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The Indisputable Matt Maxwell Presents:









FOR PREVIEW PAGES OF MATT’S GRAPHIC NOVEL STRANGEWAYS, CLICK HERE! 
 
FULL BLEED 35: WELCOME MY FRIENDS TO THE SHOW THAT NEVER ENDS

Yeah, that’s the great thing about golden geese. All the eggs you can eat for forever. Anything you want to eat, so long as its goose eggs. I mean, who doesn’t love a good scrambled egg, or an omelette, or even a quiche from time to time. Maybe a nice meringue, too. You could always eat ‘em raw, y’know, just for a change. Hey, maybe if you’re lucky, you can trade with someone who loves goose eggs, get yourself a nice ham sandwich or maybe even a pizza. Of course, you’d have to hope that everyone else loves goose eggs as much as you do or you’ll be outta luck and back to the millionth morning of eggs. Goose eggs.

Don’t misunderstand; I love a good egg, goose or otherwise. And those golden geese have to remain employed. I won’t hold that necessity against them. Just that I’d like to see something that wasn’t, extruded from a golden goose from time to time. I know, it gets washed before it comes to market. But still, extruded.

Problem is, I go to market, and I’m looking at row upon row of shiny goose eggs, for the most part. Sure, there’s fun goose eggs, and very very serious goose eggs, mystery-tinged goose eggs, police procedural goose eggs and retro goose eggs. But when you crack the shell, we’re still talking yolk and albumen and that other gooey stuff.

I guess there’s a lot of people who really love ‘em though. I do too, but there’s more to life than eggs, goose or otherwise. And yeah, I can find things from the other food groups at the store when I go, but I gotta work for it. That’s okay, I don’t mind a little work. But there are days that going to the store is just depressing unless I’m in the mood for goose eggs. Yeah, there’s the big stores that carry exotic stuff like asparagus and oyster mushrooms, so I load up when I make the trip into the big city, makes the omlette diet a little more interesting when I can stretch them out with a variety of ingredients.

Of course, the saddest thing about all those eggs is that they’re never really allowed to hatch into anything. Hey, hold on a sec, wait’ll you see where I’m going with this. See, these eggs, they’re just a beginning, a start. Inside ‘em all is this little chick, only it’s never allowed to grow into a chick, much less hatch into anything that might spread its wings and fly (or become another golden goose for someone else to benefit from.) Instead, the farmers are catering to the egg market and keeping their golden geese working overtime (some of ‘em could use a break, if only for a little while.)

I mean, the farmers have to stay in business, right? And the guys/gals who sell the eggs, they have to keep the lights on and the refrigerators running too. I can see that.

But man, I get sad when I think about the flocks that could be in the skies instead, wings spread and maybe inspiring others to be interested in something aside from shiny shells and collected rows of potential, all stilled and on a chilly shelf.

But hey, the people want eggs. And there’s a market to give ‘em eggs. Eggs without change or cessation. Eggs that taste more or less like the eggs you grew up with, maybe with a little more zing due to hormones seeping into the environment. But still eggs.

Eggs and never geese, or swans.

Okay, let’s end the parable. Parable over. It’s safe to come out now.

At the risk of explaining the joke (which isn’t a joke so much as it is a shaggy dog story—the best example of which I can think of is the “Fuck you, clown!” story that Jim O’Rourke told in the middle of the Flying Saucer Attack set at Terrastock One in Providence, back in 1996) I’ll go on a bit further.

I found it interesting that readers, even some critics, are tumbling to the observation that most superhero comics aren’t telling stories anymore. Stories have ends. What we’re being served are plots, sometimes with character-driven flourishes, sometimes with events that point to a conclusion or cessation of plot, but never getting past the “pointing to” thing.

See, we’re worried about telling the Last story, the one that kills the character, the one that ends the franchise. The one that causes the last egg to be laid and the goose to be hacked up for Christmas dinner (I hack, my carving style leaves a lot to be desired.) I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, so tune me out if this sounds familiar.

Readers want stories. They want growth and development. They don’t want mullets or electric blue supermen. They want Superman. Which flavor varies from reader to reader. I’m partial to the golden-Superman-in-the-Sun-in-absentia of ALL-STAR SUPERMAN myself. Darwyn Cooke has a good line on him, too. I’ve heard good things about Kurt Busiek’s take, but it hasn’t crossed my path. Even Frank Miller understood him well enough to play him as a villain in DARK KNIGHT RETURNS. John Byrne spun out some good plots in his day, though I don’t recall them coming to an organic conclusion.

You want to know why we get drawn to big event comics? Because we’re hoping, hoping that we’ll get something like closure, something like a conclusion, maybe even a final chapter that we can put down and feel like “yeah, we got through all that and we’re better for it.” We want that experience. Or maybe I’m the only mutant and just I want it, but I don’t think so.

This is one of the reasons why SANDMAN gets the praise it does. Same with WATCHMEN, DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, and even BATMAN: YEAR ONE. I’d even toss the Alan Moore run on SWAMP THING in there, though it’s a little unwieldy to just hand off to someone and say, “Here’s a great story for ya.” UNCANNY X-MEN from it’s reboot in the seventies until about issue 138 or so could be taken as one gigantic story which you could imagine ending there. But it didn’t (as much as I love a lot of what followed, having cut my teeth on it.)

Stories end. Franchises don’t. You can tell stories within franchises, but generally not with the main character. Bruce Wayne won’t ever come to terms with what made him Batman, else we get Azrael books forever and ever. And readers don’t want that. They want Bruce Wayne and Wally West stories all in a row.

Or at least the seemingness of stories.

For me, the story has to end. Which is a hard thing to do. For instance, I’ve got a basic ending in mind for STRANGEWAYS, but there’s a long time in getting there. Seth Collins will hang up his spurs (though I’ve never called out specifically in the script he wears them, but they’re there all the same.) But I can’t have it end immediately else there’s no reason to keep coming back to it. You beat that the same way that a show like LAW AND ORDER does it, by wrapping up the stories of the characters that float in and out over the course of an episode. That’s where your closure comes from.

CRMINAL beats it by having the milieu be the main character that lingers from book to book, but giving a specific character arc for the humans on the pages. And maybe we’ll see those people from time to time after their story is wrapped. Sure, but they won’t be the same people as when we first met them.

And that is golden.

Matt Maxwell

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