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2000AD

In lieu of describing the really weird nightmares that have plagued me these last few days, I'm going to go on a mini-rant about comics.

Apart from the usual Marvel/DC superheroes fare, Britain does have a few comics we call our own. The best example of this is the SF/fantasy comic 2000AD. Best known for being the launchpad of Judge Dredd, 2000AD is one of those institutions of British comics that launches new writers. Whether they work on an established property like Dredd, or on their own characters and stories (Button Man and Halo Jones spring to mind as good examples) writers get a chance to shine. Lots of them are good. Some of them are great. Some of them fuck it up royally. But it's still usually worth a read.

2000AD of old (I've not picked it up in a while due to lack of funds) was a weekly creature. The interesting thing about it, and the way in which one could tell the great writers from those raised on the American style of 28-page funnybooks, is that each week a given story gets six pages. That's not a lot of room to tell a story. Quite a few times, one will have to day for a few weeks before anything makes sense. This is because the writers are used to writing for longer media and then just cut their scripts every six pages. This leads to moments of glory and lots of slog. The really good writers don't do that.

The true skill in storytelling is working to the constraints of the medium. Comics are already constrained, with the (not always extant) split between writer and artist, and the serial format. Now limit that further by giving people six pages to play with. To really hold the attention, a good story thus has to have something happening every six pages, or people won't go back and read it. Better, the stories hold up to closer inspection when they get collected if there's something happening every six pages. The whole story seems to flow, and nothing drops interest.

There's also one-shots. Little stories, six pages long. That's tiny, fast fiction by my own 200-word definition. And they work, because people are forced by the format to write tiny brilliant stories. That is, I believe,[0] why so many good comics writers are British: Because they cut their teeth on more than just the standard superhero fare, they learned a bit about the malleability of the form when they were still of an age to be reading comics rather than writing them,

[0]: Warning: most likely bullshit.

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