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2009: The Year We Switch to Trades?

(I use, of course, the royal “we,” man.)

So I’ve been thinking. Here we are, tail end of January, in the throes of economic recession, and yet we’re all still buying our comics. Right? But how are we buying them?

There’s a friend of mine named Bryan. Yeah, that’s Bryan with a ‘y,’ not Brian as in Archduke Cronin, CSBG Overlord. Anyway. My friend Bryan happens to be a generous fellow, and lent me his runs of Fables and Preacher, two series I didn’t think I’d like. And you know what? I love ‘em now. The thing is, though, Bryan didn’t hand me a shortbox. He gave me these things with, like, spines, you know? Thick like… like books. I’ve heard they’re called trade paperbacks, or even “graphic novels.” There’s peanut butter in my chocolate. Etc.

Now, when I buy comics, I buy comics, you know? These kinda flimsy little packets of wonder! Wander into a comic shop and you see millions of ‘em. The feel, the smell… the smell of a comic shop cures all ailments. There’s nothing better than reading a comic under some natural sunlight (but not outside. I’m not crazy). But man, these comics, they’re getting expensive. Three or four bucks a pop? That seems like a lot. And you tend not to get a full story in 22 pages anymore. It takes over 100 pages sometimes to get a beginning, middle, and end! That’s if you’re lucky.

Trades, however, those usually come in satisfying chunks of story. You can fit six to twelve comics in them! That’s… well, I majored in English. You count the pages. And while you’re doing math, do some multiplication. The prices of trades tend to be cheaper than the separate single issues they collect. And they don’t even have ads! And sometimes they even have extras!

And these trades, you can put them on your shelf, vertically, without having them topple over. And hey, if you don’t have shelves, you can keep them in a pile without shuffling and gravity causing them to bend and fall apart. It’s some kind of miracle technology.

Clearly, the single issue is an inferior product. I mean, what does it have going for it? I suppose there’s the sense of immediacy– instant gratification, rather than waiting six to ten months between sessions. But that’s about it, right? And yet, comic shops rely on these singles to thrive. Well, to survive. Well, to get by.

What’s the deal? Why do we buy singles? Why do I buy singles? I buy them because I love them– and I can’t explain why. I’m thinking it involves nostalgia; I grew up reading this particular comics format. It’s the format that fueled my obsession. Next thing you know, I’m writing blogs. Fear me.

But that’s the thing about me. I’ll go on and on here at this blog about how nostalgia is bad, change is good, let’s stop looking at the past. Let’s learn from the past, let’s be inspired by it, maybe, but let’s push towards the future, towards the new and exciting. But here I am buying comics singles. So that’s my dirty secret. I love obsolete technology. I still own a working Intellivision and an RCA SelectaVision CED player, the most doomed home video device of them all. And you know what? I still use those things. The quality of the graphics or the picture might not be good, and the damn things might be getting temperamental in their old age, but I love ‘em. Is it the novelty? The nostalgia? The kitsch value? It’s probably all of the above– those lovely, forgotten formats no one cares about anymore. Well, I care. If I could find one cheap, I’d probably buy a Tandy or something. And why not? They’re fun.

So: single issues. Are they dinosaurs? Is the ice age creeping in, the asteroid approaching? Are we soon going to see the days when single issues become like vinyl LPs? A specialty project done for the novelty and costing way more than a trade? Will a single cost as much as a collection in order to offset the costs? Will we buy them? I wonder. Will these floppy funnybooks become the spinning discs of yesteryear, only snatched up by misty-eyed collectors? Or, hey– are we already there?

I love comics singles, especially when they’re done well– when you get something like a Fell, a Casanova, a Marvel Adventure! The magic of storytelling, the increasingly difficult task of telling a complete story in a seemingly arbitrary amount of pages. The amazing feeling of getting a new pile of comics and peering through so many different windows into so many different worlds. Of course, these days, I get that pile of comics from a box that comes in the mail at a lovely discounted rate, but hey, it’s the economy, fella.  A guy’s gotta keep his hobby alive somehow. And yet… and yet I feel the pull of those trades. I feel I need to catch up on Scalped, and Northlanders, and all those lovely things with spines. Can I resist? Should I?

So what’s the prognosis? Are longboxes and mylar bags going the way of the dodo? Are all those display shelves teeming with new superhero singles a relic of the past? Are we reading the 8-Tracks of tomorrow? Or are they the Betamaxes of today? Format wars, man! And the trades are winning! Should we fight, or should we give in? I am Spartacus! How ’bout you?

