T-shirt #22: I miss FREAKANGELS
I miss FREAKANGELS. From February 15th, 2008 through August 5th 2011, with occasional skips in the schedule, Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield released a weekly episodic comic called FREAKANGELS with the publication aid of Avatar Press.
I love episodes. I LOVE the episodic narrative.
All diehard comic book fans also love the episodic narrative and are quite hooked on it. By "diehard," I mean fans who make the weekly trek to the local comic store, who have subscribed to a comics service and have comics shipped weekly, or who, these days, have subscribed to a digital service and have comics sent to their devices on a weekly basis.
Comics come out WEEKLY. Each week a set of new titles finds its way to the display racks in stores. Those of us who became hooked on comics before the direct sales, specialty comics shops became THE places to buy, remember knowing which day the comics were put out for sale and all the places where comics were sold. In those early days (when comics were 12 cents and then 15 cents... I am not so old that I bought comics for 10 cents or 5 cents), I bought my comics in liquor stores, drug stores, grocery stores, tobacco shops, book stores, and even some smart toy stores. Though most often, I bought my weekly comics in the grocery store accompanying my mother on the weekly grocery shopping trek. My allowance was based on this comics purchase: 25 cents, which bought me two comics plus tax. Unfortunately, there were more than two new titles published each week. But I made choices, and I bought many of my early titles this way, enjoying Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, Batman, the Justice League, the Flash, Hawkman, The Teen Titans, and The Legion of Superheroes.
DC Comics was the first to cash in on the episodic narrative in a bigger way. In 1991, DC consolidated its Superman titles into one story. Launching a third and fourth title, and marking each comic with triangle or shield, the Superman comics became one giant story with weekly episodes rather than the stand-alone one-shots or small story arcs exclusive to each title of the previous iteration. Though many hardcore comics fans loathed the collective, intertwining story, I loved it. Finally, instead of waiting four weeks in between issues, I was able to enjoy a new episode of the ongoing Superman story every week. Later, Marvel Comics caught on to this idea and organized the same rotation for its Spider-Man comics.
Weekly is where it's at!
The addiction to the episodic narrative is not exclusive to comics. Nightly TV shows began to understand the public's hunger for long, episodic narratives in weekly installments. Many shows from HBO's narratives to those on the main networks, like Fox, have used this format to great success. But even before nightly TV caught on that viewers had long attention spans that would last a whole season, Daytime TV had been using this format in soap operas, which provided DAILY installments of a huge, sprawling narrative. Awesome! One of these, The Young and the Restless, is celebrating its fortieth year of production. FORTY YEARS OF DAILY EPISODES. This is one of the biggest, most complex and yet reliable (turn it on at 12:30 every day and there it is) episodic narratives in existence in the entertainment media of today.
Back to FREAKANGELS. Warren Ellis (who is one of my favorite writers) conceived the idea of a weekly comic that would be released in installments via the web. Already using social media, such as Twitter, to bring people to his web site, Ellis began to promote FREAKANGELS. Every Friday, he would announce via Twitter (which would feed to his web site) when the new installment of FREAKANGELS went live. Even when the series had to skip a week, Ellis kept his readership informed about the reason for the skip and when the next episode was likely to hit the Internet. I was not the only reader resending his Twitter messages and posting FREAKANGELS links on my Facebook page and other Web 2.0 media, such as Tumblr.
Every Friday, I think about how FREAKANGELS is finished, and how much I miss it. I miss the six-page chunk of story every week. I miss the characters and being part of their lives for THREE YEARS.
Though he is no longer doing a weekly narrative, Ellis has launched a new episodic comic called Scatterlands, drawn by Jason Howard. He is releasing one panel a day on his web site, though as of the writing of this blog entry, after 25 episodes, the comic is currently on hiatus.
What is FREAKANGELS? Oh, did you notice that I wrote NOTHING about its story or characters? Well, I did that on purpose. Find out for yourself. The comics are still online here: FREAKANGELS. AND they have all been collected.
SIDE NOTE: Lately, I have been enjoying an episodic narrative in a new form: a weekly serial novel, The Human Division, written by John Scalzi, being released weekly for Kindle and other e-reader devices and running 13 episodes; the final one was released on Tuesday, April 9th, 2013. I don't have a a T-shirt for Scalzi's book, but you can learn more via his blog: WHATEVER; I linked this to a specific post about the book.
1304.12 - 8:45
Photo courtesy of Liesel MK Tower