Monday, 27 April 2009

Mirabilis monthly

The discussion under NEW EPISODES about serializing Mirabilis set me thinking. What would be the perfect way for it to appear?

Obviously it’s going to appear as a graphic novel. That will be how most people first experience the story. But most of the comics I’m into, I don’t buy in trade paperback. (Actually not quite true – I do buy the tp, but I’ve already bought the monthly books first. Dark Horse and Vertigo, I’m your ideal customer.)

I don’t think Mirabilis worked at its best in 5-page instalments. There’s too much story going on for that. Imagine reading one chapter of a
Garth Nix or Philip Pullman book and then waiting 7 days for the next. There's such a thing as taking deferred gratification too far. The older kids I've spoken to (11 years and up) weren't interested in stories that were broken down into such minute chunks; they'd rather have read 20 pages every month.

The first episode,
“Stung!” was originally written as an 8-pager. For the dummy issue of the DFC, we squeezed it down to 6 pages - should’ve come with a free magnifying glass! When we got the go-ahead, I reworked it into 10 pages and that would have made up episodes 1 and 2. (In fact, all our files still use that numbering – always takes a bit of mental arithmetic to work out the number of an episode in the DFC.)

I like the discipline of having to hit a big dramatic beat every 5 pages. And I’ve been sticking to that even now I’m not writing the story in weekly instalments. But if it were serialized, I’d want to read it the way we’ve organized the chapters of the graphic novel. Every 20-25 pages there’s a mini-closure that feels like you’ve just been served a satisfying chunk of story and you’re gearing up for the next.

Jack bottles the witch at Selsey; the Kind Gentleman delivers his ultimatum; everyone is settled aboard the train as they steam into the Carpathians. These are comic-book-sized instalments which, if they appeared monthly, would deliver more than just a cliffhanger to entice you back.

That was the way I read comics growing up. Collecting a dozen monthly titles meant that there’d be something to buy every Saturday when I did my trawl of the newsagents. The 20-page format allowed the story room to breathe.

You can tell stories in less space -
Adrian Tomine, for example, regularly ties up a complete narrative in 2 or 3 pages. That’s not the way I’d want to tell a story like Mirabilis, though. In a perfect world, we’d come out as a monthly comic book with a new collection in book form every nine issues or so.

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