57 Comments

Single issues are still a better financial bet on the creator side of the equation, so I don’t see them going away anytime soon.

In reality, 2009 might be the year we switch to digital …

When I came back to comics in ’99 I started with trades only and haven’t looked back. Just now counting off the top of my head I believe I’ve purchased 6 single issues in the past ten years and hundreds of trades. One issue each of Fell and Casanova to A) try them out and B) they were actually priced reasonably ( $2.25 here in Canada), an issue of ” Local” ( btw I just got the hardcover in the mail and it is BEAUTIFUL) because it was set in my hometown and a couple of scattered others.
While I may be more apt to try a few comics I wouldn’t normally otherwise if it was an “itunes” like set up I still haven’t seen any satisfying way to read comics, that were originally made for print, online. The way your eyes move from one panel to the other focusing in and out seeing the whole picture while simultaneously reading pieces of it. One of the most engaging thing about comics, what makes them better than movies or television is that activity of the reader as opposed to the passivity of other mediums.

. And you tend not to get a full story in 22 pages anymore. It takes over 100 pages sometimes to get a beginning, middle, and end! That’s if you’re lucky.

I love comics singles, especially when they’re done well– when you get something like a Fell, a Casanova, a Marvel Adventure! The magic of storytelling, the increasingly difficult task of telling a complete story in a seemingly arbitrary amount of pages.

I pretty much switched to trade only because the comics that I was reading did not fit into the second category, but the first. At that point (and because of money and a fuller schedule) it made more sense for me to switch to trades.

I switched to trades about a year ago, and haven’t regretted it. The one significant issue with trades is that it’s easier to miss something you would have picked up when it as just a cheap first issue, rather than buying the whole trade. On the plus side, you get to hear how good something is before you buy 6-8 issues of it.

Trades are much easier to reread, as well. You pull it off the shelf rather than pulling six bagged issues out of a long box stacked underneath another long box.

I sometimes worry I’m missing out on things, and it takes a different type of list making to make sure you’re not missing anything (I keep forgetting to pick up _Northlanders_, for instance), but it’s easier and I NEVER have that weird feeling of picking up a comic and realizing that I forgot to pick up the previous issue and don’t have any idea what’s going on, or have to remember complex plot twists from comics that take months to come out.

I would have to say that the 22-page floppy is very much like the vinyl record. Once you read a well-written trade, it is hard to switch back. I read “All-Star Superman” in floppy, but that is pretty much it for me in the last decade.

I love singles too, also for reasons of nostalgia perhaps, but some books I’ve been buying in trades, such as Captain America and Green Lantern and all the Conan stuff. I buy Hellboy in both formats. I can’t wait for the trades to come out in that case but I also love having the full story arc in one publication. However that’s the only exception. Everything else I’m happy to buy as it comes out each month.

I’ve been pondering the exact same thing lately. Paul Dini was doing some great self-contained stories in Detective a while back when Simone Bianchi was doing the covers but that just seems to be such a rarity. And anthologies make a lot of sense for collecting short stories anyway with a better value (see Image collections like Comic Book Tattoo or Liquid City).

I can see myself buying floppies strictly as back issues, the odd one-shot, or select self-published or independent (non-Big Two) titles moving forward.

For the bulk of my reading though, I think trades, original graphic novels, as well as webcomics and other digital formats will be occupying more of my money and time.

I hope the industry is up to the challenge of adapting to these emerging trends as called for. One thing I’ve wondered is: if the book industry pays authors advances, including writers and artists doing graphic novels at traditional book publishers, will the comic industry be able to alter its existing pay model for creators if monthly floppies become increasingly marginalized and book formats become the norm? Do some comic book publishers already have such a model in some cases?

I switched over to trades this January. Sat down with my comic book guy and pored over what story arcs were wrapping up and where to buy a few more ‘floppies’ After reading Y-The Last Man Standing in trades this past year I was hooked on the flow of the story. That’s what was starting to frustrate me in the regular weekly floppies. I’ll have a bit of a wait before they start rolling out….in the mean time I’m keeping the Marvel Avengers line a weekly purchase to keep some semblance of normalcy!

Jay the 1 letter wonder

January 28, 2009 at 11:18 pm

For awhile I was only reading trades but, for the last year or so, I’ve gone back to being singles for the books like GLC and The Spirit and other stuff like that in the singles and the stuff I’m not really into but just wanna check out and see if it’s any good or if it’s schedule is just weird then I buy them in trades. I think it mainly depends on the writer and stories. For instance, I like Astonishing X-Men better in the trades. However, I like Paul Dini’s detective stuff better in single issues.

