I like cliffhangers. The more agonizing a good cliffhanger is, the more satisfying a good payoff is.
I always used to describe one of my favorite TV shows, The Shield, by saying that its cliffhanger payoffs worked so well because they were both utterly unexpected and — in hindsight, anyway—the most logical thing possible. They took your breath away.
Insert your own favorite show — Breaking Bad comes to mind — and you know what I mean.
I like creating cliffhangers, too. As a TV news producer working most recently in panel conversations, I loved when we crafted a moment in which the stakes reached a true, emotional peak… and then we broke for commercial. (I admit it, I have a sadistic streak.)
What I’m NOT crazy about are meta-cliffhangers. Like the end of this week’s installment of my series The Endling. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a pretty classic cliffhanger. I stand behind its cliffhangerosity. But it’s also a meta-cliffhanger — specifically, it raises a question about the future of the Endling series. Because we’re taking…a break.
That’s right, at the pinnacle of suspense in this week’s issue, you’re going to swipe to the next screen and discover a slate announcing that the next installment will appear on Thursday… January 30, 2014. Creating the meta-cliffhanger question of whether we’re REALLY coming back or just stalling for time publicly while behind the scenes we wither and die and play videogames.
The Endling will return on Thursday, January 30. Here’s what happened:
I don’t know what I’m doing.
Now, I’m sure anyone who hasn’t enjoyed The Endling so far will agree readily with that sentiment, but I’m referring in this case to my initial misunderstanding of the digital “swipe” formatting Mark Waid is pioneering here at Thrillbent. When I started writing The Endling, I was thinking of each swipe of the screen as a one- or two-click change for the artistic team.
I was wrong, but I didn’t realize that until the drawing started, which wasn’t until I had pretty much finished writing it. So, what were meant to be ten-“page” issues instead started off as follows:
Week 1: 28 screens
Week 2: 22 screens
Week 3: 25 screens
Week 4: 18 screens
Week 5: 50 screens
Week 6: 20 screens
Week 7: 20 screens
Week 8: 19 screens
Week 9: 19 screens
Week 10: 31 screens
Keep in mind that two screens equal one comic-book page. So, producing ten screens a week is the equivalent of drawing one comic-book page a day. And Cecilia Latella, our artist, is both penciling AND inking.
We started with a little bit of a buffer, but my overloaded scripts quickly used it up and we’re now at a point where we simply won’t be able to continue on a weekly basis any more. Until January 30. At that point, knowing what we do now about how long it takes to illustrate MY OVERWRITTEN SCRIPTS, we will be able to resume a weekly pace for the remainder of the series.
We’re not missing one beat when it comes to working on bringing you this story. The entire series script is written. Cecilia’s finishing inking Chapter 21… the payoff to that cliffhanger in the last panel of 20.
We have much bigger cliffhangers in store after that, so please hang in there with us. If you’ve enjoyed where we’ve been so far, you’re going to love where we’re going. How can I be sure? Mark Waid is the only person besides me and Cecilia who’s read the script to the end. Here’s what he wrote to me afterward:
“Finished Endling again from start to finish and it’s just about the most damn compelling thing I’ve read in forever.”
I hope that sounds worth sticking around for — it certainly made ME happy when he said it. And in the meantime, tweet your complaints to me @JTLarsen; check out the extras in our collected editions at the Thrillbent store; sign up for emails from Thrillbent and Like The Endling’s Facebook page so we can remind you when it’s time for us to return, you can tell us what you think of the story so far and share your theories about what’s going to happen next.
The only thing I can promise WON’T happen is… no more meta-cliffhangers!