Episode 148: A Look into the Serialization of Comic Strips

With all my posting on comic books, I figure showing some love for comic strips was in order.

Comic strips are the oldest and most familiar form of comics for many readers. These consist of only a few panels (three or four, though single panel comics are not uncommon). Individual comic strips are rarely found on their own[1], due in part to aspects of print publishing that would not make it viable for a single author to make hundreds of minute documents that would be difficult to distribute/sell. Thus, comic strips became a small part of a larger staple of traditional print publishing, namely newspapers. Illustrations and political cartoons have been present as additional material to help show part of a plot point or a current event in various forms of print but they are most commonly found in newspapers and other periodicals. Comic strips (mostly of the single panel variety) which serve as an adjunct to the narrative (or to the editorial viewpoint) or just a standalone short stories, were part of various print documents since the 19th century; including the Victorian serial magazines explained in the previous chapter. For example, the magazine Punch used illustrations throughout its articles as part of its jokes, including a comic strip called “The Inspired Musician and the Christmas Ham” by E.H. Shepard appeared in its last installment. (View Figure below)

The inspired musician and the christmas ham

(Figure From Project Gutenberg’s entry on Punch Vol 159.

Originally published on December 29, 1920)

However, the first comic strip to appear as its own individual story and serialized as such was Richard F. Outcault’s The Yellow Kid, which began just before the turn of the 20th century. Outcault was the first author to create a unique set of continuous characters for this comic strip. The storylines were a reflection of the society of the time but Outcault framed it through his characters, rather than the other way around as was the style for previous forms of comics. His work would not be alone for long as other authors became cartoonists and proceeded to do their own form of character centered comic strips.

Rather than have these miniscule graphic narratives be spread out throughout the document, newspaper editors decided to conglomerate all of them in one section and called it “The Comics” or “The Funnies”. Different authors were now stacked together via medium. As authors decided to branch out to different styles and genres throughout the years, the comics page became a potpourri of cartoonists’ works placed together as talking animals, superheroes, pranksters, and detectives (just to name a few) were packed alongside each other. The comics had their own space in the Sunday edition, which usually meant that they would be in color and have twice or even triple the space they would have to the simpler weekday editions. These daily editions were only a few panels and completely in black and white, thus making an interesting serialization model for authors of comic strips to follow. Six installments would have less content and art quality while the seventh one would have additional space and options to work with. Since most comic strips had a “gag a day” format that was concentrated on telling a joke per installment rather than on producing an ongoing story, the process of serialization was not too problematic. However, once the focus from humor had been relaxed to include action, adventure, and even some dramatic comic strips, storytelling had to be very controlled so that each of the daily installments would mesh together and fit with the Sunday shift in style. Comic strip authors that were hired to only do Sunday issues, or all days but Sunday, had a more uniform style for drawing/writing all installments but they had to take into consideration the temporal gap of their text not being available to the readers. In this way, awareness of the medium of publication took into consideration the rate of publication as part of the serial reading experience.

Readers of serialized comic strips have certain advantages and disadvantages that come with partaking in this form of storytelling. Economically, as long as one was already planning on purchasing a particular periodical or newspaper then one’s reading of comics would not incur an additional expense. The initial document is easily obtainable but as time goes by the accessibility of a particular periodical decreases rapidly. Finding a previous day’s newspaper, or from even earlier, was not an easy task since most periodicals are considered to be disposable after an initial reading and past events had lost their importance as need to know information. Scholar of British Romanticism Karen Fang writes that, “Explicitly identified with time in their very name, periodicals were the subject of Romantic distaste due to their serial and rapidly obsolescent nature” (Romantic Writing and the Empire of Signs 180). If old news was essentially disposable then the comic strips inside them were even more so. Missing an installment meant that one would miss all the comics for that day, albeit it would only a small amount of content, but that brings up a more interesting point when it comes to backtracking through earlier documents. If one was not reading a particular comic since the first time it appeared then there would be a point where it would suddenly become too complicated to start from any point onward and it would just be overlooked. This reading phenomenon is known as continuity lock-out and it is defined as when, “The writers have let the mythos or stories they have generated get so thick and convoluted that a new reader/viewer has very little chance of understanding the significance of anything. They are ‘locked out’ of understanding the story by all the reliance on continuity” (TV Tropes editors). With no real archive of previous installments of comic strips, this level of confusion could happen fairly easily. Consider the case of Prince Valiant, a Sunday only comic strip by Hal Forster about a medieval knight that would go on fantastic adventures that started in 1937. The strip continues to this day after Forster passed on the authorial torch until its current holders, writer Mark Schultz and artist Thomas Yeates. With almost 80 years of material behind it, the narrative complexity and rich history are almost impenetrable to new readers. There have always been brief recaps of the events of the previous installment, but even since its early years the story became quite confusing with all of the different characters going around, especially once the titular knight (who started the comic strip as a child) would have children who eventually took on their own adventures. Compilations, compendiums, and collections of these comic strips consisting of a few years’ worth of material have been made over the years though the most current ones only cover material until 1956. Creating and maintaining an archive of a particular comic strip was not an authorial performance (unless of course there was a future publication possibility with them) so this task was left up to individual readers who were passionate enough to collect and care for all those newspaper clippings. The professional compilations that are published are done with higher quality paper, art, and minor edits to help streamline the story. Much like in the case of the volume editions that came after the serialized run of Victorian novels, this new document which contains the entirety of the text is the author’s authoritative text but it is not the intended text which had a designed serial reading experience for the readers throughout its original publication.