I like to reread stuff in trades or hardcovers, but I LOVE single issues because the serialization is what it’s all about. The waiting is part of the fun. Well, not fun, but some indescribable part that can’t be replicated by the trades.

How about this: Floppies turn every Wednesday into Christmas Day. It’s just that sometimes you get socks for Christmas and sometimes you get something amazing. Trades turn Wednesday into…just Wednesday.

I buy very few single issue comics anymore. I keep thinking I’ll drop all of them and just go to trades, but Invincible and Fables are both so good in singles that I’ll probably keep getting them – I don’t want to wait until the trade for those two.

I love the single issues and always have, but now that everything is going to $3.99 (and the fact that every time something is “special”, like “Hulk Family” I’m paying up to $6.00 for reprints) I am switching to trades. I feel like these stories just aren’t worth that kind of money and I’ve been reading them for 40 years!

After the horrible feeling left in my stomach from paying for and reading “Ghost Boxes” my decision was made. Every time a comic goes up to 3.99 I drop it from my pull list and begin to wait for the trades.

By this time next year, I should be totally in the trade only camp.

I would agree with Dean that the floppy is like the vinyl record…which is exactly why I’m sticking with floppies whenever I can.

I love a good trade, but superhero comics were meant to be serialized in floppies, to fall over on shelves, to have stupid ads, to be shoved in back pockets! It’s like the cracks and pops on vinyl or the hiss of a cassette. Technically they’re bad, but they make the whole experience somehow warmer.

That’s why when I read trades, I read then no more than a chapter a week, to try to emulate the serialized format. floppies shouldn’t be written for trades. If you want to write a graphic novel, write a graphic novel. there’s room for both.

Ya know sequencing was a lot more important on vinyl records. With CDs (don’t even mention mp3s), you lose that a bit. Yeah you still have the first song/last song thing, but the first song on Side B was almost always something that would really grab you, ya know?

And instant gratification rocks.

And going digital? Man, I will not read it if it’s not released in hard copy.

I’m impatient. There are only a few books that I am interested in but am not excited enough about that I can wait.
The one argument I’ve never understand from people who don’t like trades is that Wednesday’s would be less exciting. If you’re following the same number of series then there should be a few trades hitting shelves every Wednesday that you’ll get. You’ll just have fewer different series each week.

Given that I’m a 90′s baby, floppy-nostalgia isn’t really a factor for me but I’ll defend the format. The format itself isn’t obsolete and never will be, the problem comes from trying to teach an old dog new tricks. Floppies will not survive in an environment unfamiliar to it filled with decompressed story telling, writing “for the trade”, and expensive glossy paper that raises the prices. Don’t give me a burger and fries and charge me gourmet prices. Bring it back to it’s pulpy production values and writing techniques and they can be financially viable again for everyone involved.

I hate it when we compare comic book formats to technology formats with one permanently replacing the other. Do you think other publications and novels all follow the leader? The answer is no. Is it so amazing that many different formats can survive. It’s this kind of false dissociation from all other literary forms the comic industry just loves and at the same time gets under my skin.

I’d say it’ll never be obsolete as long as people keep buying them, for whatever reason they may have. Same with vynil records in that regard. I do think that trade readers’ll eventually outnumber ‘floppy’ readers, only the most hardcore of the hardcore will stick with the old format and publishers will keep printing them for that audience.

My LCB made the switch years back based on their sales. Theey don’t have a single issue in sight, have stacks of trades are all around the shop but you can’t even get single issues without personally ordering them. But I’m Dutch, comparing European comic shops to American comic shops might be an apples and oranges thing (they’re both fruit!).

I’ve made the full switch to trades close to ten years ago and never regretted it. I occasionally buy a floppy when it’s something special I like that might not be collected (the most recent example is Usagi Yojimbo #100). That happens maybe once or twice a year.

Like Jeremy, when I came back to comics in 2000, I went exclusively with trades, and I haven’t bought a single floppy since.

I’m still a floppy buyer, because as TimCallahan put it “It turns every Wednesday into Christmas Day.” Part of the fun for me as a comics reader and collector is going to the store anticipating that week’s releases, getting my pulled comics handed to me by the shop owner, checking out the rest of the new books for something that I might be interested in picking up, talking to the owner or employees or other customers about one of the books or a TV show or movie, then going home and reading each of those books. It’s the experience of going, one that I now share with my three-year-old daughter; we go each Wednesday night to the comics shop and while I’m doing the above things, she’s hanging out by the kid’s books, leafing through a Donald Duck or Mickey Mouse comic, happy that I included her in doing “my thing” for the evening; she tells me that she likes “hanging out at your store with you, because I get to read Mickey Mouse books.”

