Ah, trying to have sex, then storming down the hall practically naked to tell someone to shut the hell up. Sometimes I almost miss college.


Now it’s time to talk about comic books.

I’m putting together a submission for Dark Horse, which has me thinking a lot about print comics. The other day, my girlfriend wanted to go down to Local Burger for lunch but didn’t have anything to read, so I recommended she drop by the newly-opened Newbury Comics and pick up a monthly comic. It was a somewhat selfish experiment on my part, but it confirms what I expected.

“I feel a little ripped off. For $1 more I could have bought a 500 page paperback.”

“I was done reading the comic before my food even got to me. It took me longer to read the letters to the editor.”

“Maybe I’m not reading it right? Maybe I should be lingering on every little detail of the art. But yeah, I paid $4 for four minutes of amusement.”

Art-heavy, plot-light writing…”decompression” is a popular term for it…is fucking up print comics. Yeah, there are problems with the distribution model and the direct market and the creepy fan base and competition from other media, but the problem with the average print comic is that nothing much happens. Go back and read an old Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four or X-Men from the 60s and you’ll get one or more full stories with enough action that reading the comic takes up a meaningful length of time. Those stories weren’t perfect: even ignoring the stupidity engendered by the Comics Code, they suffered from over-exposition and bad panel transitions. But they’re better than spending $4 for one-sixth of a “story” that’s more about letting some artist draw pretty two-page spreads than establishing and resolving a plot.

I can’t claim that my storytelling is perfect. My dialogue is ham-handed and expository, my characters’ motivations are sometimes murky, and my visual storytelling is lousy. But at least I know what I’m trying to do: tell a fun fantasy story in about 50 pages. These monthly comics from the major presses: what are they trying to do? Do they even know anymore?