The End is Dear

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

All around us, there are explosions and shocks and betrayals. Even as we speak, entire worlds are coming to an end, often abruptly, and people are dying by the score. Everything is catching on fire. I love spring.

No, testy reader, I’m not a secret Cthulhu worshipper, although I’m sure to some people my outlook would seem no less perverse. It’s just that I’ve had a strange shift in my attitudes over the last few years. Maybe it’s encroaching age, or perhaps it’s just a defense mechanism I built up after what happened to Firefly back in ’03. (Fox: birthing the best shows you’ve ever seen, and then forcing you to watch as we kill them screaming.) Whatever the reason, the fact remains: almost nothing excites me more each year than the end of the television season.

Is that insane? It feels insane. I watch the shows I watch because I like them, theoretically; I should be looking forward to ravenously devouring as many new episodes as I can get into my eyeballs. Around this time each year, though, I start looking at all those files piling up on the DVR, piles that I’ll need provisions and a sherpa to scale by July, and I start swearing under my breath at them for trying to entertain me. “Dammit! More stuff I like. Not now! I was so close to being caught up on Dr. House’s various hate-antics! Damn you, infernal pleasure machine!” Around this time of year, I begin scanning the listings for those magic words that mean “freedom”– “Season Finale”– and pumping my fist in the air every time I see them.

I am not a morbid man, in love with death. (Although the thought of any main character on Grey’s Anatomy suffering horribly and dying does satisfy me on a deep level I shouldn’t acknowledge publicly.) I think it’s just that, as I have been around long enough to watch so many things in my life go on and on and on, I’ve come to appreciate endings. Maybe it’s the same completist enzyme that makes me a comic collector: I like being finished. I love Lost, but I can’t wait to see the final episode and say, “I finished that. There is nothing more to know about that thing. I have all of it. My brain has collected all of Lost.”

Frankly, there’s also a lot of this: “Woo-hoo! Lost season finale! That’s sixty minutes a week back into the free time pool until February! Add that to the sixty from 30 Rock and Parks & Recreation, and… oh my God, did Scrubs go off the air? I get that half hour back for good! Celebrate good times, come on! A show I liked is never coming back!”

I think I already used the word “perverse.”

But those of you who are about to become college grads know the frequency I’m vibrating on right now. You had a good time at school. You learned a lot and still had plenty of self-declared four-day weekends that you only hazily remember. You made friends that will last a lifetime and/or until they have kids and you find out they’re the kind of people who put their children on those bungie leashes at the mall. You dated a lot, hopefully, because you’re never going to be around that high a concentration of hot members of the opposite sex who are your age and share your interests again. (Sorry for not warning you sooner.) Yes, college was the best time of your life so far, and as you look fondly back on it here in Senior Week you’re thinking, “Hot diggity damn, I never have to do that @%#$ again as long as I live. Let’s get the hell out of here.”

After all, imagine the alternative. Imagine if you and all your friends stayed in those dorms forever, growing older but never really changing, classes and happy hours and club meetings, fighting Doctor Octopus over and over again.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Endings can be great, not only because they represent the answering of questions and the resolution of the unresolved, but because they absolve us of having to break away on our own. For me especially, it’s harder than it should be to let go of something that doesn’t end. Why am I still watching The Simpsons? Because it’s still on. It is like a knife in my gut to see what passes for a Simpsons episode most weeks. I really should just get out a random DVD from ten years ago each Sunday night and watch that like an audiovisual nicotene patch, but I just can’t do it. I might miss the night the old magic gets recaptured. It hasn’t ended yet.

This is the impulse that keeps you buying X-Men comics for years, month after month, even though Hacky McBadscribe is writing them and you hate his writing so much you’re using chicken bones from dinner to put voodoo hexes on innocent members of his family. This is why you buy issue #5 of the miniseries even though you knew you didn’t care about it at all as of issue #2. Well, I’m in this far. I might as well see it through. If I hang in there long enough, a new guy will take the book, and this can all keep going indefinitely.

I like a nice ongoing story. There’ve been a lot of movies I wished were series so they could’ve had time to flesh their characters out more, so they could’ve had space to breathe. I’ll probably be reading the same ongoing Spider-Man story when I’m fifty years old, and by then I’ll have come up with a justification for why. Still, I admit that when a book I like gets canceled, it doesn’t always break my heart. I liked She-Hulk, but when it stopped I was sort of relieved. Rest, little She-Hulk; you’ve been through enough. I like Runaways, but if they stop the presses on it tomorrow, I’ll buy the last issue satisfied that it had a good run. (Plus, that $3 goes back in the free money pool!)

