Poll: Compressed or Decompressed storytelling?

There seems to be two schools of thought in how to present comics these days (and these include webcomics). The first is storytelling in the most traditional approach. Explain events using little comment boxes and exposition. It paces things out so you can get a somewhat complete story in around 22 pages or so. Generally, webcomics in this category are Spacetrawler and Order of the Stick. Simpler pictures, heavy on dialogue.

On the other end, there’s the “show, don’t tell” school or comics — decompressed storytelling. These are usually the ones heavy on mood and imagery. They take their time. The joke with some recent comics, for example, is that it takes 6 issues now for comics that used to take 1. (I think Bendis’ run on the Avengers titles are good examples of this.) In this category, more contemplative comics like Ectopiary and What Birds Know.

Both have their advantages, and it usually boils down to narrative vs. visuals. There are also plenty of comics in the middle ground. However, between the two extremes, which do you prefer: compressed or decompressed storytelling?


About El Santo

Somehow ended up reading and reviewing almost 300 different webcomics. Life is funny, huh? Despite owning two masks, is not actually a luchador.

Posted on April 29, 2013, in comics, The Webcomic Overlook, WCO Poll, webcomics. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I’m honestly not sure I have a preference. Different styles work for different stories, and sometimes I might be in the mood for one over the other. For the most part, I’d probably say that I tend to gravitate just a bit more towards decompressed, however, so I’ll go ahead and vote for that. 😛

  2. The text-based stuff works better for certain forms of comics, especially comics like strips, but generally if I want to read a say fantasy or sci-fi comic, I prefer “show, don’t tell”-rule. And even with comics relying on a lot of text, you can make the scene look interesting. Or how my art teacher told: “If there is a long dialogue scene, then at least I want to see the characters do something while they’re at it, like in movies. You can make a talkative scene interesting if one of the characters makes coffee for both, if they retire to the balcony to have a smoke or breath of fresh air or do SOMETHING while talking.”

    I think really good example from the comics you’ve reviewed here of that would be Unsounded, which has scenes that have quite a lot of dialogue, but which never feel like it.

  3. Hey, great article. Webcomics have the luxury of a perpetual publishing cycle. Check out my comic…using the long form story format… Stories take a year of weekly publishing to tell. Hope you enjoy it. Forgive the shameless self promotion!

  4. I prefer something with moderate text and that uses its visuals well, comics being a visual medium after all, but too many blank pictures and I’ll start asking where the story is.

    On the other hand, too much text will make me wonder why they even have pictures for the webcomic to begin with.

  5. When I was a kid and didn’t where my next comic book was coming from or when I’d ever find the next chapter in a to be continued story, I preferred the compressed story. Now that I’m all grown up (ha ha and still reading comic books) I like the longer story arcs and character development.

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