Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Monthly Comics Vs. Trades Pt 2

Tonight, I conclude the thrashing of Jim's farcical logic behind liking floppie comic books...

Jim: Personally, I love getting the monthly books. The addiction to getting my books once a week goes back to my childhood when my Dad would drive down to the newsstand to pick up the Sunday newspapers on Saturday night and he would give me a dollar and I could buy 8 comics (they were 12 cents in the stone age). I still enjoy the weekly fix and certain books I want to read as soon as it is out (52 is a good example).

Also the inherent value of a good cliff hanger. I can’t tell you how many books I would be waiting for to see how the hero got out of a bad fix. One of my all time favorite Fantastic Four story arc was when they lost their power around issue 36/38 and every month I could not wait to see how it all worked out. The grand finale with the Thing versus Doctor Doom was probably a book I was reading on the way home from the newsstand or drug store.

One other small point in the monthly’s favor, readability. I’m close enough to work to come home and eat lunch and as I’m enjoying lunch I have a comic to the side and read as I’m eating. A comic stays open on the page I’m reading a trade does not.

Lee: To start, reading books at lunch? I don’t believe that’s a mustard stain on your copy of Witchblade and ever hear of a bookmark? Sheesh.

I agree with the weekly fix. I went to the store for years in just the same fashion. In fact, because I only had the local drug store, I went several times a week until I figured out the delivery schedule. Unfortunately, I don’t have that kind of time these days.

Life is far to busy and has far too many things competing for my attention. Time to read is a luxury. I want to spend my quality reading time reading truly great and entertaining material. I don’t have time to slog through mounds of comic books anymore. I want nice complete packages that I can read in the time that I have.

While I agree that monthly cliffhangers are fun, is it any different from a chapter in a book. I grew up reading Burroughs John Carter of Mars books. These were just collections of old pulp chapters. Each chapter had great cliff hangers! I could read the next chapter or I could wait without any loss of enjoyment.

Finally, the best part about trades is that they allow the reader to follow story lines better. With a trade, you can catch small plot points the first time around. You notice more of what is happening and if you miss it… well all you have to do it flip back a couple of pages and locate the connections. As a collector, you read so many monthly books that the storylines and plot points start to smear in the months. I can’t believe that you remember any subtle foreshadowing from 6 issues ago. Great writers such as Alan Moore, Warren Ellis, and Neil Gaiman were notorious for this. Moments you thought were throw away suddenly have significance. Details like that are missed in floppies, whereas a trade allows you to see, enjoy, and appreciate the writers intent. There is no way that Planetary or Moore’s Supreme & WildCats read better in single issues.

Finally, a trade has no ads. Shall I remind you of your December posts ranting about Marvel books with 28 pgs of ads and 26 pgs of story????

Jim: Hard for me to argue the ad point, but how about the fact that the extras in the monthly books add to the feeling of the book. The letter pages (when they have them), the weekly column in DC comics, the goofy fun stuff that is in Goon’s letter pages are all gone from the trade.

Lee: There is definitely something to be said for letter pages, and as you state, Goon and Powers immediately come to mind. But the nicer trades are laden with… and I shudder to use the phrase… DVD style extras. There are concept sketches, original art, and even the original script. I would never be able to see these things if it weren’t for the trade. While I am always curious what little Bobby in Nebraska has to say about the latest issue of X-men, I am far more interested in the creative process.

Jim: I wonder if the monthlies are not a way to just underwrite the trade paper backs. We do not have true sales figures of trade as that is not all processed via Diamond. Also I wonder how the companies structure the deal for page rates. In the old days you were paid $X dollars per page for art or story and if the book was reprinted that payment was greatly reduced (way back when it was reduced to zero). If the trades garner much smaller payments to the creators it is in the companies’ financial interest to keep comic sales just enough to break even and push the trade sales as they would be more profitable. I don’t know if it is true, but economics seem to be pushing the trade format, but it seems that no one is going to publish a series as trades only. Finally what the trades have done is that when I discover a series I can easily catch up with what I missed. I came into 30 Days of Night late, but was able to get the early material in trades without breaking a sweat.

Lee: The truth of matter is that I buy some single issues and I buy compilations of current storylines that are typically well received. For example, in trades, I won’t be getting Civil War trades, but I will get Punisher Barracuda. BUT, I rarely buy original material tpb’s because the cost to enter is too high. I don’t know if the story is any good. For floppies, I try to support indies because Jim is correct, you don’t know if they will be collected. And, I try to buy indie trades, to support them. And, I have been burnt by both habits. I do think that trades allow for greater accessibility and readability for a collection. I hadn’t pulled my old Champions books in a very long time but the recent trade allowed me to revisit them quite easily.

It’s a vicious cycle in which trades can’t survive without floppies and industry can’t survive without trades.


