The recent, totally unexpected (and carefully orchestrated) ending of the long-running series The Walking Dead at issue #193 not only shocked the comic-book industry, it made orphans out of many readers.
For many, The Walking Dead was the first comic book they ever followed; for some it might still be the only comic they read regularly. It seemed as if creator Robert Kirkman, artist Charlie Adlard, and their crew were going to keep the title going indefinitely (insert zombie joke here)—certainly another hundred issues seemed a possibility. These faithful Walking Dead readers are now learning that in comics, nothing lasts forever.
Whether you are new to the phenomenon of losing your favorite comic or you’re a grizzled veteran of cancellations, reboots, and short-run series, the feelings are universal. Something you loved will no longer continue. The elation you received every month from reading it has gone, leaving a void.
Never fear. You are not alone. Here are some steps you can take:
Allow yourself some time to grieve
Perhaps this sounds overly dramatic, but if a comic book has made you laugh and cry and changed the way you think about anything, you may have built a stronger attachment to it than you’d like to admit. When the legendary Matt Fraction and David Aja run of Marvel’s Hawkeye finally ended (after a long delay) with issue #22, I felt both thrilled that a conclusion had arrived, but also extremely sad that there would be no more “Hawkguy” and Kate Bishop adventures from this particular team. I even put off reading that last issue for a few days. When I finished the finale, I decided I didn’t really want to read anymore superhero (or superhero-adjacent) comics for a little while. I needed a break.
One way to deal with loss is to talk about it with a friend. This is a great time to recommend the amazing comic run you just finished to someone else, whether it’s by lending out your trade paperbacks or by simply Tweeting about it, and sharing your love with the whole world.
If you’ve still got lots of bottled-up feelings inside, why not turn them into an email or physical letter of appreciation to the comic creators? They may have moved on to another title or even a different comic book publisher, but comic scribes, artists, and publishers really do read feedback from fans, and they will appreciate hearing how much you enjoyed their work.
Tackle a reread
One way to delay saying goodbye to a departed comic is to relive it. If you own the whole series, whether in digital or physical form, take a gander back from issue #1. You might appreciate the artwork and plotting more when you’re not racing through each issue to find out what happens, or you may notice foreshadowing and symbolism that didn’t jump out at you on your first reading.
If you bought single issues or borrowed your comics, it might be a good time to reward yourself (and the comic creators) by buying trade paperbacks or, if available, a handsome hardback compilation (Image puts out some particularly nice ones). Often, these collections contain extra artwork including variant covers, making-of features, and other surprises.
Start a new adventure
When you’re ready to let go and move on, it’s time to start something new. The writer or artist of the comic you just finished might be working on a different project that you’ll love just as much. When Scottie Young ended his run of I Hate Fairyland after 20 issues, he made an impassioned pitch for a new comic he was writing (but not drawing) called Middlewest.
The enjoyment he’d already given me was enough to get me reading this new work, which is a big departure from I Hate Fairyland, but just as entertaining and imaginative—it’s about a young boy who flees from an abusive father into a magical world populated with hedge wizards, talking animals, and a fearsome sentient tornado, and the first arc left me wanting more—which is happily on the way.
Sometimes following a writer or artist you like will lead you down interesting and unexpected paths. The end of Tom King’s great Mister Miracle (which was always planned as a limited series), led me to some of his other DC Comics work, including the recently concluded Heroes in Crisis and his work on Batman, an ongoing series I never thought I’d care to embrace again.
Writers and comics artists are also very good at recommending works that are influential to them or that they’re currently reading. Check out the Twitter, Tumblr, or other social media accounts of your favorite creators, or read through the letter columns of single-issue comics.
It’s sad when a great comic comes to an end, but in the best-case scenario, the creators have finished their run on their own terms and ended it on a high note. The best thing you can do, as a fan, is to keep supporting their work by passing praise along and by continuing to buy and read great graphic novels and favorite ongoing series.
What’s your favorite completed series in comics?