Just A Thought | The Art of the One Shot

Brent Chittenden explores the elusive art of the one shot done in one comic book. While taking looks at some of the greatest single issues ever done by the likes of Neil Gaiman, Bruce Timm, Paul Pope and more....

I love a good one shot story. One shots, much like the short stories of the book world, are a bit of a lost art these days. I love continuity as much as the next guy but there’s something to be said for a single story done in an issue or a few pages in an anthology.

Panel from Legend of the Green Flame

It’s nice to be able to pick up a single comic and then set it down again, completely satisfied. Neil Gaiman has written a great one shot in Green Lantern/Superman Legend of the Green Flame. Scripted during his early days at DC, Neil wrote a great kind of love letter to the pre-Crisis Green Lantern and Superman. Unfortunately then the Man of Steel retcon occurred and the story was shelved until 2000. The great thing about it is it’s still a good story but you really don’t need to know anything about pre-Crisis Superman or Green Lantern other then the basics.

In terms of anthologies, Batman Black and White is kind of the gold standard at this point and my favorite story was the Two of A Kind by Bruce Timm. It was a Two Face story done in Timm’s distinctive style but with all the rules of TV taken off. It was a good little noir Two Face piece that pretty much sums up the character for me.

(Ed. Note: You can watch the motion comic of Two of a Kind below, thanks to DC’s motion comic adaptations of some of the best Batman Black and White stories)

World's Funnest!

Which reminds me, World’s Funnest written by Evan Dorkin is also a great read. Bat Mite vs Mr. Mxyzptlk in a battle the goes across universes and art styles. I love how DC got guys like Frank Miller and Alex Ross to do art on the ridiculousness that was this story.

I’m also a big fan of Mike Mignola’s The Amazing Screw On Head. While I would love to read more of his adventures, they aren’t nessecary. Although it is a multiple swear word shame that nothing ever came of the television pilot. It looked so much like Mignola’s art.

paul pope's award winning issue of Solo

Now the hard part also seems to be the easy part in creating a one shot. If you only have 8 to 22 pages to tell your story, there’s a lot you have to leave out. Essentially you boil down the character and the story to it’s essence. This should also be a good lesson to those wishing to make films based on these characters. You don’t need to do a whole two hours of back story. We know who Superman is at this point.

Unfortunately, we don’t get too many one shots that are true one shots. Marvel has started to with their giant sized one shot books here and there so maybe there’s hope yet. I would love to see DC’s SOLO (an awesome anthology comic where each issue was a single artist doing multiple short stories) series start again but that’s wishful thinking.

Brent Chittenden is a Canadian freelance writer who also happens to write humorous things for Bite TV’s blog. If you have need of his services you can reach him at [email protected], twitter at @BCNerdhole and his podcast Two Assholes Talking About Nerd Stuff. Feel free to become a fan of him at his Facebook group Brent Chittenden: The Writer.

Brent Chittenden
Brent Chittenden

Brent Chittenden is a Canadian freelance writer currently writing for alancross.ca, geekhardshow.com and his own pop culture podcast, TATANS. He is readily available for writing and speaking gigs. Brent like sandwiches.

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