Saturday, 1 December 2012

The perfect length

On the drive home from work tonight I was thinking about how the changes in how we consume comics will alter the sizes of the stories we consume.

With comics being at the 20 or so pages per issue per month for so long now, and this being a pretty established format, it seems unlikely that the bigger publishers are going to change any time soon - especially as the big two have been reducing their page counts of late, and because the budgets on sustaining these books at times when readers are falling are probably tighter than ever.

What about the rest of us?

Is there any value to playing with the length of a comic book?

The television series of Walking Dead is a good comparison to playing with story telling at different lengths - especially as there are beats that feature in both versions of the story.

The required 40-50 minute structure of a television drama allows for beats to be played at a different pace than that of a comic. The comic book, sometimes in comparison, needs to play out those beats at a slightly sped up pace - and needs the required cliffhanger after 20 or so pages.

For me, the "villains" in the television series feel more formed - we are allowed to learn more about them, get a greater sense of their drive and motivation - and because of this the impact is greater in the conflicts which arise.

Should comic books be longer? I'm sure a lot of people would like this, but this would have to be reflected in cost. Some writers in the last decade have been "writing to the trade", using a longer (often times 6 issues) canvas to tell their story.

One idea which I think would be fun to play with is the idea of writing a comic book based on weekly web updates - giving 52 pages a year. I wonder if the stories would feel too played out, or too crammed with moments to work. The DC guide to writing mentions using 3 pages per moment as a good guideline - moving the story forward within these beats, and using 3 concurrent story-lines to move between. Would writing in this traditional style but across a bigger canvas hurt the story?

And, of course, there is shorter. Perhaps telling stories in 8 or so page chapters would be good as well - something which the Monkey Brain Comics group seem to be doing, and something which 2000ad has employed for several decades now.

How do you monetize shorter books? Do you go for micro-payments, or give away to build readership with the hope of collecting later?

All things that might be worth exploring in the future.

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