The Short and the Long of it…

posted in: Comics, Reviews | 0

If you grew up reading comics by masters like Stan Lee, Chris Claremont, or Jim Steranko you may notice that comics do not take nearly as long to read these days as they use to.

When comics in the 90s and prior could sometimes take thirty minutes to read through, the modern comic often takes less than ten minutes. And more than the length of the issue being short, you are often not getting a full satisfying tale worth rereading. While this is nothing new, there are two recent examples of comics, which while I didn’t find them awful, the quickness of the read and the lack of depth in story made them rather lackluster and mediocre.

Those two issues were All-New Ghost Rider #1 and Ms Marvel #1.

I know some disliked the stories all together, but I wouldn’t go that far. What I would say is that both of those issues took me less than ten minutes to read and had little-to-no additional clarity to the material with a reread. Both issues go so far as to show each character getting their powers and that is it in the 21 to 23 pages of each comic.

In comparison, in 26 pages Amazing Fantasy 15 introduces you to Peter Parker, he gets his powers, he learns how to use his powers, and his life as a hero is completely defined. Stan Lee and Steve Ditko did that in one issue. It is completely possible to define a character with an origin story in one issue. But anymore writers and editors are stretching these stories across large spans of issues. The origin tale may take 5 issues or more to complete. One instance of why this may be occurring is the maturing of the readers. The art tends to have a more cinematic feel which leans towards more drawn out stories just due to the lack of space per the larger panel sizes. Also both the main and superfluous characters tend to be given more depth. This tends to draw out stories and create less plot and action actually happening.

There may also be influences from manga and the storytelling techniques generally used in that medium. Manga tends to have extremely drawn out narratives with fairly simplistic art, which is definitely a noticeable trend in Marvel comics. Another instance of why this may be occurring is the writing and editing are be built towards collected editions. It isn’t anything new that trades are filling up a larger part of the market. If a single issue is almost four dollars and a collection of six issues is under twenty dollars, it makes sense that some people may just wait to pick up the cheaper choice. This is especially true to those less interested in the collecting (or investing) aspect of single issues comics or those who have a limited space to house comics.

Very few comics tend to be bucking this trend, and even writers who still poured time consuming material and dialogue into their works are backing off. The difference between issues a year ago in All-New X-Men versus a current issue is pretty noticeable, but at least Bendis’ writing tends to be worth two or three read throughs. Even Warren Ellis’ Moon Knight series suffers from being a quick read. Yet all of this may not be so noticeable were the price tag on the cover not as high.

While Marvel’s distinguished competitor offers two price brackets for each issue based on whether the customer wants the digital code or not, Marvel offers most books at four dollars with a digital copy code and merely a handful of options that do not have that code. At the same time it is possible to purchase just a digital copy for the same price as a physical copy with a digital code. Someone is making out like a bandit here and it isn’t the consumer.

If Marvel offered a cheaper option maybe the lack of depth in issues may not be as noticeable. I may get some heat for this, but DC’s books tend to feel more worth the money in recent years. It is obvious that this business model is not going anywhere. What this means for the industry and the issues you pick up weekly is anyone’s guess, yet I can’t help but assume that all readers will slowly drift towards collected volumes especially for new series. At that point in time though will Marvel have the patience to wait and see what the combined sales are for both single issues and trades before deciding to cancel a series?

While only time may tell, it is the responsibility of the fans to support comics worth the money being asked, and if none are deemed worthwhile we can always go back and read our trade with Amazing Fantasy 15.


Follow Kevin McVicker:

Like an infinite number of monkeys trying to write Hamlet, Kevin has been able to randomly place together words in a somewhat coherent order in an attempt to express his lifelong love of all things Marvel. Starting from the first moments he watched Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends as a little tyke, Kevin has grown into an actual adult male while somehow maintaining his passion for superheroes. Does he know how to the change the oil in his car? No! Can he explain the convoluted history of the X-Men comic book series? Listen, bud: no one can!