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When did comics start stretching stories over countless issues?

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topic icon Author Topic: When did comics start stretching stories over countless issues?  (Read 814 times)

Drahken

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One of the reasons I avoided "serious" comics as a kid was because of the asinine practice publishers (marvel most of all) had of stretching stories over ridiculous numbers fo different issues, not even just of one title either but spanning many (often unrelated) titles. It seemed like there was more "as seen in" and "continued in" text than actual current text in any given issue. If you got a funny comic you got at least one, often several, full stories in each and every issue, but if you wanted just one full story of a serious comic you had to buy every issue of every title that the publisher had printed for 2 decades in each direction.
This was back in the 80s, the situation is even worse today (especially with all these "event" ones like marvel's civil war and dc's crisis (someone needs to educate them that it's no longer and "event" when a new one happens almost daily)). I used to think that it had always been this way, but then I found that early spiderman comics from the 60s actually told full stories in 1-2 issues, as did superman comics from the 70s. This makes me wonder exactly when & why this obnoxious behavior began.
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paw broon

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Re: When did comics start stretching stories over countless issues?
« Reply #1 on: August 11, 2016, 04:28:31 PM »

The odd thing is that the practice of running stories over many issues of the same title goes back to the early days of American comics, when anthology titles, such as Big Shot from last week in the reading group, reprinted newspaper strips in comic book format.  Every month you got the next part of a story.
But the vast majority of superhero and other genres from American publishers in the '40's and 50's, had either a complete story in each issue or, more commonly, a number of complete storyettes.  I preferred it that way.
( I recently bought a few issues of Mr District Attorney, DC Mid '50's, and they contain 3 shortish Mr. DA stories plus a filler strip and a couple of pages of text - they're a good read)
Later, I think that publishers realised that if they could hook you, then you'd be desperate to find out what happened next - much the same as happened with movie serials.  Hence Marvel quickly going to continued stories and leaving DC at the coo's tail.
You're absolutely right, imo, nowadays these long running "story arcs" seem only a fly way of trying to ensure the reader comes back next month.  I don't, preferring to wait for a trade and that seldom happens as there aren't many stories in modern comics that tickle my fancy.  And these "events" just aren't original anymore.
The UK had a number of formats and packages including the Beano type with a mix of humour and action strips, pocket libraries which featured a single story but occasionally 2 or 3,  featuring a single character in a 64 page digest, stuff like the current title in the reading group, and out and out action comics with a variety of stories in weekly episodes - e.g. Action, Vulcan, and a number of war titles. But at least with the continued stories in British comics you only had to wait a week for the next bit.
And Manga seems to go in for long drawn out storylines with Bleach, One-Piece and piles more.
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crashryan

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Re: When did comics start stretching stories over countless issues?
« Reply #2 on: August 11, 2016, 07:31:03 PM »

Like many of you I stopped buying new Marvels and DCs a long time ago. I turned to American Golden and Silver Age stuff (thanks to sites like CB+) and comics from England, Italy and France. There were two reasons I lost interest in current comics. The major reason was increasing levels of violence, sadism, and "anti-heroism." I have a weak stomach for such stuff. Over time the rising violence became increasingly sexualized as well. Frankly it turned my stomach. The other reason was the convergence of skyrocketing prices and ever-longer story arcs.

Excellent 8- and 12-page comics stories have been written. Still I prefer longer, more complex stories. It's a reason why I like Dell movie and novel adaptations. The source material frequently offered better characters and more interesting stories than typical comic fare. Plus they had up to 34 pages to tell the tale.

When Marvel's writers began stretching out their stories in the 70s and 80s, too often they filled the extra space with fight scenes. The "make-'em-like-movies" fad hit about the same time. Captions, thought balloons, and expository dialogue were axed, and you wound up paying two bucks for a five-minute read.

I like the old Tintin model with its 64-page (later 48) feature stories. They ran serially but each chapter had enough meat to satisfy a reader. Serials were staggered so a new one was always beginning. There were also complete-in-one-issue stories. Of course it helped that, like British comics, Tintin was a weekly.
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Drahken

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Re: When did comics start stretching stories over countless issues?
« Reply #3 on: August 12, 2016, 03:48:43 AM »

Quote
And Manga seems to go in for long drawn out storylines with Bleach, One-Piece and piles more.

Yeah, I read tons of manga. I've finished over 400 mangas and am actively readding nearly 700 others.
What manga does right though is that while they stretch stories over many issues, they keep it within a single title. Having to read 400 issues of spiderman for a single story wouldn't be so bad if it was all contained in just "amazing spiderman" for example, but when they stretch it over every friggin title they publish.....
Additionally, manga is published in anthology magazines so that you get more bang for your buck. While you might not get a complete story of one title each week or month (depending on the mag), you do get several different stories, which makes it feel like you're actually getting your money's worth. Then later they collect multiple chapters of each series into a collected volume (similar to, but predating, american TPBs) where you actually do get a largely complete story, or even multiple ones.
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John Kerry

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Re: When did comics start stretching stories over countless issues?
« Reply #4 on: August 27, 2016, 06:43:13 AM »

