Biting Off Less Than You Can Chew: Trades versus Individual Issues

by deerinthexenonarclights

There is something that I have been struggling with over the past few months, a deep personal dilemma that I feel is also an issue of great global importance: how I buy my comic books. Now there are a great number of conversations taking place about the commercial side of the comics industry thanks to the existence of a great number of controversial hot-button issues such as the rise of digital media and the fall of the independent publisher and so you may be wondering just which of these topics I will be weighing in on with this piece, but honestly the answer is none of them. While I’m only new to the scene myself, as a geek I have always kept my ear close enough to the ground to catch all the more catastrophic rumblings in the periphery circles of nerddom but never once have I heard this issue addressed. What issue? Well the issue of trades versus, well…issues.

I recently dived into the pages and panels of comics with a fury greater than the Hulk’s thanks to the great guys down at All-Star Comics and have since skimmed through sever series of books far faster than the Flash. Yet despite the coinciding timing and number of incredibly intriguing titles I still haven’t picked up a single issue of the DCnU, nor have I charged ahead to see what happens to Invincible after the end of Get Smart despite wanting ever so much to read the next part. I haven’t done any of this because I am waiting for the trades and I will wait for the trades with every series I am following, which thanks to those aforementioned All-Star boys is now many. So despite my vigour and vengeance for the medium I’ve yet to lose control as my moral code on this issue is as strict as Bruce Wayne’s.

“Why?” you may well wonder as you put aside the latest issue from your pull list and gaze perplexed at your screen. Well the answer seems simple to me; comics, like all art, are about story and trades seem by default the better vehicle for delivering that story, though mainly because issues go so far out of their way to cripple themselves. Why would you want a version of the story with ads to break your involvement and production delays to break your interest in these arcs that are broken up into tiny bite-sized pieces? The few single issues that I have read have been utterly unsatisfying experiences compared to stretching out in this beautiful Melbourne sun with a brand new Trade-Paperback fresh from the All-Star boys. No-one would go to the cinema if they only ever played the televised-cut of films including all commercials let alone if they were to do that with a month between acts, nor would anyone prioritise sex if it were a series of perpetual premature ejaculations. No, we’d wait and get the DVD and the nasal spray… hmmm, I think I broke the metaphor.

So now my question to all of you is this: “Why? Why are single issues still the industries primary method of delivery for these stories and why are they so popular with us readers?” While I don’t expect you to convince me, I am fascinated to hear why some people prefer that format so please post a comment if you’ve got one. The only explanation that I can muster for this fanaticism is that they’re first, that by reading a fresh issue you’re planting your flag in virgin territory and all the Freudian nonsense that surely represents, while those that wait for the trade are behind in the cultural conversation, the stories for them are old news. This though is a structure entirely of our own making, by simply waiting to discuss the Trades we can make them more relevant; we control the conversation.
Though this is a rant of sorts I’m certainly not railing against the existence of these books, if people truly enjoy them in this format than good on them, but as a serious reader I simply can’t get past their sloppiness and long for a day where every publisher follows the lead of Gestalt and the like by publishing in trade format first and only. Whatever the case I’m off to the comic store, see you in the funny pages!