New Mutants ended in a blaze of Cable when I was in high school. They just revived it for the second time since I came back to comics. New Mutants came back in 2003; then it became New X-Men; then it became Young X-Men; then it ended for good, only for a new New Mutants book to launch (with the original 1982 cast) shortly thereafter. I liked the New Mutants. I like Zeb Wells an awful lot as a writer. I think he’ll do a great job with the characters. It’s possible that the definitive New Mutants story has yet to be told, and will be told within these pages… but how likely is it? Wouldn’t you, as a fan of the characters, have been better served in 1988 by a story with a beginning, middle, and end? Or am I just being prickly again?

And what about that Cable fellow? I have loved his current book in a way that would have taken Nostradamus by surprise, but that’s largely because it has had an overarching storyline with a strong point of view throughout its life, not unlike a Fables if you really think about it. (All my life, I have aspired to compare Cable to Fables. Now, at last, I can rest.) The series has focused on Cable’s efforts to protect the Little Red-Haired Girl from those who would harm her. Right now, the book is in the middle of a crossover that promises to resolve the fate of the Little Red-Haired Girl. Once that’s settled, is the book really going to continue? There are certainly other stories that can be told with Cable (I guess) but I’m not sure I want to see the natural ending to this story followed by yet another issue, where Cable takes a breath, sits down on the couch and goes, “Well, Bishop’s not chasing me for a thousand years anymore. So… what else is going on? I just saved my race by running for a decade; maybe now I’ll take down a pickpocket ring.” I feel as though that’s what’s happening in Fables right now; the author had a life-and-death story with a beginning, middle, and end, and chose to continue past the end because he felt he had more stories to tell. I’m not sure yet whether I agree with him. If Alan Moore had gotten to Watchmen #12 and decided to blow through the red light and keep going, would we be talking about it at all now?

In last week’s Walking Dead, Robert Kirkman noted that he had just outlasted Y: the Last Man by getting to issue #61. Y had one of the most satisfying finite runs of any book, and one day Walking Dead too will have to end. Whether it is with an issue that explains the zombie plague and cures everyone or just an issue where the last main character finally gets eaten alive, I will be there with a rueful smile on my face. Nothing lasts forever; might as well get as much out of it as you can in the meantime.

Jim Mroczkowski is gonna live forever, via Fame. He lights up the sky like a flame at Twitter and


  1. Just graduated from college last May and I could not agree more with the joy of more time in the Free Time pool. Well written, well said.

     Oh and the Simpsons actually made me laugh once last night…but only once, and that made me sad.

  2. The article as a whole makes a very compelling argument for finales of all kinds. Although even if some questions are unanswered, like in real life, endings are for the betterment of a story.

  3. I’ve got mixed feelings on this.  Maybe it’s because I’ve never had a problem dumping something that wasn’t working for me.  Knowing that a show or a series has a planned endpoint might motivate me, in some cases, to keep watching.  But if the stuff in the middle is bad, it’s STILL bad, and I feel more obligated to slog through it.  Besides, with an ongoing serial, I have to remember it’s not always about me.  ER was my favorite show for 5 years, but when they gave Dr. Greene the brain tumor, I had the good sense to say, "This isn’t for me anymore" and jumped ship.  Yet the show kept going for the same length of time again, a lot of people loved it (including folks on this site) and who am I to deny them that just because the story I wanted to see ended when the characters I cared about were gone.  There’s something comforting about knowing that a whole new generation of fans started watching the show after I was gone. 

    For ongoing comics titles within a shared universe, the same applies, over four or five times as many years.  I might give up ‘Daredevil’ tomorrow (because, come on, this will-they-or-won’t they with Matt and Wilson is getting OLD) but somebody else could pick it up for the first time because they really care about this Lady Bullseye character.

    There are exceptions — while it’s fun to see Jessica Jones pop up as an Avengers character from time to time, part of me wishes ‘Alias’ could have ended with the end of Jessica’s story and the knowledge that it was done and not going to be disturbed anymore. But that’s not how the Marvel Universe works and if I’m going to take the good part of that (she dated ant-Man! not even the famous one!) I’ve gotta except the downside too.

  4. When Family Guy just returned and it was obvious that the jokes were becoming lamer and lamer, I still stuck around like you’re doing with The Simpsons, like it was a forced habit. However, eventually the quality of FG dibbed so low that not even those habits and the memory of previous hilarious episodes could keep me watching. Sometimes a show or comic gets so bad that not even nostalgia can save it.

     Runaways, which you mentioned, is another perfect example of this. The BKV issues were very enjoyable reads, and when Joss Wheadon and Terry Moore came onto the book, I tried sticking through it, since I was already buying the books anyway and had invested alot of emotion and care into these characters in the previous amazing issues. However, those runs were so mediocre and bland, the book became dead weight and I had to drop it. Nostalgia can do wonders sometimes, but it has its limits.

