David Louis Edelman David Louis Edelman

How Does the Story End?

On DeepGenre today: inspired by my thinking as I write the concluding volume of the Jump 225 trilogy, I’ve posted a meditation on how stories end, and why they end, and what the purpose of ending a story is in the first place. Using Batman as a metaphor, of course.

If you were to stand back at the end of Bruce Wayne’s life and try to chronicle it from the beginning, chances are that his balance sheet will show a number of defeats alongside his victories. How often does Batman defeat the Joker, and how often is the Dark Knight thwarted by him? Well, let’s be charitable and say that Bruce collars the bad guys more often than they elude him. If that’s the case, why chop up the narrative the way we normally do — starting from stasis, going to crisis, ending in victory? Couldn’t we just as easily tell a series of Batman stories the other way around, where we begin with him triumphantly nabbing the Joker and end with the Joker escaping and creating more murder and mayhem?…

When does the story end? It ends when the moral or ethical or psychological question is answered, whether in the affirmative or in the negative or some combination of both. Bruce Wayne finds the strength to put on the mask one more time. Bruce Wayne chooses to follow his convictions, even though they clash with society’s. Bruce Wayne perseveres when a lesser man would have given up. Whether he actually succeeds in capturing the Joker or not is of secondary concern.

Feel free to comment there or here.

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  1. Al on October 23, 2007 at 2:51 pm  Chain link

    I thought stories ended when the editor says there are no more extensions to the deadline? :)

  2. Lou Anders on October 25, 2007 at 2:01 pm  Chain link

    Bruce Wayne perseveres when a lesser man would have given up. Whether he actually succeeds in capturing the Joker or not is of secondary concern.

    Bingo. One of my all time favorite lines from the entire history of Batman is from an otherwise unmemorable Denny O’Neil tale from the 70s wherein, upon witnessing a murder scene, O’Neil writes “One more tattered shred of his faith in humanity breaks lose and falls to the floor.”

    Dark Knight Returns was a perfect ending until Miller sold it out with a pointless and ill-crafted sequel. I’m pretty big on the Batman Animated series, btw, and their Return of the Joker is a pretty good ending in my book.

    As to the larger (non-Batman) context you speak to, “how you chop it” applies to characters like Batman. I’m not sure it applies to other narratives, where good can triumph over evil more permanently.

  3. David Louis Edelman on October 25, 2007 at 7:12 pm  Chain link

    Ha! I just knew I couldn’t write something about Batman on my blog without getting a comment from you, Lou. 😉

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