Well the first extended story I can think of is the Monster Society of Evil storyline that ran for I think 26 issues of Captain Marvel Adventures. But of course those chapters were one of several that were in each issue. I recall reading an article on the Kona series from Dell that seem to imply that each issue was part of a larger story arc, but I have only read a couple of those comics and that was years ago so I can't confirm it. Marvel did do extended storylines in the sixties but those seemed to be confined to the books which were split between two heroes. I know Marvel was starting to do really extended stories in the late 70s, as I recall one such story running in Thor. I think the floodgates really opened in the mid-eighties with Marvel's Secret War (which I didn't read) and DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths (which I did read). The one thing with Crisis is you didn't have to buy all the supplementary stories if you didn't want to. They were stories showing how it was affecting people, but the main storyline was in Crisis. That seems to me the best way to go.
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SuperScrounge

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Re: When did comics start stretching stories over countless issues?
« Reply #5 on: August 27, 2016, 07:58:34 AM »

The original Secret Wars was a self-contained 12-issue maxi-series. The regular books basically ended one issue with the characters disappearing and the next issue the heroes re-appeared with changes that the maxi-series explained (more as an afterthought in my opinion).

Secret Wars 2, on the other hand, was an octopus spreading it's tentacles story into the regular books so you had to read SW2 to completely understand what just happened in the regular books.

However continued stories were common in early comics, part of this was due to the fact that there might only be two pages of story for each feature, but even when 8-12 pages became the standard there were still some continued storylines.

I think the first story spread over different titles might have been the introduction of Captain Nazi/origin of Captain Marvel, Jr. which crossed between two or three titles and had the villain fight Captain Marvel, Bulletman and the new hero, Captain Marvel, Junior.

Although if someone knows of an earlier crossover, please list it.
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John Kerry

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Re: When did comics start stretching stories over countless issues?
« Reply #6 on: January 06, 2017, 06:18:38 PM »

The earliest extended storyline I can think of was in Whiz Comics. Spyfighter was brainwashed into becoming evil and he and Captain Marvel battled each other. The storyline lasted from issues 15 to 18 and occupied both strips.
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jimmm kelly

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Re: When did comics start stretching stories over countless issues?
« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2017, 04:56:09 PM »

I think that stretching out stories over many issues was the norm, in the beginning, as noted above--even once comics started publishing new material and weren't just reprinting strips. Of course the features were very short, two or four pages--so they had to stretch a story out. But even after the stories got longer (eight pages), the stories were episodic in nature. This gradually changed in the '30s and 40s--but there were still some comics that had extended storylines.

I know that when I started buying comics in the '60s, after trying out just a couple of Marvels, I stayed away from them because every story was continued. And I didn't like being forced to buy another issue--but more importantly I didn't know if I would find the next issue--nor did I have a chance of getting previous issues to fill in what had happened so far.

Maybe the same thing happened in the '40s. It was probably even harder for a kid to find the next issue of a comic back then. So kids may have deliberately sought out comics that had self-contained stories and avoided those comics with continued stories. Fawcett's use of the continued story (on a limited basis) probably just shows how big they were--kids probably had a reasonable chance of finding those comics, where finding a Fox, Quality or Fiction House could get tricky.

One comic that I really wanted to buy in the '60s was TARZAN OF THE APES from Gold Key--I loved the Russ Manning art so much--yet I could never figure them out. I'd pick up one issue and it would seem to be in the middle of an Opar story. The next issue I found would be based on the TV show. Then another issue would be in the middle of an Ant Men story. I ultimately had to give up on TARZAN because more often than not I was only getting a portion of a story and never the whole thing.

The strictly enforced rule in drugstores, that prohibited reading comics in the store, meant that you never knew what you were getting. You always had to buy a comic based on the cover (or I did). So a kid developed a nose for which comics were likely to have continued stories and which would give full value for 12 cents. Even then, I was apt to get tricked and I cursed my luck when that happened. Because I knew the chances of finding the next issue were not good and I'd be out 12 cents that could have gone toward another comic.
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John Kerry

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Re: When did comics start stretching stories over countless issues?
« Reply #8 on: January 15, 2017, 10:48:12 AM »

In the case of the Manning Tarzans they were adapting Burroughs' original novels and thus fur the most part spread them over two issues. The only exceptions I can think of were Tarzan of the Apes which only ran one issue while The Jewels of Opar and Tarzan in Pellucidar both ran three issues. I don't recall ever missing parts of a continued story, though I did come into the middle of a few.
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sandmountainslim

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Re: When did comics start stretching stories over countless issues?
« Reply #9 on: March 10, 2017, 01:44:30 AM »

I feel the pain of the OP.   After getting in the habit of reading Golden Age stories like the Captain Marvel Adventures I feel cheated with modern 20 page books!   I love to read several different adventures in one comic and wish the publishers would get back to that.  I loved the digital first version of Adventures Of Superman that came out a couple years ago specifically for that reason.  Self contained non continuity stories of Superman.  Sorry that title was cancelled.   I still read Superman and Action Comics as they come out and I'm used to the "soap opera" they have been for the past thirty years but I sure enjoy the old way.
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