I’ve been noticing something in a lot of comics, and it has really become prominent in my mind as I have been reading the new DC Comics that have started coming out this month. These comics are horribly decompressed, to the point of not really contain enough story to justify purchasing them.
So far, I’ve received the first 27 of those 52 books. Some I really enjoyed (Action Comics, Animal Man, Swamp Thing, Stormwatch, Batwoman), others I didn’t like very much. I didn’t expect to like them all, so I’m not too disappointed.
I have been disappointed that almost every book has been a very quick read. There isn’t a lot of story contained in each issue.
The first title that DC relaunched was Justice League. After reading some previews, and on a hunch, I started a stopwatch when I sat down to read it. It is 24 pages long, cost $3.99 cover price, and it took a little over 8 minutes to read.
That’s fifty cents a minute.
There has been a trend in comics, developing over the last 10 to 12 years, to decompress the comics. This means stories are spread out over several issues, rather than packed into one issue. While this has led to some improvements in storytelling, allowing comics to be more cinematic, and use storytelling with nuance and more emotional impact, it has also resulted in less amount of story in each comic.
Most of these new DC Comics are heavily decompressed. In a lot of the comics, not much happens in the first issue. After I finish reading most of these comics, even many of the issues I really enjoyed, I feel like I haven’t really gotten my money’s worth in terms of the amount of storytelling included.
I have noticed that a lot of the attitude towards decompressed storytelling is a reluctant acceptance. It is considered “just the way it is”, or the price to pay for better quality comics.
I’m not convinced, so I recompressed Justice League #1.
I edited the entire comic, moved some panels, removed other panels, moved word balloons, etc., to see if the story that was told in 24 pages could have been effectively told in fewer pages.
Every word balloon in the original comic is included in this (except for one, can you figure out which?), and I tried to be respectful of things like splash pages, and other story beats. I did overlay some panels over existing splash pages, since I don’t think that two splash pages, and one double-page splash are necessary for quality storytelling. Also, the last three pages are unchanged, because I couldn’t find a good way to edit the three pages down to two, and maintain the cool final splash page of Superman.
It is a little rough in places, since these panels were not drawn to fit on the page in the size, order, and placement that I put them, this was meant to illustrate a point, not be a final product.
As it is, my edited version of Justice League is 16 pages, compared to the published version which is 24 pages.
This is an experiment, to see what people think. Please let me know, do you think the edited pages convey the story as well as the original?
I think that they do, and I think that we could have had an additional 8 pages of Superman squaring off against Batman included in this comic.
I might be wrong though, and my tastes may just be different, and I very well may have butchered this thing to the point of neutering the quality of the original. This is, after all just an experiment.
I’m not gonna display the whole darn comic on this site, here are a couple pages as an example.
First, the original four pages of comic are from the middle of the story, and introduce the character of Vic Stone. These are the original pages, unedited, as they appear in Justice League #1
Now, the edited version. I edited the above sequence down to 2 pages.
What do you think? Does the storytelling hold up in the edited version? Does it lose anything in the edited version? If it loses something, are you willing to lose that to gain an additional 8 pages of story in this comic?
Judge For Yourself
Here’s the whole thing. All 16 pages of Justice League #1, edited down from the 24 published pages seen if you bought the comic off the rack.
Now, PLEASE, before you check this out, GO BUY THE ORIGINAL. This comic has been wildly successful, and DC quickly printed 2nd and 3rd prints when the comic immediately sold out. You should be able to get this book at your local comic book retailer, or you can buy a digital copy and read it on your computer.
This is a cool issue, and Jim Lee’s art is amazing. In fact, the most difficult thing about this project was removing the awesome Jim Lee art. I’ve been a fan of Jim Lee since I bought my first X-Men comic (Uncanny X-Men 274) back when I was 12.
The reason I took the time to do this is that I like the DC Comics characters, and I will continue to buy DC comics, as long as I feel like I am getting a good value. I haven’t felt that way about most of these, and this experiment is meant to demonstrate why.
So please, buy the comic! This edit isn’t meant to replace the original, only as a means of demonstrating an opinion, based on having read the original.
Check it out while it’s hot, before I have to take it down or something.