austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

We'll scuttle the story and run her aground

The newspaper serial comic strip The Phantom just got started on a story which the press release about it says is projected to last twenty months. I don't have a strong attachment to The Phantom, what with it not being 1938 still, but I'm impressed with the ambition displayed in intending a story to last nearly two years, and the optimism to proclaim at the start that there's going to be a story filling up all that time. For that matter, I'm impressed with the faith that there'll be newspapers in twenty months' time. The story, apparently, isn't supposed to leave readers who happen to pick up the strip anytime before May 2011 struggling for a hook; the intention instead is to write it as a set of five related 17-week tales so that the structure won't be very different from the ordinary run of The Phantom, which is otherwise working out so well for it.

So I was startled to learn the average Phantom storyline is projected at 17 weeks. I thought the last storyline rode around in circles for an agonizingly long time, but then it is a serial story comic and if there's one thing serial story comics don't do well it's stories. There's too few plot points covered in too much time, mostly, and too much time spent reiterating things already covered. Ironically, continuity-based humor strips tell stories better, with a typical story usually taking a week or two from start to resolution, and usually under a month for an involved story. Also ironically, Phantom does better than average, probably because it keeps separate Sunday and weekday stories --- Mary Worth and Dick Tracy and the like are burdened by trying to keep the once-a-week readers in synch with the daily readers, so weekday strips can't advance too fast and stuff can't happen on Sunday. (You don't know how to fill time without having something happen until you've listened to old radio serials, particularly ones meant to be dramatic; comedies can fill ten minutes with jokes and not stand out, but the Lone Ranger has to patiently explain the plot all over again lest he be forced to act on it.)

I quirk my eyebrow a little bit since the story seems to focus on a would-be terrorist introduced a couple stories ago who managed, in an effort at unleashing biological weapons on the mass, managed to infect exactly one (1) person, himself, with a strain of ebola and who had to be nursed back to health by The Ghost Who's Really Adapted To The Post-Colonial World, Really, We Swear before being tossed in Jungle Movie Prison for the next story. He's just about got to escaping, and I suppose he has time since he's only been working up to it for two weeks now.

Trivia: An American postwar survey of Japan concluded that by 1945 about 68 percent of the population was convinced the war was lost, and only 28 percent were willing to continue fighting rather than face dishonor. Source: Why The Allies Won, Richard Overy. (I do not know how, or if, the survey corrected for hindsight bias. I am intrigued by the coincidence between 28 percent here ready to carry on the war and the supposed ``crazification factor'' level of United States politics, however.)

Currently Reading: Taking Flight: Inventing The Aerial Age From Antiquity Through The First World War, Richard P Hallion. It's kind of a bigger-picture view of the Wright Brothers book I just wrapped up.

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