Robot 6

Quote of the day | ‘I hereby absolve you of all guilt associated with your purchase’

Dark Horse Presents #13 is the first appearance of Kelly Sue DeConnick and Phil Noto's version of Ghost

No. But sweetheart, there’s only so much I’m willing to ask of people, only so much I think is fair. If someone is planning on buying the pamphlets/floppies/singles/comics anyway, I am willing to beg ask them to preorder. I am not willing to ask that you buy a format that is not your preference — ESPECIALLY not when a company like Dark Horse puts out such gorgeous trades. I hereby absolve you of all guilt associated with your purchase, and most importantly, I thank you for your support and hope you enjoy the book.

Kelly Sue DeConnick, raising the bar for class while answering the question, “If I picked [Ghost] up in TPB, would that help the title as much as picking it up in single issues?”

I should probably let that stand on its own, but I can’t help but note how remarkable that answer is. The market being what it is, there’s a ton of pressure on everyone to support favorite comics in every way imaginable. I don’t know how often this happens anymore, but there was a time not so long ago when readers would encourage each other to buy multiple copies of low-selling series to inflate sales. Marvel and DC Comics (and possibly some other publishers) still release collected versions on a schedule that encourages double-dipping by actively discouraging readers from waiting for that format. I’ve seen creators explain to their fans how waiting for the trade could mean the death of the comic they were waiting for.

I don’t mean to criticize any of those people. Again, it’s a tough, tough market, and as prevalent as the collected format is today, it’s still true that trade-waiting doesn’t do any favors for series that are on the bubble. It’s a problem that the industry has created for itself, but that doesn’t make it any less of a problem. I can’t fault anyone for doing what they can to succeed within that system. As DeConnick says, no, picking up a series in collected form doesn’t help as much as picking it up in single issues. That’s the sad reality.

But what makes her comment so classy is that she’s not willing to manipulate her supporters into doing more than their fair share. That’s completely counter-intuitive to how the marketing works today and it’s pretty amazing.

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Comments

24 Comments

living planet

June 20, 2012 at 2:20 pm

While I understand that, single issue are just too overpriced for me. By trade waiting I actually end up buying more comics. Really I think the comic industry should be quicker to adapt to people’s preferences instead of relying on overzealous fans to buy things twice.

Then again maybe they would sell more single issues if Diamond didn’t exist and they could comfortably distribute them to supermarkets and the like. Or if they could actually sell digital comics for cheap.

C Michael Hall

June 20, 2012 at 2:23 pm

Maybe the market should get away from the monthly pamphlet model and just go all trade, all the time: a complete reinvention of the US marketplace, but commonplace in some countries.

As much as everyone would love to get comics at all of those places we used to be able to get them at(grocery stores, convenience stores, etc), comics isn’t fully to blame for not being in those places anymore. Newsstand distributors saw comics with their(at the time) low profit margin as taking away from the space for higher priced magazines.

living planet

June 20, 2012 at 2:34 pm

I’m not really sure that would work CMH. That is essentially how it works in Europe (by page count they are more like annuals however) and unless you are already highly popular making comics will have to be your second job.

What about cheaper digital-first (only) single issues, then less of a wait for a collected edition?

First of all, I find calling single issues “pamphlets” to be offensive. A pamphlet is something that warns you that too much Taco Bell leads to breast cancer, or why discount bus fare for war widows is wrong. And all-trade, all the time, would cost a lot of readers, as it would totally kill the collectability aspect, which is something that sustains a fair bit of the industry. At that point, without that unique edge, comics would definitely be alone against books, games, movies, shows. And I doubt it would survive.

It’s the fight against trade-waiting itself that’s making comics lose said fight. Publishers delay trades months to discourage people from switching, but all they’re doing is making it impossible to switch back.

A trade collection issues 1-6 of comic will often not hit shelves until after issue 10 is on the shelf (how many New-52 trades still haven’t hit?). When you do that you run a very high risk of issues 7 and even 8 not being available anymore. Retailers order tight. Back issue stock is lost money. They don’t want 4 month old books. This leaves a new reader who picks up the trade no other choice but to wait for volume 2 to continue.

The people willing to wait are going to wait. That’s been proven. You’re not getting them back. Whether it’s 6 months or 10 months. And after that first volume it’s still 6 months between books anyway, you’re just 4 months behind current. If that first volume came out between issues 6 and 7, the trades could be used to feed monthly sales. With the current method that’s impossible.

Maybe writers should do a better job of telling complete stories instead of just tiny, inconsequential chapters of their latest epic so I can feel like I got my money’s worth. Maybe I wouldn’t wait for the trade if writers didn’t write for the trade. It’s like the people working on comics want to have their cake and eat it too.

Of course, I’m not directing this at Kelly, as I appreciate her non-judgmental honesty.

Besides that, I’ve gotten too used to having the comics on my bookshelf where I can easily pick them up to read instead of sorting through multiple longboxes like I used to have to do.

Personally I feel the ‘art’ of the single issue has been devalued to a large extent. All those awful, misplaced ads (why not just put them all at the back!?) and overtly focusing on crossover completion and ‘writing for the trade’ syndrome.

Remember when you used to buy the latest issue of Sandman and it would feel like a complete work? It could tell a compelling stand-alone story while still being part of a greater whole. And it took more than three minutes to read it and had more than an average of 3 panels a page. Oh and a really fun, informative and vibrant letters page that allowed you to think deeper about what had come before and speculate on future events (and no, this practice has NOT been replaced by the internet).

