“Don't worry, Bart. It seems like every week something odd happens to the Simpsons. My advice is to ride it out, make an occasional smart-aleck quip, and by next week, we'll be back to where we started from, ready for another wacky adventure. ”
In most series fiction, the status quo rules. By the end of each episode, or occasionally the two-parter or mini-arc, things will return to the normal setup of the series. Even if there's been some upheaval, enough time will pass “offscreen” to allow a return to the basic setup.
This doesn't apply to ALL fiction, of course. Not even close. But the majority of longer-running series on TV or in mainstream comics will have a basically static situation.
I've been looking at some of the old, old, OLD series of comics called Li'l Abner, a newspaper strip that ran for over 40 years, from the 1930's to the 1970's.
It was a comedy strip about hillbillies starring the strong (and dumb-) as an ox Li'l Abner, and the beautiful Daisy Mae. For over twenty years she pursued him and he resisted her marital desires. But then the two married in 1952 (um…spoiler alert…?). I read somewhere that when someone commented that creator Al Capp had ruined the central tension of his strip, the fiery-tempered cartoonist blasted the critic viciously.
It's hard not to see the critic's point - although the strip ran for another 25 years, so I guess things went along fine!
A somewhat more recent changing of a series' status quo happened in Moonlighting, when the will they/won't they, firecracker-dialogue couple of Private Detectives got together in about season 3 (I think). The show went from a witty, back-and-forth snappy dialogue-heavy comedy action show to this maudlin, depressing thing as the characters spent many episodes on end sharing no scenes together and working out their complicated feelings for each other.
It might have been a realistic way to approach this kind of situation, but it derailed the show completely.
I've wandered off topic here - the point is that series will have a certain set of limitations on what it's about, what the characters are about, and what the essence of the series is. Even shows with rotating casts have this - The Walking Dead is about surviving and rebuilding the world, and fighting zombies and other groups of survivors.
The X-Men is about superpowered mutants who are heroic warriors who protect humanity but are also hated by humanity.
Sometimes, it's the CHARACTERS who people are tuning in to see. A complete change of circumstance can be a good thing - Archie had massive success with the zombie apocalypse series “Afterlife with Archie”.
Of course, web comics do not have this responsibility to maintain this kind of thing, and probably violate it often, since they're controlled by one or just a couple people. But if it goes too much off course in the wrong ways, readers can still end up confused and tuning out if they don't know what the series IS.
What do you think? Are there particular characters or circumstances that must be kept for your comic to still be your comic? Have you ever abandoned a series that lost its focus? Or have you stuck with them? What are the biggest changes you've seen a series pull?
Have a fine day, status-quo or no!
Banes at 12:00AM, April 4, 2019
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