I’ve been thinking about the phrase “To Be Continued” lately, inspired by reading an essay (from Kevin Huizenga, from one of his Riverside Companion minis) that ends with it, as opposed to coming to any kind of conclusion; what really made me think about it wasn’t its use, per se, but the fact that… well, I’m not sure if it was used in the traditional sense. The next issue of Riverside Companion doesn’t pick up the essay, but is instead about something else entirely. I’m not sure if that original essay is actually completed anywhere. And I kind of love that.
Like everyone who grew up reading comics — or reading and/or watching serialized fiction of any kind, really — “To Be Continued” is a promise; it’s a deal that both parties agree to and understand; “we’re stopping this now, but we’ll pick it up again next time.” It’s something used so much as to have become iconic; I think about the end of Superman Beyond in the mid-2000s, where it’s the three words used on the tombstone to signify that the end isn’t the end. It’s something we all know and (most importantly for the purpose of where my head’s at right now) trust, implicitly.
So, what if it’s used insincerely, or incorrectly? What if we read “To Be Continued” and it’s just not true? (I guess, again, comic fans know that feeling: that favorite series that disappears mid-run and we never know why…) Or, alternately: what if we start using it and reading it as something longer-term, a promise to pick up the idea and come back to it far in the future at some unspecified time? That’s the thought I’ve been circling around: why can’t we use “To Be Continued” as a promise to others and ourselves when we can’t resolve thoughts or ideas or stories but don’t want to abandon them, even if — especially if — we can’t imagine when we’ll get around to it?
“To Be Continued” repurposed less as a tease of a serialized idea or story, and more as a signal that we’re not finished, but events have gotten in the way and we’ll come back to something eventually? I’m deep in the land of semiotics and semantics that matter to no-one, I deeply suspect, and yet: there’s something about this that’s very, very appealing to me here, if I can work it out.
To Be Continued, indeed.