Trade Perspectives: The Invisible But Flexible Zenith of Collecting

Thursday, December 30, 2010

[This guest post from Kevin Pasquino, who blogs at Words Flow Like Chocolate, notes a singular impediment to waiting for the trade: Grant Morrison]

Here are three great reasons why I should make a complete and irrevocable switch to collected editions of comic books: convenience, economics and, my personal favorite, common sense.

Because, let’s be honest, there really isn’t a good reason for me to continue to make my weekly journey to my local comic shop: the best of the week’s releases will be collected in hardcover or trade paperback within six months, the price for the collection inevitably seems to be slightly cheaper than buying all of the individual issues, and it’s much more cozy and comfortable to curl up with a collected edition of some 168 pages than it is to read six individual issues of a comic book.

Yet I still find myself going to my shop every single Wednesday.

And the more I think about it, the more I blame Grant Morrison for my on-going addiction.

There are a lot of great writers currently doing monthly comic books. Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, Geoff Johns, Robert Kirkman and others all do terrific work, but I do my best not to double dip and I can usually resist the weekly temptation of their books. Captain America, Iron Man, The Flash and The Walking Dead can wait for the publication of the collections before they see my cash.

As a matter of fact, Kirkman’s The Walking Dead is perhaps the greatest monthly series ever when it comes to waiting for the trade: it is a completely self-contained story, internet spoilers are easy to avoid and the book is a tremendous treat to read in its collected form. And the Walking Dead Compendium? – That book is pure gold. After finishing the massively thick collection, it’s almost impossible not to want more. And yet I manage to avoid the monthly temptation because it reads so damn well in its collected form. On top of all that, I don’t care if the book sees any delays in its monthly schedule as long as the trades keep coming out.

With other creators I live in hope (and fear) that what they write is allowed to stand on its own without a massive company-wide crossover meddling with their stories. I have little interest in the characters outside of the books that my favorite writers are handling. So I don’t care if Captain America has a major role in next summer’s Civil Secret Siege War as long as I don't have to purchase some extraneous book in order to understand what's going on with Brubaker’s work.

But all of my self-restraint gets tossed out the window when it comes to Grant Morrison’s work. I find myself unable to resist his monthly books even though I know that I will eventually be buying them again in their collected form.

And the irony is that Grant Morrison’s work is among the most collected of modern comic book creators. A person may argue with the schedule of hardcovers vs. paperbacks or worry that all of his Batman stories may not be reprinted in the same format, but it’s almost guaranteed that everything he currently writes will be collected. It’s not as if I risk missing one of his stories by waiting six months.

So, why am I unable to wait? Why this sense of urgency when it comes to Morrison’s monthly comics?

Much of the appeal is because Morrison is currently creating a huge mosaic for Batman which will act as a springboard that other creators can build upon. Rather than just reboot the character (a la Wonder Woman) or send him walking across America (a la Superman), Morrison is revamping and energizing the character by methodically revealing the parts of a puzzle that he’s been developing for years. It’s incredibly entertaining to see all of the pieces as they come together rather than wait to see the completed picture.

Seeing Morrison’s ideas unfold in individual issues is like having a new Harry Potter movie debut every month: I love the sense of anticipation and mystery as I wait for each issue. I’m not sure where the story is going, but I trust that Morrison will deliver. And there’s also a sense of community created as I delve into the various annotations of the stories and read what other people think of the story. The same thrill isn't there when a collected edition is printed.

This is not to say that my addiction to Morrison does not have its negative aspects. Editorial errors and publication delays have made the past couple of months frustrating, especially when one story concludes before its tie-in mini-series is completed. Waiting for the trades would eliminate the annoyance that these snafus create.

It has also become apparent with the most recent issues and their need for various artists to assist in completing the stories that Morrison is writing his scripts right up to (and perhaps past) deadline. And if multiple artists are needed to finish an issue it’s not unreasonable to infer that the artists who did single-handedly complete their issues were working at a hurried pace. None of this suggests that what’s being produced is anyone’s best or most polished work.

But unless DC decides to create new pages for the collected editions (which they have done for Infinite Crisis and The Invisibles, so it’s not unheard of) what’s being currently being published is as good as it gets. Morrison’s next major work is supposed to be a multi-artist mini-series that explores DC’s Multiverse. I can only hope that the editor will have the scripts in-hand and the artists have the opportunity to be well ahead of schedule before the books are solicited.

Having said all of that, I still find myself hooked on Morrison’s work. When he doesn’t have a (supposedly) monthly book coming out, my enthusiasm for serialized stories dwindles. So I’m thrilled that he’s going to keep writing the series with Batman Inc.

