You guys are still checking out Mark Waid’s digital comics process blog, right? Because the last couple of days have featured a couple of great posts about serialization and the limited amount of real estate that offers creators:
Pete (Krause, Insufferable artist) –like most comics illustrators–can do about a page of comics a day, max (or, to put it in Thrillbent language, two screens a day–remember, as a GENERAL rule of thumb, each landscape-format screen of Insufferable equals about a half-page of print comics. GENERALLY). So that limits us to, realistically, no more than eight to ten screens per weekly chapter if we want not to fall behind on deadlines. That’s not a lot of real estate, but it’s enough to get some momentum and, in each chapter, deliver a setup and a payoff, a conflict and a resolution…somehow. So once we locked on about eight to ten screens a week, depending on where we were in the story, I had to go block scenes and events out to fit.
What a learning experience. Yeah, yeah…I know the giants of Sunday comics strips of yore like Hal Foster and Milton Caniff made it look easy, but for right or wrong, we don’t do comics like that anymore. Still, those two in particular remained my north star and reference point–less in style than in what they were able to accomplish in small spaces.
That, said, expect a double-sized first installment of Insufferable, so that it can fulfill the aims of a good first episode:
I’m a huge believer that the first issue of a comics series–or, more applicable to what we’re doing here, the first installment of a serial–fails miserably if the reader can’t walk away with a clear idea of what the series is going to be about. That doesn’t mean the creators have to spell everything out or that there’s no room for mystery–what it means is that by the end of installment one, the basic series premise should be conveyed. Hook a reader all you want with suspense and mystery and intrigue, but give them something concrete in exchange for their time. Give them at least as much information about the story as they’d get by reading the back cover copy on a paperback. You want them to know conclusively by the end of chapter one whether or not they want to come back for chapter two. You don’t want them having to blunder through four or five chapters before they even have the slightest notion what they’re reading, not in serial form.
That last line seems to me particularly important for any serialized fiction, and also something that’s becoming increasingly lost for some reason; there’s a difference between providing a “WTF?!?” moment that is shocking and demands a return for episode two to find out what the hell’s going on, and providing enough information so that the “WTF?!?” moment works as a hook, but within a context of this is what you’ll be getting from here on out. We’re getting more and more of the former, and not so much of the latter, these days, I think.
…I like the Waid blog a lot; it’s like having a smart person explain story to you.