Saga, the space opera from Image Comics that I begged you to read, made its long-awaited return on Wednesday. It was the first recommendation I ever made in this column, and the series’ comeback has become a running theme in every newsletter since. You know my formula by now: an essay, a book giveaway, my favorite email of the week, and the number of days until Saga No. 55. (If you don’t know the formula by now: Welcome to Humans Being; you should definitely subscribe to join the adventure.)
The comic became an ongoing theme in my inbox too, as I received hundreds of emails from new and old Saga fans over the past three months. My favorites were those written by people who were skeptical of me for recommending cartoons and comics—you know, “lowbrow” art beneath the status of esteemed readers and journalists—only to fall in love with Saga or Arcane, and maybe rethink their biases. They fueled my ongoing campaign to evangelize to whoever would listen.
I basically make dubious-sounding recommendations for a living, and as a result, I generally encounter two kinds of people in my life. In my head, I call them “Natalies” and “Kileys” (named after two of my best friends). Natalies tend to be interested in new things, easily accept new recommendations, and often spiral headfirst into a fandom, while Kileys are the type of people who know what they like, stay firm in their tastes, and resist recommendations outside of what they expect to love.
Since the beginning of this newsletter, the real-life Natalie and Kiley held true to those archetypes. Natalie binged Saga, and her wife, Kiley, didn’t; Natalie wants to watch Arcane, but their TV is a shared resource and Kiley isn’t convinced. But for both Natalies and Kileys, the best time to recommend a series is the same, and it’s the single best time in fandom: the long-awaited return.
Joining a series mid-season (or a comic book mid-run) can feel like jumping onto a moving train even for the Natalies among us, but a hiatus is the perfect time to sell someone on the evidence of its quality and the potential of what’s to come, with a built-in buffer period for them to catch up. There are three types of long-awaited returns:
- The money-grab sequel. This one is the most common. It’s usually when franchises capitalize on the commercial potential of nostalgia and name recognition. It’s also a fool’s errand to recommend, because no one wants to hear a recommendation for Fast and Furious 12 (not even even your open-minded Natalie). The money-grab sequel is rarely wanted, rarely good, and rarely worth watching for anyone unattached to the original release. See: The Matrix Resurrections, which was especially interesting to watch with my 14-year-old twin nephews, who absolutely hated it. I couldn’t blame them.
- The summer before sophomore year. There’s no better time than the break between a first and second release. Anticipation for a sophomore effort is fandom in its purest form. It’s the brief moment of heaven between loving something that exists and hoping for something more to come. Everything is perfect and nothing has been ruined—you’re left only to dream, and the sky’s the limit. It’s what I felt watching the “Seven Devils” trailer for Season 2 of Game of Thrones. It’s the greatest trailer ever made, a perfect moment for the fandom, and we chased that high every season after. I still watch it every now and then, just to remember how I felt the first time I saw it. But Game of Thrones fans never experienced that euphoria again. See also: Arcane, which is currently in its perfect summer before its sophomore year.
- The triumphant return from hiatus. Sometimes, something you love leaves. You hope it’s coming back, because there’s unfinished business—the story isn’t done—but the details of the hiatus are unclear and the circumstances of its return are uncertain. You might try to temper your expectations by telling yourself that it may never come back, and you might even be right. But sometimes things work out, and you get an announcement that it’s returning … and you allow yourself to believe again. See: Saga. (And read Saga. Love Saga.)
The anticipation, excitement, and joy before a long-awaited return is the closest you can get to feeling like a kid on Christmas Eve without being an actual kid on Christmas Eve. And it’s the best time to recommend that others join you on the journey.
Will the anticipation be better than the actual return? In most cases, probably. And that’s all the more reason to enjoy it while it lasts. So welcome back, Saga. And cheers to all the fans joining me on the second half of its long journey to the end. Until then … I need a new countdown. There’s nothing better than something to look forward to. I’ll get Kiley on the next one.
My favorite email this week came from Paula, who sent me a happy-birthday message that included, “If I lived closer I would make you a cheesecake, but you are probably a vegan, or lactose and gluten intolerant,” and I can’t tell you how hard I laughed at being roasted like that. I don’t even think she meant it as a joke, which only made it even funnier.
Paula, I love cheesecake. I am pescatarian though, so … touché.
This week’s book giveaway is On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King. If you’re interested in Stephen King, or writing, or you’re a writer who somehow hasn’t read it yet, this one’s for you. Just send me an email telling me whether you’re a Natalie or a Kiley, and I’ll send the book to the first person who hits my inbox. You can reach me at email@example.com, or find me on Twitter @JordanMCalhoun.