Friends With Boys - Page 95

That one kid playing the zombie is wearing his “Eat Flesh” t-shirt. Total method actor. Work it, boyyy.

I wanted to talk a bit today about story endings. Because endings are awesome, and I think they don’t quite get enough credit for creating a satisfying reading/watching/media consuming experience.

Click on the link below to read a massive rambling about Fullmetal Alchemist (no spoilers!) and the importance of endings (hm, kinda sounds like a new Harry Potter book).

Endings have been on my mind a lot lately because one of my absolute favourite manga series, Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa ended recently, and finally FINALLY I got my paws on a copy of the final volume, and bawled my way through it. Seriously. I wept. Real tears. Sobbed like a baby at certain parts, which was really unexpected. I’ve cried at the occasional movie, but movies make it easy to cry, with the swelling music and doe-eyed actors and emotional manipulation and such. Comics are a different beast. Until this point, the only comics I’d had an overwhelming emotional reaction to (other than “that was good! I would read more of that”) were Bone (where I saw the artistic possiblities of comics for the first time and it really startled me) and Monster by Naoki Urasawa (I really really wanted the main character to shoot the main villain in the head and be done with him. Bloodthirsty, I know, but DIE ALREADY). FMA volume 27 blew ‘em all away.

So let’s begin a spoiler free (the single final volume of FMA is not yet out, but this giant box set, with the last volume is, so that’s how I was able to read it. Thank you, my dear friend Lissa, for purchasing the box set so I could read the finale early!) rambling about Fullmetal Alchemist and the importance of Ending the crap out of something good to make it great.

So Fullmetal Alchemist. I started reading FMA about a year ago. My parents (while visiting me) had won used copies of volumes 2-22 in a raffle at my awesome local comic shop, Strange Adventures (I won nuthin’! Dammit) and took them back to my brothers, who they figured would enjoy them. I visited my folks that Christmas and started reading the volumes. To be blunt, volumes 1-3 of FMA are not particularly special. They’re fine, well drawn and Hiromu Arakawa does a decent job of setting up the FMA world and its various magical systems, but it’s pretty standard Shonen (young boys’ comics) stuff. Volume 4, however, made it plain Fullmetal Alchemist was playing for keeps, killing off a main character in a shockingly blunt way. It was a death that had a huge ripple effect throughout the series, not because it was a heroic death, but because it was so casual. A main character died simply because he got in the way of evil characters, offed so quickly other characters didn’t even find out he was dead for several volumes more. It was really striking, good stuff. I was hooked. I consumed volumes more of the series, reading faster and faster, shocked at how caught up I became.

Let me put it this way: I love Naoki Urasawa and Jeff Smith, but I never felt as consumed by their work as I did Fullmetal Alchemist. For a certain period when I was reading the late teen to early 20′s volumes I could think of nothing else, and read them obsessively. It was weird. I wasn’t used to be so balls-out crazypants for a manga series. Especially as I was, well, y’know, an adult, and while nerdy, I hadn’t been passionately nerdy for something since … god, Star Trek: TNG, I guess (I had a mad crush on Data. Anatomically correct android!).
 And it meant a lot to me that the series was written and drawn by a woman. I am sometimes bothered by the fact that so few of my artistic heroes are women, especially comic drawing women. I very much enjoy the work of many female cartoonists, but they all tend to be about my age or younger, so I consider them more peers than artistic heroes. Arakawa was not only older than I am, but damn prolific, and she’d written and drawn a series that had many of the things I craved to put in my own comics: action, adventure, magic, limbs getting lost, brotherly love (I actually really enjoy stories about male relationships, especially brother relationships. Readers of my old webcomic Demonology 101 will recognize that), and KICKASS LADIES. Oh man, the ladies of Fullmetal Alchemist. THE LADIES! Strong and tough and funny and sweet and NEVER VICTIMS and every inch equals to the men in their lives (Roy Mustang and Riza Hawkeye’s respectful and deeply loving relationship just makes my heart ache), the ladies of Fullmetal Alchemist were my wildest dreams come true. It didn’t matter to me that they weren’t the main characters of the manga, because they never played second fiddle. They were their own characters with their own lives, not written to stand around and “support” the male characters. While I do care about having main female characters in media, I’m perfectly fine with main male characters as long as there are female characters who are CHARACTERS, not props for the male character’s journey.
So for 26 volumes I followed FMA, living and dying on the page with these characters. It is the only manga I have ever read that is the perfect length. Even my adored Urasawa pads his comics, and could use an editor every now and then. Fullmetal Alchemist … I would not cut a page. It is just right. And it ends well. You could actually say it had been ending for about 5 volumes, as the characters started organizing to take down the final Big Bad at about volume  22 (not sure exactly, currently my later volumes are on loan to a friend so I can’t check), which lead to a showdown so intense … well, you’ll just have to read it to find out. But suffice to say, it ends well. Characters get endings which feel right, if not always perfect. Not everything is fixed in the end, but it gets fixed enough. And that is enough for the reader.
This could be a post about how sad I am that Fullmetal Alchemist is over. No more volumes to look forward to with a fluttery feeling in my stomach, no more spending hours with Ed and Al and Roy and Winry and the rest of the gang … but I’m not sad. I’m glad. I’m glad it ended, and that it ended well is extra icing on the cake. Hey, all good things come to an end, and I think the fact that they end makes them good. I remember reading superhero comics when I was a teenager, and being really excited about them. They were new to me (previous to this, I had only read Tintin and some Bible comics), and I loved the dynamic artwork and some of the characters (like Rogue, Wolverine and Marrow, yes, I was into X-Men) I could really identify with. I read and read the comics, caught up in the story lines and character drama –

