My thoughts on Tilting at Windmills #133 – “Stupid, Stupid Publisher Creatures!”

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Meanwhile, Brian Hibbs, owner of Comix Experience in San Franciso and the Savage Critic blog, makes some very good arguments in his latest Tilting at Windmills column at Newsarama, which dovetail with many of my own reasons for going trade-only.

To wit, regarding multiple covers, he writes:

On a practical level, I’ve been selling comic books long enough to know that the long term impact is to cause a percentage of our customers to start thinking more about being completeists, rather than buying material because they get pleasure from the contents. This is an insidious trap, because the net effect, in most cases, is that we drive readers from the hobby when they miss a variant and get frustrated their complete collection is that no longer.

He goes on to say that he doesn't begrudge multiple covers in and of themselves, only the ways retailers are forced to sell them. But I can relate to what's saying quite well, because I'm more often than not one of those completeists, and, indeed, I got frustrated. And trades are an excellent alternative, because in the case of trades, you get the whole story and all the various covers, for no extra money (see Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, Superman/Batman: Supergirl, Superman: Godfall, and Teen Titans: A Kid's Game all as prime examples). And when I've seen that Green Lantern: Rebirth, Identity Crisis, Countdown to Infinite Crisis and all the miniseries have sold out, I've cheered--because I know that'll be more to look at in the trade. But I don't envy the monthly buyers, missing out on another cover.

Hibbs also takes to task the inserts that comics companies, and DC in specific, place in their comics. His difficulty is in how the inserts change the shipping weight of the comics; my problem is that they're just darn distracting! Here I am, trying to read a pefectly good comic, and there's this plastic wrapped trading card sticking into the middle of the comic, interrupting a perfectly good spash page. That, and the seemingly increasing number of advertisements in monthly comics these days, seemed a good reason to me to give up monthlies.

At the same time, Hibbs worries that companies soliciting trades of series before the work collected in the trade comes out lowers sales of those issues. Well, I can understand that. (Though I can't think of a DC example of this right now. Maybe this is a Marvel-thing. If anyone has a handy example, let me know. I'm curious.)

My feeling, however, is that what this does do is let the trade paperback contingent know they still have a place with their comic book companies--and I think that's important, as comics are only of the last mediums where, thought the Internet and etc., there is this sense of the company and the fans being "together." And comics companies should be showing some shine to the trade contingent--after all, mostly comics fans go to comics stores, but the public goes to bookstores, and what we need is the public expecting to pick up trades at the bookstores every month like comics fans do at bookstores. And if that means that (oh, here's an example) my best friend, who doesn't read monthly issues but does read trades of Y: The Last Man, can know to expect Y: The Last Man - Ring of Truth at his bookstore, even though that storyline isn't over in the monthlies, that's a good thing--because increasingly, the monthly and trade audiences are two separate audiences, and we need to super-cater to both. This is undoubtedly a debatable point, and I welcome comments.

That's my two cents. Visit Comix Experience when you're in San Francisco, kids--they're professionals, and this and other local comic book stores deserve it.

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