Before I begin what's going to be a very long answer to a short question, let me say that if you'd like to participate in Ask Collected Editions, send your questions to our Yahoo account (see address in footer) and I'll try to answer them in the next segment. (Questions may be edited, not all questions may be used, etc., etc.) Thanks!
Today's question comes from our friend Chris Marshall at the Collected Comics Library. (Chris has recently posted a rumination on comics violence that's worth listening to.) Chris asks:
With the announcement of the Young Justice League animated cartoon, do you think we will see any Young Justice trades? Or Absolute?Short answer: Outcome doesn't look good. (Read more after the jump.)
For the long answer, let's start with a little background:
There were a couple of years, by my estimation, where writer Peter David seemed a household name at DC Comics. David's harpoon-handed Aquaman might've caused some controversy, but his distinctive vision of the character ran forty-six issues. He started writing an equally groundbreaking Supergirl series about halfway through Aquaman, and it was only a few months after his Aquaman run ended that David began Young Justice. Whereas Supergirl offered a dark and spiritual approach on the character that grabbed readers' attention, Young Justice was a more familiar take on Teen Titans than what readers had seen lately -- with a heavy dose of David's trademark humor -- and both quickly caught on. Supergirl ran for 80 issues and Young Justice for 55, with David as the constant primary writer for both, and Young Justice even warranted its own crossover or two.
And then David got caught in what I've always thought history should call the DC Comics trade paperback explosion.
The DC Comics Trade Paperback Explosion
Around 2003-2004, someone at DC Comics really woke up to the idea of collected editions as a viable comics-reading source. Consider that when Young Justice and Supergirl both ended in 2003, though many DC series were already appearing regularly in trade (JLA, JSA, Geoff Johns on Flash, Green Lantern, Green Arrow), DC's heaviest hitters -- Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, namely -- still weren't regularly collected. By the end of that year, Batman: Hush would be followed by the trade paperback-ready Broken City and As the Crow Flies; Superman would have Godfall, For Tomorrow, and new teams on each of the titles; and Greg Rucka would take over on Wonder Woman -- all of these titles have been for the most part consistently collected since. Ancillary titles like Robin and Birds of Prey received new creative teams, subsequently collected in trades, at the same time.
The give and take of DC's growing trade paperback awareness is present in the end of David's time at DC. First, somewhat ludicrously, DC announced a collection of the final issues of David's Supergirl series, Many Happy Returns, after the series had already been cancelled. This is not so strange to us now (see Shield and Web, among others), but at the time there's an extent to which this seemed like DC saying "We really like David's Supergirl, just not enough to keep publishing it." The small controversy reflects some of the time's uncertainty as to what sales responsibility the trade had to the monthly series and vice versa.
Collecting All (Fallen) Angels
The Supergirl trade might have also been in part to entice readers to David's next series, Fallen Angel, which teased a tenuous relationship to Supergirl. David was vocal (but often misquoted) that he heard from fans who liked the first issues of Fallen Angel ... enough that they planned to get the collection instead; David pointed out that skipping the monthly issues and waiting for the trade condemned Fallen Angel to be cancelled before trades would come out. Indeed, Fallen Angel lasted only twenty issues and received one trade before David moved the book to IDW; DC released a second trade of their Fallen Angel material only after the book's IDW success.
Compare DC's handling, by the way, of David's Fallen Angel and that of Marc Andreyko's Manhunter series just a few years later. Both were series with low sales but a fervent fan base; however, by the time Manhunter came about, DC seemed to have a better handle on the monthly series/trade issue, resurrecting an almost-cancelled Manhunter a couple of times and each time buffeting it with a collection, as if recognizing now that a couple of lower-selling monthly issues are worth the title's longer life in collection form; something it seems IDW figured out with Fallen Angel faster than DC did.
Adding insult to injury was that the success of David's Young Justice helped to inspire the popular Cartoon Network Teen Titans cartoon, and that plans for the cartoon plus the aforementioned trade paperback explosion brought on the cancellation of Young Justice and the start of Geoff John's Teen Titans series -- another fresh start that would serve to launch a series of ongoing trade paperbacks. Here again, it's hard not to visualize it as Peter David getting run over by the trade paperback explosion; with Fallen Angel at IDW, David would leave DC but good and not be seen there again, unfortunately, since.
A New Young Justice Collection?
If all of that isn't enough to suggest why DC might shy away from another Young Justice collection (beside A League of Their Own, which collects issues #1-7, and Sins of Youth, which collects the Young Justice: Sins of Youth miniseries that began but not any actual Sins of Youth issues) consider that there's not an easy storyline to collect at this time. Issue #8 is a Chuck Dixon fill-in; issues #9-11 deal with a mind-controlling cult and Red Tornado's custody of his daughter; issues #12-13 are a crossover with issues of Supergirl; issue #14 is a Day of Vengeance crossover, and issue #15-16 feature Arrowette before Sins of Youth pretty much begins. This would have to be a fairly ambitious trade -- either including the Supergirl issues or adding a lot of explanation pages -- to be readable, and I doubt DC will think the new Young Justice series warrants that.
If anything, I note that both Young Justice trades are out of print, and maybe DC will issue a new printing with a new logo and trade dress. I'd like to see more collected Young Justice material, but this is as much as I expect.
Let me close by mentioning, as I suggested above, that Peter David is possibly one of the most misquoted men in comics. I like David's work and I agree with many of his opinions, and I admit that my fan history above may not be 100% accurate -- I wasn't there and I wasn't privy to the inside dealings, this is just what I've pieced together from articles and interviews and what I've intuited. But I don't want to add to the volume of Peter David misquoting out there (and indeed I'm probably one of those wait-for-traders who killed Fallen Angel), so I add this disclaimer that if in any way something David says differs from what I've suggested above, Peter David knows best.
Tune in next time for another edition of Ask Collected Editions!