Trades and Singles, Singles and Trades

Recently I've made the decision to put off buying monthly singles and collect most of my limited series and certain story arcs in trade format. It's a trade-off (ha!), but I think I can wait the extra time for the series to complete in order to save 30% of the cost. It's not that hard of a decision on series that I think read better in trade format anyway - like, oh say, Age of Bronze, but it's really hard for me to lay off those "this could be great, maybe" books like, oh say, anything Alan Davis does. And it's particularly hard because I'm hard-wired for single issues. Can't help it; I love the serialization format of comics. I relish the "Wow! I can't wait to see how that one turns out!" anticipation of getting your stories in monthly batches. I love going into my LCS and finding out that oh, joy of joys! A new All-Star Superman is here! Huzzah! I like my comics like I like my women: single, bagged, boarded and stored in a box.

But now that I've adopted the "wait for the trades" mindset, I've had to mentally judge issues as to whether or not I can actually wait for the trade to read them. That's basically my litmus: Can you wait another 1/2 year to read that?'ll be cheaper....

In hindsight, I've made some poor decisions. But I know why. And tell me this isn't the case (and let's use the typical 6-issue arc as an example): If the first issue doesn't "grab" you, but it's by a favorite creative type of yours, seems to be a decent build-up, and shows the promise of potential... you'll get #2. After #2, if it doesn't poop on the reader, your Collector's Mentality!!! kicks in and you're going to get #3. After that, well, you've already eaten the cost difference, so you may as well get the last 3 as they come out. You'll finish the story earlier, and besides, single issues are more "pure" and you know it. Shut up and buy, fanboy!

So, I know I do this, and probably always will... but I'm a pretty good judge of what I want to read, and I'm slowly getting to the point where I can comfortably make the decision to put off that lovely, lovely single issue on the rack this week. I'm much more likely to give the benefit of the doubt to someone like Warren Ellis, who pretty much explores his topic in each issue, than I am for someone like Brian Bendis who seems to write for that 6-issue arc. Mind you, I like Bendis, and I think he writes very well for that format... it's just that if the advancement of his plots were charted on a line graph, the rise/run would be = 2 until issue #4. Then it jumps to 50 for the last two issues. That's a math reference, right there, folks.

But, I still make mistakes. Can't help it. I love the singles. Mistakes like: after reading this week's Ultimate Power #4 ... yeah, should've waited. But I'll still buy the last 2. Curse you, Collector's Mentality!!! And there's a bunch of Hellblazers I own that would read much better in trades, especially with the rotating creative teams and all... but Diggle started his first issue this week, so - yep! Bought that. And I still get Ultimate Spider-Man every month, even though I know it's a better trades read... that's just the fanboy in me that loves the Spidey, and the Ultimate version is how he should be portrayed. Can't resist that one.

On the other side, I don't (or didn't) get Exterminators, 100 Bullets, Mouseguard, and Lone Ranger each issue, but I fully intend to get the trades. And these are just the ones off the top of my head. And that's part of the problem - I'm sure I'm going to forget a trade that I meant to get when it eventually comes out. Another problem is if a trade will actually come out for a series. Please say yes, Mouseguard!

A third category is that the trades you pick up are so good, you start to buy the singles after you've caught up. To me, this is the ultimate sign of an awesome book. I can think of four offhand examples that I did this with: Y: The Last Man, Global Frequency, Preacher, and Fables. But, of course, Collector's Mentality!!! kicks in, and you're obliged to fill those early singles' gaps. I now have a complete singles collection of Y, plus the first 2 of the trades. I like to loan those out as "reading copies" and get new people hooked. Same with Preacher.

Filling it out is the final category: You've bought all the singles, but the trade itself is SO GOOD that you buy that one too. And not just for an easy "reading copy." I can only think of one that I've done this with: 300. Damn, that's a nice hardcover!

Well, file this one as a never-asked-for insight into the particular buying habits of Mr. FSoup. But I think it's a pretty standard case of a guy who loves comics and buys what he wants with distinction - not what the industry is supplying, or pushing. It's all about taste, selection, and balancing instant gratification against later enjoyment (and cost. and space.)

But, then again - I did buy every issue of Civil War as it came out. And I'll probably buy every issue of Countdown even if it starts to hit the crapper by #40. I'm still stupid that way.


SallyP said...

You have much more willpower than I. I look forward to Wednesdays so much, that I can't help but buy the single issues. Which of course, doesn't stop me from getting the trades later as well.

But trades are so handy, darn it, especially, when it comes to discovering a new book AFTER it's been out for a while, and trying to get the back story, without going broke on back issues.

Let's face it, Comics is a harsh mistress.

Adam Barnett said...

I am a nightmare for the comics industry. I generally won't read a series until it's cancelled, because I want to have the option of reading the whole thing all at once. I know, how stupid is that? Trades at least give me the option of playing catch-up on titles that are worth reading. I don't think I've bought a single issue that didn't come out of the bargain bin in 20 years.

I've read recently that trades now outsell single issues. I'm not surprised - most series (and budgets) lend themselves well to the format.