There’s a pivotal line in Moore & Gibbons’ ‘Watchmen’ series, wherein antagonist Adrian Veidt remarks he’s not so foolish as to act like a “Republic serial villain”, mocking the cliffhangers and contrivances of old.  Lately, though, many of those once-mocked cliffhangers and contrivances have been given new life, thanks to what TV producers call “arc-driven” storytelling (known in comics as “writing for the trade”).  The practice does have its downsides, especially as regards accessibility to new readers/viewers, but some believe it leads to greater engagement of the audience once they’re “hooked”, which in turn begs a query…


The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) is glad to know that the Brown Hornet miraculously escaped, UNHARMED, asking: Given the choice, do you prefer Serial Storytelling or Done-In-Ones?


About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.


  1. SmarkingOut Adam on

    Serial Storytelling, without question. It is nice if episodes deal with things on their own as well, but if I can only choose one I easily pick a 26 episode “movie” over 26 mini-standalone stories.

  2. Personally I like serial storytelling for the most part. I like it in finite arcs. I don’t like it when the cliffhangers start getting too contrived and ridiculous, but I do have a fondness for cliffhangers. And while I like an ongoing serial story, I don’t like the use of a major cliffhanger to keep you interested over a long break. (As in “Who shot JR?”) That’s just annoying.

  3. Now that I don’t have cable, I tend to watch more serialized shows. Before, I liked to watch shows where I could just jump in and not be confused, but I watched my fair share serials. Now it’s almost exclusively serials because I can watch at my own pace and wont miss anything (I primarily use netflix for shows). X-Files always was, and still is, one of my favorite shows because they mixed those aspects so well, until the two final seasons or so.

    When I read novels I tend to go for long series or short story collections, but not a lot of one-and-done novels. I find reading a long series rewarding when the arc is done well. Short stories are great when I just want to read a quick thing before bed and then maybe put that collection down for a while.

    I’d also get into why I prefer trades and/or series with definite endings over continuing stories in comics, but I’m feeling long-winded already.

  4. I like to watch serial stories all at once! :) I know that’s cheating…but I often get distracted by shiny things and forget to come back the next week/month/whenever to follow the story-but I do think that serial stories have a better vehicle to convey a story (elements of the story are built over time which results in a better story in my opinion).

  5. I prefer the serial storytelling, but I also miss the done-in-one.

    The serial storytelling is very rewarding for long time readers, since it may make reference to past plot lines (be it minor or “MAJOR”). Serial Storytelling may also encourage a new reader to go back and read past story lines (if affordable).

    Done-in-One can be used to entice new readers by giving a recap, while telling a new story (not all stories have to be 5 to 6 issues in length).

    To some extent the new business model of “writing for the trade”, has impacted the writer’s ability to tell a story in the appropriate method.

    I think Marvel is trying to do “done-in-one” with the “Point Now” issues, which can catch readers up. However, some of the “Point Now” issues I have read require having read previous arcs.

    Could be with “recap” page, a “Done-in-one” may not be that big of deal.

  6. Both. They each fill a specific role, since sometimes I really want to get into a story, but sometimes I just want to watch something fun that wraps up nicely.

  7. Growing up in the 50s and 60s, when comics were all done-in-one, and the comic “universe” reset at the end of each issue, I much prefer the serial storytelling. The Big Two still haven’t divorced themselves from the notion of resetting the universe, however – witness how Peter Parker and Mary Jane un-married, or how Superman and Lois Lane are no longer a hot item in the new 52, etc. That’s actually my I prefer manga to comics these days (if you ignore giant transforming mecha or tentacle stories) because the stories have a beginning, a middle and an end, and the characters grow and change in the course of the story, and the changes are usually permanent. Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind, for example, is far superior to anything Marvel or DC ever produced. Marvel and DC wouldn’t have to reset their comic universe every ten or twenty years if they allowed their characters to age, grow, change, make families and pass on their legacy. Imagine if the New 52 was actually Superman’s son and not a retread of the original. Or if Marvel had allowed Spider Girl to actually be Peter Parker’s daughter and a regular character. It’s hard to tell a good story, or a story that matters, when at the end of the issue, everything has to reset back to where it was at the beginning.

  8. I prefer serialized stories, but with the infrequency with which I get to the comics shop(about an hour away) and actually have some cash the “done in one” type of story telling is a bit better suited to me. And at least with done in one you don’t have to worry about gaping holes in you story collections (Does anyone know where I could get a Gail Simone Sonya #!?)

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