A storyline in comics is a plot or subplot within a series or several series.
Often this is in reference to a connecting thread, such as a common enemy or a crisis that must be overcome.
There are several kinds of storylines.
Direct: A direct thread storyline follows a straight line. Part 1 lead to Part 2, which leads to Part 3, and so on. Each part has an element to the story that is essential for one to follow the other parts.
Associated: An indirect or associated thread storyline deals with common elements but each issue is not essential for the reader to follow the story. Quite often this is a side-story or supporting story that comes up during the main event itself.
Crossover: A crossover storyline is one that goes from one comic series to another. This is often a good way to get readers of one series involved with other works by requiring that one pick up those issues to continue with the story.
Limited Series: A limted-series storyline is a stand-alone series, either a mini-series or "maxi-series", where characters from other series take part but the story has no effect on other series where the characters come from.
City of Heroes
- In the Death Dealers DECONSTRUCTED storyline, the villain group known as the Death Dealers, as well as the associated characters, are all under attack by a mysterious assassin. The story crosses several series published by KK-Comics, requiring the reader to go from one series to another in order to follow along.
Guardians of the Dawn Spotlight
- Issue #5 of the City of Comic Creators Compendium includes a story from the "Guardians of the Dawn Spotlight" series involving the debut of StarCygnus. It is discovered at the end of the story that he is the son of the leader of Shadowborn and that the circumstances that led to his heroic debut were staged. It is connected to the overall "Shadowborn" storyline, but not essential for the readers to follow along with it, which makes it the perfect example of it being part of an associated storyline.
- The "Time and Changes" storyline is a good example of a direct storyline, where the overriding theme of the story, namely the return of Alor, crosses several issues within the series, requiring one to read each issue in order to follow with it.
City of Heroes (Top Cow)
The City of Heroes comic series as published by Top Cow employed both direct and indirect storylines.
- Most of the 20-issue series moved in three-issue direct storyline segments, one after another. "Bloodlines" led to "Trading Places", which led to "Awakenings". It's only when the story divulged into the story with the Praetorians did it break from this trend.
- The three-issue "Praetorian" storyline (which was not officially named by writers) had an indirect storyline which was a focus on the Vindicators in Issue #17 and how they tried to keep the peace while the Freedom Phalanx were busy with their Praetorian counterparts in Issue #16. Immediately after that, though, you see them dealing with Dominatrix, which was brought over at the end of the events in the previous issue. You needed to read Issue #16 to under stand the story behind Issue #18, but you didn't need to read Issue #17.