COMICS PORTAL: Moving Away from Trades

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For years, comic books have suffered from what has been called “trade paperback-itis.” Many stories have been told in the exact number of issues made to fit inside a “graphic novel” or “trade” format.

Well, it seems like times, they might be a-changing.

Not too long ago, Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso talked about Marvel Comics’ moving away from set six-issue storylines.

“We didn’t ask writers to shorten their arcs to accommodate artists’ schedules; we just wanted to mix things up a little,” Alonso said during an interview. “For a period of time, we purposefully structured stories in four-to-six-issue increments because it made for a good trade. Recently, we started to wonder if we were in a rhythm that was too predictable and that changing it up a little – doing some one-offs, two-offs and three-offs – would be a good thing.

“The fact that it might make it easier to maintain artists’ schedules was secondary – kind of the icing on the cake.”

Truth be told, comics such as Daredevil and Fantastic Four have become critical successes while frequently utilizing shorter story arcs. Mr. Alonso makes a lot of sense with this approach.

“A one-shot or short story certainly is a great way for a writer to show off their craft and a great way for an editor to gauge it for the simple reason that both provide a story with a beginning and an end,” said Alonso.

“There’s no need to worry about subplots. I love both, and I wish the market were more supportive of the anthology or short-story format.”

WHEN YOU’RE RIGHT, YOU’RE RIGHT!

I agree with him here. For example, I wish the recent “war” comics and Sword of Sorcery had thrived at DC. I did my part, though, since I did buy and read them all!

Honestly, it’s been all-too-predictable with nearly every single adventure lasting a minimum of six issues. This has caused some folks who buy the books to wait until the trades are released before buying a story. That’s better than them not buying comics at all, but it still keeps people away from the habitual Wednesday trip to the local store, which has been important for shops to survive.

Trades or hardcovers are great for catching up on stories I’ve missed or for keeping a good copy of a tale I really loved stored in my closet. On the other hand, some storylines NEVER end, and that can be discouraging to readers. Every once in a while, something has to resolve!

WHAT TRADE PAPERBACKS DO YOU OWN?

DC Comics, Marvel, New 52, trade paperback, graphic novel, Daredevil, Scott Snyder, Batman, Greg Capullo, Zero YearOne of the biggest-selling trade paperbacks of all time is the first volume of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead comic. Often once a new episode of the series has aired on AMC, fans run into local comics shops to get that trade paperback. I can understand that!

I have to point to Scott Snyder’s run on Batman has had a good mix of extended and shorter stories. He and Greg Capullo have juggled year-long adventures with the occasional single- or two-issue tale. Now those creators have moved into “Zero Year,” which will keep the Dark Knight busy for a while, but the recent two-parter with Clayface did a good job of redefining that villain while keeping readers on the edges of their seats. Well done! I’m looking forward to owning those trades as well as the hardcovers from the “Court of Owls” saga.

I mentioned recently that I’ve been enjoying the Legend of the Dark Knight digital comics from DC. These Batman tales are in short-story format (some take more than one week to wrap up, though) and cost only 99 cents each on Thursdays. They’ve been great! You can also get the monthly printed collections as well.

SO, NOW WHAT?

What does the future hold for the comics industry regarding trades? Creativity in that area as well, I hope!

Personally, I would truly love to see DC bring back the “52” weekly comics or the “Wednesday Comics” done in the format of Sunday strips. I know they were a serious drain on creators struggling to meet the crushing deadlines, but it was truly wonderful to know that every week I’d be picking up a special comic that would keep my attention!

I don’t think trade paperbacks will ever go away, but I want variety in my reading, so I hope comics will avoid “one format fits all” stories for the foreseeable future!