– and then I realized: the stories never ended.

Maybe that sounds awesome to you. Doesn’t the idea of endless Fullmetal Alchemist sound so great? Years and years with Ed and Al and Roy and Winry and …

No. Actually, that sounds horrible. Years and years of grinding out stories, seeing the stories become repetitive, seeing different authors take up the storytelling as Arakawa lost interest or became unable to write and draw the comic.  Stories without end have no impact. The characters are never in danger; they may face dire peril, but will never die because they can’t. They’re needed to tell this endless story.

And on realizing this about X-Men comics, I stopped caring, and stopped reading them. Why should I? A character wouldn’t die and have their death ripple throughout the comic, touching the lived of friends and family, because they were needed for the franchise to continue. And if they did manage to die … well, we all know what happens when a superhero dies. (Spoiler: They come back.) What is the point of a story without risk to the characters in it? What is the point of a story that will always continue? There’s no stakes to a story like that. Stories must have beginnings, middles, and ends. Otherwise they’re kinda pointless. (Or to me they are. You are welcome do disagree, of course! But other than soap operas, what other storytelling other than superhero comics are endless?)

Fullmetal Alchemist ends, and it’s sweet when it ends. I’m happy it ends. I spend those last few moments with Ed and Al, and I’m happy for them. They’ll go off and have other adventures, but I won’t be privy to that. My time in their life is over, and that’s the way it should be. Stories have to end. That’s what makes them good.

(Addendum: if you are interested in reading Fullmetal Alchemist, please try and make it past the 4th volume before you judge it. That’s an important volume. Luckily, Viz has started releasing omnibus editions of FMA which contain 3 volumes in 1, and they are very cheap [warning: the 3 in 1 format is discontinued after the third volume of 9 collected volumes, you must buy the singles after that. Dunno why Viz did it that way, but they did]. There is also the giant FMA club pack, which is very reasonably priced on Amazon, and works out to only about $3 a book. If you are someone with money [or hey, Christmas is coming up! Ask for it for Christmas], go for the club pack, as it’s the best buy. Those without money, check out your local library. My library has the entire series, and it’s likely yours will have a lot of it too, as the series is popular. Remember, there are no legal free version of FMA online, so please respect artists’ rights and abstain from reading scanlations. These are wonderful books that Hiromu Arakawa has poured 9 years of her life into, and she deserves to be paid for her work. :) If you wish to read FMA in digital format, Square Enix has it available for purchase here.  The black and white sketches in this blog post were drawn by Arakawa and I found them while trolling the internets. The doodles below are by me.)