And because of Morrison and his Batman stories, I find myself buying other books on my weekly trip. Because, let’s be honest, there’s no point in going to the comic shop just to buy one book.

So his work acts like a gateway drug to further comic book addiction. Jonah Hex is a terrific monthly book, Freedom Fighters gets a try-out for at least a couple of issues, Knight and Squire gets a look, both of Paul Levitz’ Legion books are being purchased, and others comics are also being bought.

And, completely shattering my resolution, I also find myself buying Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ Incognito even though I know that I’m going to eventually buy the collection. After all, if I’m going to buy Batman & Robin, The Return of Bruce Wayne and the upcoming Batman Inc. in individual issues and then in trades, I may as well break that rule for other creators as well.

I blame Grant Morrison for my lack of resolve. And, to be honest, it feels good.

[If you're not subscribed to the Collected Editions comment feed, you're missing great tips on how to wait-for-trade in style! Have a happy new year -- new reviews coming next week!]
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19 comments:

  1. Andrew Belcastro12/30/2010 02:38:00 PM

    Trades make me so happy. I don't think I could afford to read/collect comics without them.

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  2. I am a big fan of Hardcover collections. They sit properly on my bookshelves, i do not need long obnoxious boxes cluttering my home and messing with my OCD for neatness. I can read an entire story right through without waiting and possibly missing an issue and I do not have to worry about keeping a comic issue in a plastic bag. I am able to keep my collection to a minimum (Batman first and foremost, Iron Man, Green Lantern, Thor). I even hesitated collecting Thor because of the two TPBs covering Gillen's run (Wish they would have carried them in HC). Finally, I get to to determine is something is worth collecting overall. If a title consistently gets a poor review i didnt waste money on single issues only to find out in the end the title failed.

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  3. Great article. Morrison's current work on Batman is one I'm very much looking forward to reading, but I'm starting back with 90s DC books and working my way forward.

    I'm relatively new to comics, and I couldn't imagine collecting single issues. I started with classics like Watchmen, Y, and Sandman. I then started reading Morrison's run on JLA and have since collected all the JLA trades and thanks to this site's DC Trade Timeline have assembled a list of series I'm interested in (older stuff like JSA, Teen Titans, and Birds of Prey and newer titles like Morrison's current Batman books and Geoff Johns' Green Lantern) and am picking them up in the suggested order.

    I find that I dislike hardcover collections. They're nice and all, but part of the reason I'm picking up trades is to save money, and I really don't think hardcovers are worth it. They just force me to wait another 6 months to a year to buy a book.

    It can also be frustrating when I can easily find volumes 1, 2, 6, and 7 in a series that appears to be out of print, but the middle volumes can only be found used for in the neighborhood of $40 (Geoff Johns' Flash series seems to fall into that, likewise Starman, which I don't think I'm willing to spend Omnibus $$ on). Would I have better luck at a comic shop to find books like that, or would they be just as expensive/tough to find there?

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  4. Morrison's Batman saga is pretty much the only ongoing super-hero storyline that still gets me excited to read in monthly installments, even though I also end up buying the hardcovers afterwards.

    His work tends to read much better in collected form, since it's easier to notice the small connections between plot threads and elements when they're still fresh in your mind, but my obsessive re-reading habit helps me keep track of everything that's going on.

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  5. Morrison is a good writer, but he's never written a good super hero comic. He should go back to the non super hero work that he's good at.

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  6. Everyone's welcome to their own opinion, of course, but if that anonymous commenter is still out there, I'm wondering what you don't like about Morrison's superhero comics. His Batman may not be everyone's cup of tea, I grant, but what about JLA? Sincerely curious; thanks!

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  7. Is it just me or am I the only one waiting for Joe the Barbarian #8 to come out, I checked the Diamond page and it said March 2, so I hope that is true, I read Joe 1-4 but wanted to wait till I had all 8 on my desk so I can read the whole thing, hopefully the Deluxe Edition will come out in the Summer.

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  8. "Would I have better luck at a comic shop to find books like that, or would they be just as expensive/tough to find there?" Some books you may never be able to collect without cash $$$. But Geoff Johns older Flash run will soon be out in NEW Hardcover (learned about it here on Collected Editions!!!!!). If I may, try mycomicshop.com for past tpb. They offer them for a normal price when in stock. Great place that I have used to obtain back issues. I am a HUGE Batman fan and have collected all HC and TPB from War Games Forward. Stay away from Amazon, some sellers will feed off of peoples lack of knowledge and OVER price editions. Again, you may have to fork over some cash for certain issues. (I am sure everyone here can tell you it is impossible to collect Nightwing TPBs since some will never reprint). BTW I enjoy Morrison's run on Batman. Well written and great new direction. (Posted the 2nd comment from the top under anonymous)

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  9. Thanks for the response, Chris. Glad to hear about Johns' older Flash run being recollected. Is it safe to assume that if they're collecting it in HC that paperbacks will follow? I definitely prefer paperbacks.

