Waiting for the "Waiting for the Trade" Argument To End
links to Peter David
continuing to write about the "Waiting for the Trade" debate over on his
blog. In his entry, PAD warns readers that he doesn't care why
they don't care whether mid-list monthlies make it or not. So I'm
sure he doesn't care about the thoughts his writings inspired, but I
thought I'd share them anyway.
PAD writes: "When fans express concerns about comics, I try to answer
them. Fans complain about rising prices; I put my neck on the line to
try and keep the price of 'Captain Marvel' [down] as long as I
could." Ah, yes. The infamous "U-DECIDE!" stunt. For
what it's worth, I thought it was a nice move on PAD's part to try to
keep the price down on this series. But how well did that turn
out? The book relaunched with a new number one and was initially
priced at $2.25. But then with issue #8 the price jumped 33% to
$2.99 right in the middle of a two-part storyline. I'm not
suggesting that any of this was PAD's fault, but readers of trades
would have known up front what price they were going to pay for a
complete storyline instead of having the price shoot up without warning.
PAD writes: "[I]f fans want to help ensure the survival of new
series, they should consider buying monthlies." Except buying the
monthlies is no guarantee for the survival of a series. Even
before trade paperbacks became more regular, quirky series were
released and then quickly cancelled, despite devoted fanbases.
(One of my favorite short-lived series was Chase
Curtis Johnson and J.H. Williams III.) I recall many fans being
reluctant to try out "non-aligned" books out of fear that the comics
would be cancelled out from under them. If we're going to debate
how fan psychology affects comic sales, one could make a strong case
that this "learned defeatism" is more detrimental to the survival of
mid-list series than the so-called "Waiting for the Trade" mentality.
PAD expresses his gratitude for "those fans whose support of monthly
titles help provide the trade paperbacks." Perhaps he doesn't
mean anything by it, but this statement annoys me. Is he implying
that those who prefer to read trades are indebted to the monthly
readers who made the collected edition possible? Maybe I'm being
pissy or obtuse, but I really don't think readers of trades owe any
debt of gratitude to those who read the comic in monthly
installments. Conversely, when I buy singles, I really don't
expect to be thanked for making a future collection possible.
When I rent a movie or buy a DVD, I don't get all teary-eyed thinking
of the moviegoers who made my home-viewing experience possible.
When I buy a hardcover copy of a book, I don't get mad if others chose
to wait for the softcover edition without even acknowledging how my
purchase enabled their option. If the publishers of various forms
of entertainment decide they want to go after different audiences with
different formats, that's their prerogative. I think it's silly
to pit one customer base against another by declaring that one group
provided another's edition.
I still agree with PAD's assertion that the "Waiting for the Trade"
phenomenon likely makes it harder for mid-list titles to survive in the
current Direct Market system. But I think that's the crucial
qualification: In the current Direct Market system
Really, I think that mid-list series would continue to have problems
even if trades were abolished altogether. Look at the top
in the Direct Market: Ten X-Men comics. Six
Ultimate titles. Four Spider-Man series. There's so much wrong
with the current Direct Market system that it hardly seems fair to pin
all its woes on "Waiting for the Trade."