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41 Responses

  1. Steph says:

    I am in such full and absolute agreement with you. All of this. Agreed. I used to love Naruto and Bleach but have grown tired of them. They will never be as great as things like Trigun and Gurren Lagann and FMA. Stories that seem to follow some kind of a plan are so great.

    And actually I read Fullmetal Alchemist very recently and it was because I’d heard such great things about it (mostly from following your art). Never did it disappoint. It lived up to any and all hype which seems so rare these days. So thank you. If you hadn’t endorsed it the way you do I may have continued thinking it was just another Naruto type of story and passed it over entirely.

    • Faith Erin Hicks says:

      Yay! Man, so many people have mentioned they started reading FMA because I pimped the heck out of it. Super glad to hear that; talking up things you love does work!

  2. snapdragon76 says:

    Man, I <3 FMA so. damn. much. I I do agree that it ended well. And while there are a few series that I follow that are quite long running, I do believe there does need to be a definite stopping point. I think if an author sets out to have a certain length and stick to that length, it can be better off for the series.

  3. I think you managed to sum up also why Avatar: the Last Airbender, has such a special place in my heart. I started watching it when it first came out and early in the first season, so I was still in the 8th grade, the show said it would have a set beginning, middle and end which just blew my mind. I’m a visual person and loved reading but never liked cartoons since things never changed in them, A:tla was different and so much stronger because of that structure. FMA is the same way, it’s a shonen series but it’s unlike any other I’ve read since you could tell that Arakawa had a plan for the story from the beginning and knew how to execute it (it was super exciting when the last manga chapters and last anime episodes were coming out at almost the same time). Think I need to go reread the volumes I have now…

    • Faith Erin Hicks says:

      Oh yeah, Avatar: Wow, was that a great show, and the fact that the creators were allowed to craft a narrative over three seasons … it’s extremely different from pretty much every North American animated show, where you have to be able to watch each episode without having seen the pilot. Anyway, love Avatar.

  4. Great post, and I love those sketches you included!

    I didn’t realize they had discontinued the 3-in-1 format, arrgh! I read the series originally from the library and was looking forward to finishing out my collection that way. Oh well, at least I have the final book to look forward to.

  5. Ryorin says:

    I love that that the final volume of FMA is coming out soon and I agree that stories are best if they are allowed to end, but I think I have slightly different reasons for it.

    I am a long time reader of manga and a relatively new reader of superhero comics, and partially because of the New 52 thing DC’s doing I’ve been thinking a lot about how whether or not the story is written with an ending in mind effects things. While I can appreciate that endless stories lack a sense of danger for the main character, that’s not the thing that bugs me the most about endless stories. If there is an ending in mind, things are being written with an end goal and there can be a sense of closure. Because there is a goal, the characters can be allowed to grow and develop with a final destination in mind. Supporting characters can be explored with a solid purpose in mind instead of simply being reduced to figures who appear occasionally until the next writer comes along with no use for the character and drops them. In stories that aren’t written with the intent of ever ending, there is no closure and the characters can’t complete their development because once they do, oops, they still need to be in more stories, we’d better find a way to bring back tension, maybe by destroying the life they just rebuilt, and finding a way to lock their development into a loop without any destination. Look, Power Girl just rebuilt her life from scratch, runs a successful company, has a sidekick, has friends, and has saved the world a few times. Time to destroy all that so she can do it again! Hey, Adrian Monk seems to be getting over some of his neuroses and learning to cope with the world! Give him more phobias so we can run another five seasons. I can mentally cut the long stories into smaller ones and disconnect them, but it doesn’t have the same sort of development or closure.

    Over the past seven years– gosh, has it really been that long?– that I’ve been reading FMA, I’ve got to see Ed and Al and Winry and Roy and Riza and Greed and all these characters grow and change. I’ve got to see an amazing story unfold piece by piece, taking its time to set up its central mysteries, always with a final goal in mind. I can’t wait to it arrive.

  6. AsimovSideburns says:

    FMA was my first exposure to Anime. I remember sneaking into the living room and watching at midnight on adult swim every Wednesday. I had to sit really close, too, because I had the volume on 3–I did NOT want to wake up my dad.

    I still haven’t gotten around to watching all of it, but you have reminded me of why I loved in the first place: it has meaning. So yeah, I’ll probably be watching it again, and I might even get the books.

