In a return to its comic book serial roots, DC has kicked off a weekly Wednesday Comics. Modern comic book distribution delivers the new comics into the stores on Wednesdays, hence the title. With fifteen different stories — one per page — there ought to be a wide audience for this experiment. And with different writers and artists for each feature (some of them quite notable) the range of material is quite large.
What interests me, however, is that here you have fifteen separate beginnings. Beginnings are of profound interest to writers, because they are so important. Selecting the right place to begin writing is vital — many writers spend months, searching for the exact scene and word to kick the book off. There are even writing classes that focus solely on starting the book.
Furthermore, the right first sentence or paragraph is the hook that draws the reader in — and the buyer. The next time you’re in a Borders or a huckster room, pay attention to how you shop for a book. You eyeball the cover; maybe you skim the flap copy or the blurbs on the back cover. And then — because you know that all these materials were created by the publisher, not the writer — you open the book to page 1 and read that first sentence or paragraph. It’s that first page that either sells you on the book, or loses you.
So! Here we have fifteen beginnings, by some of the top creators in comics. Just flipping through my copy of #1 I see mostly the classic hardy “in medias res’ beginning, in which we are dropped into the middle of a battle or crisis. Probably because of its complicated premise “Kamandi, Last Boy On Earth” has some scene setting, but sure enough, before the last panel someone’s sneaking up on Kamandi and we have a cliffhanger. “Hawkman” dares to tinker with viewpoint — but surely the entire story will not be from the viewpoint of birds? And only the quirky “Metamorpho” dares to begin with an incident that possibly will not tie into the upcoming adventure at all.
You can also analyze these fifteen beginnings as an experiment in essentials. What must you tell the reader, to get the thing going? The answer always is, as little as possible! But how little can you get away with? With some heroes the answer is, practically everything. There is probably somebody left on this planet who does not know who Batman or Superman is, but you would have to trek to their monastery in the Himalayas or their prison camp in North Korea to find them. There is sure to be a DC hero here that you have never read, even if you have heard of them. When you read that story, do you understand what’s going on? Grasp the general premise?
Because these are serials every one of these segments ends with a question, a crisis, or somebody in dire peril This will hopefully ensure that the following Wednesday we’ll be there with our four bucks in hand. This would be a fine sampler, to get a taste of many different DC heroes at once. Or you can view it as a petri dish, full of experiments in beginnings.