It is also worth noting that since comic strips are just a small part of the overall newspaper or periodical, the control of publication is not on the shoulders of the author but on the editors. It is these editors who choose how many comic strips are part of the comics section, which authors get picked, and whether particular installments are fit to be printed. There is not necessarily an exclusivity clause in the publication contracts between authors and editors since a particular comic strip can be picked up for syndication[2] to a variety of newspapers simultaneously. Still, editors have a lot of control and can heavily alter a particular comic strip as they see fit. The most common practice involves the Sunday edition in which many comic strips have a 3×3 panel layout of which the first panel usually provides the title and author’s name. As the cost of printing rose, editors decided to put more per page and asked cartoonists to modify their format. The second and third panels should now have a throwaway joke that connected to the overall comic strip but was not integral to it. This way the editors could remove the top third of the comic strip, place the title and author’s name as a small banner in the margin, and thus have more comics per page. The practice angered many authors and Bill Watterson, the creator of Calvin and Hobbes, who greatly believed in the integrity of the art in comics took a stand. In 1992, he reorganized his Sunday strip editions and negotiated with Universal Press Syndicate (the syndicate in charge of distributing Calvin and Hobbes) so that it could only be sold as an unbreakable half page. This particular authorial performance helped to legitimize comic strips and that cartoonists didn’t have to conform to industry standards while simultaneously angering editors and other artists who believed that Watterson didn’t have the right to ignore the rules. With the continual decline of print newspapers and periodicals over the years, fewer and fewer comic strips are present each day to the point that they might just disappear entirely. The dream of making a comic strip that would get picked up by a large paper and then nationally syndicated is at its scarcest but many current and would be authors of this form of serial fiction have emigrated from print and now venture into the digital realm for their publication aspirations. For an in depth discussion of digital publishing, please refer to chapter four of this dissertation.

[1] “Bazooka Joe” comics found in the bubble gum wrapper being a noteworthy exception and even they are seen as ancillary material of the candy purchase.

[2] Syndication relies on a person who is not the author serving as an agent of sorts which allows the text to appear across multiple documents, like newspapers. Authors retain original rights and ownership.

Episode 147: Siegel and Shuster, the Authors of Superman

Since I’ve been talking so much about Superman I think it’s important to go to authorial roots and talk about the men responsible for bringing an iconic character to our lives.

In the 1930s, writer Jerome “Jerry” Siegel and artist Joseph “Joe” Shuster, came together to make a character that could be a larger than life hero. Comic books had just become commonplace and authors were trying to find the next big thing that would make sure their periodicals would jump off the newsstands. Siegel and Shuster pitched their concept of “Superman” to different comic book companies until Action Comics decided to a chance and have him be on the cover of their first issue[1]. Superman made his debut among other characters like Zatara the Sorcerer and he was far from being the first superhero in comics or any other medium but he soon became the symbol for the term. Of course, in the early days his powers and backstory where far more limited than what they currently are. Perhaps the biggest aspect that even many fans are not aware of is the fact Superman originally did not possess the ability to fly.

