I’ve been pretty down on ongoing series for the last few years. I sort of touched on it some months ago when I expressed frustration about ongoing series having to make things up as they go along. It’s hard to tell a satisfying story when you’re not building toward an end. My biggest issue with Marvel and DC’s events over the last few years hasn’t been that they want me to buy a bunch of peripheral comics; it’s that so rarely have I been satisfied at an event’s conclusion. Events don’t end; they just lead to the next in a never-ending series of more events. On a smaller scale, ongoing series are the same way. Unless I’m a completest collector, there’s no reward for reading every issue of The Amazing Spider-Man or any other long-running series. They’re stories without end and many of their parts over time are horrible.
So why do I get a thrill when I hear, for instance, that IDW is turning Star Trek and 30 Days of Night into ongoing series? I love the series-of-mini-series approach that those titles and books like Hellboy have followed for years, so what is it that gets me excited about their becoming open-ended? Part of it is the vote of confidence by the publisher when it commits to an ongoing series. Of course it’s not really a commitment, because even ongoings can be canceled at any time, but it says something that a publisher believes there’s enough life in a character or concept to support a series indefinitely.
More than that though is the statement that there are limitless possibilities with these characters or this world. That’s a thrilling idea, even though not every story is going to be a winner. I prefer the term “mini-series” to “limited series” precisely because even though “limited” doesn’t refer to imagination or scope in that phrase, I instinctively rebel at the thought that stories have limits. It’s a silly thing to get hung up on and of course stories do have limits of various kinds, but I want storytellers to fool me into thinking that they don’t. Ongoing series help to foster that willing deception.
Wood starts off with a little analysis, pointing out that although TMA was well loved by some vocal fans, it didn’t sell well, and in fact, all-ages material doesn’t do well in the direct market. There is also the fact that Thor is not a particularly popular character, and there are a number of other Thor titles on the market. On the other hand, Wood feels that TMA was at least as high quality as the others, and better than some, so why didn’t it sell? A commenter gets to the heart of the matter:
Consider too that Thor TMA is neither in 616 or Ultimates continuity. As much as some hate this fact, if it “counted”, more traditional consumers would have bought it.
You know, I do hate that fact. There’s an element of trying to squeeze a square peg into a round hole here. Most comics shops don’t have a big kid audience, and despite Diamond’s attempt to change that, the fact remains that most comic-shop customers aren’t kids and most kids never go near a comics shop. The direct market does a good job of delivering a specific product to a narrowly defined audience. That audience is not very interested in all-ages comics, and children aren’t interested in complicated continuity. This is a basic structural flaw: You have a huge potential market for these comics, but you are selling them in a place the target customer seldom goes to and may not even realize exists.