Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Done In Ones

I spend so much time talking about digital comics and the oncoming paper comic apocalypse that it is sometimes easy to think that the only unique and interesting thing about Flashback Comics is their format.

I'd like to change that today by discussing something else I think makes Flashback Universe comics unique in today's comicscape: All FBU stories are Done-In-Ones.

For those of you not familiar with the term Done-In-One (DiO) - it is a comic that tells a complete story in a single issue. Up until the 70's this was a common practice. Presently, only a few comics every do this consistently (Jonah Hex is a comic that uses this format well on a regular basis.)

I know many readers and creators feel that the DiO format is too confining, but I've heard writers say the same thing about short stories. I think a good writer can find a way to tell a compelling story regardless of the amount of room he has, as long as he understands the limitations of the specific storytype.

Two great DiO examples that recently came out are the Hulk vs Fin Fang Foom and the Lost Teen Titans Annual. In both cases the stories were told completely in one comic.

Albeit, one was the posthumourous work of one of the all time masters of the DiO story, Bob Haney The other was by Peter David, who while doesn't have quite the resume of DiO's that Bob Haney has, he is a master of many, many different type of story formats (novel, screenplay, comic, editorial).

All of the FBU comics are DiOs because it's my intention that no matter what issue a visitor to the FBU site chooses to download, they can be assured of getting a complete story in one form or another.

I try to underscore the importance of this with other FB creators because some are hung up on the continuing story model (something that I'm just not convinced is working for 80% of the web comics guys using it.) [ link to a bunch of guys discussing how they are doing with their web comic sites ]

I selected the DiO format not because it's easy to write (it's not) but because I think it's really the best for format for web content - complete bite size chunks that you can download - similar to how YouTube videos work.

Several people have asked me about making a web comic version of one of my Flashback stories, and while I'm not completely opposed to the idea, I'm not wild about it either.

I think one of the problems with Web Comics is the way the most current page of a web comic has to act as an introduction to the rest of the comic-- To paraphrase -- Jim Shooter, every web comic episode is someone's first.

How that first web comic coaxes the reader into the rest of the story is pretty durned important and many Web Comics do an atrocious job of luring readers to read more. I think its common for a new reader to read the current comic, click a few back buttons and then wander away after a few minutes. Sometimes this can be the result of a clunky Javascript/Flash interface, but that's not always the case.

Even with the best interface (check out the Jon Sable online comic at ComicMix.com) it's difficult for people to get engrossed in the story because many things outside of the artists control (browser compatibility issues, server lag, user UI awareness).

DiO CBR files circumvent all these issues. A visitor to the FBU site is presented with thumbnails of covers for all the current issues of our FBU comics. This UI gives them an easy to recognize decision path to help them make their choice. (similar to how Amazon presents its search results.)

Comics used to sell a heck of a lot better when they were all DiOs. Heck, based on the recent numbers of Archie comics sold the past year, they seem to be selling well now too.

I think it would be an interesting experiment if either Marvel or DC gave up on their multi-issue story arcs for a year and just did 12 issues of DiOs for their entire line. Imagine being able to pick up any issue by either publisher knowing you'll get a complete story. Sounds cool to me.

Feel free to vehemently disagree. :)


Jovial1 said...

No disagreements here.

Sadly, I doubt we'll see either of the big two drop the multi-issue story arcs. The business model is too focused on trade paperbacks for that to happen. And while it's possible for someone to write a series of stand-alone, done-in-one stories that are connected... it's more difficult than just writing a bit 12-issue decompressed story.

RAB said...

Is it okay if I vehemently agree with you instead? ;-)

I expect Jason's right* but of course that business model is a self-fulfilling prophecy. When comics publishers focus on the multi-issue mega-series companywide event storylines, they drive away all other readers and are only left with a smaller group that enjoys the multi-mega companywide event stories. But even worse, that trend has metastasized so that even the trade collections no longer give the reader a complete story: things like a Countdown trade and...whatever Marvel is calling its post-Civil War status quo won't make any sense unless you also buy six other trades that fill in the blanks. They've just pushed the inaccessibility outward to a larger scale.

And this totally kills our medium with a younger audience and denies us a new generation of readers simply because parents don't want to have to follow a goddamn study guide to buy their kids a comic, nor should they have to. Both Marvel and DC do publish cool all-audience done-in-one stuff that would be great for new readers -- X-Men First Class, anyone? -- but parents have to know that those titles exist and are the ones to get, and how are they going to know that? I see no way out of this dilemma barring a total collapse of the Big Two and their shared universes because . Fortunately (he said with all the irony he could muster) Marvel and DC are well on their way to doing just that, because they're so wedded to this approach of ever-diminishing returns.

* (I crack myself up sometimes.)

RAB said...

And of course I put a typo in that. This is why I shouldn't be allowed to rant late at night.


Related Posts with Thumbnails