Originally, all of Superman’s powers were centered entirely on his extraordinary strength. The introduction for the old serials in cartoons and radio famously gave the opening lines of, “Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, it’s Superman!” All of these traits were based on his muscles. Many times, Siegel and Shuster would take advantage of their character’s superior leaping ability to have him jump and do heroic feats mid-air. However, Superman would always fall back to Earth and thus he would have to hop constantly to take on aerial challenges. Both authors found creative ways to circumvent the issue of gravity but ultimately decided that Superman would develop the ability to fly. The narrative introduction of said power stated it as him having gained greater control over his abilities. Siegel and Shuster had now established that their character was dynamic and evolving not just in personality but in more direct physical capacities; an authorial performance that would become a staple of comic book storytelling for many other heroes. That history would become problematic once a spinoff of Superman’s main narrative came in the form of Superboy; which detailed the hero’s past as a young boy fighting crime with many powers, including flight. Of course that title was developed by DC, without Siegel and Shuster, as will be explained shortly.

As the years went on, super heroes had become commonplace and became an essential subset of comic books. Detective Comics Inc. published Action Comics (who had Superman) and Detective Comics (who had Batman) and later merged with National Comics, the resulting company being DC Comics, though it did not officially have that name until 1977.With so many popular characters under the same publication house, the potential for crossovers of characters between individual stories had escalated exponentially. You see, since characters are the legal property of their creators according to copyright law (and at the very least authorial integrity) then an author cannot use another author’s intellectual property without a legal response. Even if the authors themselves could agree to it, their respective publishing houses might voice their objections, and put a stop to the process. However, with the creation of DC, major legal hurdles were bypassed and the possibility of Superman and Batman joining forces with other heroes not only became a possibility, it would soon become a reality. Crossovers in the form of cameos (brief appearances in another character’s storyline) and team ups (wherein story lines from both titles’ installments would merge and have characters freely appear) led to the creation of another comic book entirely where the heroes would be working together from the start. In 1941, World’s Finest Comics hit the shelves and it showed Superman alongside Batman and Robin as a team that would go on many adventures to save the day, mostly from evil Nazis. Later on, Wonder Woman joined the team and inclusion of other heroes would later influence the creation of another title with multiple characters from other DC comic books, The Justice Society of America. However, few if any of the original authors of these titles were the writers and artists behind these conglomerations of characters.

Siegel and Shuster would continue to be the main writer and artist of Superman for many years but only in its main incarnation of installments of Action Comics. They would do the authorial performances regarding the serialization of the story but the concept of authorship concerning Superman and most forms of comics had changed. You see, as part of the contract to develop and publish Superman through DC, Siegel and Shuster sold the rights and ownership of the character to the company. They would remain developing the stories for the character as part of their ten year contract but it was DC and its executives who would have creative control and ownership of the characters from thereon out. This leads to what I call a corporate model of authorship, wherein the company employs various writers and artists to complete authorial performances regarding the publication of the story but ultimately it is the corporation itself that decides the direction of the narrative and has the mantle (though not the outright title) of the author.

Siegel and Shuster would continue to work for DC through the length of their contracts but continued to be quite vocal about not liking their deal of selling off their prized character. Before their time had expired, they tried to sue their employers over the rights to Superman. Both of the original authors of Superman eventually decided to seek employment elsewhere and stopped trying to sue after they were given a settlement by DC so that they would not sue again. The court had already decided that DC had the rights to the character, which they could appeal, but decided to take DCs offer. However, their names as creators of Superman would be erased from future publications. In the mid-1970s, Siegel and Shuster decided to protest DC in a very public manner. Investigations from journalists covering the case brought to light that both men were leaving in deep poverty. Fans of Superman took their side as they witnessed that their desire was more based on subsistence than greed. In the end, DC decided to take action outside of the original court rulings. The company gave Siegel and Shuster a stipend and health benefits to help them get back on their feet. Both men accepted this olive branch and ceased any further legal action[2]. DC also decided that the phrase “created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster” be in every Superman story from thereon out regardless of its medium of publication. This recognition by DC of the original authorship of the Superman work alongside caring for the real life initial authors shows the creators of the character still have a historical and emotional authorial connection to the text long after other writers and artists have continued the serialization of the narrative.

[1] You can read Superman’s first adventure here http://www.reading-room.net/Action1/Action1Cover.html

[2] Interestingly enough, Siegel’s widow and daughter went into an extended legal battle with DC and Time Warner over copyright issues regarding Superman and ownership of Superboy for most of the 2000s.

Episode 146: A brief treatise on the serial nature of comics

This is the current format of the conclusion of my chapter on comics. It probably makes more sense in the context of having read almost 30 pages of stuff beforehand but its fairly standalone all things considered.