With trades, I can walk into Borders or Barnes & Noble, pick up the collections I want, then go give my money to some clerk who probably has never read a comic book, looks down on those of us who do read comic books and couldn’t answer a single question about the trades that I am buying if his/her life depended on it. I wouldn’t have to take my daughter because I would probably just be popping in and running out with my purchases, since there is no reason to hang around one of those stores. Sure, I could buy them at the comic shop, but where’s the fun in only having to stop in once a month to grab a couple of trades that I’ve been waiting for, then go home to find the time to digest 6-8 issues of a book in one sitting, because that is the whole point of the trade: to have the whole story in one place to be read at one time. And for those of you who think that economically it makes sense for trades because floppies are going up to $3.99; trust me, the price of trades is going to go up as well, because DC and Marvel will sense the change in buying habits and take advantage of it, because there is no way they will leave one single dollar on the table.

I’m still a floppy buyer, because as TimCallahan put it “It turns every Wednesday into Christmas Day.” Part of the fun for me as a comics reader and collector is going to the store anticipating that week’s releases, getting my pulled comics handed to me by the shop owner, checking out the rest of the new books for something that I might be interested in picking up, talking to the owner or employees or other customers about one of the books or a TV show or movie, then going home and reading each of those books. It’s the experience of going, one that I now share with my three-year-old daughter; we go each Wednesday night to the comics shop and while I’m doing the above things, she’s hanging out by the kid’s books, leafing through a Donald Duck or Mickey Mouse comic, happy that I included her in doing “my thing” for the evening; she tells me that she likes “hanging out at your store with you, because I get to read Mickey Mouse books.”

With trades, I can walk into Borders or Barnes & Noble, pick up the collections I want, then go give my money to some clerk who probably has never read a comic book, looks down on those of us who do read comic books and couldn’t answer a single question about the trades that I am buying if his/her life depended on it. I wouldn’t have to take my daughter because I would probably just be popping in and running out with my purchases, since there is no reason to hang around one of those stores, and getting her in and out of the store could take far more time than I’d actually be in there. Sure, I could buy them at the comic shop, but there’s no fun for me in only having to stop in once a month to grab a couple of trades that I’ve been waiting for. Also, I’d have to find time to the 6-8 issues of the trade in one sitting, because that is the whole point of the trade: to have the whole story in one place to be read at one time.

And for those of you who think that economically it makes sense for trades because floppies are going up to $3.99; trust me, the price of trades is going to go up as well, because DC and Marvel will sense the change in buying habits and take advantage of it, because there is no way they will leave one single dollar on the table.

I’ll be quiting most of my floppies this month, and continuing the series by getting the trades. That has nothing to do with the economy, took me a long time to really take the decision. I use to love floppies, and when I got into comics back a few years ago I would ONLY buy floppies ’cause I thought ; and still think actually ; that it is the quintessential form of the US comics ; it’s THE way it should be read, and it is the format for which the pages are made for (I mean, ONE COVER every 22-24 pages, how cool is that!!!), it’s no pre-publication it’s the ACTUAL REAL DEAL !
I should say I’m french, live in France, so part of my interest from ih the begining was to get the super-hero stuff right from the US, The real deal as I said, and to read them AT THE SAME TIME you guys do, and finally forget about the frustration I had in the begining, buying french translations 1 year and a half after they went out in USA.

But… after a few years, honestly I can’t bear the ads anymore, and i can’t remember how the hell i could get accustomed to them. It’s just, simply, so soooo disrespectful, for the reader AND for the artist… It was nice to get my monthly fix of Daredevil, and not have to wait 6 or 8 months to get the story, but, I just don’t think it’s worth it anymore…

Now Criminal, Hellboy or Echo I’m still gonna buy in issues of course, but anything from the Big Two I’m gonna quit, and believe me, it was a hard decision….
And by the way, can someone explain me this ?, i never understood how that can be : Hellboy, for example, has a good but still limited print-run, no ads, and is 2.99; Amazing Spider-man has a huge print-run in comparison, is filled with ads, and it’s still 2.99 !! ; is it me or is this situation completely sick ? Honestly, there really might be one parameter that i don’t know, i’m not trying to be the smart guy here, i just would like to understand how such a situation can be and last for so long. This is sick right ? ASM shoud 1.50 or 1.99, that should still be viable economically no ? Honestly, I don’t understand.
(and now people are even talking of 3.99.. That makes no sense !…..)