    Also good to hear the love for Morrison's work on Batman. I can't wait until I get to it.

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  10. Not too likely, DJ.
    So far only 2 series have been collected into Omnibus format, FOURTH WORLD & STARMAN. It's been so long since FOURTH WORLD was published, no paperbacks....yet. I think it's safe to assume there aren't going to be any. Most things are going the reverse way I suppose...a few examples include JLA DELUXE, LSH DELUXE, NEW TEEN TITANS OMNIBUS, FLASH OMNIBUS, FOURTH WORLD OMNIBUS, LUTHOR, GOTHAM CENTRAL & SEVEN SOLDIERS. Of these, only Gotham Central is coming in thicker paperbacks than are available now. Keep your fingers crossed !

    Not too easy to find out of print trades. I think you're better off on trying to collect the single issues.

    On another note, am reviewing almost all relevant trades in the DCU from CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS to current. Feel free to take a look !
    http://adventuration.blogspot.com

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  11. DJ, you sound like where I was 2-3 years ago when I got back into comics. I started off reading the mid-90's DC stuff (as I had given up comics originally around 1994, just after Zero Hour) and was buying TPB's of the "essential" stuff to get caught back up. That's how I found this website!

    The out of print Flash books were pretty hard to track down for decent prices. I ended up finding them individually on eBay; Amazon resellers were asking too much, but even on eBay they were going for $40-$50 each plus shipping! They are now (slowly, I'd guess) releasing Geoff John's Flash run in Omnibus editions (not straight HC versions, as someone suggested). Even though each Omnibus would be more expensive than a regular TPB, I'm pretty sure if you add up the cost of buying all those Flash trades (not to mention the hassle of finding them), you'll save money buying the (4?) Omnibuses.

    That being said, check out eBay, as a few months back I saw someone selling all of them (8 books I think?) and it went for around $100. Unfortunately at the time I only needed one more so I had to pass!

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  12. The Flash Omnibus editions will cost a lot (seeing that tho they have the same content size of a standard Omnibus, say Fourth World or Starman, the price is 75$ as solicited) so maybe I'm missing something or the price will come down by the time the edition actually comes out.

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  13. & 1 thing I need to add, Grant Morrison is popular, right?
    He must be as almost all of his stuff is being collected in deluxe hardbacks...with We3 & Flex Mentallo coming.

    Why then is his older stuff out of print? I can't see the wisdom in something being available exclusively in Hardcover ala CAMELOT 3000 (much as I like the Omnibus editions) so it strikes me a bit odd that his earlier works like:
    SEBASTIAN O
    VIMANARAMA
    SEAGUY (this one I feel I can understand)
    KID ETERNITY
    SWAMP THING (uncollected)

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  14. I've been reading and liking Keith Giffen's Doom Patrol lately; to add to Aalok's list, I'd like to see a Doom Patrol by Grant Morrison Omnibus series, too.

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  15. I don't care what I see as long as it's there with Flex....I hate them separate...just as I hate that DC has brought out a deluxe HC of Planetary Batman while the other issues from the same TPB featuring crossovers with Authority & JLA were released as a Wildstrom presents.....& the TPB is no more available.

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  16. The Planetary: Crossing Worlds TPB, which collects all three crossover one-shots, is still available at Amazon.

    I bought my copy a few months ago, right after I finished reading the Absolute volumes. I almost regretted doing that when I saw the Planetary/Batman Deluxe HC listing on Amazon, but once I found out it won't include the other two crossovers, I realized I made the right call.

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  17. Aren't those issues in the omnibus?
    Amazon gets too expensive for me here. Besides, it was out of stock for a while there too.

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  18. No, the Absolute Planetary volumes only include the 26-issue regular series and the preview story that ran in a couple of Wildstorm books before the books's actual launch. In short, they only include the stuff Cassaday drew, except for the Batman crossover.

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  19. I never buy single issues. It takes space, accumulate dust and in the long run they just stay there and rot.
    For me the collected editions is the only thing I get.
    Nothing's better than a good thick book at a reasonable price.
    Of course, DC is failing miserably in deliver that lately... snif.

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