that comes from a proper ending and if readers aren’t getting it, they lose interest and leave. DC and Marvel’s monthly superhero comics, which are fifty to eighty years old and indefinite, are losing games in terms of your investment as a reader. I don’t think those companies are as interested in telling stories as they are in developing the cultural visibility of profitable brands. I imagine it would be a creatively unsatisfying gig to write those comics.

I also agree with Ted Naifeh’s original quote. It’s an empty game in terms of characterization and plot, too. Garth Ennis said the following:

“I find most superhero stories completely meaningless. Which is not to say I don’t think there’s potential for the genre – Alan Moore and Warren Ellis have both done interesting work with the notion of what it might be like to be and think beyond human, see Miracleman, Watchmen and Supergods. But so long as the industry is geared towards fulfilling audience demand – ie, for the same brightly coloured characters doing the same thing forever – you’re never going to see any real growth. The stories can’t end, so they’ll never mean anything.”

If there’s no end and everything can be recycled, there are no final consequences and if there are no final consequences, it renders the action in the story, as well as character development and growth, moot.

And when Ennis mentions this infinite loop of superhero stories being generated to satisfy “audience demand” I assume he’s referring to buyers chiefly interested in the continued existence of their favorite corporate logos which I differentiate from actual readers who appreciate a proper three act structure. The former usually don’t care about stories ending because they are cheerleading Superman or Green Lantern or whatever (or else they’re too young to have caught on to the game yet) but the latter really do get frustrated enough to stop spending their money.

Jake Earlewine

March 13, 2013 at 8:36 pm

I applaud! Yes, stories should end. All my favorite stories have endings.

If stories don’t conclude, eventually the characters end up like Marvel and DC characters — cliched, mis-used, bloated, revised and rebooted beyond recognition, watered-down caricatures of themselves.

I disagree.

Yes some stories should end and have always been written with that in mind e.g. Locke and Key, Preacher, The Boys etc.

But some stories and characters, particularly the superhero genre, are geared towards serialised storytelling that enables different writers and artists to take a crack at them. I’m a huge Captain America fan and I’ve enjoyed reading his adventures for 37 years, and had the opportunity to be amazed by Lee/ Kirby, Englehart/ Buscema, Stern/ Byrne, solo Kirby, DeMatteis/ Zeck, DeMatteis/ Neary, Gruenwald/ Dwyer, Gruenwald/ Lim, Waid/ Garney, and Brubaker and a myriad of artists over those years. Sure there were plenty of crappy stories during those years as well, but the good stories outweighed the bad. I have the same feeling about Batman, Detective Comics, and Green Lantern. And just because I know that these characters will still be around for another 50years doesn’t effect my enjoyment because I know that while the characters will inherently remain the same, good creators will be able to write solid stories that entertain and reveal different sides to those characters. Eventually I may get to the point in which I have had enough of that character and feel there is nothing more to be explored, but I’m not there yet (well, I am with Green Lantern so that’s why I’m leaving that book.)
I don’t think the superhero genre is meaningless at all. I read it to be entertained. If I want a deep and meaningful piece of literature (which the superhero genre can still do IMO) I usually seek out some other form of literature.

For the most part I totally agree that stories should end. However I think there is also a place for the ongoing. The crucial difference is you simply cannot approach an ongoing the same way you approach a story with an end which I think is one of the mistakes of modern superhero comics.

They’re trying to have it both ways. There is still the idea of putting the toys back on the shelf but by the time creators are done with them the toys have been so damn mangled as if Sid from Toy Story had been playing with them. We need less Sids and more Andy’s.

That’s how you leave them unbroken for the next generation of creators and readers. These comics don’t end so you get a beginning and if creators are not careful about it, an increasingly complicated and convoluted middle.

A middle made even more increasingly complicated when creators get deeper and deeper into radical changes and over arching plots that ordinarily would build to not only an end of the story but really an end for the characters and their world. The creators simply cannot be allowed to run roughshod over it like they are the last person who is ever gonna write these characters or that the current readership are the last ones who are ever gonna read them.

The question for creators and editors working on an ongoing character can’t be how can I use Captain Heroperson to tell MY stories but rather can I tell good Captain Heroperson stories? I know for some the idea of them being in a stasis comparable to Archie or the Simpsons might be abhorrent but I think that assumes that there are no good stories to tell unless its of the break everything apart variety. You can’t do EVERYTHING YOU KNOW IS WRONG everyday and maintain a character indefinitely.

Either each successive version has to have a clear beginning, middle, and end (or even an eventual passing of the torch) or the creators accept the idea of being custodians of a time honored character and be creative within that.

Another option would to simply ditch the ongoing and let creators run wild with the idea in whatever way they chose without trying to reconcile it with an ongoing thus allowing any creators take to exist independently of another creators take. So if someone wants to their hypergrimdark take they can but if you someone has a more middle of the road take or even wants to do something that is a throwback they can do that to. The audience can then pick one or enjoy them all.

Leave a Comment

 


Browse the Robot 6 Archives