Robot 6

Is DC Comics bringing an end to writing for the trade?

DC Comics

One of the most frequently criticized hallmarks of modern mainstream comics may be a thing of the past at DC Comics.

During a nearly four-hour meeting Friday in New York City, part of a nationwide push by top DC executives to sell direct market shops on the September relaunch, retailers were reportedly told that writers will no longer be expected to “write for the trade.” That means they won’t have to construct stories in, say, six-issue arcs to more easily fit the collected format.

“Writers have been told to write the story they want to write and not worry about the trade collecting,” Mike Gendreau of Modern Myths in Northampton, Mass., writes in a meticulous report to Bleeding Cool. ‘If they can tell a well-paced story in 4 issues, they’ve been told not to pad it to make it 6 issues. Editorial can worry about how it’s going to be collected.  Going forward, books will be trade-collected depending on how the story fits. If a book has a 4-issue arc followed by a 3 issue arc, the trade will collect both. If it’s 2 4-issue arcs or 3 2-issue stories, those will get collected. As a side note, DC is looking into a new trade dress to represent the New 52 and a better spine design to call out information for fans.”

Frequently lumped in with decompression, the practice of “writing for the trade” has often been the target of comics fans who accuse writers of stretching out a story that could be told in two or three issues to five or six simply to fill the trade paperback. Even veteran writer Chris Claremont, whose classic X-Men storylines sometimes bled into each other, criticized the modern tendency, telling Graphic NYC, “One problem for me, as a reader, that I see in the modern presentation of comics, is the evolution of things to trades. What you have now are five issue bursts. Why? Because everything’s going to go into trade. I find that counter-productive; I want the flexibility and luxury of being able to expand a story by an issue if it’s working well, or cut it by an issue if it’s not. I don’t want to sit there and be locked into a defined format, which would make it awful for me to be a TV writer.”

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28 Comments

I’ve disliked most of what I’ve heard about the reboot, but this is definitely a step in the right direction.

Now they just need to hire more decent writers.

I could have sworn I saw in one of those retailer meeting reports or in an interview that someone from DC (Bob Wayne or Didio) stated that the stories would be in 6 issue arcs. I remember thinking that was counter intuitive to the every issue is accessible statement they’d made earlier.

Important, if true.

I’m hopeful, but is “writing for the trade” solely a result of editors asking for trade-friendly story arcs?

Or do writers *like* extending the story, either because they think the decompressed pacing is more effective, or (more cynically) because they can get six months’ work out of one story idea?

I’m all for this. Too many times have I read something and just feel like it’s being dragged on and on.

But far to often a story is solicited as 5 parts then pushed to 7. All because the “story” was so big it couldn’t be contained in the 5 parts. More like this thing is selling, lets keep it going.

All I want are good stories. Creators, get in tell great stories, then get out. Let the story, creative team, sell the title. If batman sucks for a month or two so be it. I’ll buy again when the next story is good.

I think that giving the writers more freedom is the way to go. I prefer to not have constraints when I am formatting story lines. I think with what Grant has been doing on Batman and Robin is good. Most of those arcs are only three issues, but as a whole it feels like more, due to the fact that the story is continuous. I think it will make for better stories and hopefully larger trades. DC needs to get into the “bulk” business like Marvel.

Good, now reduce the price of the print books from $3 and even further for the digital books which realistically have got to cost less than a print book.

I’m only going to say this ONCE: if this statement is true, then this will have, in my opinion, been the one GOOD thing to come out of this relaunch.

I’m all for this. I’ve said on several occasions that I think the last few Flash relaunches have suffered from all starting with giant 6-issue story arcs. What they needed to do, IMHO, was get in, do the setup quickly, and show us all the different things the new direction was capable of.

Now if they would just bring back thought balloons and captions!

I was at this meeting…This is going to be awesome! I was so neg going into this and left the meeting in a midway mind set. Then the more I talked about it with people made me more excited. No more writing for the trades, promises of no late books and that an issue of the 7 familys will ship per week, artist and writers who fall behind(with out good reason) are canned, One write who wasn’t named asked if he could use a recap page on the 1st issue…he is no longer working at dc. This is a chance for something amazing if done right. Not everything is going to work and they are already planning mid season replacements.