    Also, I absolutely LOVE your drawing of Ed and Winry. You should make those pictures into stickers or buttons or something, except you probably can’t for copyright reasons which I just realized right now but I still love that picture so much it is ADORABLE.

    • AsimovSideburns says:

      Well, I mean you could make them but you couldn’t sell them because of copyright issues but anyway I AM RAMBLING.

  7. Emily says:

    I’ve yet to read FMA. I need to get a hold of it, but am too poor to buy. The library doesn’t have them all -_-
    On that bit about artistic heroes, while you may not view people your age and female artistic heroes, I’d like to say that I view you as a hero (I’m only 18, so that might be why). I really look up to you and have drawn a lot of inspiration from you. You’ve inspired me to get into comics (I’m working on one right now). So while for you there may not be many female heroes, you are becoming one yourself.

    • Faith Erin Hicks says:

      Hm, that does suck. Some libraries will take suggestions for what books to buy, so you could suggest it. And again, Christmas is coming up… books make great gifts, getting and giving!

      • Emily says:

        No books this year! I’m begging my parents to get me a new drawing tablet. A nice expensive Intuos4. My Bamboo fun broke.
        Have you drawn digitally before? I rather like it myself. Unfortunately, Even if I do get one, my parents can only afford to pay for half, basically meaning no other presents this year. Oh well.
        My home library is actually really good about getting new books, and they have a lot of manga (I helped fill it with manga myself). The library at college, well, they only have academic stuff. I’d have to walk for a while to get to the public library, which probably would have the books, if only a few.

  8. PHMREL says:

    In defense of superhero comics never ending, one of the things I love about them is that you kind of end up making your own beginnings/middles/endings for them if you read them long enough. The canon’s big and messy enough that there’s plenty of versions of origin stories and death stories out there, you just need to pick which ones work for you and sort of build your own personal vision of the character.

    For the record, I always thought Grant Morrison’s run worked as a good ending for the X-Men.

    FMA’s awesome, yeah, though I only watched the original anime which I hear is pretty different from the comics, it still made me tear up a bit at the end. I never knew it was written by a woman, that’s cool. Definitely makes me want to check out the comic even more.

    Oh, and first time commenter here, just wanted to say that I started reading Friends With Boys after reading The War at Ellsmere and looking you up to see what you’re up to. They’re both awesome comics.

  9. Anne says:

    Mm, FMA (and Maison Ikkoku) were the ones that made me ‘get’ manga – I think I just made unfortunate choices before that and started reading series that weren’t really my thing (Hellsing, Chobits and a couple of others). I know the start is slow as is the case with many long-running series but in this case I was sold pretty early on. Book 2 actually made me cry! Over one-shot characters! When that guy does that unpleasant thing thing to his *** and ***, and you know what I’m talking about. ;)

    However I am only up to v11 so thank you for not posting spoilers. I want that Roy/Riza pic as a badge btw

    (blahblahblah)

    • Anne says:

      Sorry to DP, but one reason I’ve never got into Marvel/DC is because the lack of endings also means there’s no good place to begin. Wherever I’ve started reading I’ve been confused about what’s going on, and then realised I don’t actually care enough to keep going long enough to find out.

      Also this: http://eschergirls.tumblr.com

      • PHMREL says:

        There’s a lot of barriers to entry in superhero comics, not least of which are the continuity fetishism and the super male-gazeiness. I guess if you didn’t grow up reading superheroes, there’s not much incentive to start. There are actually well-portrayed women characters in them sometimes though, I swear!

        • Faith Erin Hicks says:

          Yes, occasionally! I really liked Batgirl: Year One, which I hand out as the Ultimate Girl Superhero comic. Unfortunately, it’s also out of print… :(

    • Faith Erin Hicks says:

      Hah, yeah. Monster by Naoki Urasawa was my first gateway manga, but FMA was the first time I became a total fangirl for a manga. It was a weird experience (I am a grown up after all. I think), but wow, I liked FMA so much. ;_; … gotta draw more fanarts.

  10. Cal says:

    On a completely off topic comment. I wanted to bring up one of my favorite manga\anime’s (besides FMA) and I wanted to know what you thought of it.

