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Bugs: Recent Topics Paging, Uploading Images & Preview (11 Dec 2020)

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Continuity in Comics

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23 Sep 2013 01:06 #161582 by Jason Lutes

Legomancer wrote: Look back at the X-Files, which also contributed heavily to this trend. What do you remember, single-shot Monster of the Week episodes, or that ridiculous "mytharc" that ultimately just ran in circles until it imploded. How many modern-day shows gave a promise that the "central mystery" was going somewhere, only to eventually shrug and admit they were just making it up as they went? Few shows do this well and yet it's all the rage.

This approach has been used throughout the history of serialized narrative. Most of Charles Dickens' stuff was written that way. It's not the form that makes the story shitty, it's the writers.

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23 Sep 2013 13:15 #161618 by Legomancer
Replied by Legomancer on topic Re: Continuity in Comics

Jason Lutes wrote: This approach has been used throughout the history of serialized narrative. Most of Charles Dickens' stuff was written that way. It's not the form that makes the story shitty, it's the writers.


If Dickens is writing Doctor Who or Superman, I'll give him a pass. Stephen Moffat ain't no Charles Dickens.

You're right, the point I was trying to make is that it's a difficult thing to do well, and yet so many shows want to do it, because it's seen as advanced and more mature storytelling. Which it CAN be, but usually isn't.

Also, and again, this ties into continuity, this is part of the Milhousian concept of, "you should win stuff for watching". Continuity and long-ass multiple episode storylines make fans feel like they're getting a special prize for paying attention for so long. It doesn't matter if the prize is crappy or if it turns off casual viewers/readers, just that the the guy who bought 50 issues got a perk, so hopefully he'll buy 50 more. It's a sort of fan-pandering, and I've long felt that if you really want to make some property go south fast, start listening to the fans.

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23 Sep 2013 16:08 #161629 by Jason Lutes

Legomancer wrote: Continuity and long-ass multiple episode storylines make fans feel like they're getting a special prize for paying attention for so long. It doesn't matter if the prize is crappy or if it turns off casual viewers/readers, just that the the guy who bought 50 issues got a perk, so hopefully he'll buy 50 more. It's a sort of fan-pandering, and I've long felt that if you really want to make some property go south fast, start listening to the fans.

Can't argue with that.

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23 Sep 2013 16:29 #161634 by Michael Barnes
Dave is bringing up an interesting issue...this whole idea that information (the "prize") is withheld from the viewer/reader either wilfully to string them along into the next issue/episode or because the writers haven't written it yet (see Lost).

This really kind of started with Twin Peaks, which is IMO probably the most influential TV show of the past 25 years. All the folks writing X-Files, Lost, and any number of shows on the air came up watching Twin Peaks. And Twin Peaks did that whole withholding information to keep you watching thing. It worked there because a) it's David Lynch and he does that anyway and b) because it created a certain atmosphere of mystery and obscurity. Now, every damn show has a cliffhanger where somebody sees a banana with the number 38 drawn on it in sharpie so that the watercooler will be abuzz the next day with "what did that banana mean?" and of course the internet lights up with theories and conjecture i.e. word of mouth marketing.

X-Files was absolutely its best with the "monster of the week" episodes, I can rattle off a list of ten or fifteen top episodes that were all one-offs. Fluke man, "Home", Toombs, Dark Matter, The Field Where I Died...but I would have a hard time explaining the show's idiotic, convoluted mythology because it existed solely to string the viewer along- not to tell a particularly compelling story.

Now, shows just won't tell you a character's background or something to make an artificial mystery...so that 30 episodes later, there'a reveal. That's another Twin Peaks thing. But there again, in Twin Peaks it worked. In Lost, it's just lame. Battlestar Galactica did a lot of this too.

So I do agree with some of the negative comments about serial narratives here, but I do think with comics in particular it's very traditional, going to newspaper strips and everything too. And it is possible to leverage continuity for certain advantages (see again, Grant Morrison) but by and large I think everyone here would agree that we all like contained story arcs over extended, continuity-laden "eras".

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23 Sep 2013 17:25 #161645 by DukeofChutney
i don't read enough serial comics to really chim in, but on the subject of TV shows this is something i've been thinking about a lot recently. Interesting to know it started, or was popularised by Twin Peaks (haven't seen it, but know what it is). I stopped watching lost after 4th season after deciding that was fundamentally no overall plot, just a series of bait and switches written to lure the audience to keep watching. A mystery would be generated with no intention of resolution or real meaning other than to keep the flame of the unknown burning a little longer. This is lazy writing. BSG did come to depend on it more and more too, but fortunately the underlying characters and some of the 3 episode plot arcs held the show up where the overall narrative failed.

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24 Sep 2013 01:12 #161692 by Shellhead
Replied by Shellhead on topic Re: Continuity in Comics
The artificial suspense thing works better when the writer(s) has planned it out in advance and plays fairly. It works very badly in shows like Lost and BSG where the writers didn't have a clue in advance and wanted to keep their options open. Then they wrote themselves into corners where the answers ended up being stupid or meaningless. Same with the X-Files. You can pretty much tell after a certain point that Carter was just making shit up and couldn't be bothered to keep things consistent.

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24 Sep 2013 03:34 #161708 by Sevej
Replied by Sevej on topic Re: Continuity in Comics
Lol, Dragonball is only 42 volumes, but yeah, each is like 180 pages.

One of my favorite manga, Battle Angel Alita/Gunnm, is just 9 volumes (of 180 pages). It's a great one, with each volume being a complete story.

(then the story got expanded in Last Order, while I still like it, getting a little crazy)

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