Why are comic books only 32 pages?

About the middle of last year I really got into comics thanks to the marvel dotcomics. After a while I got bored with waiting for the next online installment and went out to my local comic books store to buy them. I’m pretty sure that was the whole intent behind the dotcomics thing :).

After a couple of months I got a bit bored with them though. At 32 pages I was usually done reading whatever comics I’d gotten before I’d gotten home – seemed a bit brief at 5 bucks a pop.

I still buy graphic novels very occasionally (I’ve got The Dark Knight Returns and Kevin Smith’s run on Daredevil) but I’d probably go right back to getting comics weekly if only they were longer – say 64 pages.

Anyway, preamble aside, why is the length for a comic book always 32 pages? Don’t more readers get turned off by the short length of each issue? Don’t writers feel a bit stifled that every 32 or less pages of whatever story they’re telling they have to stick a too-be-continued in there?

And as a hijack to my own thread is it just me or are the dotcomics going downhill in recent months?

And you’re forgetting that ads typically knock a story down to 22 pages. And Marvel is starting to run more and more “intro pages” in the front of its books, reducing the story to 21.

It’s a page count to price ratio. There are some larger-sized books out there (i.e., Dark Horse publishes a quarterly 64-page Star Wars book; Marvel and DC used to run double-sized annuals), but you’ll find that these are much pricier.

The problem isn’t necessarily the length - the problem (in my opinion) is that many modern comics writers have no idea how to pace a story. That’s why the comics only take a few minutes to finish.

Before it ended, I was reading James Robinson’s run on ‘Starman’. That comic started out strong, with a nice premise. But then Robinson decided that a story should never last fewer than 6 issues, so the plots became very drawn out, with not a lot happening in any particular issue. This culminated in the awful “Grand Guignol” storyline, which was about 15 issues long and could easily have been compacted into three at the most. By that time I didn’t read them monthly, instead I’d wait until I had 4 or 5 issues saved up and read them at once, to get more of the storyline in one sitting.

Look at many of the older, famous comics and you’ll be amazed at how short they are. If I remember correctly, the famour Fantastic Four storyline that introduced Galactus, Silver Surfer, and the Ultimate Nullifier was a two, maybe three issue story - and it doesn’t get much more epic than that.

Modern comics writers don’t seem to be able to tell a decent story in only one issue, so they drag it out for three or four for no reason (even good writers, like Kurt Busiek, fall prey to this - there was a storyline in Astro City that went on FOREVER with nothing actually happening in it).

I’ve been reading old DC archives stories fromt he 40s and 50s, and even though comics were a bit longer then, with fewer ads, I’m STILL amazed at how much is packed into a single issue.

One thing that would help a little is getting rid of letter columns. I’ve never seen one that wasn’t a big stroke-fest for the writer and that served any purpose at all. The worst offender here is Powers, which dedicates about four pages to the inane ramblings of idiot fiften-year-olds. It’s a good comic, but whenever I stumble into the letter column I regret paying money for it.

In addition to the factors mentioned above, it should also be remembered that full-book-length stories in a comic book used to be a rarity. Comic books were more often sliced up into 3 or 4 stories.

32 pages in a standard comic book gave excellent flexibility. Assuming that 7 pages of advertisements (and one page would be reserved for letters) made a comic book profitably publishable, a comic book could contain 2 12-page stories, 3 8-page stories, 4 6-page stories, or a 16-page lead story with an 8-page backup.

The reason is not because of the Story Writing or the Artwork, it is because the Printing Process. The Comic Book or Graphic Novel is 32 pages, when it is printed, it is in 32 page signatures. Assembled and bound, and then distributed to the Comic Book Shop then sold to the Consumer.

32 pages to a comic book,
24 beers to a case.



Well, sure, which is why they aren’t, say, 29 or 35 pages long, but you could easily print them in, say, 48- (12 sheet) or 64-page (16 sheet) bundles, instead. You can usually saddle-stitch at least 80 pp. w/o major debacles.

I remember back in the late 80’s when DC made a big HOO-HAA!!! about how all of their premium format books ie; Infinity Inc., Teen Titans, The Legion Of Superheros, Vigilante, Omega Men, The Outsiders were going to an ad free format, which wqas actually pretty cool, but they didn’t keep it for that long.

I recall hearing from somewhere that the size of comics was originally determined by some postage regulations.

That may refer to the height and width, but may well includ page count as well.


You’re paying how much? For how many pages?

Flodjunior subscribes to the weekly Donald Duck norskie comic book. The cover price is about three bucks. It’s 64 pages long, plus lately there’s been an eight-page puzzle book stapled inside. I counted up in last week’s issue, and there’s six pages of ads. Then there’s nine pages for things like the front cover, the table of contents, the weekly joke page, “The Duckburg Post”, that sort of thing. Which leaves 49 pages divided between nine stories, ranging from a couple of one page gags that could have been Sunday comic strips, to a twelve-page episode in a month-long serial.

Somebody’s still cranking out long comic books. Unfortunately for yinz guys, not in North America, I guess…

"You’re paying how much? For how many pages? "

I knew this would happen :). I’m in Australia.

Is Negative Burn still around? That was a big honkin’ comic- anthology format, so most of the continuing stories were told in even smaller chunks than you’re talking about.
How about Zero Zero. another B&W anthology comic…

Whoops, my mistake, Silentgoldfish. And I’m usually so good about checking, too… :frowning:

Still, it seems like you’re still paying at least as much as we are, and you get less product. A good rule of thumb is, if you’re paying more than Norwegians, you’re getting ripped off!