    I started watching Fruits Basket after a friend recommended it to me and since the TV series never finished I went back and read the manga. It’s not shonen and as an adult male I never thought I would get so caught up in a romantic comedy but I have to admit its one of my favorites of all time.

    • Faith Erin Hicks says:

      Ah, Fruits Basket! I haven’t read that yet, but many people have told me it’s great and transcends its shojo roots. There are a few shojo books I like, but some of the techniques (such as panel layouts and submissive female characters) I don’t enjoy, so sometimes I avoid it. I’ll have to pick up FB, tho…

  11. Heather says:

    Oh man, ordering that boxset when I get home! :D
    I already have several volumes, but this is totally worth it.

    Can we geek out together about FMA sometime? Once I finish them all of course! Was it anything like the ending to Brotherhood?

    • Faith Erin Hicks says:

      Yay! Brotherhood was almost point for point identical to the manga, so you will find it very similar. IMHO the manga is superior, tho. Arakawa draws some kickass comics.

  12. Warren says:

    ‘Anatomically correct android!’

    Fully functional.

    More seriously, yes, closure is important to any story. That might be one thing that separates comics from graphic novels – comics have an infinite timeline, but graphic novels have a more characteristic novel format in that they do, eventually, end.

    I agree also about satisfying endings. While you’re working with a character you’re really in love with that character – at least, if it’s one of the good guys/gals – and sometimes the hardest thing to do is put that sweet little person through torment.

    The problem, of course, is that life itself has shabby days, and if you’re interested in creating a realistic character arc, you’ll reflect that in your storyline.

    So sometimes things don’t go well. Sometimes I’ve had some characters go through really brutally hard experiences. Sometimes it doesn’t work (literarily), and other times it’s just right, even if the ending isn’t exactly what I’d foreseen when I started.

    I don’t know if that’s happened for you. I think we’ve all had the experience of a character coming to life and doing things that surprise us (well, those of us who’ve done this sort of thing, be it via graphic novel or plain old boring text), but I wonder if you’ve had the experience of discovering that the ending you thought was coming was actually totally completely wrong, and discovering it only when you’re three-quarters of the way through your story.

    Anyway, uh, right, FMA. I’m glad to know there is a period at the end of that particularly long narrative, and that’s enough to make me want to read it now – I was dreading that it was one of those InuYasha style productions. When you’re dealing with an endless narrative, it is impossible to really get emotionally invested with anyone, as you mention – not the least because it’s really a hell of a lot of work, and after a while, one wants to get on with one’s life.

  13. Andy says:

    A thought on endings…have you seen Baccano!, a short anime series that came out a few years ago? It takes a nifty approach to beginnings and endings as the artful frames of the story. A story changes depending on where you choose to set the beginning and the ending, and one character’s story might end in the middle, while another character’s story could pick up at the end.

    It’s all a very reckless, chaotic romp, and it’s great fun to watch its execution. Anyhow, your comment on endings made me think of that.

  14. Brian Westley says:

    On what basis do you say Viz is discontinuing the 3-in-1 omnibus format after volume 3? Since volume 1 came out in June, they’ve released a new one every 2 months, and vol. 3 was out only last month. I can’t find any announcement that Viz has stopped issuing them.

  15. Lana says:

    That’s one of my biggest problems with comic books, the lack of closure when things are drawn out too long. Often, if a writer starts up something they don’t get to finish it and different writers come in and out and it’s all a mess.

    That’s why I’m super choosy comic girl and usually stick to reading things I know have an ending.

    I never really thought Superman was that great, but I liked the latest movie, and the Justice League animated series. So I picked up All Star Superman by Grant Morrison, which was just two volumes. I’d highly recommend that.
    And in college my pop lit class had us read Marvels by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross, which next to the X-Men and Spiderman cartoons and movies taught me everything I know about the Marvel universe….

    And while I’m going on a comment-recommending spree, Vertigo titles are awesome.
    The six volumes of Swamp Thing written by Alan Moore are a complete story on their own, and it’s terrific in that black & white horror movie sort of way, and completely unafraid to write for adults.

    Also, The Sandman by Neil Gaiman. No words.

