Recently, two of my favourite modern creators announced an end to their beloved series. In video games, Hidetaka Miyazaki has (somewhat ambiguously) stated that “there’s absolutely no plan right now for any sequels, spin-offs or tie-ins” to Dark Souls or Bloodborne (forbes.com/sites/olliebarder/2016/04/27/hidetaka-miyazaki-puts-the-souls-series-on-hold-wants-to-do-more-mecha-games/#180de5cb1845). And in comics, Mike Mignola has ended the Hellboy series to pursue a new direction as a watercolourist (albeit new works from other creators may come out featuring the character). Yet as devastating as these announcements seemingly are–and one coming after the other, no less–more than anything these two men have earned a great deal of respect from me for making these decisions. After all, I believe firmly in the old adage that all stories have a beginning, a middle and an end.
Particularly, Miyazaki has spoken about his concerns about the over-exposure of the Souls brand, something most creators and companies don’t even discuss these days. In fact, it’s usually quite the opposite, and many probably think such a decision is a little backward. But, for myself, I’ve always been drawn to the finite stories. It’s why I largely prefer movies to television (though some TV series do, eventually end), and it’s partly why I “grew out of” super-hero comics (as it were). To me, there’s always been something unappealing and insincere about something which seemingly goes on forever. And, I would argue most people feel this way too deep down inside.
I can’t claim to know the science behind it all, but too much of a good thing is bad for you. People get bored and dissatisfied with the same old thing. In fact, from the perspective of a storyteller, from the perspective of a creative person, that holds true as well.
As storytellers we’re taught (or learn, in one way or another) that giving the reader too much within the confines of a story is to the disservice of the story and the dissatisfaction of the reader. Over-explaining, hitting them over the head, drawing things out unnecessarily, etc, etc, ad-nauseum all hurt a story and the storytelling process. So why is it we think that these tried and true methods would not apply to the overarching story or life of a particular creation?
If we were fed chicken fingers and fries every day, without another option, most of us would become sick from it (all save this woman, perhaps: dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2092071/Stacey-Irvine-17-collapses-eating-McDonalds-chicken-nuggets-age-2.html). We are painfully aware of that fact. Yet so many of us cannot recognise the time for a show, a comic or a video game series to end. We want more and more and more until the point that we can’t take another minute of it and are clawing at the walls to get out! Yet if we were given just enough of something and left with only that, we’d actually become nostalgic for it, and seek out other work similar or different, to replace the void left in our hearts. It’s a bit dark to word it that way, but it’s true. And that is much more effective than the alternative.
It’s why Michael Jordan returning to basketball twice after his retirement lessened the effect of the end to an epic career. It’s why we really didn’t need a fourth Indiana Jones film or the rumoured reboot which is inevitably coming. It’s why professional wrestlers become almost caricatures of their former selves when they’re still running around the ring after fourteen retirements, twenty-some-odd injuries and now they’re fifty-something years old.
On the other end of things, Breaking Bad is considered an amazing show by many–and it was planned to end from the start. The entirety of Tolkien’s Middle Earth fits in (arguably) five books. It’s why I love Christopher Nolan’s take on The Batman–it’s limited to three films (though I wish he did make one or two more). Stephen King has had a successful career not really doing any sequels at all (save his Dark Tower series, mainly). And then there’s the mother of all pop-culture successes, Harry Potter, whose story was brought to a close in seven books (even with a few spin-offs currently)–also planned from the start.
Everything comes to an end, and there is a time for that in the creative fields. It’s difficult to know precisely when that is (though I have heard the saying that one should always go out when they’re on top–though any search for a source for this comes up with hundreds of articles on sexual positions), but bringing something to a close is healthy both for the creator and his or her fans.
Of course, I do understand that money is a major motivating factor in milking something for every last penny that can be made from it. But do creative projects need to be a casualty of Capitalism? Certainly if a person can have one good idea, they can have many others. And to stick to one thing is to limit one’s self. There’s no room for growth or the development of new things, which inevitably will lead those inquisitive enough to look back to the old things. And for a creator, the absence of growth is the death of creative thought.
Honestly, there’s so much more I could say on this, and indeed much I left out. But at the risk of not following my own advice here, I should probably bring this post to a close. So, I finish with this: my hats go off to Hidetaka Miyazaki and Mike Mignola who had the courage to do what many others would never and probably will never do, especially when both men stand to make a great deal more money from further “developing” their creations. I have so much more respect for these men because of this, and I think many of us could learn a thing or two from their recent decisions.
Barder, Ollie. “Hidetaka Miyazaki Puts The Souls Series On Hold, Wants To Do More Mecha Games.” Forbes.com. 27 April 2016. Web. 14 June 2016. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/olliebarder/2016/04/27/hidetaka-miyazaki-puts-the-souls-series-on-hold-wants-to-do-more-mecha-games/#75ebb5bd1845>
Hussain, Tamoor. “Hidetaka Miyazaki on moving on from the Souls series, new horizons, and a secret obsession.” GameSpot.com. 20 November 2016. Web. 14 June 2016. <http://www.gamespot.com/articles/dark-souls-3-interview-it-wouldnt-be-right-to-cont/1100-6432425/>
Sampson, Mike. “Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy Confirms ‘Indiana Jones’ Reboot Is Coming.” ScreenCrush.com. 5 May 2015. Web. 15 June 2016. <http://screencrush.com/lucasfilm-confirms-indiana-jones-reboot/>
Theilman, Sam. “Mike Mignola: Why I’m ending Hellboy to go paint watercolors instead.” TheGuardian.com. 30 May 2016. Web. 14 June 2016. <https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/may/30/mike-mignola-final-hellboy-comic-paint-watercolors>
and, yes, some minor “fact-checking” on Wikipedia.com