A story arc (also narrative arc) is an extended or continuing storyline in episodic storytelling media such as television, comic books, comic strips, boardgames, video games, and films with each episode following a dramatic arc. On a television program, for example, the story would unfold over many episodes. In television, the use of the story arc is much more common in comedies, especially in soap operas. In a traditional Hollywood film, the story arc usually follows a three-act format. Webcomics are more likely to use story arcs than newspaper comics, as most web comics have readable archives online that a newcomer to the strip can read in order to understand what is going on. Although story arcs have existed for decades, the term "story arc" was coined in 1988 in relation to the television series Wiseguy, and was quickly adapted for other uses.
Many American comic book series are now written in four or six-issue arcs, within a continuing series. Short story arcs are easier to package as trade paperbacks for resale, and more accessible to the casual reader than the never-ending continuity that once characterised US comics. A corollary to the absence of continuity, however, is that, as exemplified in 1950s DC Superman comics, no permanent change to characters or situations occurs, meaning no growth can take place; thus storylines repeat over time in an endless loop.
The purpose of a story arc is to move a character or a situation from one state to another; in other words, to effect change. This change or transformation often takes the form of either a tragic fall from grace or a reversal of that pattern. One common form in which this reversal is found is a character going from a situation of weakness to one of strength. For example, a poor woman goes on adventures and in the end makes a fortune for herself, or a lonely man falls in love and marries.
Another form of storytelling that offers a change or transformation of character is that of "hero's journey," as laid out in Joseph Campbell's theory of the monomyth in his work, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Christopher Vogler's The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers details the same theory specifically for western storytelling.
Story arcs in contemporary drama often follow the pattern of bringing a character to a low point, removing the structures the character depends upon, and then forcing the character to find new strength without those structures. In a story arc, the character undergoes substantial growth or change, which culminates in the denouement in the last third or quarter of a story.
Story arcs on television (and also on radio) have existed for decades (one notable (albeit, unusual) example, from the so-called "Golden Age of Radio", being the 1946 NBC Radio Summer-run docudrama serial, The Fifth Horseman, which (in part) featured a four-episode arc regarding a hypothetical chain of events (spanning nearly two full "future" decades) surrounding a fictitious nuclear holocaust), and are common in many countries where multi-episode storylines are the norm (an example being the UK's Doctor Who), as well as most anime series.
Many arc-based series in past decades, such as V, were often short-lived and found it difficult to attract new viewers; they also rarely appear in traditional syndication (one notable example being the science fiction "novel for television" Babylon 5). However, the rise of DVD retail and DVR of television series has worked in arc-based productions' favor as the standard season collection format allows the viewer to have easy access to the relevant episodes. One area of television where story arcs have always thrived, however, is in the realm of the soap opera, and often episodic series have been derisively referred to as "soap operas" when they have adopted story arcs.
Arc-based series draw and reward dedicated viewers, and fans of a particular show follow and discuss different story arcs independently from particular episodes. Story arcs are sometimes split into subarcs, if deemed significant by fans, making it easy to refer to certain episodes if their production order titles are unknown. Episodes not relevant to story arcs (such as "monsters of the week") are sometimes dismissed as filler by fans, but might be referred to as self-contained or stand-alone episodes by producers.
Manga and anime are usually good examples of arc-based stories, to the point that most series shorter than twenty-six chapters are a single arc spanning all the chapters. This makes syndication difficult, as episodes watched in isolation often confuse viewers unless watched in conjunction with the series as a whole. Series of thirty chapters or longer usually have multiple arcs.
Neon Genesis Evangelion, for example, is a single story arc spanning twenty-six episodes. Other longer anime have multiple story arcs, such as Bleach, Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, One Piece, Naruto, Yu-Gi-Oh! and Fairy Tail. The anime Dragon Ball Z adapts four different story arcs from the Dragon Ball manga, each with its own ultimate antagonist, along with original story arcs created for the TV series.
Gall Force (ガルフォース, Garu Fōsu) is a metaseries of science fiction anime OVA by the studios Artmic and AIC, with production by Youmex. The original character designs were by Kenichi Sonoda, though these were dropped for the Gall Force: The Revolution remake. Central Park Media has licensed most of the films and OVAs with the exceptions of Ten Little Gall Force, Scramble Wars and The Revolution.Green Goblin Reborn!
"Green Goblin Reborn!" is a 1971 Marvel Comics story arc which features Spider-Man fighting against his arch enemy Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin. This arc was published in The Amazing Spider-Man #96-98 (May–July 1971) and was plotted and written by Stan Lee, with art by penciler Gil Kane and inker John Romita Sr. It is recognized as the first mainstream comic publication which portrayed and condemned drug abuse since the formation of the Comics Code Authority, and in time led to the revision of the Code's rigidity.Heroes Reborn (comics)
"Heroes Reborn" was a 1996–97 crossover story arc among comic book series published by the American company Marvel Comics. During this one-year, multi-title story arc, Marvel temporarily outsourced the production of several of its most famous comic books to the studios of its popular former employees Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld.If This Be My Destiny...!
