The comics industry has been shifting from the monthly title to more mini-series and such recently.
This all came to my attention when the owner of the comics shop I frequent gave me a new pull list form to fill out. As I compared it to the previous one I had made a few months ago, I realized that many of the books I had ordered were now complete, done, finished, over. And there were new ones I needed to consider.
That’s quite a change from the days when I used to update my pull list maybe once or twice a year… at most!
I recently read an online interview with Scott Snyder, one of the all-time best-ever comics writers in my opinion, and he noted that in 2020, for the very first time in recent years, he wouldn’t have an ongoing title at DC.
Granted, his run on Batman was spectacular, and I have really enjoyed his time on Justice League. I felt sad when I realized I wouldn’t be regularly picking up a Snyder-written comic each month any longer.
Of course, I was interested in why he was making this change. Turns out he has many projects he wants to get to, some of them creator-owned, and it’s tough to squeeze those into your schedule if you have the grind of a monthly book to contend with.
That jives with other creators I’ve talked with. They often need the time for making projects they love happen as opposed to those they want to do. Tough call.
When you are as “in demand” as Snyder and others like him are, you want to take advantage of as many opportunities you can get it while you still can.
So, there may be months when I’ll be buying several Snyder-written comics. And there might be some when none are released. It’ll just depend on how they are made and sent to stores.
SO, WHAT IS SO APPEALING ABOUT THIS FORMAT?
The mini-series format has a lot of pluses to it.
For instance, you can give a book a chance to see if there’s an audience for it. If the sales numbers and attention are good after 4, 6, or even 12 issues, you can bring it back, sometimes even in an ongoing series. You can entice Frank Miller to do yet another Batman mini-series, too!
It’s also appealing to creators because they can express their ideas, and if they don’t fly, they can move on to other projects. At least they tried!
It’s also a good way of keeping a trademark alive. Every so often, a name comes along, and you want to keep it for yourself. If you don’t publish a character or team, you might lose the rights to him or her or them.
If you have to work for a living in the real world, this format really is helpful because you can plan ahead and live with one foot in each universe. And if you let your fans know how things are going, you can keep them happy by telling them what to expect when.
THE BAD SIDE TO MINI-SERIES
If you’re a popular creator, and people are after you to make a lot of things, a mini-series can be helpful. If you’re not, well, there are some problems you might encounter.
Let’s say you put together a mini-series and it work with your fan base and a few others. They’ll be asking you again and again what is coming next with that series. The smart thing, if that project isn’t coming back, is to direct them to what you’re working on next.
What’s really tough is if the demand for your creations isn’t at, say, a Scott Snyder or another high level. Then you have to keep pitching and working cons and such to try and get more work.
I interviewed Joshua Williamson for my podcast, and he mentioned how happy he was to be under an exclusive contract with DC. Normally, he said, you have to spend 50% of your time creating, and the other 50% looking for work. Now that he was exclusive to DC, they were very interested in keeping him busy.
That’s great when you can get it! But exclusive contracts don’t seem to be happening as often as they used to.
From a fan’s perspective, keeping up with mini-series can be tough, as I’m finding out these days. I mean, I get the Martian Manhunter book, pretty much every Batman-related mini-series (and boy, are there a lot of them!), and a bunch of others. I sometimes miss one that I want, so I ask for the store to order one for me. Or, if that doesn’t work, I get the digital version from comiXology.
It’s not like it was in years past when my pull list pretty much stayed the same, sometimes for years at a time.
WILL THIS TREND CONTINUE?
I always wonder out loud if a trend is actually the future of the industry. I mean, could ongoings fade away, being totally replaced by mini-series’?
At this time, I just don’t see that happening. I mean, the demand for Batman and Spider-Man, the two biggest-selling heroes in comics today, is such that companies KNOW there are people waiting to buy books with those guys in them at least once a month.
And comics are truly a habitual medium. Again, that means many people often to go their LCS’s on a regular basis to keep up with the happenings around their favorite heroes. You vary too far from that, and you are in trouble when it comes to keeping people returning to your store on a regular basis.
However, when it comes to creators and the industry, I feel we’ll see more miniseries’ than fewer of them, at least in the years ahead. They just work well for many of the industry.
I just have to better figure out how to keep track of them, that’s all!
What do you think? Do you prefer mini-series or ongoing titles? Do you buy a lot of mini-series these days? If you discover something is coming in a mini-series format, does that make you more or less likely to buy it? Please be sure to share your thoughts below!
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