Monday, January 12, 2009

Trade Waiting

Before I start in on my regularly scheduled post, I wanted to add a quick (and happy!) addendum to my last post, on collecting original comics art. Towards the end of the post, as those of you who managed to stay awake long enough and/or not go on a killing spree because of my verbosity know, I listed some stores online that I have personally purchased art from in the past.

At the end of the list, I mentioned Space Goat Fine Arts, where I picked up both of my Richard Moore covers, and I noted how they recently closed their doors. Well, as it happens, this weekend I received an email from James Meeley, the guy in charge over at Space Goat, informing everyone that, while Space Goat will unfortunately still close its doors, James will continue to personally sell Richard Moore's artwork in the future, in his Comic Art Fans gallery.

Here's the link to his CAF gallery, with the promise that Richard Moore's art for sale will indeed be up in the future. Also, please note that several of the pieces in that gallery are of an adult nature, so don't go clicking if you're at the office.

Now, that is some very happy news for collectors, and for me personally, since the whimsical, all ages Boneyard series is one of my all time favorite ongoing comics. And, just because it seems appropriate, here's the other Boneyard cover painting I bought from James earlier in the year:

Boneyard cover artWith that said, today I'd like to briefly talk about an issue that's been argued amongst comics fans for nearly as long as "Who's stronger, Hulk or Thing?" Well, OK, maybe not nearly as long as that epic, shining bit of fan insanity, but still. Yes, today's titillating topic: to wait, or not to wait?

For the trade paperback collection of single issues of a comics series, that is.

See, there's a faction of fandom (yes, I know, I'm just in an extremely alliterative mood sue me) that, instead of buying new issues as they come out each month, they wait for story arcs to be collected in the inevitable trade paperback.

Now, not only does this save some money in the long run, but it also eliminates the need to store single issue, floppy comics. Of course, like everything else (especially in the comics hobby) there's a downside to what is commonly referred to as "trade waiting."

And that downside is, Marvel and DC have caught onto the fact that a large number of fans do this, so instead on releasing the trades as softcovers, as they have in the past, with price tags in the $12 to $18 range, both companies have been releasing "Premier Hardcovers" (Marvel) or "Deluxe Editions" (DC), that will run you between $20 and $30 bucks.

Smart for business? Sure. Bad for the fans? Well, maybe. Personally, if it's a series I really like, I don't mind paying the extra $5 bucks or so for a nice hardcover collection with better paper. But, the consumer should have the choice of buying either/or, on the day the collection ships.

As it currently stands, (and Marvel is especially notorious for doing this) the hardcover collection ships many months before the softcover edition. I'm not real big on that.

But, that's a whole 'nother Mylar bag of issues. (HA! It's a pun!) The real question is, should fans read the monthlies as they come out, or should we all just wait for the collected edition to ship?

Here's my take. The monthlies are what drive comic shop sales, and keep your LCS in business. Remember, comic shops buy their books from Diamond Distributors, and need to pay off their weekly (yes, weekly) comics bills within a set amount of time. So, the sale of single issues is key to any shop.

That said, I have to also add that I find there's just something cool--well, OK, not "cool" like the Fonz, but cool like "I have a complete run of Goon comics" "cool"--about reading a book on the day it ships. Not to mention it allows you to avoid all the wonderful Internet spoilers.

But, as I get older, having comics all over the place really doesn't make much sense. A nice, collected edition on the shelf (or on the floor of the closet) is a much neater, *ahem* grown-up way to collect comics, don't you think?

So, to finish off this stream of consciousness mess (with no real answer on my part), I ask you, our loyal readers: what do you guys prefer when it comes to comics--buying issues weekly, or trade waiting?

Leave comments, and let us know!


Scott said...

I've generally been a trade guy -- I'm a reader, not a collector. Sometimes I may want individual issues for special covers (I especially think of Wolverine 75 and 100 at this point), but I don't really want tons of singles on low-grade paper flapping around. I'd rather have everything in one relatively sturdy book that I can toss on a shelf without worrying too much about.

As cruel as it sounds, I didn't have a relationship with my local comic shop, much like I didn't have a relationship with my local used book shop or whatever. I went there to game and we were friendly, but I just didn't go for comics. I never did (and still don't) have a ton of money to blow on buying singles for 3.50 apiece (at the time), only to blow it all over again on a trade... no amount of support or customer loyalty could convince me otherwise. It's like buying a bunch of packs of cards, getting the cards you wanted, to going back to the shop to buy the singles that cost more than the original packs. Just a waste.

AJG said...

I can't blame anyone for not wanting to buy single issues. I think the comics publishers really need to start thinking more and more about the elimination of single issues, and concentrate on trade paperbacks.

If they were to come out on a (well, relatively as we all know as comics fans) timely basis, then stores would still be able to keep a cash flow. I know it'll never happen, but time and again, when big name creators release straight-up graphic novels (I'm thinking specifically of Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo's "Joker" hardcover here), the fans buy the book.

Look at "Watchmen," too--there's a whole generation (me included) that wasn't old enough (or even alive) to buy the floppies as they came out, and we only know it as a graphic novel. And it's safe to say that book sells well, and will always sell well. And, yes, I know it's a shining example, and certainly not the norm, but if DC and Marvel were to put out top quality product strictly as trades, I think people would be game.

Actually, I think the smaller companies would have to be the ones to start this trend. Dark Horse and Image seem perfect for trade-only product.

Oh, well. Like I said, it's a pipe dream, but if we could gradually start eliminating floppies, that would be great for the business.

Scott said...

Or they could follow the Japanese model and produce a giant phone book of the month's releases on dirt-cheap low-quality recycled paper for a pittance. I doubt they'd ever do that since they'd stand to lose all of the income they normally get from collectors who get the singles fo the sake of getting singles.

Japanese publishers make more money from assorted licensed products than they do from the actual product (the regulars or the nicely-bound tankouban), anyway...

The last ongoing series I attempted to get floppies for (I think) was Ultimate Hulk vs. Wolverine -- you can see how well that idea turned out...

AJG said...

You are absolutely right about the big phone book volumes. That would be awesome, but, like you said, it'll never happen.

And, Ultimate Hulk vs. Wolverine is THE perfect example of why floppies are dying off. And I'd wager that there are a bunch more people out there who, like you, quit buying single issues after that fiasco!