Emanata: The Final Eight

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It’s going to happen someday. The host of pulp magazines dwindled away to a last tenacious few (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, for one, is still going); radio dramas disappeared one by one; the final soap operas are slowly being picked off. And eventually the herd of hundreds of serial periodical comic books are going to be thinned out to a tiny handful that are just barely profitable enough to keep publishing–maybe for years or decades after the rest are gone. But which will they be?

A while back, I suggested ten comics that should run forever. Still, “should” isn’t the same as “might.” Here’s a stab at an Elite Eight of titles that I can see going on long after most current comics readers say “they still make those?”

Action Comics – This manages to survive by virtue of the “first in, last out” rule. Action has a couple of close calls, circulation-wise, but springs back to significantly greater vitality in 2016, when J. Michael Straczynski lets it be known that he realizes he’s been away from it for a while, and as far as he’s concerned it’s okay if Superman appears in it again.

The Amazing Spider-Man – After years of initially promising but increasingly desperate relaunches and initiatives that attempt to define a new set of rules for Spider-Man’s adventures while rolling back all the plot advances from the previous relaunch or initiative–“Brand New Day” and “Big Time” are followed by “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now,” “Back on the Right Track,” “Nothin’ But Blue Skies” and “You Just Hit the Jackpot”–the marketing department determines that what Spidey’s readers really go for is the rolling-back part, and for the next three years every major storyline progressively works to get the series’ basic setup back to Stan ‘n’ Steve territory. The final phase of the series consists almost entirely of a magically de-aged Peter Parker standing by a high school’s wall and scarfing down wheatcakes.

(More on Techland: Emanata: Ten Comics That Should Run Forever)

Batman – Every year Grant Morrison swears he’s only got two more years left to go before he’s finally told all the stories he’s got about the Bat-family. Every year his Batman serial gets more awesome and more convoluted, passing through Batman and Robin, Batman Inc., Robin and Batman, Batman and Joker, Batman and Sons, Batman Eternal and Dark Knight: The Goddamn Batman before returning to the parent title just before it becomes the only one left. By the time Damian Wayne assumes the lead role of the series in a story foreshadowed several decades earlier, Zeno’s dichotomy paradox has become its recurring theme.

X-Men – It takes a good long while to contract the sprawling X-Men line to a single title–Wolverine is practically a line by himself at the moment. Eventually, though, its spinoffs merge and merge like Madrox into one last mutant title, whose creators determine the ideal formula to keep its audience happy: alternating pages that address Claremont-era dangling plot threads with pages of adamantium-driven ultraviolence.

Hellblazer – In mid-2011, a corporate higher-up sends out a memo decreeing that any Vertigo series selling more than 10,000 copies a month may not be cancelled. That month, Hellblazer sales jump up to 10,002 copies a month. And then they stay there–not a copy more, not a copy less, every single month, anniversary issues and regular ones alike. A year after the “Ten Grand Plus Two Miracle” begins, Hellblazer‘s new writer, a young hotshot drafted in after having written a couple of successful horror novels, finishes her second storyline for the series and mysteriously disappears. Her replacement gets in two trade paperbacks’ worth of stories before he vanishes, too. Writer after writer tries and fails to defeat “the curse of Hellblazer.”

The Walking Dead – As Robert Kirkman would hasten to point out, the whole point of this series is that it’s continuing. Forever.

(More on Techland: Emanata: Comics That Should Vanish)

Eternal Crisis – Eventually, all the current serial comics publishers sell off their titles to a single company; this has the advantage of combining all extant shared superhero universes into a single mega-universe. Sales are lax until a marketing genius figures out that event comics always sell, so it makes sense to launch an ongoing event series, in which the entire omniverse is destroyed and rebooted in every issue. The particular genius of Eternal Crisis, though, is its reinstatement of an old-school comics feature: the multi-page letter column, which every issue runs dozens of pages of devoted readers’ howls of protest and insistence that they’ll never buy another one.

Betty & Veronica Double Digest – When every other comic book has become a crumbling memory, when Galactus has eaten his final meal and Neil Gaiman’s Death has turned out the light… Betty & Veronica Double Digest will still be appearing on those little grocery store checkout-counter racks.