Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Is It Wednesday Yet?

Back issue frenzy

I bought a few fills for my collection of Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight back issues last weekend. I've been trying to roughly the first half of the series - skipping over the Knightsquest/Knightsend crossover issues (#59-63) and stopping just before No Man's Land (#116). That's a total of 110 issues, of which I already have more than half. Most of these back issues are relatively easy to find and they tend to go for pretty cheap. The nice thing about this series is that the stories are all pretty much stand-alone and by different creative teams, so as long as you have complete stories you don't really need to read it in sequence. Over the next few weeks, I plan to read all the full stories that I have so far and review them here. I expect that there'll probably be some stinkers in there, but hopefully there will also be a few gems.

Those are not the only back issues I need to read. Since I got kind of fed up with Tim Drake as a character after reading Fabian Nicieza's take on him in Red Robin, I've put my Tim Drake from the Beginning series on hiatus, but I still have the first 100 issues of Robin in a short box waiting for me. I'll get to them eventually.

And something else I'm collecting: Walter Simonson's 26-issue Orion series. Those issues are somewhat more difficult to find, but I'm pretty sure I'll get a complete set sooner or later. I still have a few tricks up my sleeve, including the Montreal convention in September.

DC no longer "writing for the trade"

Among the many confusing and sometimes contradictory bits and pieces of info trickling down to the common folk from DC's retailer roadshow, one interesting message is that DC writers will no longer be asked to "write for the trade". I had an interesting conversation about it with Darryl Ayo on Twitter a couple of days ago, at the end of which I realized that I didn't fully understand what the expression means in the comics world. It also highlighted just how disconnected I am from the majority of mainstream comics fans.

To me, "writing for the trade" sounds like a good thing, almost a no-brainer, since it's obvious that trade collections have a longer shelf-life than single issues in today's market. They also have the potential to reach a much wider audience, since they end up on Amazon and in bookstores. Keeping in mind that a story is going to get collected in a single book and be sold as a separate, more or less standalone entity, just seems like good practice.

When DC talks about wanting to attract new readers, I find it very hard to imagine that those new readers are going to jump right into monthly comics. Honestly, the likelihood of that happening seems almost nil to me. Readers need to be eased into that market, and as I see it there are two potential "gateway drugs" to achieve this: trade paperbacks and (cheap) digital comics. I got into it through the former, but more and more I suspect that people will get into it through the latter.

But when non-regular comic readers pick up a trade paperback at a bookstore, they don't necessarily see it as a random collection of single issues from an ongoing series. They tend to think of it as a "graphic novel," so they expect a story that has a beginning and an end. The last thing you want to do is make that book so impenetrable that your potential new readers will be turned off by it and give up rather than keep reading (and buying) your comics. And that's why I think it makes sense to "write for the trade."

But as Darryl pointed out to me on Twitter (and as covered in the Robot 6 piece I linked to earlier), this is not what "writing for the trade" usually implies. Readers usually think of it as stretching out stories that could be told in 3 issues to fill a 6-issue arc. As such, "writing for the trade" is tied to the notion of "decompression," and under this light I can see why the news that DC is abandoning this practice would be received with cheers from fans.

Obviously, padding out stories with boring dialogue to fill a trade paperback sounds like a terrible idea. Still, I can't help but feel that DC is approaching the issue from the wrong angle. They stubbornly cling to the idea that the monthly comic book is the most important aspect of their business and that this is the area where they need to bring those hypothetical new readers. There must be some economical reasons behind this business strategy that I don't fully grasp, because it doesn't make much sense to me.

New comics this week! 

  • American Vampire #16 (Vertigo)
  • Batman Inc #7 (DC)
  • Detective Comics #878 (DC)
  • Flashpoint: Project Superman #1 (DC)
  • Xombi #4 (DC)
  • Butcher Baker #4 (Image)
  • Super Dinosaur #3 (Image)
  • Amazing Spider-Man #644 (Marvel)
  • Avengers: Children's Crusade #6 (Mavel)
  • FF #5 (Marvel)
 Those are the items on my pull list this week. A bit on the heavy side. I'm most excited for Xombi and 'Tec.


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