Oni Press first began publishing Campbell’s series in 2005, so as he mentions in his post, it’s been nearly a decade since Cleo, Trilby, Audrey, and Mara started their first year at the art school in their hometown of Wet Moon, somewhere in the Deep South. The comic’s young aspiring poets, playwrights, and illustrators are chain-smoking goths and metal heads, young vegan swamp things who hang out in coffee shops and indie video stores between classes. Not surprisingly, a sense of panic, self-questioning, and irrepressible curiosity underscores their transition from high school to college. Even more interesting, though, is how Campbell’s narrative and aesthetic style values intersectionality in ways that the characters themselves are still struggling to appreciate. In the generous curves and angles of their bodies, gender, race, sexuality, ability, and regional identities are alternatively extolled and effaced according to the shifting cultural attitudes and language of youth. Elements of horror and mystery add even more energy to comic’s coming-of-age drama.
i don’t know if it’ll be career suicide to end Wet Moon, but it seems like the right thing to do. i love the characters but i’ve felt more and more crushed underneath all the storylines i’ve woven together, i feel like i’m paying for the decisions my 24-year-old self made, and i need to wipe the slate clean and move on. other reasons are i feel like i’m always trying to repurpose Wet Moon to fit with myself as i get older and change as a person, people change a lot in 10 years, and also that with each new book, WM gets more and more inaccessible, i don’t want it to become like long-running superhero comics or those Japanese comics that you’re interested in until you find out they’re 25 volumes long and counting. bleh.
Campbell cites the complex continuity in Wet Moon and the related issue of inaccessibility, along with his own personal growth as reasons to risk what could be “career suicide.” (Given his recent work on TMNT, the weekly updates to Shadoweyes, and everything else he’s done, I don’t see that happening.) But Wet Moon offers its own evidence of the rewards that can come with taking such a risk. Consider the way Cleo’s friend Mara slowly sheds her brooding intensity over the course of the series along with her nose rings, leather mini-skirts and black lipstick. “Just felt like it,” she says to Audrey in book 3, but Mara’s journal reflects her frustration with a life in which everyone seems to be changing except her: “i took out a lot of my piercings too, it seemed like the right thing to do, i was getting sick of them… sometimes lately i feel like i don’t know who i am anymore. i know that sounds totally lame and emo or whatever, but it’s true and i can’t lie about it.” If being able to see people like Mara learn and grow and change from their experience means that the series won’t last for 25 volumes and counting, then I guess – to borrow a phrase from both Campbell and his serialized fictional character, it does seem like “the right thing to do.”
Most people who love comics, we’re used to things like Spider-Man and Batman, things that have an illusion of a third act. There will never really be a last Spider-Man story or a last Batman story, even though people have tried it. It’ll never really end. And we get spoiled that way. But I think finales are what give stories their meaning. The stories need endings because all of our lives have endings.
So let’s talk about endings. Which creators or titles get them right? Where are the missed opportunities? We could even consider the larger implications of Campbell’s concerns about the inaccessibility of long-running serials or Vaughan’s suggestion that comics storytelling can sometimes suffer without the sense of finality that endings provide.