Also that comment about 6 issue arcs…The only time 6 issues was really mentioned is that will be the defining factor if a book is axed. They are no longer looking at the issue/ tpb it has to be issue/tpb/online. Also their is the possiblity of if a book does well online abd poor in print, it may continue as online only and a tpb print.

Lets embrace the new. And if anyone is in the Mass Northshore area I’ll be offering Crisis counseling every wed! I may even have GL Mint Choc Chip cookies for the weepy!

This would be amazing if true, but I’d want it to happen over at Marvel really.

“One write who wasn’t named asked if he could use a recap page on the 1st issue… he is no longer working at dc.”

What’s so offensive about a recap page?

It’ll be a great thing to no longer be writing for the sole purpose of putting the book out in a trade paperback. However, I suspect that their recent removal of two pages (going from 22 to 20 pages each month) is not a matter of cost like they claim, but a matter of making it easier to fit the comics nice and neat in 100 or 120 page trade paperbacks.

“’One write who wasn’t named asked if he could use a recap page on the 1st issue… he is no longer working at dc.’

What’s so offensive about a recap page?”

Just what I was gonna ask.

Is this really that new? Lots of books at both companies do different sized arcs.

What’s so offensive about a recap page? Because you are paying for a page that adds nothing of any real value. Any info the reader needs, a good writer should be able to write that into the actual body of a comic. AND no 1st issue should have a recap. That creator was being lazy.

Enough with the name calling and personal attacks.

I haven’t been able to get to Bleeding Cool all day and was hoping this link would work for me but it didn’t. Anyone else having that issue?

@All who repiled to my bit,
Hey, hey, enough with the flak. I AM giving DC one chance with this, but I’m not picking up any of the new #1’s. Like Marvel being bought by Disney, they get ONE chance to make this worthwhile; they fail, I disown them. First and formost, comics are low on my top 10. My trinity: Godzilla, Transformers, and GI Joe, three franchises whose reboots are clearly defined and properly distinctive. My only gripes: anxiously awaiting the 2012 Godzilla movie by Legendary Pictures, how the Transformers movies were barely robot-centric, and how they rewrote characters in the GI Joe movie.

It’s working fine for me, Joe.

“What’s so offensive about a recap page? Because you are paying for a page that adds nothing of any real value. Any info the reader needs, a good writer should be able to write that into the actual body of a comic. AND no 1st issue should have a recap. That creator was being lazy.”

I disagree. Serialized television shows have a “Previously”, and Marvel has been doing recap pages for years with no problems.

You’re right about the 1st issue thing.

OK. Found it. According to Bleeding Cool’s report from the Dallas retailers meeting “Many of the new 52 books will have six issue story arcs”. That was where my confusion came from.

Q: “is it alright if I use a recap page?”

A: “YOU ARE FIRED.”

D^:

Viscious.

I mean, overreaction? Or more to the story?

Travis Pelkie

June 28, 2011 at 8:35 am

As Darryl above said, I hope there’s more to the story about the person asking about the recap page getting fired, because getting fired for SUGGESTING using a device that can be helpful (or funny, like the Marvel Wolverine/Jubilee mini or the Hulk Aftersmash Damage Control mini) is…draconian, to say the least. When you’re redoing your whole line and you fire someone for suggesting something, well, it doesn’t seem like smart business. Jeez.

I agree. A recap page certainly does add value for someone who missed the previous issue, and even has some value as a refresher for those who did read it. Every one of the classic Silver Age JLA/JSA team-ups started part 2 with a recap page, and I never heard anyone complain. And I have to admit, I’m intrigued about exactly WHAT could be on a recap page in a first issue.

I suspect that Didio (or DC) didn’t want recap pages because Marvel does them (and does them well). I want the recap pages, as sometimes I don’t recall the details of the prior issues or didn’t understand them as portrayed.

“Trade writing” has been an annoyance and I’d like to see all comics companies to put that approach to bed. No wonder you can’t get friends interested in comics—as they can’t read an issue and feel they read a story. Why would anyone new bother to pick up a comic?

Also the reduction in pages by DC does save some money, as I believe most artists and inkers are still paid per page. Am I wrong on that one?

I plan to buy 35-40 of the new titles and I wish DC all the best with the new direction!

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