Thanks for the article, and thanks for reading me (whoever does…), it really rang a bell in my mind, i had to write something…

I, personally, have switched to the nothing. :) But on those rare occasions I do still buy comics, I buy only the trades.

I still buy Captain America and Daredevil by the single. Everything else is trade.

With the end of 100 Bullets and Noble Causes (I know, an odd pairing) I’ll have completely switched to collections rather than individual issues.

Mainly trades for me these days, as I can’t be arsed to lay down $3 to $4 on the measly range of pages in a traditional format. It’s a shame, because the monthly format of single issues is a lovely, lovely thing, but if I do anything more than selectively buy a series here or there the financial consequences seem to stack up pretty quickly. I used to buy a majority of the Marvel titles, a DC or two and some independents in the latter half of the 80s and the early 90s, now that sort of purchase would involve an annoying layout of cash.

Better to cherry pick the trades, for the most part and stay loyal to a handful of titles that have managed to keep my fancy so on target that I simply must have them monthly.

Still a floppy guy, but the New Year has seen me drop two-thirds of my list, and start to move over to both trades and digital comics.

I don’t want to believe that floppies are dead, but unless the leading companies completely rethink their business models, it doesn’t look good…

Marvel and DC should drop their prices, and if necessary run them at a loss, turning their comics into “marketing or R&D departments” for their other ventures like movies. OR hire some leading advertising salespeople to sell the advertising space properly… OR both…

If “Freakangels” has taught me anything, it’s how well digital-to-trade works. Post it online as promotion (and save on ever-increasing print costs), then sell it. Makes perfect sense to me.

Buying in trade also lets you be more objective about what you’re really enjoying vs. what you’re buying out of habit or loyalty, since we do all enjoy the Wednesday trip to the store. AND buying in trade means you can wait to see if limited series are ultimately worth it (no dice, “Secret Invasion”).

It was actually moving away from my usual store that let me make these decisions. Since then, I think I’ve dropped everything short of Ultimate Spider-Man and Buffy (and Fell, but that’s kind of a special case).

There are only a few titles that I’m unwilling to wait for, Secret Six, The Goon, Green Lantern/GLC, etc, so I’ll get them from month to month in singles format. Everything else I’ve switched to trades for, and I’ll occasionally pick up the first issue of a new series or mini or arc just to see if I like it, then usually wait for the trade. Hell, thanks to online shops like amazon and chapters, I dropped Trinity more than halfway through it and can still pick up the last two trades for far less than it would cost to buy the remaining issues, and without the irritating wait between volumes.

Recently I’ve purchased dozens of trades of things that I will undoubtedly read and re-read far more than if they were sealed in bags and boards: Doktor Sleepless, MODOK’s 11, Elephantmen, Robin: Year One, etc. Trades are awesome, although I totally get not wanting to wait. I bought every issue of Y from about 24 to 60 in singles, and waited impatiently for each issue of All-Star Superman to come out.

I think the question might better be phrased as “2009– the year consumers and publishers actually catch up to the creators that have ALREADY switched to trades?” Having this run right on top of the FINAL CRISIS review, where the theme of you have to read the whole thing keeps coming up over and over, really brings it into sharp relief.

The ironic part is that in that particular case the serial storytelling experience was plagued by schedule screwups and the trade-collection experience is going to be marred by bad choices in packaging. Nevertheless, I think the trade readers will have a much easier time of FC than the serial monthly readers did.

I said in a column a while back that the 22-page monthly comic today is essentially an exercise in nostalgia publishing, about on a level with the pulp replicas put out by Adventure House. Looking at the comments here you can see that even the nostalgia buyers are slowly getting priced out of the habit. Hell, I’m one of them, I love Wednesday’s trip to the shop and seeing what’s new, and even I am balking at the current prices, let alone what’s probably coming in six months.

Certainly 2009 is probably the year *I* switch to trades. I was reading Previews yesterday and not a single upcoming monthly from the Big Four looked enticing to me. However, a lot of collections caught my eye. Couple that with Diamond’s new minimums for small-press and I think it’s pretty obvious that SOME kind of big change is coming. The outfits that are smart enough to get ahead of it will be rich. The ones that don’t… well, good luck to them. They’ll need it.

