By Beau Smith
Now and then when readin’ through the comics I buy, I stop and think about something that is missing. Something that true craftsman of my youth built franchise books on.
The “Stand Alone” story.
Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Robert Kanigher were masters at the stand alone story. They had what it takes to build up characters and story lines within a shorter story. They proved it with almost every issue. Back in the day, within a 12 month run on a comic, you would have usually one “saga”. That being a three part story line. The rest of the year you would have stand alone issues with interwoven sub plots that would continue through the book’s run.
Stand alone issues gave new readers a chance to jump on board. Stand alone issues gave the reader their money’s worth, meaning their cover price investment was paid back in entertainment.
Some books like Marvel’s Tales To Astonish and Tales Of Suspense were divided into two separate stories with different characters. Never did they let the reader down with story content.
Why don’t we have that today?
When I got into this business back in the mid 80s I cut my writing teeth on 8 page stories in the back of Scout at Eclipse Comics. I learned the ropes by doing these all-in-one stories. I cannot tell you how much I learned from having to write a complete story in an 8-page frame. They were lessons that I will always cherish.
Part of the reason we don’t see stand alone stories today is because of over editing. Some editors feel that if they don’t have 6 to 8 issue story arcs then they aren’t doing their jobs.
We’ve got a lot of writers that can’t tell a story in one issue. That’s sad. They haven’t been given the boot camp of writing to sharpen their teeth.
Another reason we don’t have stand alone stories is that there are no longer a flurry of anthology books. Nice fat comics that carry four to eight stand alone stories of various genres. Anthology books were great places for new writers as well as old vets to sharpen their writing skills. Not only are the writers getting cheated out of that pleasure, but more importantly the readers are.
The main reason that we don’t have as many stand alone stories is because publishers and marketing departments want four to six part stories to collect into trade paperbacks. What happened to people doing this in what I call graphic novels?
Without stand alone stories we miss out on getting new readers, or more readers on to a book. Our industry becomes a little too incestuous for my liking. As an industry we can’t become that insulated. We will not be able to survive with a steady flow of that.
Stand alone stories separated the men from the boys. Anybody can drag a story out to six issues, but a real man can give ya a beginning, middle and end in one issue.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still guys out there that are doing stand alone stories, my complaint is that there is not enough of em’. This is a real problem with mainstream comics and by that I mean Marvel and DC. Dark Horse does a good job with their various Star Wars comics and most indy publishers are fillin’ the void with graphic novels.
CrossGen tried, but then they got too insulated with genre. They kept new readers out be attaching too much “Sigil” history to their stories.
Moonstone does a nice job of stand alone comics as does Shooting Star. At least they’re trying. I wanna see Marvel and DC try harder.
Do me a favor, start payin’ attention to your regular monthly books and see who is takin’ the long way around the barn and who’s givin’ ya your money’s worth in one issue.
I think you’ll also find out who the really good writers are and who’s just collectin’ a check.
Lemme know. I ain’t hard to find.
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