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Newsletter #165: Nostalgia vs. Progression
Newsletter #165: Nostalgia vs. Progression
Looking at Fionna and Cake, Indy 5, and the rising presence of 'requels' across media

Hey guys, it's Scott.

It is Tuesday, November 7th and I am back from Ireland. Thank you all for the kind words about the trip and the well wishes. It was very, very quick. I think I said so online, but just in case, the reason we keep going over here is my wife Jeanie and I bought an old farmhouse here about a year ago on a whim, it's definitely one of our crazier decisions. But we've always loved it over there and her ancestry is from there and we just love the whole area. And so we've been going over to see it renovated and we just want to have a place that we can take the kids sometimes and show them more of the world. They've really loved traveling the few times we've taken them overseas as well. So it's definitely, again, a bit of a shot in the dark but we love the property and as soon as we saw it we were like we've got to sort of take a swing and see about it. So it's been a real joy and I just love the countryside there. I love the culture, the people, how progressive it is, all of it. And we have friends there. We got Declan Shalvey and Stephen Mooney and a whole bunch of great Irish creators and retailers like John Hendrick of Big Bang. So it's a ton of fun going to visit.

Also a bit of housekeeping. So right now Canary #1, thank you guys so much for all the kind words. It's sort of a big double-sized issue in a beautiful Dark Horse format. It's a horror western co-created by the great Dan Panosian. It's one of the, I think, more challenging books that I worked on for the Comixology line. For me, I mean, creatively, it really took me out of my comfort zone. It feels a little paradoxical to say because it's a western and it's horror, both genres I've worked with in some capacity before with American Vampire and all kinds of stuff. But the way that they're blended in this one, in this kind of cosmic terror, Lovecraftian, almost True Detective sort of style is something that was a real challenge for me and I'm really excited about the book. I think it's a stunner, thanks to Dan mostly. But again, I'm really very proud of what it says, what it explores, how it talks about westerns as a genre and why right now it feels like a horror western is kind of appropriate. So I hope you'll check it out (and it sounds like you are from the response online).

Art by Dan Panosian

Also, thank you for the kind words on Dungeon, our new series from IDW as part of the Dark Spaces line. Again, I can't say enough good things about Hayden Sherman. If you're into serial killers, this one is a series about a really nefarious one that kidnaps people and keeps them in dungeons for years and years and years, which is something that I find even more scary than straight up thrill-seeking serial killers. So it's my take almost on a Silence of the Lambs kind of thriller. Dark Spaces is a line where I do no supernatural stuff. It's all real pressure cooker, claustrophobic, suspenseful, dark, twisted human stories. So this one I hope lives up to that. I feel really good about it. And again, Hayden Sherman is an unbelievable future of comics kind of talent.

Art by Hayden Sherman

So today I thought one thing I'd talk about really quick—I got a couple questions about Adventure Time, a cartoon that I have loved for many, many years and my kids have loved. We started watching it all the way back in 2011/12, 10 years ago, essentially, when it first started. And the question isn't just about that series. The question was, essentially, what do I think of this new entry into the whole Adventure Time pantheon called Fionna and Cake. And for those of you who haven't seen the series or unaware of it, this post won't be about the series specifically so much as, I think, a broader concept in comics and in pop culture right now, which is this nostalgia vs. progression, backwards vs. forwards. And I've been thinking about it a lot. So I want to sort of use it as a touchstone today to talk a bit and see what you guys think.

One other thing is that pretty soon, I think either next week, Tyler is away at Thought Bubble. I wish I could go this year. I can't because of the trip to Ireland and I just have too much with the writer's room. But probably the week after when he's back, right before Thanksgiving, we'll do a class. I was thinking about doing a horror class where we look at your work, published work, but also talk a little bit about the genre of horror itself. So I think it'll be a lot of fun!

So, getting back to this, Adventure Time. This new series, Fionna and Cake, is an entry where it takes one of the main characters, the Ice King, who's the villain, and now takes it forward in time where it shows him having been rehabilitated and he's old and alone, no longer a villain. And you don't have to know anything about this series to understand that there's both intense nostalgia and desire for comfort to go back to this kind of series and revisit characters that you love and grew up with for many years. And also, I think a desire to see something new made of them. And I think this is like, rampant in pop culture right now. And so the answer for people asking me about that particular series, Adventure Time, is just that I don't know. I've only watched the first couple, so I don't know enough yet to see where I fall on the spectrum of do I want this or not.

But one thing that I do feel strongly about is that right now in pop culture, there's too many attempts to revisit things in ways that either offer closure, comfort, or nostalgic joy. I really feel as though sometimes these things do a great disservice to a franchise. So you've seen it with, for me, Indiana Jones. I watched the new one on the plane just yesterday so it's another reason this is on my mind. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, there was a lot I thought was great about the story, but overall it didn't feel as though it was offering anything new. It felt to me as though it was about giving Indy a different kind of closure and showing him settle down, showing him find peace. And that's just not a story I'm particularly interested in, to be honest. It's not something I'm dying to see with that character. I genuinely feel as though he would have been left better at the end of Last Crusade riding off into the sunset. And it has nothing to do with the story itself, again, which I think was relatively strong in a lot of places.