    • Casey says:

      Sandman is AMAZING. If you want to go more indie, I would definitely recommend reading Digger (which is all online and originally a webcomic) by Ursula Vernon. At several points I wept like a best friend had died.

      • Faith Erin Hicks says:

        I’d like to check out Digger sometime (is there a collected book I can buy?), but Sandman was just not my thing. I know it’s the ultimate Comic To Recommend to Girls, but it wasn’t my cup of tea. Bone, however, sure as heck was.

        • MHPayne says:

          Digger has been collected:

          In six volumes published by Sofawolf Press – https://www.sofawolf.com/products/digger-1 is the page for volume 1, and the others are linked from there.

          As for endings, I’m probably not one to talk since I’ve been doing 10 pages a week of my webcomic Daily Grind for nearly seven years now, and I’ve still got stories I wanna tell about these characters. They continue to surprise me, I guess, and as long as they keep doing that, I’ll keep sketching them out in my signature eyeball-sandpapering style… :)

          Mike

    • Faith Erin Hicks says:

      Yeah, there is the occasional run by a creator on a superhero book that is just amazing. All Star Superman by Morrison and Quitely was amazing. There are a few other books too, like Batgirl: Year One, the two Nextwave trades and Thor. Good stuff!

  16. Jemma says:

    Man, reading this made me tear up a little. I read all of FMA over the summer (and watched Brotherhood) on recommendation from you as well as other people in my life. It is one of the best series I have ever read. And yes, I agree totally with what you said about Arakawa and her female characters. It was so refreshing to see well-rounded female characters. And yes, the ending made me cry as well.
    She actually has a new series out called Silver Spoon. It is in a very different vein then FMA but I still enjoy it. Her wit and great character development is still there. There is a fan translation on the web, but I hope they release it in comic form in English.

    • Faith Erin Hicks says:

      Yes, I really hope Silver Spoon is translated as well! I had a friend buy me a copy from that Japanese bookstore in New York, so I could at least have it in Japanese and see the art. It looks awesome and hilarious, so here’s hoping it’ll make it’s way over into English soon.

  17. Vanessa says:

    About fullmetal alchemist, I was ADDICTED to the anime when it came out when I was in college, though I made the mistake of not being that interested in the manga because I only got to volume 3! I’ll have to check out the rest of it. The anime though, the first one and not that lame spin off crap they did, is still by far my favorite animated thing ever.

    • Faith Erin Hicks says:

      FMA: Brotherhood isn’t bad, but it is literally the manga, and follows it almost to the letter. I know people who prefer it over the manga because they like the colour and the animation, but in my opinion, the manga trumps all. It is a brilliant work, so do give it a second chance! If you can afford them, the omnibuses are a great way to get a chunk of the series for cheap, or you could check out your local library.

  18. Arabia says:

    SUCH a good post. Everything you said could be applied to a series in any media; therefore I forwarded this page to several people, including some folks who have never been anywhere near graphic novels, and it started some interesting conversations about endings, things that ended well, things that didn’t…. (Just for the record, apparently my husband things “Quantum Leap” ended badly.) Anyway, terrific work here; thank you.

    • Faith Erin Hicks says:

      Thank you! Yeah, TV is notoriously bad with endings, probably because most shows don’t get the chance to do a proper one (they just get cancelled) or fall into sentimentality. I honestly can’t think of any TV show that ended and I was all “YEAH! Now that was an ENDING!”

  19. SeraphL says:

    I totally agree with you about endings, they are right and necessary and they don’t always need to be happy. One of my favourite films recently was How To Train Your Dragon. Partly for the brilliant ‘acting’ of the characters and the way they used the show-don’t-tell rule, but also for the way it ended. I won’t give any spoilers but it wasn’t the ‘perfect’ happy ending where everyone is totally fine and there are no after-effects from the massive conflict that took place. But I preferred it that way because sometimes when you have to fight for something it’s at a great personal cost and you don’t often see a story acknowledge that, whether it’s for kids or grown ups. I like endings best when it isn’t perfect, but it’s okay and you know that there’s still hope and your characters will go on to have their own lives, even if those lives will be different from what they originally expected.

