Comics / Cult Favorite

Do You Want It Right or Do You Want It Right Now?

By Philip Schweier
July 4, 2009 - 08:22

A recent article on another website raised an issue that's been bandied about for many years, about whether it's better to have a comic book come out on a monthly basis, with staggered degrees of quality, or allow the creative team more time to assemble a truly worthwhile product.

In 1989, Eclipse Comics (remember them?) published James Bond: Permission to Die, a three-issue limited series by writer/artist Mike Grell. Its publication schedule was beyond erratic. Issue #2 was released six months after #1, and #3 published about a year after that.

Admittedly, the Soviet Union underwent radical changes at the time, which may have directly impacted the story and required significant rewrites. Nevertheless, it seemed foolhardy to me to begin publication of a three-issue series when the third issue was incomplete.

In frustration, I decided at the time not to read a story arc until I had all chapters in hand. Since many series today are often collected into some form a trade paperback – sometimes within a few weeks of the story’s conclusion – it's become something of a moot point.

Nevertheless, it is often hard for a creative team to maintain momentum under the monthly grind of putting out a comic book title 12 months a year. This often leads to what are called "inventory stories," which are already completed in order to maintain the monthly schedule.

So I put the question to you again: would you rather have really great stories and art, or would you rather your favorite comic book come out each and every month, regardless of quality?

It's a chicken/egg question, but the folks behind the Lone Ranger series at Dynamite Entertainment seem to have come up with the most viable solution. Dynamite chooses to wait until writer Brett Matthews and artists John Cassaday and Sergio Cariello have completed their story arcs before soliciting the issues.

Frankly, I don't mind in the least. I feel confident each portion of the overall story will come out on schedule, with no significant break until the story is completed, maintaining the level of quality AND a regular schedule for publication.

This may mean a few months between arcs, but it's not too different from a television series. American TV networks usually run a series from September to May, taking a couple of breaks, usually around the holidays.

This speculation raises another question – whether or not an ongoing series should even be numbered. Instead, would there not be some merit to identifying story arcs by a single title ("Lo, There Must be a Waffle") rather than issues #18-23 of French Fry Man?

One might notice that many film sequels have some sort of numbering system, but that seems to be less common now than before. Comic books could follow the same pattern, which would also allow for a separate creative team to produce material concurrent with another.

Continuity watchers might disagree, suggesting this could lead to conflicting story elements. Once again, I don't feel this is a bad idea. One story element may be panned by the audience, while the other is accepted; perhaps not warmly embraced, but accepted. Two single story ideas, one the clear winner, the other to be ignored and forgotten.

Praise and adulation? Scorn and ridicule? E-mail me at

Last Updated: June 23, 2021 - 00:29

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