I’ve been collecting mostly collected editions for about seven years ago now, and I haven’t really regretted it. Yes, you lose the suspense and joy of picking up a new part of the story each week, but you gain something in return: you get the ability to avoid the hype and pick up only the things you want. For example, in a previous life I would have picked up every issue of Secret Invasion and Final Crisis, and I would have been greatly disappointed in both.

Waiting for the trade allows me to avoid the crap and pick up the good stuff, like Jonah Hex.

I agree with Bishop about the big two sucking everything they can from the consumers, and I’m getting more and more frustrated at the fact I have to wait years between the end of a storyline before it gets to the trade, because now there’s the extra step of the hardcover. I don’t want to have to pay $20 for 120 pages of story.

So (and this is me entering grumpy-old-man mode), I find myself buying more and more of the “phonebook” editions. I’m picking up two years’ worth of classic stories for $17.

And even then, to make my dollar last longer, I’m avoiding the LCS, or even the online retailer. Instead, I’m going to the online used bookstore, like AbeBooks.com, where I can buy three volumes of Essential Defenders for less than $20 after shipping.

Some comics just feel better as floppies, while others feel right as trades. Vertigo books make good trades, ’cause the subject matter generally has the feel of a good fantasy or sci-fi novel (that’s how I read Fables and Transmetropolitan) and the individual issues feel more like chapters in a bigger epic.

On the other hand, I couldn’t imagine reading the Dark Phoenix Saga or Iron Man’s Demon in a Bottle story in anything but floppies. I feel that superheroes are for comic books, the kind where you put one issue down and excitedly rummage through the box to get the next one. The comic books with cheesy ads and bullpen bulletins and letters pages. The kind you can spread out across your bedspread to admire the covers and the serial progression of the story that you can look at as a physical “run” right in front of you.

Yeah, I guess nostalgia has a lot to do with it. I must admit, for practical purposes nowadays, trades are the way to go…

But I miss bullpen bulletins, dammit.

I started doing the trade thing about 5 years ago and only buy single issues for a special moment (for me) in comics history.

How about something like what Marvel and DC tried in the 70s–thicker floppies with higher prices but more material? I love the old Giant-Sized comics. Many titiles nowadays have a hard time maintaining a monthly schedule anyway–how about bi-monthly or quarterly, with 2-3x as many pages, and a $7.99 cover price, like what Gemstone does with its Disney comics?

Still a floppy, but you get the discount of the TPB, and more story in one issue.

When I got back into comics years ago, I started reading exclusively in trades. Not because it was cheaper or anything, but because at the time there weren’t any comic shops nearby, but there were plenty of bookstores. Now that I’ve gotten used to trades, I find that I just can’t read single issues anymore; I finish them too quickly, and it all ultimately just feels anti-climactic. With a trade I get more story at once which, for me, makes the whole experience much more satisfying.

That being said, the delay on trades drives me nuts sometimes. According to Amazon, Final Crisis isn’t out in trade until June. JUNE. That’s just harsh, man.

I’m kind of torn on this, but I think I’ll be sticking with the single issues for books I’m already reading, and picking up new series in trades. I recently read the first two Perhapanauts trades, and while on one hand I’d like to help keep those order numbers up for the monthly, I’d much rather continue in the same format.

There are a couple of other series that I checked out the first issue and wasn’t quite intrigued enought o keep going that I may revisit when the initial arcs are collected.

I think Greg Hatcher’s point is valid. For the most part the truly “serialized” aspect of comics is a thing of the past. In a traditional serial, each chapter really has its own beginning, middle, and end. It’s a story within a story. Today, it’s more like a single story getting chopped into six pieces.

Does anyone know what makes more money for a comic book shop? Like if a person spends $100 on singles vs. $100 on trades, what’s better for the shop?

Typical comic book retailer, no difference, price-point-wise.

I mainly buy trades. But I have access to new comics that I can read and not buy – which has influenced my trade purchases. For example, I never would have touched the Rucka Wonder Woman if I hadn’t been able to read chapters in full first, and maybe wouldn’t have gotten that Bendis Daredevil hardcover if not for having read parts already.

I switched to trades a few years back and could never see returning to singles.