Look at something like The Walking Dead which is GROWING month by month, probably due to picking up readers who have just bought the trades and caught up. And TWD is one of the fastest comics to go to trade every six issues. More recently, Saga and Mind MGMT also have that old-skool feel of making you feel like it’s actually worthwhile to buy the single issues and not wait for the collection.

@PreacherCain–you nailed it…I pay more for ads and delayed schedules, in order for trade waiters to get the complete product for a fraction of the price and ad free. This should be reversed…publish trades really quickly, put ads in them and sell them for less–bring them out faster to give people a chance to jump on a later monthly issue. Anyway, something more has to be offered to monthly followers–hopefully publishers get a clue.

Glenn Simpson

June 20, 2012 at 5:00 pm

@PreacherCain – the reason the ads aren’t all in the back is because advertisers wouldn’t be willing to pay for advertising that was all in the back where you could just skip it.

sandwich eater

June 20, 2012 at 5:02 pm

I completely agree with Joe H. I would buy more single issues if they were complete stories. As it stands right now most comics are designed to be experienced in trade.

People wouldn’t trade wait if storytelling weren’t so decompressed.

So refreshing. Alex Maleev literally browbeat me at Boston Comic Con this year for trade-waiting Moon Knight. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I just wasn’t buying it because of how poorly it was reviewed. I was so tempted to for jumping down my throat about not buying the single issues.

On the subject of decompression:
Some people would still wait if writers focused on writing more substantial single issues. Trades are very practical and often times less expensive. If anything, decompressed storytelling mostly contributes to the number of issues in a single trade.

On the subject of ads:
I agree that ads are damn annoying and break the flow of the single issue reading experience. However, I think that if comic publishers made a point of placing all the ads in the back that the price of those ads would decline since the people/companies buying those ads know that most people will just skip them once the comic’s narrative is done. Ads also stand less chance of stiking out when placed amongst several other ads. The only thing I think this practice would cause increased prices.

Ziggy: Yet one of the many, many lessons that publishers should be taking from the success of The Walking Dead and Chew, where the trades come out the same day as the issue after the story they collect. It seems almost counter intuitive, but both series have gained readers on the monthly for having the collections ship so regularly.

The problem with the new DC trades is that all the series are finishing their arcs at the same time (more or less), but while a shop can support 52 single issues from DC a month, I suspect that 52 trades in the same month would not go over as well. Plus, it would leave huge gaps in their publishing schedule.

As a result, some books end up falling farther behind in being collected.

I’ve always wanted to see this model put into place in comics.

For example: Ed Brubaker writes a Captain America ongoing graphic novel series which is essentially 6-8 issues worth of content and two come out a year. Meanwhile, a tradition monthly all-ages Captain America comic with a different creative team and tone – single-issue story-focused is published. After the first year, the CA OGN series is then split into monthly chapters and published with ads, whatnot.

Ads are here to stay. They have been in comic books from the beginning. The only thing publishers should do is to make sure they don’t interupt a major part of the story or ruin a double-page spread or something. I remember being a kid and there was an ad placed right after a pivotal moment and then anticipation to find out what happens was actually greater b/c I had to turn that extra page!

Also a big fan of letter pages. While they are often ‘cherry picked’ letters and the responses can range from bad to good, I still enjoy reading them.

I agree and I do think part of comics problem is the whole writing for the trade…Stories that could be told in 3 issues are stretched out to 6 or whatever…Older books seemed to have a lot more going on in a single issue and more dialogue while part of a larger story. I say make the single issues WORTH buying again. Write in a way that best serves the story, not the physical product.

Ain’t no superhero story that can’t have been told in one single issue. Real superheroes, I mean, not that fancy Watchmen literary stuff.

You’ve got a six issue Superman arc? I’ve got a red pen that says it’ll fit into one 20-page issue.

RegularSyzedMike

June 21, 2012 at 9:55 am

Only in comics does anyone even consider blaming the customer for a product’s failure. But I digress…

I’d like to see something where the single issues were stand alone or maybe 3-4 issue arcs that were then turned into 100-150 page stories in the trade…like a Director’s Cut for comics. That might give people a reason to buy more than one printing of a story other than being loyal fanboys!

I’d do that with my comics if I had the time :P

Decompressed or not, ads or not, $2.99 or $3.99 – i’m a TPB / HC guy and I won’t be going back to printed single issues. I just prefer the collected format. Single issue collectability no longer matters to me. In fact, with the way DC and Marvel short run their books and let them go out of print I find TPBs/HCs to be more collectable. Hope one day I’ll find an affordable copy of the Alias Omnibus.

I wish collections were put out in a more timely manner so that it did help a book. Even with books I really look forward to – like the recent Moon Knight series or the current run of Daredevil I wait for the collection. I know that can’t help the perceived popularity of the book, but am I totally naive to think that the publishers don’t pay attention to how the trades / HCs sell when determining of a series is worth investing in?

If Marvel and DC are not willing to publish creator-owned works in a straight to Graphic Novel format, then why don’t Image or Dark Horse or IDW take the initiative and try it.

Since the beginning of the year, I have been adding more and more creator-owned works to my regular standing order, and this has mostly to do with the reputation of the writer, like Hickman, Brubaker, DnA, Cornell, McCann, Kavanagh or Kirkman.

Part of the reason for buying the single issues, rather than waiting for the trades is that I want to do my part to help support these various books and see them on the shelves for a long time.

I resist buying single issues because I feel like it is a waste of my money – not because they are expensive but because I don’t like storing them in long boxes in my basement. Trades go on my bookshelf where I can take them out and peruse anytime I want to. I don’t like single issues anymore at all. I don’t feel guilty because I am going to spend the money eventually – I’m not pirating the book, I am just waiting.

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