  1. When has there ever been a case when buying floppies saved a title on the brink of cancellation? Some have been bought a reprive by fans being vocal, but I cannot recall any book being saved by a mass increase in monthly sales.

    For me, there is no need to get any monthlies, especially at $3.20 a pop with no discount offered anywhere in the area. I'll pay $19.20 for a 6 issue story arc only to find that I could have bought the whole thing on Amazon for $12 or less. No way to justify pissing away that extra $7. Floppies are just too overpriced and not worth the cost. You get very little for your money. With decompressed storytelling, less happens in one issue than used to occur in one page back a few years ago. Very little value for your $.

    To top it off, Jim and I are both guilty of buying things twice. A good series comes along and you end up not only buying the singles but a collection as well sometime down the line. Take All Star Superman for example. Great series with writing and art on the highest of levels. But why are Jim and I buying it in singles when we both knew damn well from the first issue that we'd be buying the hardcover when it came out? And with the haphazard shipping schedule of the All Star line you're gonna have to wait around months on end for bits of a story that will read so much better once collected.

    There is no logical argument for continuing to buy singles. Going to the shop every wednesday is just a habit and can be broken with a little effort. For the past 14 years I have hit the shop each and every wednesday come sleet, rain, snow or hail. In the past year that all changed. This is due to the overall poor quality of the books coming out from Marvel and DC of late. Since September, I have been going to the shop less and less. First it was every other week, then every third week, now I'm down to once a month and it's getting hard to even slag my butt up to get there that often. If not for the fact that I was already in the neighborhood I'd probably never go to the shop and drop comics altogether in favor of trades. 2006 saw several of my comic friends, many who have been collecting for over 10 years, drop the hobby completely. I understand why. The quality of the superhero comics coming from Marvel and DC has never been poorer. I stand firmly on the side of trades. That's my 2 cents.

  2. Jeff - Your logic is hard to defeat, you can ever add the added convenience that if you just buy the trades many places offer free shipping.

    Over the last five years it has become harder and harder to justify buying the "monthlies" (with late shipping the term is questionable).

    One question I have is can we get to trades if everyone abandons the monthlies?

    The next logical step for a publisher to try is to publish a series as a series of trades.

  3. Jim---

    Things are gonna have to change soon. I keep hearing from insiders that Marvel wants to increase prices once more. Just like the new stamp increase when we just had an increase last year, Marvel wants the standard price for a comic to be $3.25 with prestige format books selling for $3.99 which they already are. Did anyone notice the bump? Marvel's prestige books were $3.50 just a short time ago. Now they're $3.99. Was it reported? And DC has followed suit. Remember when comics were $2.25 or $2.50 and prestige books were $2.75? Wasn't that long ago. Comics are being priced out. Something has got to give. The day will soon be here when comics are $4 a go. Can you imagine? $4 for a comic book?!?!? Take my advice and switch to trades now before the price change comes at the end of this year. Your wallet will thank you.

  4. PS---

    Remember when Warren Ellis introduced Fell? He said the new format was his stand for singles and that he would never trade Fell. Guess what? Fell's first trade is coming soon, chocked full of extras, spanning the first 8 issues and coming out with a cover price of less than the $16 you paid for the singles and selling at Amazon for $10.39. I say "Hee Haw!!!" for feeling like a jackass by buying the singles. Yes, once again the floppy buyer is screwed over financially. I guess if you prefer buying floppies you must also enjoy pitching dollars down the toilet.

  5. Not that I have much of a say because I get my comics for free... but I think I'd miss the single issue. Not all of them to be exact, but with some comics it's fun to see them coming out month by month (like the Legion). And honestly, having huge time gaps in a series (as would happen in a purely trade situation) would lose a lot of people's interest. I mean, c'mon, you guys complain about a book being a month late - what happens when you have to wait 6months or more for your next fix?

  6. Has no one but me noticed how annoying the choices of issues that appear in a specific trade can be? Sure some writers are now writing in six issue arcs for the trade, but most are not or, if they are, they're not doing it carefully enough for me.

    Example: "New Avengers Vol. 6: Revolution" collects New Avengers #s 26-31. Issue 26 is a stand alone story that wraps up loose ends from the "House of M" storyline, but issues 27 through 31 are one arc that depicts the New Avengers dealing with the repercussions of the "Civil War" storyline and then traveling to Japan. And issue 32, which is not in this volume at all, shows the team returning from Japan!

    What a mess for any reader! Newcomer and die hard fan alike. The only person I can imagine who can follow this properly is someone who has been buying every major Marvel title in trades AND is fully aware that they are reading chapters meant to be read in monthly installments.

    Do I think Brian Bendis should have carefully written his entire series in six issue stories only? No! Silliness! Someone at Marvel should have the wherewithal to see the story threads that run through these comics and publish them accordingly. Until they get on top of the specific content of these trade-paperbacks in some working manner, I will be sticking largely with my floppies thank you.