Thursday, May 23, 2013
And the Beat Goes On
The month of May is wrapping up, and so are most TV series that started in the fall. Some of them ended on cliffhangers. Some of them won’t be back. Sorry, people. Shows get cancelled. That’s how TV works.
Luckily for us fans of SF TV, cancellation (like death on some of these shows) doesn’t necessarily mean the end. Some series find new life in the medium of comic books.
I’m not talking about the tie-in series that appear at your local comic book shop while the show is still on the air. I’m talking about actual continuations of the show’s themes, characters and storylines, picking up where the cancelled show left off. The stories are considered canon; this is how the story would have continued if it hadn’t ended on TV.
I don’t know what the first “continuation comic” was, but the first one I became aware of was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There had been Buffy comics since the series went off the air, but this one was touted as different. This would be “Buffy Season 8,” an authorized continuation of the show, under the supervision of Buffy creator Joss Whedon. Mr. Whedon even wrote the first story arc himself.
That’s another difference between these books and your usual tie-in comic: participation by people involved in the show, from the creator to writers and sometimes the actors (Amber Benson has written Buffy comics). Joss Whedon’s title on the Buffy book is “executive producer.”
The result is we, the fans, don’t have to say good-bye to our favorite show. We get what would have been additional seasons, without the hassle of budgetary restraints, backstage politics, interfering executives and stars getting older. Buffy Season 8 got pretty cosmic, with SFX that would have blown a TV show’s budget. But this was a comic book. When it comes to SFX, you can do anything on paper.
Another great thing about comic book versions is that different rights are involved. When DC started publishing Smallville Season 11, they were finally able to bring Batman to Metropolis, something they couldn’t do on the show because the film rights to the Dark Knight were tied up elsewhere. So what if he didn’t look like Christian Bale? This was a different version of the character, just like the Clark in this comic is a different take on Superman. One that has enough fans to justify a comic book continuation, obviously.
Why this mini-rise in prolonging the life of cancelled TV shows? For money, obviously. These companies are in business to make a buck. These books are a marketing strategy. DC is owned by Time-Warner, which produced Smallville. Over at Marvel, they’ll be publishing a Once Upon A Time graphic novel later this year (both Marvel and OUAT are owned/produced by Disney).
But it isn’t all about the money. Dark Horse, which publishes Buffy, doesn’t own a piece of the property. I’m not sure whose idea it was to stop simply putting out generic Buffy books and actually continue the TV show in comic book form. It might have been Joss Whedon. I’m sure he’s as fond of his “offspring” as any other writer, and isn’t finished telling stories about them. I’m fond of his “offspring” too, and so are a lot of other people, so everybody benefits. The ride doesn’t have to end just because the show went off the air. We can coast along for another couple of seasons, and get the stories the creators would have brought us if the idiot network brass hadn’t axed our favorite show.
I’m not sure how many “continuations” are out there right now. Buffy Season 9, and its spinoff series Angel and Faith, are currently wrapping up, with Season 10 in the works. Along with Smallville, DC’s also publishing a comic book version of Arrow. Arrow is more a concurrent tie-in series, with stories supposedly taking place between episodes. Same for the Grimm comic, also produced with input from its series creators. The current arc is exploring a subplot left dangling from last season.
It’s a new method of expanded multimedia storytelling, extending the life of our faves. I don’t mind a little extra Buffy. It’s kind of like bonus episodes. Best of all, there are no commercials. Almost makes me hope other shows I watch would get cancelled so I can enjoy further stories about my favorites without commercial interruption. Even though I’m sure Hell’s Kitchen—the Comic Book just wouldn’t be the same …