Sunday, September 17, 2006

Long Form vs Short Form

As writers and artist we certainly move and change our approach to our work as the format demands, and the biggest change in this, recently, has been the approach of writing from short form to long form "story arcs". Like it or hate it?

We can all blame Chris Claremont. Or Stan Lee.

As someone who has been moving towards the trade version of comics anyway, I have no problem with mvoign on to the long form, as I believe that it gives us a greater level of depth and, hopefully, story sophistication. perhaps i'm wrong, but I can hope for the best.

However, as james meeley commented on my last post about the "pamphlet", whither the beauty of the short and concise story? He has a point. I recall john Byrne's fan level pissy fit over the low sales of Danger unlimited, his FF clone at the time for Dark horse. The problem was so obvious that I can hardly believe that he didn't see it: It took him 3 issues to bring the origin story to a close. Lets go back to FF: in 3 issues they defeated the Mole Man's huge green monster, went under the earth and confronted the mole man himself, had their identities stolen by Skrulls, were captured by the US Army, escaped and then flew to Space impersonating the Skrulls themselves and returned, met and defeated a seriously threatening hypnotist called the Miracle Man. Stan's pacing for those little gems wan't always correct, he really ahdn't gotten the 22 page sotry right yet, but that's OK, it would come.

I keep certian issues in my studio in a rack next to my board, and a number of them are great single issue stories: Gaiman and mcKean's "Hold Me" from Hellblazer, the Jam's super cool color injected turbo adventure from hell by Bernie mireault, conan #2 by Thomas and smith, etc. The question remains how much we need these single issue stories.

The idea that every issue is potentially someone's first one is an idea that has been floating around for so long that I'm not sure whether anyone has actually held it up to the light to see if it has any opacity. it is an idea that was born in the newstack spinner rack culture of the 1960's, long before the internet and readily available back issue market. today's distribution channels usually are comic shops with the potential of having more than a few issues to check out right at your fingertips. usually when i try a new series i'll buy two or three in order so that I can actually get a sense of whether or not I'll like the series. in television, I can expect that if I turn on an episode of lost or west wing, or some other continuing dramatic series, that there will be some level of catch up on the first 3 minutes. should we have to suject the reader to the Stan Lee presents blurb at the top for a 3 line precis version of the character? Or utilize a single page to bring the reader up to date on the story? It's not a bad idea really. it would certainly make it an easy jumping off point for new people.

i like the single issue story just as I like the epic and I think that we should be able to do both well, although some writers are clearly better suited for one than the other. Perhaps we should target the series out there by sophistication and storyline as we do the age appropriateness of the stories. More comics with single issues that would balance out The ultimates long form epic story. it would allow for a better appreciation of the form for newer readers and let them move on to others when they are ready. The pamphlet sdoesn't need to die, but could actually live longer as the a series of stand alones that you don't need to constantly read in sequence. My oldest daughter's Scooby Doo comics are perfect for that. They can be ready in any order, and have a shelf life, from a marketing standpoint, as long as a trade would due to the completeness.

soda; tom Strong did this extrememly well now that I look at the series as a whole. Great fun stories, almmost all a single issue, with a smattering of double issues stories. Good on ya again Alan Moore. Folks, here is your template.

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