  5. Turue story: Got up a 6:00 Today waited for my ride to school as I have for four years.  Took 45 minutes to remember I graudauted on Saturday. Certian habits become muscle memory after a while, like T watching the  SIMPSONS or buying X-Men. I rellay enjoyed tihs Jim.

  6. Excellent article, one of my favorites I’ve ever read on here.  I feel a bit similar about tv.

    "Rest, little She-Hulk; you’ve been through enough."


  7. Homer having the ‘End is Near’ sign… that the same episode where he goes:


    I dont think I’ve suffered from reading a comic that was bad for a long time. Usually if they are that bad they get dropped right away. Actually, the more I think about it; Nova is a good example of this. Cause it’s still a good comic right now; but it used to be a great comic a couple of issues ago. Now it’s sorta balancing between good and bad. Ever since Nova lost his powers the title has sorta seem to lost some focus. Now that it has to be apart of an event that could make the title (for me) even more boring. I hope it picks up the pace but if it doesnt, then I guess it’s time to drop it.

  8. I think I could’ve waited another season to see the ending of Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles!

  9. I was starting to worry that this article wouldn’t have an end! 

    The constance of continuing monthly comics is alternately both appealing and appalling. Appealing because you can walk away and come back years later to the comfort of familiar characters and settings. Appalling because the necessity of maintaining that comforting status quo can lead to storytelling that is either static or endlessly cyclical.

    When I first walked away from comics in 1989, the stories had ended as far as I was concerned. I had just read three of the best Batman stories ever written and there was no need to read anymore. Watchmen had taken the idea of comics apart and put it back together. This was the apex, nowhere to go but down. So I jumped off the bus.

    The fact that this coincided with graduation from high school is significant. Just like a lot of old friends in those days, I missed them, but on those occasions that I tried to reconnect I found them embarrassingly juvenile.

    "Oh, you brought a bottle of cheap vodka so we could get shit-faced? Joy."

    "Ah, a dark and ominous villain threatens the fabric of the universe? Been there, done that."

    I preferred keeping these things encapsulated in my memory. To me, their stories were complete.

    Of course, as it turns out I did miss a lot of good comics in the 17 years I was out. Well… some anyway. But you know what? I caught up again pretty quickly. Kind of makes me wonder what would happen if I walked away for another 17 years.

    But now here comes The New Mutants again, the weird little title that probably meant the most to me in those formative years. And like my impending 20-year reunion, I’m interested in reconnecting, but a little apprehensive. Slumber parties just aren’t the same now as they were back then.

  10. Dear Jimski,

    I love you on the podcasts, but comparing Cable to Fables… rob liefeld (I refuse to capitalize it) is rolling over in his grave (he’s dead, right?).

    With fondest wishes,

  11. I can proudly say I haven’t watched the Simpsons in a very long time (with the exception of the movie, which was surprisingly decent). My girlfriend owns seasons 1-8, so that is enough for me.

  12. I kind of felt like this when West Wing came to an end- I almost wanted to see what they would do with a new administration, but then I saw the quality of writing start a downward turn since the sixth season and I was glad it ended when it did, on a semi-high note than on a low one it didn’t deserve.  That’s why I’m also glad that "How I Met Your Mother" will likely end next season, same with "Lost" – tell your story, go out on a high note, and let the masses love you for what you are instead of what you could have been.

    As for comics, I’m sad when some comics get cancelled, like Amazing Spider-Girl, but again, I look at what it is rather than what it could have been.  I also look at my list and see a number of series coming to an end (Rex Mundi, Wizard of Oz, G.I. Joe Origins and Cobra) and am glad to either save the money or have a new slot for a new comic.  Not that I want them to end, per se, but, like Jimski, I do have a sense of "what can I do now" that I really like to feel once in a while- new possibilities, new stories, etc.

  13. @BC1: where Amazing Spider-Girl is concerned, any ending is almost a victory at this point. That book cheated death more than Evel Knievel.* Even now, they’ve just taken it online. Fans have a lot to be proud of there; no ending will be premature for Spider-Girl.

    *(It really is spelled that way.)

  14. I enjoy finales as much as the next person, but I hate when they happen prematurely.  When you have shows like Firefly, Sports Night, and Arrested Development all ending before their time, it is a real shame.  It would be nice if there was some formula to determine how long a TV show, movie series, comic, etc. should go on, whether it be too early or too late. 

  15. The good thing about endings is that you can always make your own. Tired of a comic series? Make up your mind not to buy it anymore, maybe stopping with a good point in the story. That’s what I’m doing with Captain America this week. I’m going to quit while I’m ahead and make issue fifty my last, because the series has been going downhill.

