Regardless of the type of reader one may be, whether he or she reads Marvel, DC, independent, noir, romance, western, war, whimsical, comedic, fantastic, supernatural, fantasy, or just newspaper style comics, the bridge between issues and trades will always appear. Granted, in the opi
nion of Crumbling Comics, both formats are great because despite the differences they still promote the comic medium and carry. However, depending on a reader’s circumstances, the breed of comic can deliver a satisfying perk or an unwanted shortcoming.
Before diving into the topic, to just address the oddity in the room, the world of digital comics is a beast within itself that should be the subject of its own post because of its emerging impact on the industry and practices that might develop as a result of its presence.
The Issues with Issues
Reading a title issue per issue is the classic way to read comics. The “per issue” distribution of comics not only allowed publishers to evaluate the content of their material on a monthly bias but also kept the brick and mortar stores open. Without the release schedule that mirrors magazine publication, the comic book industry would not be the glorious and vast landscape that it is. Just like with magazines, creative talent can never be lazy and there must always be something going on to entice readers.
So… a positive about reading titles per issue is that there is never a lull. Although some stories may be lackluster, there could always be another epic right around the corner. A perfect and contemporary example of this is Secret Empire from Marvel Comics. After the disappointments of Civil War II, Inhumans vs. X-men, and the decent event of Monsters Unleashed, Secret Empire feels significant for the publication house and their continuity, which is good because overall the creative concern produces a better product.
Not to long ago Captain America was an unprofitable title with uninteresting protagonist, and now, the tile and the character are the greatest point interest in Marvel.
In comics, nothing ever stays boring for too long.
The Letters Page
For those who are new to comics or just young and have not had the chance to dive into some older stuff, a common practice with the publication of weekly, bi-monthly, and monthly comics was having a letters page, usually at the end of the comic. A letter page was a page where the writers and artists responsible for the comic would respond to fans letters and exhibit messages they thought were funny, positive, or heartfelt.
The letters page was a nice community building tool, which sadly few companies continue the practice. With just a page, writers could connect with their readers and tease upcoming stories and fans could glimpse at a larger like-minded community.
Also the potential rush of being published in a comic book is still a high most fans still want.
Singles and Events
Some older readers might disagree with the next statement, but Crumbling Comics asserts that events read better issue by issue than in trade. Granted, not all events read well issue per issue, like Fear Itself or Annihilation Conquest, but because writers structure their stories in advance to fit the release schedule of their publishers Crumbling Comics suggest it.
With events, or at least with events from the big two, the stories tend to hit the same marks with pacing:
- Very little happens in the beginning
- More things get established
- The story begins and the characters do stuff
- Things happen
- Things happen
- There’s a penultimate issue that’s really satisfying
- Then the conclusion comes
For some stories, the trade format might deliver an unsatisfying experience for a reader because the format does not facilitate anticipation as well as the per issue release method, which some writers rely on to sell issues and convey skill in their craft.
In addition, keeping up with the release of comics for events lessens the chance of having the story spoiled for a reader.
Cons of Issues
There are two major cons with buying comics on the per issue distribution schedule: Ads & Cost.
While some ads display creativity by tying into the events of the comics or using a particular character in a funny way, most ads are bothersome. At times, the majority of ads are glaring and out of place, and at their worst, they ruin experiencing the sublime of a story. A famous and a very recent example of an ad ruining an issue came from Twix in Batman #41.
Although issues roughly cost $4 each, over the span of a month or a year and depending on the number of titles a reader follows, comics can become an unexpectedly expensive hobby. Reading five monthly titles over the period of just one year could approximately costs a reader $240 [without tie-ins, event issues, variant covers, reprints, or reorders].
The Trouble with Trades
With the pluses of buying the “per issue” distribution out of the way, a reader should note that trades have their plethora of benefits as well:
Getting the Complete Story. Granted, sometimes writers create a story that spans 12-14 issues, which require 2 trades like Scott Snyder’s Court of Owls, but, for the most part, a single trade contains a full story.
Low Cost. Buying the trade of a story typically cost less than buying it on by the single issue rate. A reader could buy a trade for its cover price, which tends to equal the cost of buying all the single issues, or they could save money by buying their story from a third party website.
We here at Crumbling Comics recommend Half Price Books and Book Depository. com. Moreover, this recommendation is not an ad, there sometimes just happens to be trades on these websites that cost as little as $10.
Bonus Material. On occasion, certain trades will have an extra material to offer their readers and these bonuses can include: variant covers, an excerpt from the writer’s script, author’s thoughts, supplemental stories, teases for the next trade, and a recommended reading list from the company.
A reader should avoid trades if they do not like to “binge” their comics. Since one half of the medium consists of visuals, more often than not a reader can get through a trade in less than a week—if not less. Obviously, trades have immense re-readability with all the creative talent behind the art and writing. One could spend weeks reanalyzing the composition of the panels and decipher the intention behind every creative choice. However, for those who seek a narrative that will consume a month to a year’s worth of intrigue, than perhaps trades could be a bit dissatisfying.
For What It’s Worth
While most readers already have a preferred method to purchasing their comics, Crumbling Comics wants to remind its readers that there are moments in time where the other format is more suited to deliver an impactful reading experience.
For a flexible reader’s consideration: here are the signs when a reader should be reading a title either through the trade or per issue format.
[Finished Event: Trade] Buying all the issues of a finished event usually tends to be harder to accomplish and costly in the long run.
[Current Event: Single Issues] If a story has genuine intrigue and the company has proven to release their event on schedule, then the “single issue” purchasing rate will deliver a highly satisfactory ending to the reader because there will be time of build-up and anticipation.
[A Title with Consistent Art, Writing, Decent Covers, and Healthy Sales: Single Issues] Taste is subjective. If a reader finds that every issue of title was pleasing despite the wait, then continue to enjoy comics in that manner and continue to read comics in the classic way.
[Titles with a Cult Following: Trade] Considering that some titles only reach a niche audience, which is fine, they probably will not have a run that spans more than 20 issues before the company cancels the book. In turn, it’s best to avoid disappointment, save some money, and just buy a title in trade.
[Lack of a Comic Book Store Near You: Trade] If a comic book enthusiast cannot find a store near them, then do not simply just abandon the medium. Continue to enjoy comics through trade when single issues are nowhere to be found.
At the end of the day, Crumbling Comics wants all of its readers, regardless of camp, to keep on reading. However, every now and again, try both!