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Decompressed Comic

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Scott: And then what happened?
Ramona: Uhhh... about 30 pages of explosions and tidal waves.

A trend that flourished in the late 90s and early 00s in the wake of Trope Codifier The Authority written by Warren Ellis and drawn by Bryan Hitch. Heavily inspired by long-form manga series, Decompressed Comics rely heavily on Splash Panels, Aspect Montages and minimal dialogue to maximize the visual effect of a story. The Authority aimed to mimic the widescreen action of a Hollywood movie by creating images that were as big and as striking as possible.

This trope is also used by people who want to add a slower, cinematic pace by, for example, using an entire page to show someone walking silently down a corridor in numerous panels, in order to create tension or otherwise express a mood. This also gives a clear direction whenever the comic is going to be adapted into either anime/cartoon or live-action.

When used well, decompression is a useful tool that can not only give artists a chance to stretch their wings but also alter the pace of the issue in order to tell the story more successfully. Of course, like any tool it can be used poorly. Some writers (including, arguably, Ellis himself in later years) used it to pad out thin plots or to blindly mimic then-fashionable trends. Such writers were often accused of Writing for the Trade. Ellis would respond to that by writing several comics that are decompressed, but still manage to wrap up every story in one issue, thus proving that you can write in this style without writing for the trade.



  • AKIRA. That's 6 manga volumes and over 2000 pages. All of them are painstakingly detailed with so many Scenery Porn, Scenery Gorn and action sequences.
  • Bleach shifted into a milder form of this midway through the Hueco Mundo arc, slowing down and adding more details to fights.
  • Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou, featuring a world After the End, where nature is reclaiming the world, and a main character that is a Robot Girl that mostly lives alone, only occasionally getting visitors, naturally has entire chapters with almost no text at all. Another recurring character simply doesn't talk or have thought bubbles, simply relying upon actions and facial expressions to convey her intent.
  • Osamu Tezuka is arguably the Trope Maker (as with much else in manga). For instance, Astro Boy's origin story contains a few pages of Tobio driving around before he crashes his car, to build up tension and give the audience the feel of the speed of the vehicle.
  • The Manga version of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann does this a few times to emphasise the over-the-top-ness of the goings-on. For example, one Giga Drill Breaker (the standard Finishing Move of the series) once took 11 pages.
  • Battle Angel Alita: Last Order has the ZOTT arc with whole chapters describing just a few, or even a single punch. Running for at least 80 chapters (7 years in real life so far) the event takes place over a period of six days.
  • Blame! uses this style, as featured in the page image. The protagonist talks so little that chapters featuring only him may contain a lot of action but no dialogue at all.
  • Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force has done this, with one battle starting around chapter eight and ending at chapter 15, taking up one and a half volumes.
  • A few of CLAMP's manga series tend to have this, especially X1999 and Clover. X in particular only managed a single 24 episode TV season out of 18 volumes of material, whereas most of their other *shorter* mangas got made into longer series.
  • Murata's adaptation of One-Punch Man early on spends entire chapters' worth of gorgeously detailed pages on single events, for example Sonic flash stepping around Saitama in the forest, Metal Knight arriving in Z-City (this one is in colour to boot!) or the whole training battle between Genos and Saitama. Fans have taken to putting the panels into animated gifs and the end results look no worse than the actual anime adaptation of the comic.
  • Wandering Island vols. 1 and 2 by Kenji Tsuruta. Volume 2 in particular.

Comic Books

  • Stan Lee may actually be responsible for introducing this concept into American comics. Since he was working on a truly insane number of books during the 1960's, he found that extending one story over multiple issues was much easier than having to write new plots for multiple titles every month.
    Stan Lee: I saved a ton of time by taking one plot and stretching it out over many issues. Instead of spending so much time making up different plots, I could be spending that time completing the stories…Of course, what started out as a time-saving device turned out to be a good idea, quality-wise. We found that the continued stories being longer gave us more room for Character Development, and the addition of subplots helped to round out the stories so they read more like mini motion pictures.
  • Jim Steranko's run on the Nick Fury section of Strange Tales occurred during a time when comics typically were one-shot or two-part stories. His Yellow Claw Saga was ran for nine issues.
  • Cerebus the Aardvark did this as long ago as the 1980's, minus the big splash pages. Many, many issues have had no "plot" other than conversations. The final volume ''The Last Day" (which shows the last day of Cerebus' life) is several hundred pages long. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
  • Everything Brian Michael Bendis does.
  • Much of Ultimate Marvel.
  • Ironically enough Geoff Johns, who supposedly left Marvel so he wouldn't be forced to write like this, has started to adapt this writing style into more and more of his works. The most notable examples as of late has been Legion of 3 Worlds and '"Flash Rebirth.''
  • For several years after The Transformers: All Hail Megatron, most of IDW's "main" Transformers comics have suffered from the negative aspect of this trope, with issues that were more like half or even a third of an issue than a full issue. Needless to say, "Speed up the pace!" became an increasingly common post to be seen on the IDW Transformers forum. This has also been parodied extensively, most notably by David Willis here. Eventually completely turned on its ear by the dual ongoings The Transformers: Robots in Disguise and The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye, both of which have lots of stuff going on at most given moments though they can both slip into it from time to time depending on Rule of Funny or Rule of Drama.
  • Deadpool plays this for laughs once, having Deadpool take a leak for one and a half pages. Overlaps with Overly-Long Gag here.
  • While the whole book isn't a terrible example of this, the revelation of the X-Men's new costumes in Astonishing X-Men is. In this two-page spread, the actual heroes in their new costumes would have taken up a small amount of one page if the Dutch Angle were ditched. (With it, Kitty goes off the page slightly... thus losing most of her in the spine of the book.) Most of the scene is the hangar wall as the X-Men walk in (the Blackbird's there, but you don't see much of it.) It's not even an awesome hangar wall that you'd get when the artists get to have their way at the cost of narrative. It's just a blank wall. A full page of blank wall.
  • Superman: The Coming of Atlas suffers badly from this. Despite being a four-issue story arc, it basically consists of one long fight scene.
  • Paul Pope is fond of this technique. His current project, Battling Boy, has (per Word of God) 40-page fight scenes.
  • 365 Samurai and a Few Bowls of Rice consist of a panels taking up each page entirely and story telling focused on mood and atmosphere.
  • Kick-Ass sometimes is, sometimes isn't. Some issues goes by in days, some have months go by (especially when Dave is in the hospital).
  • Some of the Godzilla comics published by IDW are hit by this problem badly, particularly Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters and Godzilla: Oblivion, both of which make use of very frequent (and rarely necessary) splash and double-splash pages, enormous panels containing nothing but character closeups and one-word speech bubbles, and pages dominated by huge patches of literal white space.
  • Star Wars (Marvel 2015) can run into this, by virtue of trying to evoke the grand, cinematic feeling of the films. Entire pages are often dedicated to ships floating through space, people running down halls, and Darth Vader standing around looking cool.
  • Mœbius is probably one of the most important precursors of this style. His own style included a great many (highly detailed) splash panels and cinematic "editing", especially when he was working with Alejandro Jodorowsky; his Arzach series (originally serialized in Heavy Metal) is known for its visual storytelling and lack of dialogue.


  • Here I Lie Awake is a positive example, as protagonist Zoey’s insomnia causes her physical and mental health to slowly deteriorate, building tension and dread as her welfare becomes increasingly precarious.

  • Vattu is incredibly decompressed; the first couple of pages are just a baby being tossed over a fire.
  • Copper is made of this, though pages are self-contained and some are wordier than most of these.