Skip to content →

Never The End: Comics And MP3s

So Ed Brubaker, on Twitter, was talking about not starting a story until he knew how it ended, concluding with the thought:

I guess you could do a story with no ending if the point is there is no end to anything, really.Sat Aug 27 19:12:08 via web

This prompted the following thoughts by Brian Bendis:

@brubaker joe and i have been talking about the idea that things may swing from collected ‘stories’ with digital.Sat Aug 27 20:45:10 via web

@brubaker we may be heading back to awesome chapters with no ‘ending’. like marvel 70s. I’m trying it on usm and moonknight now. love it.Sat Aug 27 20:46:27 via web

@Oeming @brubaker but sometimes creators, like u :) do that so they cancel themselves before the world cancels them. your ideas need to flySat Aug 27 20:47:59 via web

If I’d been around at the time the exchange was happening, I might have pointed out that Brian’s favourite novels weren’t cancelled. They simply reached their natural ending. But I think that would have been unproductive, because on second reading I saw Brian’s underlying point.

Brian (and Joe Quesada, I guess) see digital comics as potentially doing to the serialised graphic novel what the mp3 did to the album. Digital comics services are still very much all about the single rather than the graphic novel. They’re not selling TRANSMETROPOLITAN as ten collections. They’re selling it as sixty singles. Mp3s are priced individually at most music services because people will buy the bits of an album they want. The days of being able to force the sale of a complete unit of songs, in a predetermined running order, are long gone. And I suspect what’s being said here is that there’s a belief that comics could go a bit like that. I also suspect it’s a bit of wishful thinking, hoping that waiting-for-the-trade will go away if you write technically infinite storylines that put the focus back on the individual single, and the individual single being the point of instant gratification that you load on to your tablet.

That said, if you deliberately write against collection as a method to embrace digital distribution…

…well, as I’ve said before, Archie Goodwin once told me that the only qualititative difference between superhero comics and soap operas is that superhero comics replace love scenes with fight scenes. And those shows only end when they get cancelled.

It’s an interesting discussion to have. It would even more firmly separate Marvel and DC (whom I imagine are on the way to this kind of thinking already) from, well, pretty much everybody else.

This is basically a half-baked capture of the relevant points that I’ll come back to at a later date. Have to take my daughter shopping now. For books.

Published in comics talk