    You can also stop watching television shows you no longer like. And there’s a fine line between what I call "quitting while you’re ahead" and "cutting your losses". Haven’t like the Simpsons since Clinton was President? For god’s sake, then, cut your losses and stop watching it. You can do it! You have the will power! 😉

    I wonder if any of the self-help gurus have ever dealt with this topic, helping people ween themselves off of pop culture franchises that the people themselves wish they didn’t have in their lives anymore.

  16. I should say that I am preaching the gospel of quit while you’re ahead, but that I just put ‘X-Men Forever’ on my pull list.  Wonder how long THAT thing’s gonna torment me.

  17. I’m the kid that took 45 minutes to force into the bathtub kicking and screaming. It would then take another 45 minutes to get out of that same tub. I’m just not good at ending things at all. This is why I love when things end themselves. I don’t have to worry about procrastinating to make that last, crucial choice. I have yet to see how that carries over into my comic book reading, as I’m hardly through with month two of the hobby, but I fear it may not end well (or ever, for that matter).

  18. I do not own a television therefore this article confuses me.

  19. @Rustyautoparts – same here. all that hot water at once was too great to resist, but the idea of stopping what I’m doing to get clean was something I liked to mull for several days.

    But isn’t that a great thing? You can jump off when the creations get shitty, but someone else can take the helm and produce sunshine and smiling babies. I’m at vol 2 in Runaways and the first one was nice and I’m interested in the characters, but I’m not too invested, but just stop because of a shitty arc? I don’t really want them to.

    Sticking an end to what is meant to be romp after romp isn’t very good unless you want to and have a good ending. I think that knowing that if it gets annoying or not my thing I can  stop reading and jump back on when something good happens with the characters, and there is always the giant red reset button that people sometimes push if it gets too convoluted.

    It’s a fun notion that I can go become old and senile and wander around and bump into a kid that’s leafing through previews and tell them to get those Runaways stuff with his allowance money, because it was good back in the day and is good now because it was revised.

    After all, people will always need heroes and superheroes, right? It doesn’t seem natural for them to go away. Even if back then it was Sherlock Holmes who caught very clever criminals.Plus I love the fact that a character can go on forever – that I can read new books with Peter Pan or Sherlock Holmes as their protagonist or even a side-character. I don’t want characters I love to go away forever.

    So despite me liking the earlier 30 minute and a funny realization in the very end format that Only Fools and Horses had in the beginning, I also enjoy some of the more somber 50 minute episodes like with the abortion episode etc.

  20. I tend to enjoy a series that I know will have a definitive end at some point. The idea of having a complete collection is appealing to me and how will a story end, is to me, a lot of the point of the story in the first place. I tend to drop comics at the end of an arc so I can see how that ended or often with a change of creator and that often amounts to the same thing.


    @chlop abortion episode  of Only Fools and Horses????? I’m going to hae to re-evaluate my entire world.

  21. I think Marvel just read this piece and canceled Captain Britain to teach me a lesson.

  22. We are all fans of serialized fiction.  We like the cliffhanger, the "to be continued…"  But, we have all dropped ongoings because of changes in creators or directon.  And in comics, sadly, most mini-series by the major publishers, which should be finite, only serve as advertisements/ enticements for some future series.  We jump on and off books and shows all the time.  Luckily, when we miss something we might enjoy, that past story is almost always somewhere we can access it, except for those that were discontinued for our apathy.

    Some books and TV shows stay too long, some are over before their time.  I wish Sports Night, NBC’s recently-cancelled Kings, and now Captain Britain had had more time.  But then again, I’m kinda glad they didn’t overstay their welcome (see Runaways post-BKV, Homicide post-Braugher).

    Bottom line:  I do love a good, satisfying ending, but those are too few and far between.

  23. I think Sports Night was on too long to begin with, it was well written but the lead actors weren’t very likeable.  I would love to see the definitive ending of Young Avengers because their whole existence is an admitted reaction to Teen Titans andthat is not a good reason to do a book, just because the competition did it doesn’t mean that Marvel should do it.  I would feel the same about DC or Image unmasking one of their key characters for no reason and then later saying that it didn’t happen.  People should realize that even a bad idea can have a satisfying ending.  And that could elevate the overall quality of the book as a whole.

  24. Solid article, Jimski.  Your comment about Fables is dead on.  I feel like that book has gone over a cliff since "The Good Prince".  War and Pieces was poorly executed.  It was supposed to be the culmination of years worth of storyline.  Instead, it was rushed in three issues and was totally anticlimactic.  The recent events in the title (including the stupid crossover) are just flat out boring.  Fables has, sadly, become a monthly disappointment for me.

  25. I think a column about Fables for next week has been inspired.  Well played.

  26. I really need to get started on Fables.  Past due I know, its just feels like such a daunting thing to start.