Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Death of The Comic Book Single Issue....

....may be premature. However, we are certainly heading in that direction.

Why? There are many reasons why I think that comic book single issues are going the way of the dodo. First of all, comic book fans are interested in the story and art - they just want to read, dammit! Most comic book story arcs are done in six issues within a title or as a four to six issue mini-series - perfect size for a trade paperback...

The single issue is a ripoff these days. There are no more letters to the editor columns, very rarely is there a backup story, UPC codes on the cover and then there are those wonderful ads that take up a third of the book. The modern trade paperback usually has an entertaining introduction, no ads (except for other trades at the very end of the book) and very often bonus material such as scripts, character sketches, full page cover art of all the issues WITHOUT titles, UPC codes, etc. Not only that but the price is right most of the time. Besides, who wants to keep up with six individual objects (i.e. six issues that you have to bag and board if you want to keep them in good shape) when you can have one object and get the whole story.

DC's 52 - which I am going to review within a few days - gives you 13 issues per volume for a retail price of $19.99 which you can easily get for at least 30% off. The single issues cost $2.50 each. Yes, the three page backup stories are not included in the trade so even if we assume that the cost of the single issue is maybe $2.00 if you leave out the backup stories, you are still WAY ahead of the game.

The internet has made it possible through the various forums for fans to check out how a story is going - is it good or does it suck. Also, we have monthly magazines such as Comic Buyer's Guide or Wizard which provide a trove of reviews each month. There is just a wealth of information to guide one on how to efficiently spend their discretionary income. Industry buzz is the lifeblood of the comic book industry - more than ever. If the buzz is positive, sales soar - negative buzz and the book dies on the vine.

Is this just my opinion? Here is where I received my epiphany: I am a comic book dealer doing most of my stuff online on eBay or my own website, Walkin' Willie's Comix. I do a couple of big shows every year and this is where I really saw the trend. The two shows I do are Heroes-Con in Charlotte, NC and Dragon*Con in Atlanta, GA. It was at Dragon*Con about five years ago when all I heard was "Got any trades" - to the point that even my feeble mind could pick up on it. I started bringing trades and found that most of my sales by a huge amount where from trade paperbacks.

However, it was comparing the 2006 and 2007 Heroes-Con where I really saw the difference. In those two years, I brought four 10' x 10' booths and brought a ton of stuff each year - trades, singles issues, old stuff, etc. Each year, I brought about 100 long boxes of modern single issues. In 2006, I moved 11 long boxes of single issues - in 2007, only 2.5 long boxes. For all intent and purposes, I bought three extra unneccessary booths for the money I brought in during the 2007 Heroes-Con.

That was it for me. While I still have my Diamond Distributor account, I now only buy trades and hardcovers with the occasional special or premium issue thrown in there.

Here's the Catch-22: If a single issue story arc does well, then the publishers will collect it in trade. If it doesn't, it won't get collected. Well, if fans continue to buy fewer and fewer single issues, then what will get collected in trade anymore? It's hard for me to feel too sorry for the publishers though as they solicit the trade paperback for a story arc or mini-series the month after the last issue has been solicited - if they wait THAT long. If they would wait a few months, maybe fans would buy more of the single issues - I dunno.

All I know is that I am through buying new comic book single issues - I'm pretty sure I am not alone on this one.

Comments are welcome and solicited...

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