||This article possibly contains original research. (May 2013)|
A limited series is a comic book series with a predetermined number of installments. A limited series differs from an ongoing series in that the number of issues is determined before production and it differs from a one shot in that it is composed of multiple issues.
The term is often used interchangeably with miniseries (mini-series) and maxiseries (maxi-series), usually depending on the length and number of issues. In Dark Horse Comics' definition of a limited series, "This term primarily applies to a connected series of individual comic books. A limited series refers to a comic book series with a clear beginning, middle and end." Dark Horse Comics and DC Comics refer to limited series of two to twelve issues as miniseries and series of thirteen issues or more as maxiseries, but other publishers alternate terms.
The limited series has a single story to tell. It follows the standard plot set-up of beginning, middle, and resolution. Usually, all plot points are covered by the end of the series. There have been limited series done in an anthology format, but only a few of these have been produced.
Limited series are often done by a single creative team, but in cases where there are changes, it is usually the writer who remains constant throughout the run while the artist(s) may change. The number of issues is usually determined by some combination of the writer’s plotting and editorial mandate.
The genesis of the limited series may be traced to anthology series and back-up stories in series featuring the title character. Publishers would often experiment with new characters and stories. If proven popular, these characters were quickly spun off to their own titles. This was a particularly common strategy of comics in the 1960s and 1970s, which saw a comics sales boom (many times, new titles were launched despite uncertainty about whether a character or team could carry a new series for more than a few issues).
Nowhere was this seen more than with DC Comics, which released many titles between 1975 and 1978, reaching close to 60 monthly ongoing titles. Eventually, DC was forced to scale back and cancel more than half of its titles (see the so-called DC Implosion).
In 1979, in the process of recovering from this, DC experimented with a new format, resulting in the World of Krypton miniseries, as DC termed such short-run works. The new format allowed the company to tell stories that may not have fit into an ongoing series and to showcase characters into a short story without the risk and obligations of an ongoing monthly.
With the success of the miniseries format, DC followed by experimenting with longer stories and concepts outside of their universe of superheroes. Debuting in 1982, Camelot 3000 was the first limited series to run to twelve issues. DC coined the term "maxiseries" as a promotional description for this.
It did not take long for other publishers to follow the limited-series form. Marvel Comics used it to feature popular characters from team titles and put them in a lengthy solo adventure. Wolverine's earliest solo adventures were told in limited series. Crossovers between two characters or teams presented as major storylines were also in limited series form before the concept of crossover stories jumping from one title to another was conceived. Contest of Champions brought forth the idea of a major event affecting the Marvel Universe. This would be taken further with the 12-issue Secret Wars saga in 1984 and by DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985.
Lengths of limited series
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Four-to-six issues is the norm for most limited series, though there are series that run for as short as two or three issues. The 12-issue form was popular in the 1980s. Series of this length include Secret Wars, Crisis on Infinite Earths, Watchmen, Amethyst, Princess of Gem World and Squadron Supreme. Stories of greater length, those running to more than twelve chapters, were often done in multi-title crossovers.
DC Comics' 52, which ran from May 2006 to May 2007 was composed of 52 weekly issues. DC did not label it as either a maxiseries or a miniseries, calling it simply a series. On 9 May 2007, DC immediately followed this series with another, similarly to be published weekly for 52 weeks, entitled DC Countdown. When DC Countdown was completed, DC launched another series in the same weekly year-long format, Trinity.
Dark Horse’s 1993 Aliens: Colonial Marines was originally supposed to run twelve issues. When sales faltered midway through the run, the series was shortened to ten issues. Marvel’s Fantastic Four: Big Town was set to run six issues only to be set back to four issues. Number changing does not always result in reduction of issues. The first Gen¹³ was to run four issues, with the fourth a double-sized finale. Instead, the final issue was split to two in order to meet publishing schedules. Brian Michael Bendis found difficulty in resolving the finale of Ultimate Six and Marvel granted his request of extending the series from six to seven issues. Marvel's Eternals vol. 3 likewise went from six to seven issues when writer Neil Gaiman asked for an extra issue to resolve the ending. The eight-issue X-Men First Class and the six-issue Avengers: The Initiative were each amended to become ongoing series.
Occasionally, an ongoing series will be turned into a limited series. Marvel's The Ultimates began as a monthly series, but became a limited series when production issues arose. When Ultimates 2 was released, it, too, was released as a limited series. When Marvel's New Universe line of comics was cancelled, the final issues of the remaining three titles (Psi-Force, D.P. 7 and Justice (New Universe)) were labeled "#32 of a Thirty-two-Issue Limited Series", in the same style that Marvel used to mark limited series at the time. This was humorously repeated as Marvel, when ending its Transformers comic book in 1992 with issue #80, put a caption on the cover of the book claiming that it was "#80 in a four issue limited series", since the title had begun as a four-issue series but was converted to an ongoing series due to its popularity.
- McAvennie, Michael; Dolan, Hannah, ed. (2010). "1970s". DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle. Dorling Kindersley. p. 181. ISBN 978-0-7566-6742-9. "The worldwide success of Superman: The Movie motivated [DC] to publish more Superman-related titles. With that, editor E. Nelson Bridwell oversaw a project that evolved into comics' first official limited series - World of Krypton...Featuring out-of-this-world artwork from Howard Chaykin, [Paul] Kupperberg's three-issue limited series explored Superman's homeworld."
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