|Lame endings for web comics
||[Jan. 8th, 2009|09:51 am]
This is a topic that I E-mailed to my self, intending to save it for the weekend. However we've had a heatwave in New South Wales (poor Batty must be cooked out there in the west) and I'm trying to cheer myself up. The weather has finally cooled down today, and I just need to boost my spirits in order to survive the next few hours in the office.
LAME ENDINGS FOR WEB COMICS
2008 has been a year in which several long-running web comics have ended, or have been announced as ending. On the one hand I can see an author (DC Simpson) who spent much time working to achieve an ending worthy of the reputation that the comic has earned over the years, while elsewhere I can think of at least THREE where the endings were IMHO rather lame; insubstantial and lacking a proper sense of closure, or just cut short. Not naming any names, but one of these three web comics was linked to the Cross Time Café (the origin of a certain character).
(FYI - for my own web comic, I'd like the story to continue even after I die… or become too infirm or senile to continue writing. I can only hope I'll find people with the talent and devotion to continue my work).
Now being an especially story-driven reader and writer, I'm keen to hear opinions on the matter of how important everyone regards endings to web comics. One humble request: if you provide examples please only mention the name(s) of either the web comic or author for the positive comments. For negative comments just hint at which web comic is concerned.
Q1: How much do you appreciate when a web comic author properly ties up all the loose ends in a comic? (Personally I regard killing off characters as a very lazy means to this end).
Q2: Do you prefer comics where the author gives a clear impression that there would be an "off camera" continuity for the comic? (A good example is Calvin & Hobbes).
Q3: How much do you enjoy grand and awe-inspiring endings to a web comic?
Q4: If an author gave an abrupt or dissatisfying ending to a web comic in order to commence a whole new comic, would this make you less likely to begin reading the replacement comic?
Q5: Does receiving a non-ending to a web comic make you feel that the author has been disloyal or disrespectful to their audience? (Unplanned ending, deliberately ambiguous, non-canon ending, recursive, plagiarised etc).
1. Well, it depends on the loose ends. O&M had some factors vaguely unresolved, in the sense that things could go further (Avery and Felicia could reach kissing terms, for example), but I don't feel like we were left hanging. You're right that killing is usually lazy; it's also downright rude to readers who actually care. (Sentencing the protagonists of "Seinfeld" to a year in prison was only slightly better.)
2. I don't have a strong preference. The ending of "Opus" was pretty sweet, and it gave the impression there's nothing more worth seeing of the title character. C&H was fine because it managed a note that sounded conclusive as well as continuous. I might prefer endings that look like the beginning of a new chapter, tho without a cliffhanger. What I certainly don't like are endings that look like just another installment, as if the author lost so much interested he couldn't be bothered with a real ending. (TV shows usually do this, but I don't mind that as much when they're not sagas, because I don't feel a need to watch every episode in order.)
3. I'm not sure I've ever seen a grand or awe-inspiring ending to any comic, online or off. The closest I can think of is the uniquely paired final cartoons of "The Far Side," in which Gary Larson appears waking from a dream a la Dorothy Gale. If you mean that it culminates in a huge spectacle, well, that could be taken as a declaration that it's jumped the shark anyway.
4. That may depend on how I myself was feeling about the ending comic as well as the starting comic. When RHJunior dropped "Hard Onions" to make way for "Fellowship of Heroes," nobody really minded; nor does anyone now, for FoH is more fun than HO ever was. But if D.C. Simpson had completely ended O&M in the middle of, say, the March storyline, I might avoid her next project out of contempt, as well as doubt that she really cared about that one either. Care means a lot to me, even in farcical contexts.
5. I try not to feel betrayed when that happens. The comic is a part of the cartoonist's life more than anyone else's. They put a lot into it and usually get little in return besides the satisfaction of having made it. They should be free to stop at any moment with as little effort as they please. More effort is just a bonus for the readers. But plagiarism is very bad in any context.
I'm more concerned about when a comic "ends" briefly and then returns with the same title and characters but a different mood. "Newshounds" and "Zortic" come to mind. I came looking for antics, not a soap opera.
Aha! A fully-worded response to my LJ entry! :) This deserves a meaningful reply. I'm getting ready to leave for Fox Valley just at the mo. I'll reply in full when I return this afternoon. SJC
1. It did indeed seem that Avery and Felicia were heading into a story arc, which abruptly vanished. For myself I found that the spotlight became narrowed on the main characters. Felicia was there toward the end, but in a story arc focussing on her (failed) intention to make herself popular in the goth culture. Avery and Tumulty made only rare appearances, Stephan made one last cameo after a long absence, and Jeremy appears to have vanished altogether. Certainly we (the audience) are left with the desire to see further opportunities explored for the characters, but I don't think there are any especially glaring loose ends flapping in the breeze (the weather is unusually pleasant right now and I'm in metaphor mode :) ).
2. Opus I've seen mentioned here and there, but I never actually read any of his stories. After your post I looked him up in Wiki and read the ending to his tale. Sounds rather sureal and wierd to me. With regard to the other comments you've made for Q2, I couldn't agree more.
3. To clarify "grand" or "awe inspiring." If the author has taken time to draw an especially good illustration for the ending episodes I would label that "grand." Best example to hand are the cast line-ups in Fur Will Fly. If the author has gone beyond that to produce an outstanding illustration, and/or finished up with a particularly thought-provoking story, I'd describe that as "awe inspiring." O&M's ending I would merely describe as "comfortable." Unfortunately at present I don't have any prime examples of an awe inspiring ending. My brother has my entire collection of comics from the 70's and 80's (I can only hope...)
4. Yes, I'm in accordance with that as well.
5. When I view a web comic I try to take into account what I know about the comic (albeit some of it psychoanalysis guess work). If it's quite clear that they are making an effort in spite of their lack of training or natural talent then I'll grant them that if they're unable to provide their audience with a big send-off. If on the other hand they've demonstrated ample talent, and had maintained regular updates for a good length of time, then to me they have no excuse for an abrupt ending unless they state on their forum, or in the comic itself, that a change in their personal life has brought about the abrupt ending. I know Mark Stanley's family has endured some misfortunes in recent years and I find it incredible that he's rarely been even late with an episode. If Freefall were to go into an unnanounced hiatus I would automatically know there's a perfectly good reason, and I wouldn't feel betrayed about it.
Continuing Q5, authors of web comics have different reasons for creating them. For some it's merely to show off, others are about telling a story. The former receive their rewards in the form of positive feedback from their audience, and if they abandon their audience by cutting the comic short then I regard that as betrayal.
Lastly, yes I agree that it's not good form to radically alter the format of a comic merely because the author's tastes have changed. It's worse still when a comic is shared between artists and one hijacks the comic.