Sunday, October 3, 2010


Wow. It took him an entire page for Logan to look left and right.
What is it?
In comics, decompression refers to a type of story-telling that has strong emphasis on art and character interaction. However, this tends to make the plots longer. Decompression is often used in widescreen comics (a type of comic where the panels are usually very wide for a cinematic effect).
Decompression had a strong effect on mainstream comics in the 1990s and 2000s. Traditionally, comics have several (sometimes unrelated) stories in one issue. However with the rise of decompression, usually comics only have one story. It is often claimed the influence of Manga caused decompression. Manga, which is usually less costly to print, uses decompression extensively. The 1974 manga Shin Takarajima (by Osamu Tezuka) popularized the technique. The "cinematic style" became very popular and was used a lot by other Japanese artists. Akira (by Katsuhiro Otomo) was one of the first manga to use this style and become popular among comic fans. The Authority (by by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch) was one of the first of commercially successful Americans comic to use decompression (the dominant style for the first twelve issues). Due to the success of that comic, the style had been adopted by comic creators across the US.
Of course, like many things, decompression had it's share of critics and has been a subject of debate. Critics have accused the style of over-stretching the length of the plots, hence thinning out the pages' content for more sales and money, despite a limited amount of work. Defenders claims that the style doesn't over-stretch the plot, but makes the characterization more rich. Some see the style being driven by trade paperbacks' popularity. Said paperbacks, usually collect six comics and the style (with stories lasting several issues) would give a desirable length to the stories.
Due to the criticism involving decompression, comic creators Warren Ellis, Dan Slott, and Brian Wood decided to experiment with a new style, which they dubbed "Compression". In Warren's Fell, Global Frequency, and Planetary, the stories only last one issue and Nextwave only has two issue story lines. Slott's story archs involving the She-Hulk and the Thing usually last from 1-3 issues. Wood's Demo and Local are all single-issue comics, where sometimes there are no recurring characters so the stories can be self-contained "short stories".

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