It's almost like there is a way to do an Indy story, though, right now, that would be good. So I'm not saying don't revisit him at 80 years old. But a perfect example for me is something like Batman Beyond.

That show revisits Bruce at 80 and creates brand new franchise mythology material. It reinvents it, or it takes it forward at least. It doesn't go backward. Instead it creates Terry McGinnis in an awesome batsuit and it brings back the old villains. Victor Fries, that iteration of Mr. Freeze in Batman Beyond, the head in a jar and the whole thing is unbelievable.

Look at the Joker. Return of the Joker is one of my favorite stories in all of comics culture. If you haven't seen it, go see it, but see the unedited one.

So I think there's a great Indy story with him at 80, but it isn't about him coming to terms with the death of his son and reuniting with Marion and that. That's not interesting to me because it's not a place emotionally I really want to go with that character and it's not about bringing him into a new stage of his story. It's about closing it down.

Sometimes, does it work? I think with a project like Rocky Balboa, it does only because the movie before it… as much as I love that movie, Rocky V and think it's funny, it's not a good closing film.

Plus it’s got the best speech in the whole franchise, no further questions

So there is some sort of value sometimes to closing down a franchise or doing something that gives sort of joyful closure. But that impulse itself to me isn't something I'm interested in particularly, and I also feel as though it winds up being something that's more self-serving than anything else. That said, a good example of something that I think balances it, uses a little bit more nostalgia than forward movement but still creates good forward movement, is Cobra Kai or, I think, Top Gun: Maverick, another really good example of something that uses nostalgia, revisits things, but also isn't necessarily about closure so much as showing the character entering a new phase of life and also opening story up. There's definitely closure in Top Gun: Maverick, but at the same time, his status now as a teacher, his status as a mentor, all of this stuff coming in feels appropriate.

Similarly, again, Cobra Kai. It has an entire new arc, new cast, new generation. New meaning to the mythology, new combinations of Miyagi and Cobra Kai and all of it. Does it lean a little heavily on nostalgia? Yes, but there's a joy in that because it's taking it somewhere new.

The problem I have with Indiana Jones, the problem I have with something like Toy Story 4, is not only are they not creating a forward-moving thing, they're also ending the story or taking it to a place that feels like an ending. They're telling a story that isn't necessarily something I want to see with that character. So they're misreading it in some way. For me with Toy Story 4, seeing Woody, and I've said this before, not stay with the toys and instead leave, because it's more about letting children leave the nest and retiring, not only doesn't put him in a spot that feels like it's creating new story going forward, but it also feels like it's a story that I don't particularly want to see about that stage in life.

And I do think that's something important to recognize. Indy, again, there is something. You can convince me I want to see him at this stage of life, but I don't want to see him at this stage of life retiring. I don't want to see him at this stage of life sadly dealing with the death of his son. That's also Woody in a way. That's what I'm saying. I want to see him Cobra Kai-ing it. I want to see him Batman Beyond-ing it. I want to see him retired and that stuff and brought out in a way that seemed like it might be doing it at the beginning, but not in a way that just sort of tells a story and then closes it back down. I want to see something exciting. I want to see it open up. I want to see it create new possibilities for that character. Rethink it, make something great. And I think with so many franchises now being revisited from Star Wars, James Bond, all of it. To me, it's a fascinating topic. How do you take something that everybody loves and move it forward in a way that makes it both enjoyable for longtime fans, but also something new that takes a risk and takes it to a place that doesn't necessarily reimagine it entirely. It could, but regardless it takes it forward rather than backwards.

And I think you see it with so many things with the multiverse, we talked about before too, The Flash vs Spider-Verse in different ways.

So it's a trend that I see right now all across pop culture and I would encourage you guys as writers and creators to be really aware of it because I think even when you're writing stuff that's original, even when you're writing stuff that doesn't have huge franchise baggage behind it. Try and think about it. Am I doing this for comfort or comfort food? And again, that's okay. It's okay to revisit things. It's not a project that I'm hugely interested in myself, but is that what I'm doing? Or am I doing something that either takes something that's familiar to people, a concept even, an idea, an archetype, or a new character and pushing them to a place that isn't familiar. It’s something that takes all the stuff that we love and gives it to us, but then takes us somewhere brand new.

So anyway, Fionna and Cake, the verdict is out. The verdict is still up in the air. I really thought there was some very interesting stuff happening in the first couple episodes, but I'm not completely convinced. It's something that I wanted as an addition yet, but my guess is that it will be something that I fall in love with pretty soon.


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