Grotesque Anatomy
Friday, January 09, 2004
  Hitting Me Where It Hurts
Asked to provide an example of a cancellation that can be attributed directly to the "Waiting for the Trade" phenomenon, Peter David offers up the following (scroll down almost to the bottom of the page):
Well, a fellow named Martin Maenza over on the Byrne board contends "Power Company" qualifies. He wrote, in part:

"One of my favorite titles of recent years was Power Company by Kurt Busiek and Tom Grummett.

"The book only lasted 18 issues. But, it was some of the best 18 issues I've ever read of a series. Very good stuff.

"Problem was: many folks on the DC boards kept saying "I missed the first couple issues - when is the trade coming?" When told no trade was in the works, they opted not to pick up the book. The book sales slowly dropped which lead to cancellation."

I don't know if the people on the DC boards represent enough of a mindset to have affected the book's bottom line. Furthermore, this would be an extension of the "waiting for the trades" phenomenon into the equally intriguing, "No trade? Then I won't start buying it" phenomenon which I was alluding to earlier.

Ultimately, I don't know if he's right or not, but it's his opinion and directly addresses your question, so I thought you'd be interested.

As many know, Power Company (or PCo as fans commonly referred to it) was one of my favorite superhero comics of the past few years.  That's not to say it was the best according to some objective standard.  While I think there was a lot about the series that was worthwhile, I also acknowledge that several issues were clunkers.  (Back when I was assigning numerical scores in my reviews, I think I gave one issue -- #14? -- a rating of 4/10.)  And even die-hard PCo fans acknowledged that the series got off to a rough start, which was further complicated by the fact that there were several "starts" for the series -- the "flashback" one-shots focusing on individual characters; the "flash-forward" preview story at the back of JLA #61; and the opening storyline of the ongoing series proper.  Many of these factors (especially the seven one-shots coming out in the same month, which many fans saw as a money-grubbing stunt) were cited by fans (and non-fans) in unofficial post mortems as being the true death knells for the series.  (There was also a 25-cent price increase with issue #7, which corresponded with a 10% decline in estimated orders from the previous issue.)

Yes, I do remember seeing people posting on the DC boards asking when there would be a trade for the series, but IIRC many of those queries were from fans who did actually start reading the series around the time of the series' "revamp" (around issue #8) and couldn't find the earlier issues in their shops.  Like many other mid- or low-list books, PCo simply wasn't being carried by a lot of shops, or not in sufficient quantities to have leftover shelf copies.  I know this from personal experience:  Having dropped PCo after the first issue (due to an attempt to give up comics completely, which obviously didn't take), I decided to try out the book's new direction.  I liked it enough to seek out the back issues I'd missed.  I think I had to go to five or six shops before I'd found the six issues I was missing.  Other posters complained about similar experiences in their areas, so many hoped a trade could fill that gap.

Of course, there was also the hope that a trade could be used to bring in completely new readers, but my memory is primarily of "latecomer" fans asking for a trade of earlier issues.  And I'm sure there were people who had passed on a new series (especially one with the perceived barrier of the one-shots), figuring they could always pick up the trade if word-of-mouth was good.  But I think PCo suffered from many more problems than simply being a victim of the "Waiting for the Trade" mentality.

This has been your self-indulgent post lamenting the loss of an unpopular and critically-unacclaimed comic book series for the day.

Also, PAD has softened his position on fans who wait for the trade, recognizing that (much as I argued above with respect to PCo) fans deferring their comic book purchases for a later time and a different format is just one of many problems facing most series nowadays (scroll to the middle of the page):
So, as I said...I haven't blamed "primarily" anything on the trade waiting audience. It's another hurdle. It's just not one that I was expecting. I had people tell me they stopped reading "Supergirl" because they didn't like the storyline. Okay. I can deal with that (and did so, successfully...not that it mattered in the long run.) When they tell me that they *do* like the book but won't buy it regularly because they'll wait for another format...that caught me a little bit by surprise. Guess I should have seen it coming, but I didn't.

That's pretty much all I've been saying. Not disputing people's "right" to buy what they want. Not contending that it's the consumers' "problem" that my job has been made that much harder. Just saying, Okay. Yet another hurdle.

Ah well. I knew the job was dangerous when I took it.

I can certainly sympathize with that and wish PAD the very best of luck.  Hopefully, with one hurdle out of the way (a trade for Fallen Angel is coming out, but PAD goes into much more detail about the many other obstacles still facing this series in the full post) PAD's book will be discovered by more of its intended audience.

(That Comicon thread is still going strong.  As of today it's eight pages long.  I haven't read through all of the recent posts, but Kurt Busiek does stop by again to make some more good points on page seven.)
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