Spider-Man vs. Spider-Man

I went with a more traditional infographic, mainly because I wanted to see how these two series compared in sales. I chose September because it was the first month tracking sales of Ultimate Spider-Man. It is also one of the few months where both series were published throughout the time frame, with limited ‘landmark’ issues. There were spikes in sales for Ultimate Spider-Man in 2006 because of issue 100, and 2011 for the introduction of Miles Morales. The Amazing Spider-Man saw spikes in 2006 and 2007 for the Civil War and One More Day storylines.



Second Life: Television Finales Are Not the End

The end of the television series does not mean the end of the story. Recently the trend is to continue shows as comics. Television series are often costly, but comics can be made for a fraction of the cost. This allows for a wider range of stories to be told.

The poster children for the comic book continuation are Buffy and Angel. Both were popular shows, but had run their course, not to mention required higher budgets. What makes these cases unique to others is the comics are still considered seasons, each consisting of 25-40 issues. Angel only had one, Season Six, to wrap up the many loose plot points. This is, in part, because it was published by IDW, while Buffy was published by Dark Horse. When  acquired by Dark Horse, Angel was incorporated into the Buffy seasons as Angel and Faith.

Which leads to Buffy Season Eight. This was not a great season, being quickly overwhelmed by the amount of characters, or the slayer army introduced at the end of the television series. Where it did succeed was in the scope of stories. No longer were there limits on what monsters could be presented, or stories told because of budgets. The writers and artists visions were fully realized.

Season Nine was fantastic. It returned to its roots and focused on a select number of characters. Where Season Eight showed the crazy monsters allowed in comics, Season Nine took a simplistic approach, addressing the issue of a world without magic. Now the characters were the stars, allowing for development and showing another strength of the comic medium. Not all stories need to be grand.

Dark Horse has allowed other television shows to live on. One of my favorites is Avatar: The Last Airbender. It does not follow the season format, but contains mini-arcs continuing the television series. We see how Aang grows into the role of Avatar, Zuko’s search for his mother, and Toph forming the metal bending school. Unfortunately, some of these stories are predictable since there is a television sequel, The Legend of Korra, but are still enjoyable. The Legend of Korra will also be getting a highly aniticipated comic book sequel, picking up where the television series left off.

Buffy and the Avatar comics are interesting examples for one was a live action show and the other was animated. Reading Avatar is sometimes weird, because it is drawn in the same style as the television series. Being used to seeing the characters and locations animated sometimes makes it hard to fully enjoy the comic series. Buffy is the opposite, and became significantly different when converted to comics, getting a unique feel and gaining an identity separate from the television series. I read Avatar and wonder, why aren’t the images moving?

What’s in a Name?

When someone talks about Fox’s Last Man on Earth, I automatically wonder, Where is the Y?

Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan is a critically acclaimed graphic novel. The premise, all animals with the Y chromosome have died, save for one man and his pet monkey.

The title is fascinating. It is simple, and can have multiple meanings, none of which have been confirmed by Vaughan. The title makes you think, with different interpretations adding more depth.

Y is for Y chromosome.

This one is fairly straightforward. The Y chromosome has all but disappeared from Earth. Women are left in charge, attempting to make sense of the genetic genocide. Some want to figure out what happened and fix it; others want to let the human race die out. They actively seek out the title character, Yorick, to kill him. This quest to either save or destroy the human race is the driving plot of the series.

Y is for Yorick.

Yorick is the main character, named for a Shakespearean character in Hamlet. You may know him as the jester who is exhumed from his grave.

“Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio; a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy; he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is! My gorge rises at it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. Where be your gibes now? Your gambols? Your songs? Your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the table on a roar?” (Hamlet, V.i)

Poor Yorick only gets eight sentences to his name in Hamlet. Aside from the Y connection, why would Vaughan pick an obscure Shakespearian name? Granted, there are not many other characters in Shakespeare’s plays that have names starting with Y. The plays are important to the story, as Yorick’s sister, Hero, is named for the character from Much Ado About Nothing. There are other references throughout the series.

