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 …


Savanna Kougar said...

Hey, Pat, good points about continuing the season with a Buffy graphic novel. Is it a graphic novel? At least, that's what I heard it called way back at the time.

Yeah, dumping the commercials would be grand. I have to admit I like action scenes on screen, though.

Apologies for the late visit. Like I said at SS, I only got a couple of hours of sleep... crashed for another couple this afternoon... and the mind fog finally lifted.

Loved this post. I always learn so much from you.

Serena Shay said...

Okay, wow...I didn't realize some of these graphic novels were actually continuations to the show. I'll have to look into the Buffy one for Darling Diva. She loved that show, but I'm best make sure the GN is appropriate for her age.

It's funny, I started reading romance novels at about the age she is now and yes there was sex in them, but just not the same. I just finished a BDSM novel and honestly, I can't imagine what I would have thought of it at 13.

I've seem some GN that are the same - sexy, but more. LKH's Anita Blake has a GN, I can picture that baby! Drool worthy and a must get for me at some point, but 13 appropriate...probably not! ;)

I bet down the road we see a Supernatural one...if it's not out now. That would be a must buy for me as well...Yum!

Pat C. said...

Clarification: these are indeed monthly comic books, but storytelling and marketing has changed since around the 1970s or so. After a story arc wraps up (about 4-6 issues) the issues are collected in a trade paperback for resale in bookstores. These are the "graphic novels" people talk about. There are also graphic novels that are a single original story and never appeared in monthly installments. The Once Upon a Time GN is going to be one of those.

There already are a couple Supernatural GNs out there, collections of miniseries. They all take place before the series starts -- when the boys were kids, John was still around, Sam was in college, etc. In short, no Castiel. Maybe they did it that way to avoid conflicts with the series.

If I were you, I'd preview Buffy Season 8. There's one issue toward the end where Buffy and (name withheld to prevent spoilers) get nekkid and do the Tube Snake Boogie for practically the whole issue. You can't really see anything, but it's obvious what's going on. So far Season 9 hasn't had any onstage sex.

I also think the Angel and Faith series is even better than the Buffy series, and I wasn't even that wild about either of those characters on TV. (Name once again withheld) got killed at the end of Season 8, and Angel's trying to bring him back. But is that really such a good idea?

Savanna Kougar said...

GN interesting. I suppose I'd have to buy the Buffy gets nekkid comic to see how the heck they picture that without the obvious.

I liked Angel even more in his series, and yeah, I liked Faith too. Lot a huzpah, that girl.

Pat C. said...

It's done with long shots, extreme close-ups of faces, strategically extended limbs, artfully-cast shadows, objects in the foreground, etc. Like a soft-core porn movie, but even cleaner. You actually see more body parts in superhero comics (those costumes are skintight, remember).

Ever notice how whenever a woman in a comic book gets naked, her hair automatically grows at least a foot?

Savanna Kougar said...

Pat, I'm sadly lacking in the comic book arena. When I was a kiddo I got burned out on Archie comic books that I was given for free.

I voraciously read horse books, novels and non-fiction, and other fiction.non-fiction books. Until my sister gave me one of those early romance novellas. Then it was off to the romance-novel races.

Thanks for the info. That makes total sense to me now. Of course, your hair always grows a foot when in engaged in physical pleasures... ~grins~

Pat C. said...

Gotta keep those titties covered. It's the same with Red Sonja's armor. The only thing that's protecting is the comic book company from outraged parents.

Savanna Kougar said...

Yeah, outraged parents are to be feared if you're a comic book company selling to kids.