With recent rumours surfacing that Marvel may be rebooting their continuity next May, it got me thinking about finales and endings in comics. If the rumours turn out to be true, the reboot will come as a climax to Jonathan Hickmans recent storyline in both Avengers and New Avengers (A quick summation of the storyline: earths from multiple dimensions are crashing into each other, sometimes killing both worlds in question. Tony Stark and his illuminati have been trying to find ways to prevent these ‘incursions’, but the price to do so is the cost of killing worlds. It’s a really good storyline and worth checking out).
The word ‘reboot’ often agitates and upsets comic fans, because it means a lot of the story lines that they’ve read and loved are going to be swept under the rug and forgotten about in place for a new and improved time line.
DC have rebooted several times, most recently with their New 52 launch. The New 52 was an initiative that saw the launch of 52 new number 1s in the space of 1 month. Nearly every character had their history rebooted, save for Batman and Green Lantern. The initiative saw a boost in sales and fandom, and got people excited about comics again. And as someone who is mainly a Marvel reader, it got me picking up DC comic books.
But Marvel aren’t prone to rebooting their universe. They’re very faithful to their history and continuity, because they know it’s part of what the fans love about Marvel.
Instead though, Marvel are prone to having multiple ‘series finale’ and ‘relaunches’ a year. More so recently, with their Marvel Now and then their All New Marvel Now initiatives, instead of relaunching the majority of books in one month, they spread them out throughout the year. However, none of these relaunches saw a significant reboot or retcon to any continuity or history.
I have several Marvel comics in my collection that have the words ‘series finale’ on the cover. I seem to always fall victim to them. I think it’s because super hero comics never end, but these ‘series finales’ give readers a sense of closure.
When I say they don’t end, I don’t fully mean in a literal sense. I mean more that these are comics that have been published for over 50 years (75 years in the case of some DC titles), and they show no signs of stopping. I think what the series finale does is it allows story lines to end and new ones to begin, giving readers a chance to either stay on for the next part of the storyline, or jump off because they feel like they’ve read enough and they’re satisfied with the ending.
Super hero comics have a soap opera feel to them. For people in the UK, they’re like the Coronation Street of publishing. For people in the US, they’re sort like Doctor Who.
These are both TV shows that have a long history to them, and what makes them able to continue is that story lines will end and then new ones will begin. I’ll be honest – it’s probably been a couple of decades since I’ve actually watched Coronation Street, but what it does is it’ll have a couple of story lines ongoing at one time, and as one or two of them come to a close, a new one will start to begin. The story lines will end, but the characters will live on in the street, and maybe have supporting roles in other storylines. In the case of Doctor Who, that sense of closure is offered every time the Doctor regenerates and changes his appearance. This was done best with David Tennant, as he said goodbye to all his former companions, and it was also the head writers final episode. Then Matt Smith would come along and start his own adventures.
Marvel comics are the same. I think it’d be foolish to say it’s to make them closer to real life, because what’s great about comic books in general is them offering escapism from real life. But it’s this idea of closure and you being able to walk away if you want to.
It’s also not just Marvel Comics. Look at Grant Morrisons recent run on Batman over at DC. It was so long running and complex that it was part of the reason why Batman never had a hard retcon at the beginning of The New 52. Morrison had already spent several years on his story and it wasn’t done in time for the New 52. But he did get to finish his story. DC relaunched Batman Incorporated into a second volume, which turned out to be the finale of his run. It ran about 12 issues and when it was done, DC did away with the title. The ending to the run (and this is a major spoiler, so maybe skip down a bit if you don’t want to know) was the death of Damian Wayne, the son of Bruce Wayne. But that was just the ending to Morrisons run, not the end to Batman as a character. Other writers were allowed to deal with the aftermath of Robins death (DC had a banner called Requiem on all the Batman books the month after).
As a reader, and someone who does like that sense of ending to a storyline, I like the appeal of the series finale, which is why I have so many. I want comic book story lines to come to a point were I can look at them and go ‘okay, this is it’. I know they’re often done as a marketing ploy to make people think they have more collectibility, but if you’ve been reading a series for a while and you’ve dedicated time to it, you want that feeling that it was worth it.
When it comes to stories, we need endings. As readers and viewers of television. When we watch movies. Even when we listen to songs. That’s what makes them different from real life. But comics have to go on. The longer characters like Batman, Superman and Spider-man last, the more they have a lasting mark.