Tuesday, January 10, 2017


Is this the end of the arc, viewers?! Tune in every other week to find out. One hint: the best may be yet to come.

For way too long, longer than it seems -- and it seems pretty darned long-- comic book writers have been 'writing for the trade'.  It's a bad thing: it's an EVIL thing, which is why I included in the Seven Deadly Enemies of Comic Books and my list of things DC needs to fix with Rebirth.

Back in the Golden Age, and even more so in the Silver Age, writers were about efficiency: "how much story can I pack into x number of pages, before lunch?"

It's not some ancient lost art; check out "22 Stories in a Single Bound!" if you doubt that it can still be done..

But in the last, what, 15 years, writers seem intent on taking a story--any story--and figuring out how to stretch it to last six whole issues.

Here's a perfect example: my comparison of the first four panel's of the Silver Age's "The Monster That Loved Aqua-Jimmy!" with the first four ISSUES of Brad Meltzer's Justice League of America.  In fact...that post says everything that I feel like saying about 'long-form' comics writing in general.

Except this: thanks, DC.  Look, I've been impressed by DC's willingness to swallow its pride and say, "Dan Didio is a blind fool who totally belongs at Marvel and doesn't get the DCU or its fans at all."

I'm sorry.

I meant to type, "we admit we made a mistake in our directions after the New52 and DCYou."

Late on-set wisdom? Or mere survival instinct? Not sure I care at this point, as long as **** gets fixed.  As I've mentioned before, it's been very heartening to watch DCU re-embrace its heroic ideal, return to the classic elements of its characters, and double-down on its most iconic figures as the pillars of their line.    Still I didn't really imagine that they would go so far as to start abandoning 'tradewriting' as their default mode.  I had sensed a change in what I was reading; since Rebirth, I have often find myself saying, "Oh; well THAT happened right away, then!"  But I had attributed to that to DC hurrying to get on track and to the fact that major books are coming out twice a month, rather than monthly.

Now I see that it is more than that.

So again... thank you, DC.


MichaelT said...

Hear, hear! I'm not strictly against trade-length stories. There is room for both done-in-1, multi-issue stories of various lengths and as you say 2-3 page stories. Story should drive it, not economics (or not strictly economics). In an era where binge-watching of whole seasons of television is routine, sticking to a model -- any model -- just because that's how it's been done for 20+ years is foolish.

I got out of reading comics when I started undergrad (MIT and leisure did not mix well). At that time the Sandman saga -- an early version of a tradebook story? -- was the latest and greatest. Over 20 years later somebody I respected told me about Crisis on Infinite Earths and I picked it up and enjoyed it enough that I wondered what came next. ("Enough" does not mean I agreed with it -- I resented losing Earth2 a lot!) Over the next 10 years I perused trades almost exclusively, and since I had a lot of catching up to do did not feel much pain because of the many months it took to complete a current storyline.

Now, however, I am no longer as patient. I'm getting old! I might die before the 12-issue arc is complete! And when 6 or more of those issues are "air the miracle filler ingredient" I downright resent it. Also, I cannot remember what happened issue to issue in sufficient detail. So either I wait for the trade, or give it up for a character. More and more the latter, resulting in a substantial reduction in the number of books I care enough about to read.

Anyway, I agree with you 100% and if my voice means anything -- the voice of an adult reader with sufficient disposable income to support the habit -- I add my vote to yours.

Neil said...

I quite like the approach Mark Waid used on titles such as "Legion of Super-Heroes" (The 3-Boot), "Brave and the Bold," and over at Marvel, "Daredevil." Most of his stories were told in one issue, but connected to a larger story arc. Sort of like how TV shows like "Veronica Mars" operate, with a "one and done story" but ties to a larger story.

Keith Giffen and John Rogers used it on "Blue Beetle," as well.

For me, it's more satisfying, more like a puzzle being put together over 12-24 issues, rather than a story taking 6 issues to tell.

Bryan L said...

Obviously, I agree. Dragging out stories is awkward, hard to read and follow, and frankly, economically unsound. It simply encourages trade-waiting, because why should I buy a meaningless single issue? So monthly sales decline, which the publishers really can't afford.

And it's certainly possible, as Neil points out. You can tell a single-issue story while tying it to a larger arc or (gasp!) include what we used to call sub-plots. You know, to tease future stories. Television's been doing it for literally decades now (John Rogers is actually a TV writer/producer, so he's no stranger to the format).

Unknown said...

I totally agree! I stopped buying new comics in the early 90's (after collecting for about 10 years) when I noticed it stopped taking me 20 minutes to read a new issue (or 30 minutes if it was a Roy Thomas written comic) and seemed more like I could page through it in 5 minutes. Less story and rising prices didn't make economic sense to me. Also: I miss thought balloons and editor's footnotes.

Slaughter said...

Problem of writing for the trade is that, well, if you're writing for the trade, for what reason one should buy the monthlies? Want to write for trades, write for trades! There's a lot of us who think that monthlies are obsolete, and maybe they should just churn TPs instead.

Stories written for the trade bring me one word to mind: Embromação.