EP0009: The Benefits and Downsides of Comic Book Trade Paperbacks

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Adam Graham talks about the benefits and drawbacks of comic book trade paperbacks


Trade Paperbacks, threat or menace? Find out on today’s episode of the Classy Comics Podcast.

Welcome to the Classy Comics Podcast where we search for the best comics in the universe. From Boise, Idaho here is your host, Adam Graham.

Welcome to the Classy Comics Podcast from Boise, Idaho; this is your host Adam Graham. This is something I will try to do infrequently – mostly I want to be talking about comic books and trade paperbacks, but sometimes there can be a general comic topic that’s worth a talk, particularly since part of my vision for the show is to talk to folks who are not necessarily been into collecting or reading for quite some time. When you say reading a comic book, people will often imagine you sitting there with their traditional comic book with its glossy cover held together by a staple or two, and generally with a few ads in there. I think of that specific experience I’ve only read one in all of 2017 and that was an issue of The Tick. For most of my comic reading I’ve either been reading from trade paperbacks or I’ve been reading from digital. And digital’s another conversation; today we’re going to focus on trade paperbacks which collect multiple issues. Generally a small trade might collect three or four issues of a comic while a larger one might collect twelve, and then there are some fairly large collections or omnibuses such as those that come from Marvel that can have twenty or thirty different issues in it.

Trade paperback collections have become a lot more ubiquitous in recent years. It used to be that only select comics were collected together and sold in trades; now pretty much any major ongoing series that either DC or Marvel does is turned into a trade paperback, and there’s a lot of work being done on the back catalogue of both companies to bring even some titles that hadn’t been collected in trade together so that collectors can have them easily in one place, and those who haven’t read them can discover them for the first time. So, it’s a great way to read on up on classic comics and older comics that you just could not buy on an individual basis without a lot of money. And in general the trade collections can save quite a bit. Remember pretty much every DC Comic is going to be $2.99 an Issue, except for those that are more, and every Marvel comic is going to be $3.99 an Issue. Most trades that I get I end up paying about two dollars per issue for the comics that are in the trade. You also can more easily avoid bad titles – if you see a comic series starting and from some of the descriptions it sounds interesting, a trade can be a better option just because you can get an overall impression of what people actually thought of the comics in the trade, and based on what you hear you can have a really good idea of whether this is going to be something that will work for you.

It’s also important to remember that most ongoing comic book series today, particularly from the Big Two are written for the trade. That means that the comics are drawn with the idea that this is going to be in a four or seven-part book, and thus many issues are less standalone and more chapters in a book, and this can lead to some frustration for those who get individual issues one at a time. For example, an issue might really not progress the action much but might show some character moments which – if you’ve been waiting two weeks to a month for the story to move – is a little bit annoying; but if it’s merely a section in a graphic novel you’ve gotten, well then it’s not a big deal, it might actually contribute positively to the reading experience. Also with a trade paperback you can evaluate a series as a whole which can be crucial. You take, for example, The Secret Empire mini-series that Marvel did last year: the first few issues were met with critical acclaim, yet as the story went on and various things were revealed the reviews became decidedly more negative and more negative overall for the series. So, you can really just judge the whole arc as a whole if you read it in the trades. I also think that the trades are just a better way to maintain comic stories for you to read – it takes less car, less worry about things getting damaged because you’ve got a sturdier format.

Now there are some negatives: first of all you do have a lack of immediacy where you’re waiting several months and you find out afterwards, in some cases much of six months that as the people who read along in the normal issues, so you don’t have that tension if you’ve got a really good story and you can be in suspense for a month, whereas if you just pick up the trade you get the whole thing resolved. Spoilers are rampant…you really have to avoid reading about the character to get spoilers and sometimes it can be tempting to flip ahead by checking review sites to find out what’s going on, though then again the major spoiler about, for example, Catwoman’s response to Bruce Wayne’s marriage proposal was on the pages of USA Today. Still, most people did post spoiler warnings about it, but if you’re reading the trade you have to avoid the spoilers for three to four months. And there is of course that feeling of reading a comic book if you grew up reading a lot of them – you hold the book in your hands and it’s kind of a nostalgic experience just reading it, and you miss out on that with doing the trades. I also think that trades are a little less collectible as an ongoing commodity, but truth be told most modern comic books are not nearly as collectible as their Gold and Silver Age counterparts, much like modern baseball cards are not as collectible as older baseball cards, but they’re kind of driven by stories of people selling comic book issues for a million dollars or a baseball card for half a million dollars. Yet those stories have encouraged people not to mistreat comic books and also not to do things like use baseball cards and spokes in bicycles. And as a result there’s just a glut of various comic books and baseball cards around, which means they don’t accrue money.

That said, there are still some collectible comics which you may get such as a rare and prized variant cover that you’re just not going to really get with a trade. So, those are the pluses and minuses of the trade paperback which is mostly how I experience comics. Whether that makes sense for you is something you’ll have to decide for yourself, but that’s all for now. We’ll be back to reviewing Classy Comics on our next episode. If you do have a comment send it to classycomicsguy@gmail.com. From Boise, Idaho this is your host, Adam Graham, signing off.

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