Is it time to declare the monthly comic dead?

These days, it seems like many monthly titles are connected to “a big event,” something that can cross from book to book. Both Marvel and DC are successfully making this happen. For instance, Marvel has The Age of Ultron going on now. Each September, DC has a special month in which the comics follow a specific theme. This year, it’s supposed to be based on DCU villains.

And boy, do these books sell! Hey, even I buy a lot of them!

DC-Super-Villains-Poster10y

But every once in a while, I long for to read a tale that doesn’t take several books a month to keep up with what’s happening.

I understand, of course, that comics are a habitual form of entertainment. What that means is that each company wants to make sure you come back next time for more. In this way, comics are like television shows … you must be enticed enough to return again and again. Otherwise, it’s just background noise, something that used to be very popular not long ago.

Given that monthly books are standing on their own less and less, I wonder if these might not be replaced with “event” books instead. For example, no Batman comic. Instead, there would be, say, Batman: The Death of Robin or some such thing. That way, you get a whole lot of number ones, which always sell better than number 26’s do.
The tough part would be keeping your collection properly organized. You’d likely have to keep them divided up by miniseries and forget ever seeing any book get beyond 12 issues or so.

We’re in a transitional phase when it comes to comics, I believe. We’re not sure what they’ll be when they “grow up” in the next couple of years.

For a long time, digital was considered the next phase. But that seems to have cooled down since many people primarily use digital to fill the gaps in the books they read so they can keep up. Will digital still be the future? Maybe, but I’m not as sure about that any longer, especially given the “big event” phenomenon.
So, what do I think is next? Well, I’d like to see fewer “big events” and more compact stories in comics, honestly. One or two “big events” in a month from a comics company is plenty for me!

However, based on what I’m seeing happen now, I wouldn’t bank on it. What often happens in this industry is that something grows and grows until finally people get tired of it. A good example of this was the recent multiple covers trend. I remember X-Men #1 coming out with five different covers, the last one being a compilation of the previous four.

While there are still several publishers who still favor that kind of thing, it’s not as popular as it once was. Maybe, if we’re lucky, I’d prefer to get back to focusing much more on good stories and worry less about marketing “events.” But we’ll see!

The Author

Wayne Hall

Wayne Hall

Wayne Hall creates the Wayne's Comics Podcast. He’s interviewed Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, John Layman, Kyle Higgins, Phil Hester, Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray, David Petersen, Christos Gage, Mike Grell, and Matt Kindt. Each episode also includes reviews, news and previews. On this site each week, he writes his "Comics Portal" column (general comics comments and previews) and reviews comics.

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3 Comments

  1. Frank
    April 30, 2013 at 1:26 pm — Reply

    Frankly, I have gotten tired of events that ask me to buy every related issue of a ‘Family’. Having event after event occur for several years makes me want to not read the comics.
    The best example I can think of the Green Lantern books. The first event “Sinestro Corps War” was excellent, then came “Blackest Night”, “Brightest Day”, “Rise of the Third Army”, etc. It seems with each event, comes a slip in quality to the point that I am skimming through “Wrath of the First Lantern.”

    I am tired of events and want a stand alone title that story is completed in 1-2 months, not ‘Made for Trade.”

    As for year-long events with a new #1 each year, the publisher should print the year on the cover.

  2. April 30, 2013 at 3:29 pm — Reply

    Honestly, I get why publishers do events. They sell, and they are looking at them as an opportunity to cross sell books, maybe we can get someone who’s reading Batman, to like Nightwing.

    But that being said I agree that I find them tiresome and irritating. If I’m being honest, now event books make me want to wait for trade. Just because I don’t feel like dealing with the hassel of tracking down issues that in the end don’t matter. Generally speaking everything you need to understand an event is in a single (or 2 or 3) sequential volumes.

    I do find event books to be tiresome. To me, there is a great and easy way to fix this issue. The team books, and I see marvel and dc sort of tip toeing in this direction now. Don’t have an event book. Civil War, Secret Invasion, etc, these don’t need to be their own books. They should be story arcs in “Avengers”, or “Justice League”. And sometimes a solo book bleeds over and other times it doesn’t. Like Aquaman and “Throne of Atlantis”, that makes sense. But a Batman tie in doesn’t.

    Outside of that I don’t think there should be events for families of titles, cause the by calling it an event certain expectations are created. It should just be the next story.

  3. Oldcomicfan
    April 30, 2013 at 7:31 pm — Reply

    I think events comics are a terrible idea. The reason is they are only being created to sell comics, not for telling an interesting and stirring story. I do not buy event comics. I got burned by the early event comics: Marvel’s Secret Wars and DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, which basically served up incomprehensible story lines and inferior art for the sole purpose of selling more comics, rather than, say, telling an epic story. And worse yet, within a week of the last issues, the writers and artists were undoing the “special events” that took place in those stories.I don’t know how many times I bought every issue of a massive crossover-tie-in mess only to discover I was being played for a sucker, and the story, when read as a whole, wasn’t worth the price of the paper it was printed on. I buy manga, if I buy comics at all. Superior art, superior story telling, and, with the exception of garbage like One Piece or Naruto, most manga stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. Imagine if Shakespeare never finished a play but just continued the thing month after month, throwing in all kinds of nonsensical garbage just to keep the story going? Ugh. The sad truth about modern Superhero comics is that most of them are junk, with an occasional exceptionally good story cropping up now and then, more by accident than by planning. That said, this is only my opinion. I grew up in the Finger and Swan era of comics, and a lot of that, back then, was pure garbage, too. I miss the early 80s which were the renaissance of the comic book era. Anybody for Badger, I am Coyote, Groo or Captain Kwik and a Foozle? Or, better still, the Rocketeer and Starstruck? Them was some GOOD comics.

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