I like both floppies and trades, but mostly I wanted to thank Bishop for his lovely description of his weekly store visits, which so perfectly encapsulates how much fun that Wednesday experience can be.

it’s so true, Bill. there is nothing better than reading a comic in natural sunlight. my favorite memories consist of me sitting in that warm, golden light of the late afternoon / early evening on a wednesday and reading a comic book… and sometimes i even do it outside too… because i AM that crazy!!!

okay another thought to add… a Beta analogy is an interesting option because of this: while Beta became a mass consumer flop, it became an industry standard for TV. so TV was running (and, for many stations, is STILL running) on Beta for at least 20 years after the media format started to belly up for most users. maybe that’s kind of like single issues in some respects — an outdated technology that’s become an industry standard to the degree that the industry physically survives off it. but with technology rapidly moving away from that mode (digital video for Beta users, trades and digital dist. for single issue readers), it’s becoming increasingly more and more difficult to retain effectiveness while retaining the business model. not that comics don’t sell — but it’s pretty obvious that the readership of single issues isn’t going to significantly expand anytime soon. and better options for comics consumption will continue to fracture a dedicated readership that already puts in a lot more effort than your average fanbase (traveling to a comic shop, ordering your product from a niche online seller, and weathering the popular misconceptions about people who like to read superhero comics).

You don’t get a lot of bragging points for owning the trade with the first appearance of Wolverine….

My local store (out in the ‘burbs) closed about two years ago and rather than making my way into the city every week I switched to online ordering. Since then I’ve been slowly making the change to trades. Calculating various places to stop various books based on storyline considerations and the rest.

There are a few things I’ve decided I could not wait for such as Legion of 3 Freaking Worlds Baby or the Bean World holiday special, but even those sorts of things have been getting easier over time. Once Legion is done I’ll be down to Trinity and Captain Britain because I have this horrible premonition that the moment I start waiting for CB&MI13 that it will get immediately canceled.

So, it’s been a l-o-o-o-o-o-n-g process, but I’m pretty much over the hump now, and I’m not planning to look back, but never say never.

As long as most comics are collaborative, you will continue to see single issues. It’s much harder to coordinate and finance a longer project, like an original graphic novel, when you have no promise of the work being a hit. The TPBs mentioned above were distilled from serialized comics that found an audience there first, giving the creators a reason to think they’d make some profit in the Barnes/Borders crowd.

From the corporate side, the current model is a thing of beauty. It’s called price discrimination. They can charge different people different prices for the same content. What else accounts for the overnight $1 price hike? They know some people will pay to read it NOW. The rest will pay for it later in trades.

What we could see is a transition to webcomics-to-TPBs. The econ of webcomics is pretty enticing to creators, thanks to ad revenue.

I love single issues… but have stopped buying them. Why? Mostly because of cost, but also due to the frustration of an inferior issue that takes me 3 minutes to read. Of course, it helps that I live in a city with a GREAT public library system and thousands of GN’s to choose from. I literally never have to buy another comic in my life.

There are a FEW exceptions to this rule. Some books I love so much and know I’ll re-read, so I grab ‘em off Amazon and revisit them every year or two. But the pamphlets? Nah. They take up too much space and money.

What I would love to see are say 6-issue trades that are completely done but haven’t hit the stores. Then a month or two before publication, the publisher prints up issue #1 and sends it to the shops. It costs, say a few bucks (as a loss leader) and if you like the issue, then you pony up for the TPB next month. I f you hate it, you’re out a few bucks for that first issue and you move on. And here’s the crazy part: to make sure you’re giving the retailer your business, if you bring in proof of receipt that you bought the pamphlet last month, you get the purchase price of said pamphlet off of the cost of the trade! Why should you have to pay for the first issue twice, right? Incentive and win-wins all around!

OK, OK… setlle down fanboy. I’m sure there are problems with the suggestion, but hey, it’s my fantasy world so it works for me.

I still buy the floppies that are written with an entire issue’s worth of story — which these days leaves me with Captain America and Daredevil. The ones that are “written for the trade” I just don’t buy.

I got into comics back in 2002 to follow Dreamwave’s Transformers series. Yeah, the first one sucked, but the follow-up their War WIthin and other titles were pretty satisfying to a Transformers fan like me. I loyally followed each Transformers title they put out in the monthly format. Suddenly they declared bankrupcy, and I had four or so titles that I was following that were dead in the water. If I had waited for trades on them, I would have at least had those story lines collected in a useful form instead of about 20-30 comics that were now, to me, useless. So that’s when I swore off single issues (other than really special issues/covers that I think look cool).

Also, trades display really well. Big white boxes and stacks of singles make your room look like a filthy, dorky comic book store. Trades on book shelves makes your room look like a *classy,* dorky, comic book store.

