I was really hoping to come up with a good comic book-centered question for Dave yesterday [well, after midnight now, so the day before yesterday] and couldn't. So naturally I'm having an online discussion about comics and God [which includes "Cerebus"] that actually gives me a question. Maybe Dave will return and address it. It's called "living in hope," people!Short version, the guy I'm having a discussion with cited "Wise Fellow Schism!" as one of his favorite moments in any comics whatsoever, but after that, thought the ending of "Cerebus" basically blew chunks. Which is his right, of course. And I personally agree that the ending of "Cerebus" wasn't good.But on a (mostly) unrelated note, the reason I don't like the ending of "Cerebus" is because so little of the ending depended on the entire series that came before. In my opinion, fiction is best when it draws together all the plots and subplots to make a strong ending. Shep-Shep and the Sphinx was excellent, but it came out of nowhere. The last few pages of "Latter Days" were really the only point in the entire series where you had to have read everything that came before to know why Cerebus didn't think New Joanne reminded him of Old Joanne.Now of course Dave wasn't trying to do a story that tied everything together, so he can't be blamed for failing at something he didn't do. But, and this is my larger point, it seems to me endemic in the comic book field, that even those creators with the largest vision to tell genuinely long, complicated stories, don't tie everything up at the end for a strong climax.Is it just the nature of the medium, that extended plots don't work that way in comics, the ones done across dozens or hundreds of issues? For my money, "Sandman," "Preacher" and "The Boys" are the only series that really succeed in this fashion. "Bone" comes close, as its arc depends on starting in a very low-key manner and gradually building the tension and conflict until the final battle. The first half of "Fables" was excellent at this and I was really hoping the conclusion would be likewise, but it wasn't even close.
Or is it intrinsic to the medium? Not too long ago, discussing "X-Men" on supermegamonkey.net [a website that aspires to put the entire Marvel Universe into chronological order] I wrote:"Very few writers in any medium whatsoever have had the success, fame and money Claremont had between 1977 and 1991. There's no way to know what his life was like in that period, or how his creative processes worked, or the effects of the business he was part of, the encounters with his fans, the paychecks, the characters he didn't like becoming extremely popular, finding out that something he'd really worked hard on had been re-written by the artist and the editor and he didn't find out until it saw print. That's why I think he was more of a go-with-the-flow sort of writer."John Byrne had to sit at his drawing board for long periods of time to make a single page, much less a scene, an issue, an on-going storyline. There's much less incentive to work on that awesome climactic full-page spread for Page 18 of #273 when you're fighting your way to make a transition work between Panels 2 and 3 of Page 4 of #261. If you do it this way, you get a good close-up of the character's face, but that won't leave enough room for the expository word balloon unless you cut the establishing shot, but if you do that the reader won't notice the change of scene, and I really wanted to use a lot of solid black on this page..."For all his epic storylines, Claremont finished very few of them, usually after he'd left as the writer, and almost never with the sense that everything had built to this. And he happened to be one of the few work-for-hire writers who could compete on that level. You don't read "Strangers in Paradise" from beginning to end and then go back to the earlier issues with renewed appreciation for scenes that may not have made perfect sense at the time, but inexorably built to a strong conclusion. [I don't know if "Echo" or "Rachel Rising" were different because I've read very few of those issues; I even have the Complete Echo and simply can't get into it.]Even in "Cerebus," in the Cerebus/Dave conversation in "Minds," as Dave tells Cerebus what led him to this point, there's nothing that we can look back at earlier issues to say 'oh, that's what he was building up to.' Is it a failure of the creators, a failing of the medium given how time-intensive it is, or (entirely possible) a failure of mine to look for strong extended plotlines where they can't exist?ChrisW [divided into two parts because of a character-limitation]
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