The Case For The Mini-Series

Showcase Lois LaneWe’re seeing a lot of titles ending with short runs lately, both at Marvel and its Distinguished Competition.  The good news is at least a bunch of new things were tried.  DC has tried a lot of really interesting, even risky books in the New 52, and a lot have failed, but at least they’ve tried.  And that deserves some credit.

The desire now is to pump out number one issues – the argument is they provide an easy jumping on point for readers, and collectors are drawn to them like Wimpy is drawn to free hamburgers.  We see more and more series relaunched with new numbering, we see new spin-off titles, and not a lot of them last.  We’ve already heard about two new Spider-titles, and one of the characters hasn’t even appeared yet.  There’s no real way to know if a continuing Spider-Gwen book will sell, but here it comes.

It got me thinking… maybe the way things used to be done in comics wasn’t such a bad way.

Back in the day, TV shows didn’t always start as TV shows.  They’d do a TV movie as a glorified pilot, to test the water.  The Love Boat and Fantasy Island both got several TV movies before they went to series.  Even today, popular shows like Sherlock and Doctor Who get a limited number of episodes in a series – 13 episodes a year for Doctor Who, three every so often for Sherlock.  No chance for the characters to get tired, the stories are kept tight, no padding needed.

Likewise, comic books used to get new characters tried out in an anthology book like Showcase, and a series would get greenlit after the sales (and the fan letters) were tabulated. In the 80s, we’d see mini-series for those new characters.  Robin got, what, three minis before he finally got a title.  Lobo got an endless run of minis and one-shots before the regular book.  There’s a lot of characters who started with a mini, and went on to long-lived regular titles

The point was, they’d try out new ideas, but in a smaller way, see how the sales did, and then pull the trigger on a regular series.  And it gave them the same number of new numbers one issues that they like to put out there.

So I wonder, might a return to testing the water with mini or maxi-series “With an option” be worth a look?

The latest She-Hulk series is ending with issue 12.  But say She-Hulk were originally sold as a 6 or 12-issue series instead of a continuing, It’s possible more people might have been enticed to try it, especially if it’s made clear that sales would add weight to making it a regular series.  By the time issue six or seven came along, they’d probably have enough data to decide if a continuing series could sell.  They could make the announcement in the last issue of the series, get people excited about the continuing, and get a solicitation out shortly after.

Of course, I expect there would be people who’d think “Meh, it’s only a mini-series” and skip it as well.

Heck, perhaps there are some characters who would work better just in minis, albeit a regular number of them.  The Great Lakes Avengers worked (IMHO) better in small doses, a single storyline at a time. As much hope they put on Alpha in the  Spider-titles, he got a mini-seres, and save for one or two cameos, we’ve not seen anything else.  The mini was a good test of the waters.

As much fun as a Squirrel Girl title could be, I’m not 100% sure the title will hold long-term. Like She-Hulk, I fear we’d get maybe 12 issues. But a six-issue mini, maybe one a year?  I think it’d work well.  I think there’s a lot of characters who could carry a short run with a one-and-done story.

They’re a good opportunity to test out new talent as well. See how long a new penciller needs to get six issues in the can, see how well they could handle a regular series, or if the “when it’s finished” model works better.  Some of Joe Quesada’s earliest work was The Ray mini-series at DC.

Who do you think would make a good character for a mini-series, as opposed to a regular run?