  20. [...] and the woman responsible for introducing me to the glories of Fullmetal Alchemist – wrote a great post about the importance of stories ending after she read volume [...]

  21. wolfshead says:

    Nice post tho I disagree with you a bit. Have no problems with endings and it is the wise artist that knows when to quit (Bloom County, Calvin & Hobbs left me wanting more, Garfield has gotten stale) but they aren’t always necessary. If an artist can keep the story moving and fresh then I do not find problems tho I also have no problem with an artist moving on to greener pastures. One of the reason I gave up American comics is not because I no longer cared but because unlike manga, where an artist seems to control their work and can call it quits and start something fresh, in the US the publishers control the titles and when an artist moves on the try to continue the title with new blood. All too often the new artist wishes to go in new directions that are at odds with what went before. This leads to things like dream sequences, alternate universes, parralel dimensions, etc to wipe out what went before without actually wiping it out. So while the storylines may be fresh the characters aren’t and the backstory on them becomes too convuluted and complicated with no consistancy (I remember when Hank McCoy was only a very strong strong, very agile guy with big feet, yes I am that old) Minor and gradual changes can be reconciled but as a series gets too old the changes become moreradical and irreconcilable without drastic alterations in the background universe and once you start needing a score card to keep track then the who cares part begins. it also starts to violate what I consider another precept of good fantastic fiction writng. While comics, science fiction and fantasy are all forms of writing, and other forms of media, that require us to suspend our sense of disbelief in the big picture a writer needs to keep it real as it were concerning the small picture. The mundane must remain the mundane as a backdrop to the fantastic. The laws of the made up universe must stay consistant or else the fantastic loses its wonder and everything becomes hard to accept. So whether the story ends or continues on my view is that it isn’t the time frame that matters, it’s the consistancy of the background universe that counts as to whether one can keep enjoying it or not and whether the artist can keep things fresh within that universe without blowing it all up to start anew with old characters.

    OTOH I will complain about publishers who start publishing omnibuses and end them before the story is finished. As inn my stories I like order on my shelves and who wants a collection that is 1/3 omnibus and 2/3s singles. Thanks for that info tho as I was wondering where 3 in 1 Vol 4 was.

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Friends With Boys, webcomic edition!

Hello readers, new ones just discovering the comic and those who’ve been with it since the beginning. Friends With Boys is now complete online. You may read it in its entirety, all 200+ pages, for free, for the next eight days. Then the image files of the comic (except for a short preview) will be taken down. While the comic was being serialized online, I blogged a lot about my comic making process. I did write ups about how I make comics, what my opinions on what makes a good comic are, and pointed out various Easter eggs throughout Friends With Boys. That stuff will all remain up, so if you buy a hard copy of Friends With Boys, you can still read along with my thought process.

And now (today!), Friends With Boys is a published book! Yay! I hope that if you’ve read the web version and liked it, and want to support me as a creator, you’ll consider buying the book.

I’ve really enjoyed serializing Friends With Boys online. If you’re new to my work, I started out making comics online before moving into print. I posted the very first page of my very first online comic on my very first website back in August, 1999, and wow, was that page ugly. Here it is! Notice a weird similarity to the first page of Friends With Boys? Yeah, that was not deliberate, I promise. But look how much your drawing skills can improve if you draw thousands of pages of comics over a ten year period! Anyway, I’m really thrilled my wonderful publisher First Second Books has allowed me to return to my roots and put Friends With Boys online as a lead up to its publication. As a reader and purchaser of comics, I have bought quite a few hard copy versions of online comics, because I enjoy the reading experience of having the whole thing collected, and I want to support the author. I hope you will too. :)

Otherwise, there are a few upcoming events I hope to see some readers at:
Book signing! At my local comics shop Strange Adventures, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, March 3rd (Saturday), 2-4pm (EDITING TO ADD: The book launch has been moved to the following Saturday due to the books not shipping to Strange Adventures on time. The launch will now be March 10th from 2-4pm. Go here for info).
Comic convention! I’ll have a table at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, May 6th-7th. There are a few other conventions I am trying to attend, but everything else is up in the air at the moment. For updates, please follow my twitter or join my Facebook fan page.  I’m pretty good about updating those two spots.


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