I opened my shop in October of 2008, in four or five weeks I started having the floppy conversation with myself, everyone’s waiting for the trade so what about monthly’s? The internet is saying the end is near, I’ve read a couple of comics online and know this is not the future for me, I’ve read floppy’s for years I had comics as a kid, but started living the dream late in 1976, I can’t imagine not having monthly comics. I do enjoy Trades & Graphic novels, but no floppy’s no way. I have a small one man shop in a slow economy, I’m already only buying two to six copies of the monthly’s I am carrying, my thought is to carry a limited amount of titles a month (75) best of the best, and carry trades and Original Graphic Novels, I learned after I opened that the general comic reading public in my neighborhood anyway, is much more mature then I am and certainly smarter, so original material and smaller publishers look like the ticket for me. As far as I am concerned publishers should go back to news print and cut their cost and keep the prices on monthly titles lower. Anyway if anyone wants to help me decide which titles I should carry, click my name and get my web page, you’ll find email info there. later!

Due to financial reasons, I too have moved completely to trade paperbacks. I don’t regret the decision, as it fits much better into my life. But I do miss comics.

From someone who has switched over to the dark side, here are the reasons not to do it.

1. Spoilers… To really appreciate the page turning, who knows what happens next, aspect of comic books, you really need to not read any spoilers. So going onto any comic book website (such as comic book resources) really hurts the impact. Plus, there are spoilers you can’t avoid, such as Captain American being shot.

2. Pacing – Many stories work well because of the slow pace… the build-up… the months of anticipation…. Characters grow in your mind in their absence on the page, and they become more important to you. Digested in one chunk, there is less impact when things ‘happen’.

3. Comic Book Day – There is that inherent joy of walking in on a comic book on the day you are going to pick up your comic books. To see the titles all lined-up, ready for your consumption… Even if you know what the covers are going to look like, it still always made me happy.

4. Diversity – As much as you get more content for the same amount of money, you don’t get the diversity. At $15.00 a pop, you can buy two trades (Let’s just say Fables and Batman) for $30.00. For that same $30.00, you can get 10 comic books and get a diverse assortment of standard superhero, other franchises (like Buffy, Connan, Hellboy), Vertigo series, Humor books, and Independent comics.

5. Falling Behind -Ties in with spoilers, but sometimes there just isn’t any fun reading something after everyone else already has. The difference between 6 months and 2-3 years isn’t much. I don’t feel the pressing need to read trade paperbacks the moment they hit the stores… as it’s yesterdays news…

Just my two bits

Another thing to think about is when a single trade doesn’t actually contain the “whole story”. The most blatant example of this would be the OMAC mini/trade where the main villain gets killed off panel if you don’t also pick up Superman:Sacrifice. Final Crisis and Superman Beyond will be similar.

I just canceled Two monthlies I was already getting and removed removed Flash: Rebirth from my pull list. With Legion of Super Heroes ending, that should save me about 15$ a month which I can use to get a trade instead. I’m not too broken up about it.

This thread gets funnier with every person who uses the word “floppy”.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

February 1, 2009 at 9:19 pm

I think the question might better be phrased as “2009– the year consumers and publishers actually catch up to the creators that have ALREADY switched to trades?”

Yeah, I switched about seven years ago, and assumed that was when the big revolution took place – it went from some things were collected to everything was…

I like to reread stuff in trades or hardcovers, but I LOVE single issues because the serialization is what it’s all about. The waiting is part of the fun.

I thought that was really silly when you wrote it in your column about why Morrison’s Batman was a success in serialization if not story telling, and I think it’s silly now.

I love reading good stories – that’s the fun part.

Waiting for the next installment is something you just do.

Shortly after I rediscovered comics around 2005 or so (although I never quit, just quit focusing on them), I’ve migrated to trades.

However, one problem with trades is what to do about the Internet. I like reading CBR and Newsarama and others for creator interviews, reviews, etc, but I’m always about 6 months behind. CBR should make a separate page for trade readers where they post interviews 6 or so months later than regular CBR.

I also suggest reading through the solicitations every month and keeping a list of what trades you want. You can also do it on Amazon’s wishlists.

I also suggest reading through the solicitations every month and keeping a list of what trades you want. You can also do it on Amazon’s wishlists.

That’s what I do. I also use the amazon wishlist, but the Amazon interface for wishlists is really poor when you’re dealing with a list of 200 books!

I think trades are awesome, for some series. However, if you go on ebay, you can usually get a pretty decent sized run for the same price, if not cheaper than the trade. Just a thought.

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