Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Monthly Comics Vs Trades Part 1

In the interest of full disclosure I want to state the trade versus monthly issues has so many gray areas that Lee and I choose a side to represent to better flesh out the pros and cons. Like the old point and counter point arguments you saw on Sixty Minutes or Saturday Night Live.
Also as to not overwhelm anyone with too much information we have broken the post into two parts.

Jim: The monthlies versus waiting for the trade have become a question that almost every comic book fan must make today.
Lee: I couldn’t agree more. And it seems that the decision between floppies or trades is getting harder and harder every year.

Lee: Let me tell you, I grew up with floppies, I love floppies but I have trouble getting them these days. Honestly, single issue comics are too expensive for me. When Jim was young, $1 would get you lots of comic books. When I was young $1.25 would get you 2-3 comics (I grew up 40 cent era, decades after Jim…. multiple decades). But today, $1 won’t even get a half pint comic like Casonova.

Typically a trade will collect a complete story arc and be either the same price point as buying the comics or a cheaper price. A tpb typically covers six issues and is only $15 versus $18 for the actual comics. This doesn’t even begin to address such books as Jeff Smith’s Shazam which is $6, and will be collected for considerable less.

The cost of books is so high these days, I can’t afford to read bad books. A tpb allows me to filter out the bad and limit myself to the better-than-average and great.

Jim: Lee, you filthy slut. A trade paper back is possibly more costly then any single issue of a comic book. With individual monthly issues the cost is normally $3, and if I don’t like the story arc I can stop buying the book and then save myself the cost of the last five issues in that arc. By going the trade route you have invested at least $15 in a book that you may hate after 22 pages of story and art.

Also I believe the comic companies finally got wise to people buying six issues cheaper in a trade and I have noticed a lot more trades coming out at an $18 or even $19.99 price point. Some wise person realized that were killing the goose that laid the golden egg.

Also, let’s face it, you miss a lot by not getting the monthly issues of a book. A lot of small series and some of the independents never succeed enough to warrant a compilation of their issues. This is less a problem today then yesterday, but you can also never depend on a company to complete a run (Hitman from DC was never completed in trades).

Also the publishers love to play with the format. I have been dying to get 300 in a nice hard cover or trade just like the comic, yet it is only in an over sized hard cover. Marvel has fallen in love with digest size books and Dark Horse has been enamored with the 6x9 format. With the monthly books you know more about what you are getting.

And there is the intrinsic value in the monthlies that for you $18 you can try six different series as opposed to just one. If the cost is too high how many trades will you buy in a week?

In many ways the monthly book is a better bargain.

Lee: Based upon this logic, I see why you vote the way you do, Libraritarian Green Party Scum Sucker. I agree that a trade can be more costly than a single issue but in terms of quality it is a far better value. You and I spend the same amount of money, but I get a trade whereas you get many different issues. Unfortunately, you bring home a pile of crappy single issues while I get (most of the time) an entertaining AND complete story arc.

The bottom line, you don’t save any money at all. As a collector, when was the last time you stopped a series mid story arc? I stopped reading X-men for 3 years before I got the nerve up to drop it. We are comic book FANS, short for fanatics, and we are collectors on top of that. This is a particularly bad combination meaning that we rarely drop anything. Ever! Trades are much easier to stop collecting. I don’t have nearly the vested interest in them that I have in my single issues.

As for independents, if any book is good enough then it will get a trade collection. There are many examples of this, Robotika and even Chicano’s. As with everything else, the internet has made the comic book world much smaller. In the old days (your youth) you had to try every book because collectors were separated and, like movies, once they were gone from the shelf, they were gone. Comic books are like DVD’s today, if a series is good it will be released within a month or two. QUALITY, key word there, independents are released within six months, and these days even crappy cult books (Marvel’s Champions anyone?) even get traded.

Jim: Lee you inarticulate slug, obviously your communistic masters have lead you down this road. You say we spend the same dollar amounts, but what about the flip side of the collector’s market. The single issues of the “hot” books can be sold on E-Bay for a tidy profit. The first three issues of Mouse Guard were sold by my daughter for $96, which more then pays for the comics and she can buy the trade of the series and still have money left over. Trades rarely do as well for resale.

Jim: Now in my own situation I mail out the floppies I get and enjoy the ability to be an up to date critic on a lot of comics, but if I was just buying 100% for myself I thing I would have to switch over to more trades. Still it is really hard to give up that new car, latest video game system feeling you get with getting the monthly book. I think that the comic companies have made a mistake with releasing the trades so close to the actual last issue of the arc, because it makes it easier to wait for the trade.

Lee: When I think of trades, I think about the longevity of my collection. I am far more likely to pull a trade off my shelf to look and read it than I am a floppie issue. When I am heading to my “personal reading room,” I don’t have time to pull the long box, take the book out of the plastic, and then run to the reading room. I need something I can grab quickly and go. No pun intended.

The real appeal of trades to me, is the fact that I can revisit them over and over and over again without hurting them. I have some original EC’s that languish in plastic because reading them destroys the value. A trade allows me to revisit old books quickly and easily.

Jim: Lee I don’t think the bathroom really qualifies as a personal reading room. Of course having young children sometimes that is the only room to get alone time.

Lee: Don’t even pretend that you don’t read in the bathroom!!!! Since man left the cave, it has been the last sacred haven. And, truth be told, with little children, sometimes even the “reading room” isn’t private anymore!
“What cha reading Dad?”
“Who’s that?”
“Can I read that?”
“Are you going to be long?” … ooops that’s from the wife.

Tomorrow the second and concluding part of our debate.


  1. Jim taking the pro-floppy side just makes this post too unrealistic for me. Jim and I are the most pro-trade guys I know. If you're still buying comics in floppies you should really consider switching to trades only. The money I've saved is incredible. Here in NJ a comic costs $3.20 after tax. $3.20?!?!?! For what? One part of a six issue story that you can read in under 7 minutes that you know will be much cheaper in trade form when the trade ships, probably just one short week after the storyline has finished. And after a couple months of reading comics without all the ads and you won't hardly be able to go back to reading floppies. Man there are a lot of pesky ads in floppies. Really takes away from the enjoyment and flow of the story. So put me firmly on the trade side of this argument. To me, there is no justification for buying monthlies anymore.

  2. Jeff-

    (1) Jim not pro-floppy? I am surprised because he buys more than anyone else I know.

    (2) Doesn't the local store offer discount? I wouldn't buy any floppies either if it weren't for discount. Heck, I might not visit the store since even Amazon/Tales of Wonder give discounts.

    I posted part two of the discussion tonight.

    Let us know what you think.