The serialization model for graphic narratives is one that requires a certain discipline for authors and readers when it comes to both space and time. In the case of comic strips, the limited amount of content and the minimal amount of time between each installment means that narrative development and complexity needs to remain simple so as to facilitate the serial reading experience as much as possible. Comic books have more room within their documents to advance the story and there is enough downtime between installments that readers have a temporal of window to accommodate their serial reading experience. Graphic novels do not have to follow any specific industry standards when it comes to length of the text or the length of time between publications, much like format in traditional serial print publishing. Authors within each subset of comics have their own problematics when it comes to the narrative production of their works of serial fiction. The singular author now becomes subdivided into writer and artist with more roles credited to those responsible for each of the authorial performances done through the publication process.

The medium of comics would be dominated by the genre of superheroes, especially in comics. Authors would place their characters within a particular adventure that would be resolved by the end of one installment or over the course of several of them. While creators of characters generally have ownership of the content they create, comic book publication houses like DC bought the rights to these famous superheroes but continued to employ their creators to continue the serialization process. The change to a corporate model of authorship meant that the story could continue indefinitely by hiring people to complete authorial performances but the final say on determining narrative direction was with executives and editors rather than writers. As a corporation, DC ensured that all of its titles would maintain narrative continuity in the context of each other. The ability to further develop storylines that exceeded a set number of installments added layers of complexity and nuance to the narrative but it came at the price of readers becoming uninterested and confused if some installments were not to their liking or unavailable. Major events like Crisis cleaned the narrative slate to begin anew with the hopes of getting new readers but at the risk of alienating their currently faithful readership. These issues were magnified exponentially with the “Death and Return of Superman” storyline which rose comic books an age of success like no other and made it crash soon after. Writers now had the authorial performance of resurrecting their dead characters without having to restart the narrative but in a way that made readers feel tricked. The prime directive of maintaining narrative continuity lost its significance when something as final as death had lost its power.

Serialization within comics is ultimately a struggle between keeping the narrative structured within its own boundaries and having it be accessible to an existing and potential readership. As time goes on, authors will progress the story to the point that it may become unrecognizable to those who last saw it during its onset. These narrative growing pains limit creativity, as the story must maintain a lineal progression, and make it so that new readers need a history lesson to understand the current events. Authors of new characters, like Atomic Robo, can still encounter these difficulties if they do not plan beforehand. Classic characters will continue to have their past because even as the story may restart, within the context of the narrative, some readers lived through that serialization process and new readers can experience those events with the help of a proper archive. With all the authorial performances that writers and artists have taken with their works, it is a wonder that there is still new narrative ground to cover but there will always be another installment coming soon.

Episode 145: Atomic Robo as the counterpoint to mainstream comic book storytelling.

The Case for a Nonchronological Continuity

While the comic book industry is almost synonymous with DC and Marvel, there are many other publishing companies that make graphic narratives. One particular work that takes a very different approach when it comes to continuity is Atomic Robo by Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegna. Originally published by Red 5 comics but now on its own, this comic book showcases the adventures of the titular protagonist, a hyper intelligent and super strong robot made by Nikolai Tesla. The premise of the story is fairly commonplace by comic book standards; the sentient robot known as Robo fights off enemies and conquers challenges with his[1] intelligence, wit, strength, humor, and the help of his friends. However, the storytelling premise done by Clevinger and Wegna goes against the conventions of serial publication. You see, the narrative in Atomic Robo is not told chronologically outside of major events during a particular storyline. During Robo’s century long life span the story does not go in a linear path from creation until his eventual destruction. Instead, we see one adventure from any moment in that timeline being told in installments with no need for narrative filler between the most important events. In fact, Clevinger and Wegna have specifically stated that their comic will not contain filler.

Why should we devote a month of our short lives to creating an issue if it isn’t worth reading? And then why should we try to sell you an issue that isn’t worth buying? The main source of filler issues seems to be due to moving set pieces from the aftermath of one event to set up the next one. Since we have no reason to follow Robo’s life as a linear chain of events, we’re free to jump straight from one adventure to the next. Maybe Robo fights a sea monster. Maybe we follow the lives of Action Scientists when off duty. But it ain’t filler.  (“About” Page)

Now, without a particular chronological order, this publication format resembles an episodic model like the one used during the Golden Age of comics. And yet this is far from the truth as Clevinger and Wegna have actively tried to maintain a strict continuity throughout their years as the creators and authors of Atomic Robo. They even have a “No Reboot” rule that reads as follows:

They [reboots] [a]re frustrating, unnecessary, and a jarring reminder that all fiction is a thinly veiled series of lies. The major events of Robo’s lifetime were plotted years before we worked on the first page of the first issue. Anything Scott and I add to that has to fit organically into the existing framework. If it doesn’t fit as naturally as if it’d been there all along, then we skip it and move to the next idea. Everything that happens will fit into the larger mythos; everything that happens will happen for a reason; and nothing that happens can be “undone.” (About Page)

This dedication to continuity is further cemented by the presence of a timeline feature on the main Atomic Robo website. There one can follow in chronological order the events contained in each of the current installments, including in which ones they took place, and even events that are set to occur in future publications that are currently marked as “Top Secret” with the future volume number of when it will take place. The inclusion of a timeline demonstrates an authorial performance of transparency in continuity, wherein major moments are permanent in time and current gaps might soon be filled up with stories yet to be told. However, with the readers having definite knowledge that Robo will survive any ordeal prior to the last point in the timeline (2013 as of the time of this writing) be invested in the story? The experience of engaging with the text shifts, from the classic premise of “if the hero survives” to one where we determine “how Robo succeeds”, with each installment or with each volume (compilation of a set of installments usually revolving around one major story arc).

The storytelling in Atomic Robo goes in a different style but so does the authorship. Brian Clevinger is the lead writer and Scott Wegna is the lead artist but both are considered the co-creators to the work. As mentioned in the quotes above, they have been working together to make the best possible story long before the first installment was published. Both share the title of author, just like Shuster and Siegel almost 80 beforehand. While one may be in charge of words and the other of art (according to the title page of each installment), it is their joint work that creates the text. Of course, it’s not just the two of them; however it’s not nearly the amount of personnel that either of the two big companies. Clevinger and Wegna, according to their about page and the covers of their documents also employ a colorist, a letterer, an editor, and someone to work on the cover of each installment. Red 5 Comics was in charge of their publication and distribution until February of 2015. According to a recent blog post by Clevinger, he says that they let their contract with Red 5 comics run its course until the end of its term so that he and Clevinger would have sole distribution rights. Their current plan is to continue to sell print and digital editions of their already available material and to publish new installments of Atomic Robo as a webcomic with trade paperbacks being sold as a compendium every so often. The webcomics model of authorship is discussed in depth in the next chapter but it is important to note that while other forms of serial fiction publication in comic books add more layers of authorial influence, Clevinger and Wegna are taking a back to basics approach.

One additional authorial performance worth further analysis is the communication that both of these co-authors have with their readership. Both Clevinger and Wegna have used various social media platforms before coming together to work on Atomic Robo and they continue to do so till this day. They are most vocal through Twitter where they share updates on shipping problems to distributors, other people’s reviews of their most recent installments, what new storylines were in development, in addition to the general ramblings of someone on the Internet. The most interesting feature comes when one follows them both and you can see the creative process in action. Their interactions are highlighted by the fact that they use Robo’s face as their icons (Clevinger’s facing to the right and Wegna’s to the left) which gives a nice visual element to the back and forth banter between the two. This communication usually comes in the form of jokes but every so often one finds hints at future storylines through comments about their current “research”. Since Clevinger and Wegna live far enough apart that speaking face to face is impractical to say the least, using social media makes sense. However, the fact that many of their exchanges are visible to the general public demonstrates an authorial performance of transparency into their narrative production as individuals but also into their collaborations as they work together on their continuously developing study.

[1] Gender identity in robots is a very problematic issue. Considering that Robo’s physical design is male and that many characters refer to him as a “he” rather than as an “it”, I will refer to the character as male as well.

Episode 144: And Now an Intermission by Max Landis

Yesterday’s post was so long I’m counting it as double and posting it right after this. Considering that uber nerd Max Landis already explained Death and Return of Superman better than I ever could (though not 100% accurate) I think it’s better that I just leave my conclusion on the storyline to him. And yes, I know it was the ending of the last post but trust me it deserves it’s own space yet again (I used him back in the early days of blog explanations)

If you want the fanboy version of what the storyline could have been and what I’m secretly hoping that Batman V Superman ends up doing then you better see this long but very well worth it video also by Mr. Landis.

