Some Thoughts on The X-Files Season 10 and Transmedia Storytelling

The big news in The X-Files fandom this week was the announcement that series creator Chris Carter has officially signed on as an executive producer to IDW comic series, making the comics the official season 10.

The X-Files season 10 cover

Set for release on June 19th the comic picks up shortly after I Want to Believe and, according to Geek Mom will begin with Mulder and Scully living normal lives together under secret identities. Bleeding Cool writes that

The first arc, beginning in June, will seek to bring the mythology of the Alien Conspiracy back up to date in a more paranoid, post-terror, post-wikileaks society, pulling in many story threads from the original series. The opening story will focus on bringing Mulder and Scully back to Agent status, as individuals associated with the X-Files are mysteriously killed one by one, forcing the two to come together again for their own protection, and for that of their friends and loved ones. Future stories will continue the mythos, as well as dropping in plenty of monster of the week stories.

So it seems like the comics are going to stay pretty true to the series, and Carter’s involvement ensuring the comics stay canon has a lot of fans excited. I’m excited – I’ll happily admit that. I remember the early Topps comics (I still have them on my bookcase, and foresee a re-read before season 10 is released) and Carter’s involvement in the series gives it an official air (not that there’s anything wrong with unofficial products – I’m a fanfic writer and doing a PhD on fan culture; I’m going to be the last one to argue that one is better than the other. But for a fandom which is going strong despite having only one new release since it went off air, something ‘official’ is nice). But I’m also a bit wary about this announcement. The Comics Alliance noted that IDW Chief Creative Officer/Editor-in-Chief Chris Ryall likened Carter’s involvement in the comic to that of Joss Whedon’s on IDW’s similar TV series continuation, Angel: After the Fall. Angel – and Buffy – have continued in comics format but there have been no new televisual or filmic incarnations of the series, and that’s what worries me with the comics. Are Fox using this as a way to placate the fans who’ve been campaigning for a third film since the release of I Want to Believe? Are they using it to gauge interest in the franchise before deciding to greenlight a new film? Are they using it as a promotional opporunity for a film that’s in the works? I’m hoping that it’s the latter but there’s a large part of me that worries it’s the former.

Of course, thinking about this my academic (rather than fan) side takes over and asks “well what, exactly, is wrong with The X-Files continuing in comic format rather than on screen?” Nicolas Pillai opens his article Licensed comics and the freedom of transmedia storytelling (which I’d thoroughly recommend) in the X-Filesspecial issue of Science Fiction Film and Television, with an analysis of season five’s Post-modern Prometheus. He writes that

Given the episode’s interest in pop culture forms, we might take this challenge to Scully’s assumptions [in the form of the validation of Izzy’s comic] to mean that truth is as likely to be found in a comic book as in a television programme. (2013:102)

Pillai argues that the narratives developed in The X-Files comic books should not be viewed in isolation from those seen in the TV series and films. Certainly, it sounds as though IDW’s series will be drawing heavily on the series and both films, as well as developing its own Monster of the Week storylines and bring the mytharc more firmly into the twenty-first century. But the position of licensed comics in both television studies and comic studies has been relegated to that of impure replication or mere merchandise (Pillai 2013:104). Thinking about this, my understanding of licensed comics – especially relating to The X-Files – has very much been the former. I collect X-Files comics and I read and enjoy them, but for me they are inferior to the telvision series and the films. I think to some extent this can tie into discussions around what constitues canon and what – to borrow Brooker’s phrase – constitutes quasi-canon (1998:xi). As a primarily televisual text, X-Files canon for me has always been what is on screen. The authorised novelisations – of I Want to Believe and the earlier episodes like Darkness Falls – also constitue canon. However, the comics, the graphic novels, the books, the computer games – the list goes on – have never been canon for me. Even where the comics were greenlit by 1013 (as in the case of the Topps comics) or used the voices of David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson (as in the PC games) I do not view them as canon. And so I’m still carrying some of this of snobbery – for want of a better phrase – into my somewhat checked excitement over season 10. Would I prefer there to be another season or TV, or a new film? Being totally honest, yes I would. But I am looking forward to the comics and I’ve already asked my local comic shop to order them in for me. I’m sure I’ll be writing more on this topic when they arrive.

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4 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on The X-Files Season 10 and Transmedia Storytelling

  1. As much as I agree that comics etc aren’t equal to TV episodes, I find it interesting how different media use their differences to their advantages. At uni I wrote an essay on how the Deep Space Nine relaunch novels used their status as ‘usurping’ the TV series to tell stories about infiltration and doppelgangers, it would be interesting to see if the X Files does something similar with another ‘alien’ medium?

    • I’m having a similar discussion on how different media use their differences to their advantages over at my LJ as well.

      I was talking to about transmedia storytelling a while ago, in relation to canon, and how things like the XF books and the PC/PS games are viewed differently to the series and film(s) in XF fandom. While I haven’t done any sort of quanlitative research on this yet I don’t know of any fans who consider the Kevin J. Anderson books canon, or who cite the Topps comics when talking about what happened in TXF universe, or who consider the PC game in the same way as an episode. And I find that really interesting especially when compared to other fandoms like, off the top of my head, Harry Potter where you have the books, the films, the school books and Pottermore. I think that different transmedia texts do have limits, and those limits are different for different people, but your point about the Deep Space Nine relaunch novels using their status as ‘usurping’ the TV series to tell stories about infiltration and doppelgangers is an interesting one. personally I can’t see the XF comics usupring the TV series (or any films) as a means of telling mytharc stories because they’re such an integral part of the show, but I’m now curious about what things they could do better through comics (or what things fans might think are being done better through comics) and how that might affect any future films.

  2. If this is how we are going to get it, I’ll take it. Some form of XF is better than none. And CC is still in control, so another +. I’ve been a collector of the comics from the start, so I’m excited on that too.

    • Yeah, I’d definitely rather have something than nothing, and if this is how we’re getting it then I’d rather this than anything else. I am excited to see what will happen, especially with CC on board as executive producer, and it’ll be great to have more comics to read as well.

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