The Seven Year Comic Book Itch?

Was reading through FIMfiction and one of the authors that I follow on a regular basis is Estee. Very sharp, very cynical, and very Pratchett in the style of her writing (coin toss came up tails), I enjoy her writing and she’s one of the few authors of fanfiction in general (and My Little Pony fanfic in specific) that I have a Patreon for. So, take this from a published author-she’s pretty darned good and would like to read her writing an original novel/story at some point.

So, today she posts something on her FIMFiction blog, and it’s like the classic lemon-wrapped-in-a-gold-brick of an idea. It’s the kind of idea that you go damn, I wished I had that idea kind of idea. What’s the idea? Professional wrestling and comic books (i.e. American comic books) have the same general style of storytelling, but professional wrestling has the various cast members show up, stay, and leave in a roughly seven year schedule. So, while you might have people filling various character roles, they aren’t the same person-so you need to write the stories to the new characters and the new cast. The stories might be the same at the bottom, but they’re being told with different actors-so you need to figure out how to make that work.

Not so with comic books. Very little changes, and nothing remains unchanged. You can’t really change things, because at the end of the day, the stories reset to base state. And, you can only run through the base state so many times before nobody wants the base state anymore. Especially if you’re not good enough to really hide the base-state that you’re starting from. Why did the MCU succeed with the same character origins that comic book fans knew front to back? Because the general movie audience hadn’t seen it before. It’s new to them, and thus exciting.

Which leads to the problem-what do you do when you hit year seven and it’s time to do something new?

For the comic book industry, you reboot…and you start from the beginning. The exact beginning you started from seven years ago, and…in a few cases, was done better by the previous creators. Or has never been done at well at all, but this is part of the yeast starter for your stories, so…

My answer? Take that mechanic-the seven year cycle-and weaponize it. This requires editors that are willing to stomp on the worst characteristics of writers and hold to a general plan, but it’s doable. Let’s take DC Comics, for example. Have a reboot cycle that starts everything out again-day one, year one. Batman starts going after bad guys in Gotham, Superman has his first experience in Metropolis, Wonder Woman has just arrived in the human world, that kind of thing. But, when we hit that seven year point-call it a hundred issues, maybe 2-3 major event storylines, that kind of thing, we stop and look at what’s going on with sales and the character. Maybe people like Bruce Wayne and this current run of how he is as Batman. Or, maybe…Dick Grayson is showing a lot of potential and we want to do something more with him than just be Nightwing. And, the Selina Kyle plotline is working out very well…

So, maybe we give Bruce a hiatus. Maybe not seven years, but long enough to let Dick take over the cape and cowl and be Batman, establish himself to be the character. If things go bad, we can bring Bruce back, but if they go good…maybe in seven years, we’ll rotate as Damien has really taken off in Teen Titans and Dick wants to get back out there as Nightwing, so Damien takes over as Batman…

The goal, if I’m not clear about it, is to rotate through the characters and maybe in the average buying life of a comic book fan (30 years or so), we keep a level of continuity…that allows people to jump in as well.

This is entirely off the top of my head, so there’s probably something I missed, something I didn’t quite do right or such. If I did, please comment and I’ll try to revise this idea later.

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