The name is poetic. Yorick in the play represents the morality of man and how death claims us all. He is the character not allowed to be seen, only his dirty skull. Yorick in the graphic novel was not claimed by death, while everyone else of his gender was. He is the exception to death claims us all, and is seeking to create life. He travels the United States to find scientists, to understand why he survived and maybe find a cure. The man who should have symbolized death becomes hope, promising future life.

Y is for whY.

Whenever I read the title, it becomes Why the Last Man? Why is Yorick the only survivor? Why did this happen? It may just be the brain not used to reading single letters in sentences, human nature to turn things into questions, or our need for answers and understanding.

The maddening thing is we never really find out why he is the last man. Sixty issues are spent following Yorick as he tries to understand the new world, and why he was spared. Some explanations are given, but none are definitive. We are left always asking why? The why isn’t important to the story, for focus is on the characters and not the event. No destination means we follow only the journey.

Y is for anYthing.

Y can be anything. It could be yes, affirming Yorick is indeed the last man. In some cultures Y means peace, questioning whether the world is better with almost no men. A little stretch, but the letter looks like a barren tree, symbolizing death and the possibility of rebirth. One letter can have many different meanings.

Maybe it is one of the above mentioned, maybe it is all, or maybe it is none. Without Vaughan confirming there is no way to know. Each reader picks their own meaning.

I will always ask, why the last man?

Endings are a Privilege

There’s no sound but the turning of the page.

Flip. Flip. Flip. Flip.

The speed intensifies only to slow. The distinct sound grows quieter. That stubborn page slightly stuck to the back cover is all that remains. The page hardly makes a sound as it turns. None are to follow as the back cover quickly snaps shut, closing a series.

There is sadness and satisfaction when a series ends. No one wants to say good-bye to a series they enjoy. Every month the nerd runs to the comic book store to pick up the latest issue of their favorite series, or if you are like me every few months when the trade paperback comes out. The same happens across all media. Fans eagerly awaited the next Harry Potter book, and movies were once in a golden age of midnight shows. They always want more, so when it ends it feels like something is lost.

Endings are a rarity in comics. While despised they are equally welcomed. These series tend to have one writer, one voice who guides the entire story. There are no retcons, nor gimmicks to increase sales. A good series is given the privilege of ending. The critically acclaimed Fables saw its final issue this summer. Sales were high and the series was popular, but the writer, Bill Willingham, felt it was time to end. He told his story and I applaud a writer who knows when a story is done.

I have been fortunate to enjoy a number of endings. The most recent was The Unwritten by Mike Carey and Peter Gross. The story is not important, only that it ended and unexpectedly. Carey places numerous twists and turns in this final volume and by the time you reach the end you know It had to be like this. You may not be happy with it, but often the best endings create that feeling.

Definitive conclusions are often demanded in finales and there is anger when there isn’t one. The outrage at The Soprano’s finale is one example. The genuis here is it allowed everyone to finish the story how they wanted. The Unwritten ends in a similar fashion. Story points are wrapped up but that sneaky last page does not allow the story to end. Instead it opens the possibility for more that you know are not coming.

Another of Carey’s series, Lucifer, ends in a similar way. The final panel promises a new journey but there is none. It becomes our job to figure out how the story will continue, through fan-fiction or our own private endings. I love a happy ending and always imagine these open-ended stories heading that way. (Note: Vertigo just announced a new Lucifer series at SDCC. Takes place in the same universe, but is a reboot to tie into Fox’s forthcoming television series. The original run remains concluded.)

The danger of open endings is giving readers the power of the writer. Not all stories lead to a happy ending. That’s why I also appreciate the endings of The Sandman, Watchmen, and Death Note. Plot points are wrapped up but leave room for possible sequels, though not required. Death Note is a favorite of mine since there is no happy ending. There is no option to create one in your mind, preserving the writers’ vision.