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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Sequels in other mediums

This year is an exciting one for me in terms of movie-going. I've already gotten to see The Hobbit brought to dazzling life, and am eagerly awaiting my expanded box-set blu-rays so I can have a marathon with The Lord of the Rings. But perhaps more notably, 2015 is going to be interesting because of all of the sequels. Jurassic World is going to take me back to that magical moment of over twenty years ago when my father, my cousin, and I went to a midnight showing of what would become one of my favorite films of all time. Perhaps of less interest, but no less historical significance, is the reboot/sequel Terminator Genisys. And on a more earth-shattering note, Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens will hit the big screen in December, albeit from a new company. (Ironically, though I have no children, I would in theory have been old enough to take two generations to the Star Wars films as each new trilogy premiered.)

But yesterday I discovered something that really set me aback.

After waiting over twenty years for some sort of follow up to Cronenberg's classic, The Fly, I learned that a sequel was going to be told in graphic novel format. Now this is something that had never occurred to me (actually, that's not entirely true; I had thought about sending some sample writing to Geena Davis and begging her to let me novelize her sequel, the screenplay of which is probably still floating around on Richard Jefferies' computer). But to actually see a licensed sequel to a franchise that I had always felt was left a bit incomplete? Never expected it would really happen. Mind you, I knew there was precedence for it; Dark Horse Comics continued with "seasons" of Buffy the Vampire Slayer when it was cancelled from television, thus allowing fans to follow the continuing story in an equally visual medium. And IDW, the company handling The Fly: Outbreak is also responsible for the graphic novel continuation of The X-Files. Now, as a Star Wars fan, spin-offs in other media are nothing new to me. But the notion of official sequels going that direction is one that intrigues me, perhaps because it allows the creators to tell stories that would not otherwise have gotten told due to expense, years passing, or other factors. In this case, I would say that the Fly sequel is probably a bit of both; it's a licensed story, but it features the characters from the original film, and is probably the closest thing I will get to an official third act to that particular story. Regardless, I'm ecstatic. The Fly was probably the one film that changed the way I looked at storytelling, particularly in a speculative fiction setting. I grew up watching all sorts of monster films and science fiction, but I had never seen a monster movie focus so much on the humanity of the characters. It made me sit up and take notice, and when I started writing my own novel, I tried to take that lesson with me. It didn't matter how cool the monster was or how exciting the space battle; if you didn't have characters you found interesting and cared about, your story was bound to fall short.

I have no idea whether this graphic novel sequel is going to be any good or not (and for readers of this post, if you have not seen The Fly, please do not think that my fascination with the film as a paradigm shift is an endorsement--the movie is graphic in a number of ways, R-rated for a reason, and certainly not for the squeamish). But I am nearly as excited about it as I am about the Star Wars film, because it takes me back to a time when the notions of storytelling were still forming in my young brain. I will miss the brilliant scores of the films, but that won't make a difference as I read stories featuring characters the actors are now too old to play, and that will serve as the official continuance of a franchise that made an indelible (and somewhat disgusting) mark on my impressionable mind.

Though I am excited about all of the above, this post was really intended to be a discussion-starter, not a fan-gush about a story I'm excited about. What has my mental gears turning is how movie-goers feel about having stories continued in other mediums? Again, as a Star Wars fan, I have seen every shade of the spectrum, from people who consider the novels and comics to have equal weight to the films, and those who ignore every spin-off, and stick to the on-screen version. But what about those times when the story simply cannot be continued in one medium? Do comic book readers like a story enough to switch to a novel if the creator chooses? Do novel readers deign to read comics if the tale changes stride midstream? Do movie-goers care if their stories are continued elsewhere, or would any other format always seem second-rate?

I like storytelling in a number of mediums (not so much in gaming, but I know it has an immensely strong following, as well), and the notion of crossing over in order to gain a more varied audience has a certain appeal. Having considered graphic novels and even games set in my own universe, I am very interested to know where people's fiction fancy lies. Do you prefer to stick to one medium, or do you care what form the story takes, so long as it's a good one?  Can you think of examples where this worked well? Examples where it did not?

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