"If This Be My Destiny...!" is a story arc from The Amazing Spider-Man #31–33, with plots and art by Steve Ditko and scripts by Stan Lee, most well known for the introduction of supporting characters Harry Osborn and Gwen Stacy as well as the mysterious villain the Master Planner. It was published in 1965 by Marvel Comics.New Ways to Die
"New Ways to Die" is a six-issue Spider-Man story arc written by Dan Slott with art by John Romita, Jr. and published by Marvel Comics. The arc first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man #568-#573.Superboy and the Legion
"Superboy and the Legion" is a story arc that was published by DC Comics, and presented in Teen Titans vol. 3, #16, and Teen Titans/Legion Special (Late November 2004). It was written by Geoff Johns and Mark Waid, with pencils by Mark McKone, Ivan Reis, and Joe Prado. It is the final story arc in the Post-Zero Hour continuity of the Legion of Super-Heroes.The Adult Legion
"The Adult Legion" is a story arc that was published by DC Comics, and presented in Adventure Comics #354-355 (March–April 1967). It was written by Jim Shooter, pencilled by Curt Swan and inked by George Klein. The story arc features one of Superman's encounters with the Legion of Super-Heroes as adults, and foreshadows several plot twists which occur in the years that follow.
The story arc includes the first reference to Brin Londo as Timber Wolf, and the first references to Chemical King, Reflecto and Shadow Lass (who appears as Shadow Woman).The Death of Captain America
"The Death of Captain America" is an eighteen-issue Captain America story arc written by Ed Brubaker with art by Steve Epting and published by Marvel Comics. The arc first appears in Captain America (vol. 5) #25–42. The first issue of the story arc, Captain America #25, was the highest selling comic for the month of its release. The story arc had wide-sweeping effects throughout the Marvel Universe and was accompanied by the miniseries Fallen Son: The Death of Captain America.The Galactus Trilogy
"The Galactus Trilogy" is a 1966 three-issue comic book story arc that appeared in Fantastic Four #48 - #50. Written, plotted and drawn by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee for Marvel Comics, it introduced the characters Galactus and the Silver Surfer. In 2018, The Atlantic called it "the indisputable pinnacle of the so-called Silver Age of comic books".The Six Arms Saga
"The Six Arms Saga" is a story arc from the popular Marvel Comics character Spider-Man, written by Stan Lee and drawn by Gil Kane. It spans the issues Amazing Spider-Man #100–102 (1971) and features the first appearance of Morbius, the Living Vampire.
The story arc is mostly remembered for Spider-Man's striking aesthetics, swinging through the city with four extra arms.Throne of Atlantis
"Throne of Atlantis" is a 2012–2013 comic book storyline created and published by DC Comics. The story arc consists of six issues from DC's Justice League and Aquaman publications, functioning in part as a larger buildup towards the "Trinity War" event. The plot was written by Geoff Johns, with art by Ivan Reis and Paul Pelletier.
In the story, believing Atlantis to be under attack, King Orm declares war on the surface world. Aquaman's allegiances are torn between his brother and the Justice League, while the latter group finds itself overwhelmed as the East Coast of the United States is swallowed by the ocean and the Atlantean royal troops march against humankind.
The storyline was loosely adapted into a 2015 animated film, Justice League: Throne of Atlantis.Trade paperback (comics)
In comics, a trade paperback (often shortened to trade) is a collection of stories originally published in comic books, reprinted in book format, usually capturing one story arc from a single title or a series of stories with a connected story arc or common theme, or an earlier mini-series.
Traditionally, a trade paperback will reproduce the stories at the same size as they were originally presented in comic book format. However, certain trades have been published in a smaller, "digest-sized" format, similar in size to a paperback novel. Other works (usually material likely to sell well) are published in a larger-than-original hardcover format.
Many comics collections are published in hardcover (or in both formats). The bulk of this article applies to both paperback and hardcover collections. In the comics industry, the term "trade paperback market" can be casually used to refer to the market for any collection, regardless of actual cover.
A graphic novel differs from a trade paperback in that it is usually a square-bound printing with largely original material. Also it should not be confused with the publishing term trade paperback, which is a book with a flexible cardstock cover which is larger than the standard mass market paperback format.
Trade paperbacks account for a small portion of the American comic book industry, which is dominated by sales of staple-bound periodicals.Weapon X (story arc)
"Weapon X" is a comic book story arc written and illustrated by Barry Windsor-Smith and published by American company Marvel Comics. The story arc appears in Marvel Comics Presents #72-84 and tells the story of Wolverine during his time in Weapon X. Only the prologue and part of the final chapter are told from the perspective of Wolverine, who is in a near mindless state for the bulk of the story. Instead, three members of the Weapon X team serve as the protagonists: Abraham Cornelius, Carol Hines, and a man referred to within the story as only "the Professor".
Much of the story arc roughly follows the formula of a slasher film, with the protagonists being stalked in an isolated location by a seemingly unstoppable killing machine.Yu-Gi-Oh!
Yu-Gi-Oh! is a Japanese manga series about gaming written and illustrated by Kazuki Takahashi. It was serialized in Shueisha's Weekly Shōnen Jump magazine between September 30, 1996 and March 8, 2004. The plot follows the story of a boy named Yugi Mutou, who solves the ancient Millennium Puzzle. Yugi awakens a gambling alter-ego within his body that solves his conflicts using various games.
Two anime adaptations were produced; one by Toei Animation, which aired from April 4, 1998 to October 10, 1998, and another produced by NAS and animated by Studio Gallop titled Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters, which aired between April 2000 and September 2004. The manga series has spawned a franchise that includes multiple spin-off manga and anime series, a trading card game, and numerous video games. Most of the incarnations of the franchise involve the fictional trading card game known as Duel Monsters, where each player uses cards to "duel" each other in a mock battle of fantasy "monsters". This forms the basis for the real life Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game. As of 2018, Yu-Gi-Oh is one of the highest-grossing media franchises of all time.