GLENN HAUMAN: Decompression and burn rate
Bully makes a speech buried in a comment thread on decompression in comics that I’ve been saying for years, and deserves much wider play, so I’m running part of it here (but read the whole thing):
"Read the books on their own, month by month, paying $2.25 (or whatever they are now), and it’s clear: you get very little story for you money. I can’t quantify value as you say, because your joy over a decompressed story may vary from person to person, but I lament that you can now spend three bucks and read a comic book in less than five minutes. That is poor entertainment value for the money and only exists because of the crack-like addiction we (I’m including myself here) have to these characters.
"My point, and I do have one, is that in many ways — not all across the board but in so many instances for so many titles — "comics are your worst entertainment value." Spending three bucks on five minutes of enjoyment and not getting the feeling of a full story is a trend that does not help gain new readers. We lament that it’s hard to turn new readers, especially kids, onto superhero comic books. Is it any wonder, when you get a fraction of a story that reads like the wind. I’m not calling for a return to wordy stories that are "done in one" across the board, but the trend of decompression devalues the worth of the comic as a piece of entertainment.
"Look at the kid and teen affection for manga. I’m not a fan of it myself, but I can see the appeal, not only in the plots and artwork but in the value: if you can get 200 pages of comics for twelve bucks, that’s a much better entertainment value than twenty pages for three bucks. Videogames and DVDs provide a better ratio of entertainment hour per buck as well. Even movies give you two hours of fun for ten bucks. And here’s where I think Marvel dropped the ball with Ultimate Spider-Man. Rather than just marketing it to the same old Spidey-fans, they had a chance to promote it heavily in the grade school and high school markets: a Spider-Man who was their age, a Spidey for the next generation, characters, plots and dialogue attractive and familiar (well, aside from the supervillains) to kids and young adults."
In other words: there’s a point where decompressing a tire long enough gets you a flat tire, and you stop moving ahead. It’s a problem we’ve had to deal with ourselves in the industry, exaggerated by late artists which make a decompressed tale even more dragged out. After all, how many people just stopped caring when Ultimates #13 was finally going to ship? There have been late books before– Camelot 3000 #12, Crisis #12, Watchmen #12– but those stories were so well paced that it didn’t matter, we all jumped right in and picked up where we’d left of.
For the most recent example, compare Frank Miller’s Dark Knight #3 and #4 (which both shipped late) with Frank’s All-Star Batman and Robin. Which one were you happy to wait for?
Me, I blame the Internet. Not for all the usual reasons– but for all the time we’ve spent downloading porn, er, pictures from the Web that just took forever to load. We’d stare at the screen, see 23% of the image load, go off to get a cup of coffee, come back, see there was still 41% of the image to process, hit the head, come back, and discover that it was just a bad image– assuming the entire thing loaded at all. Most people simply don’t want to invest the money or the time nowadays.
For an additional take on prices of reading material, try this article from Alex Remington and the problems with pricey paperbacks.
Your thoughts, oh ComicMix readers?
Glenn Hauman is ComicMix‘s utility infielder.