I read a lot of commentary about "writing for trade" and "every issue is someone’s first" and those battling ideas.
The former refers to the idea that since these six issues or whatever are going to be eventually collected for trade, do you have to worry that The Seige of the Blackest Crisis #3 is someone’s first issue? Chances are, they’ve probably read the first two parts.
The latter is an idea that started when comics weren’t collected and were monthly books of indeterminate story length, if any length at all. There were even stories that didn’t have a clear start or stop, but just kept on going like a soap opera. And a lot of times there was a flashback panel or two that recounted the character’s origin.
Me? I think we all should be able to get along.
Love and Capes is a quarterly comic. That can make getting a narative flow going pretty rough. It’s part of why the stories tend to be done-in-one stories. But I did do one hugely continued story, and more than a few others that hung off a plot point introduced previously. On top of that, I do issues of the book as part of Free Comic Book Day, and that means that there’s a huge chance that it really is someone’s first exposure to the story.
So the first thing I did was I added a recap page. This introduced the main characters and told you what happened last issue. There are lots of ways to handle these, but the upside is that they can be removed for collecting in a trade. Especially if you’re doing a complicated plot-heavy story, I think these are a great idea.
But, even with that, a lot of people skip over it, or don’t read it all the way. And you don’t want to have people referring back to the recap page constantly while they’re reading.
Which brings me to Love and Capes #13. It’s the FCBD issue, and the issue immediately following the marriage of the two characters. You can read the first five pages along with my interview at Robot 6. Just read the first couple if you haven’t already. I can wait.
Back? Cool. Now here are links to page 1 and page 2 with notes. I didn’t stop the plot for exposition, or force anything in to the story, but they’re crafted so that in those first two pages, you find out the following:
- The characters’ names. Why? Because people use names in coversation..
- They quickly reference that they’re on their honeymoon, and not just on vacation. And we know they’re married, not just dating.
- Mark brings up Abby’s bookstore and her sister. Charlotte’s not named yet, but we can do that whenever we meet her. For now, we know Abby’s job and that she has a sister. We don’t know she’s got a brother and two parents who are still alive, but that’s okay. They’re not going to appear in this issue. So my new reader doesn’t need to know they exist yet.
- Mark uses his powers in front of Abby. First, this shows that Mark’s the hero, just in case they didn’t get that from the cover. We know he’s invulnerable and can fly, and probably move at super-speed given how far away the sun is. Now, I have the advantage of using a Superman archetype, so I don’t have to catalog all his powers. But I’ve shown the powers that will reference most of the jokes that will follow.
This also shows that Abby knows Mark’s secret, and I think that’s hugely important. That’s a plot point that’s different from the genetic memory of Superman that exists. Yeah, Lois knows Clark’s secret now, but ask the guy on the street and they’ll remember all those put-one-over-on-Lois stories. So I’ve covered that.
No clunky exposition. No flashbacks. But if you haven’t read an issue of Love and Capes before, you’re probably caught up enough to keep on reading.
Crafting a story that does this isn’t effortless. But I think it’s worth the effort to make sure your book can be read by a new reader without turning off an old one.