Hugh Howey
Hugh Howey

Bestselling author of Wool and other books. Currently sailing around the world.

Why some comics can tell a better story than books.

One of the greatest modern comics was Y – THE LAST MAN, an epic story about the last man on Earth. No, not the last human, the last man.

With his pet monkey, Yorick (the titular “Y”) journeys across the United States, and then further abroad tracking down clues to his unique immunity to whatever killed the rest of the men. Chased by fanatical feminists, protected by a bad-ass chick (with great banter between them), dealing with family issues with his mom and sister, Yorick’s story is full of adventure, romance, action, mystery, humor, wit, and best of all … it has a satisfactory conclusion.

That’s right, the comic didn’t run on forever. It ran for sixty issues, wrapping itself up with purposeful timing. It wasn’t canceled (SERENITY), the author didn’t die, leaving readers hanging (ROBERT JORDAN), it wasn’t added to ad infinitum (SPIDERMAN, BATMAN, SUPERMAN, ad infinitum…)

Each comic told a nicely packaged story, and the entire series told a sweeping saga. And, that’s what I would like to accomplish with the Molly Fyde books. Each book a contained drama, but mere acts within a larger play.

The challenge comes in making each act satisfying (DEXTER), rather than focusing too much on the play, leaving the audience perpetually unfulfilled (LOST), until some magical deus ex machina ending tries to do WAY too much in the very last scenes (BATTLESTAR GALACTICA).

*sigh* This is probably my dozenth post on the challenges of packaging a lengthy story, and every time I get on this soapbox, I come back to the dream of serialization. Smaller chunks handed out quicker and cheaper. Just like comics (or even faster).

How many hours do we spend on the web each day? Imagine every Friday you had another chapter in Molly’s saga to read. The entire story would be there for you to peruse and re-read. You could search it. Interact with it. You could even include links (but have them remain black and not underlined, so they wouldn’t detract from the reading, and only be there for people that looked for them).

The problem is monetizing that system. You would need thousands and thousands of weekly readers to coup any meaningful ad revenue. And until you got that readership, you’d be paying exorbitant web hosting fees. There’s a middle ground there where you go broke.

I know other authors are doing similar stuff. And cartoonists have been at it for almost a decade, but I don’t think the former are bringing blockbuster-quality output to the table, and the former aren’t breaking any ground, just moving the funnies to the web.

Thoughts?