Episode 143: The Return of Superman

Short post detailing the return of Superman. Established heroes like Supergirl and The Guardian stepped into the spotlight to become the hero Metropolis needed. An entire group of emerging heroes appeared in their own series, “Superman: The Legacy of Superman” trying to fill the void. However, DC decided to four new characters emerge with the desire to become the authentic Superman. All four of the previously mentioned titles detailed the events of the storyline known as “The Reign of the Supermen”. Four characters with the iconic S logo on their chests appeared and they all vied to be the one true Superman. The Eradicator, Superboy, Steel, and Cyborg Superman as they are more commonly known all have a claim to the heroic mantle but the citizens of the comic world are split as to who they should cheer for, After a complex series of events that resulted in the destruction of Coast City and the death of its inhabitants, Cyborg Superman is revealed to be evil and with plans to destroy the world. The original Superman with very limited powers reemerges from his “healing coma” with only a fraction of his powers but with the help of the other Supermen he ends up saving everyone and getting back to top form. The explanation of a healing coma being a state which Kryptonians achieve when being near death but is indistinguishable from being dead to human perception made sense within the narrative world but not to the readers. The general reception of Superman’s return was negative as people felt their emotions had been played with and that it was all just a marketing ploy. For almost a full calendar year since the emergence of Doomsday, readers were taken on a wild ride but they ultimately arrived at the same spot of Superman saving the day yet again. Interestingly enough, the biggest effect that this storyline had on the grander scale of the DC universe was that the destruction of Coast City led to Green Lantern Hal Jordan becoming consumed with grief, turning evil, and destroying entire planets before being stopped by a large group of heroes, including Superman. And yet even this event was temporary and eventually erased from the overall narrative. You see, the death of Superman was a historic event that took away one of the most recognizable characters in fiction. A resurgence of comics followed as people believed that the story had run its course and suddenly the once disposable periodical of comic books had become a collector’s item. Upon Superman’s return the fans felt lied to and their disapproval was easily reflected in DCs rapidly freefalling sales numbers. The ripple effect of the Death of Superman inflated the comic book industry bubble which burst upon his return. Comic book collecting returned to being an obscure financial trade and big companies like DC and Marvel lost a lot of money, to the point that the latter had to file for bankruptcy. Still, these repercussions pale in comparison to the change that had now occurred in serialization. Superman’s revival had led the way for other characters to be killed off and brought back again. Perhaps Max Landis, the creator of the comedic retelling of The Death and Return of Superman” short film said it best: “The sacred suspension of disbelief, as far as death, had ended. ‘Death of Superman’ didn’t kill Superman; it killed death.” And for some reason the video has Korean subtitles, make sure to change that if you want. Be warned, the video has a lot of F-bombs throughout.

Episode 142: Superman’s Funeral Marred by Inconsistent Robins

I’m still with the funeral part of this epic Superman storyline and so much is left to go. But hey at least it sounds pretty smart so far so that’s something.

While Superman the character was gone, Superman the text would continue to be serialized. Titles like “Action Comics”, “The Adventures of Superman”, “Superman: The Man of Steel”, and the simply titled “Superman” continued to be published as they already had been to continue the story of the aftermath of the iconic hero’s death. DC published eight installments depicting Superman’s funeral between the four titles known as “Funeral for a Friend”. It is in this miniseries that one notices an artistic and stylistic mismatch between installments. You see, each of these titles have a different writer, artist, letterer, penciller, inker, and colorist with the only position in common between the four documents being the editor, Mike Carlin. “Superman: Man of Steel #20 aka Funeral for a Friend #3” has various DC heroes come to attend Superman’s funeral and burial, including an adult muscular Robin who helps save Jimmy Olsen from some Mafioso style extortionists. The next installment in the chronology of Superman’s narrative “Superman #76 aka Funeral for a Friend #4” now has a much younger and less imposing Robin with much shorter hair. Even with a possible haircut, the latter depiction of Batman’s sidekick is noticeably more timid as his brief appearance consists of him thinking “I liked him too, but I’m afraid that if I say anything I’ll sound like an idiot!” (256). It is in this contrast that textual fluidity becomes apparent. With the text of Superman being divided by four groups undergoing the same authorial performances, there are going to be minor differences in the way these are done even as the narrative progression is uniform and planned out. Close readings of minute details in the art and lettering reveal that the depictions of these characters and their language changes ever so slightly between the four titles but not in a way that is as readily apparent as the Robin example from above. In short, corporate authorship requires that different artists and writers be employed to uphold the authorial performances necessary for narrative production to continue. Serialization at a weekly rate of publication required that multiple documents, each with its own team but with common editors, be ready without necessarily having full knowledge of every detail of previous and future installments. In the case of Superman, especially within this storyline, finding an error is rare but when one exists it sticks out. While narrative production may be the labor of the writers and artists following the broad strokes of the executives’ creative direction, it is the editors that take on the authorial performance of ensuring that all the pieces between installments and documents flow and do not disrupt continuity.