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March 30, 2014 / Jett

The Plight of the Trade Paperback Reader

All New X-Men Vol. 1: Yesterday's X-MenMy comic book adventure started with a trade paperback. All New X-Men Vol. 1: Yesterday’s X-Men knocked my socks off and I’ve steeped myself in the medium ever since. Between Steff and I, we’ve amassed a mix of individual comics, trade paperbacks of the hard and soft cover variety, as well as a few giant omnibuses. Personally, I prefer the trade paperback format because it compiles a series of issues in a format that lends itself to a nice chunk of reading time. They sit comfortably on a bookshelf. I also like the fact that they’re readily available at most mainstream bookstores and are generally cheaper than buying individual issues. However, as I’ve come to realize, this format also has its drawbacks.

With the exception of All New X-Men, I’m between 2-4 volumes behind in each modern comic series I want to read. Gathering and reading through them all is going to take some time, so I’m not too concerned about that. However, now that I’m all caught up on the trade paperback versions of X-Men, I’m stuck having to wait till May for volume 4 to hit store shelves. If I want to save a few more bucks and get a soft cover version, I’ll have to wait even longer. As of writing, volume 2 of All New X-Men hasn’t quite hit store shelves yet.

All the while, the series continues without me. I’ve accidentally spoiled a few things about what’s to come because for everyone else reading the monthly issues, it’s what’s happening right now. If I stick to the trade paperback schedule, I’m also going to have to deal with the fact that spoilers will be everywhere I go any time I try and look online for comic-related content. I could just start buying the individual issues, but I also want to save money and not have to deal with storing flimsy comic books. As such, I’ve essentially doomed myself to being 6-8 months behind on everything.

A few weeks back, I went to Toronto Comicon in hopes of bolstering my collection with more cool stories; ideally in trade paperback format. To my surprise, this was easier said than done. The venue was filled with seemingly tens of thousands of individual comic books, yet trade paperbacks were much harder to come by. Most stores only had a handful of them tucked away from their main attractions; oftentimes heavily reduced in price. What was left for the most part were really bottom-of-the-barrel books; stuff that even my newbie self knew weren’t that good.

With enough searching, I did find a few gems. I gladly scooped up the first three volumes of Batman – Detective Comics for half price. I also got Batman: Hush for 30% off. However, due to the way these books are presented and the general indifference most of the show-goers showed for them, my trade paperback hunting felt almost as if I was rummaging through someone’s garbage can. I get that comic enthusiasts would prefer the latest stuff as well as the first printing of everything, but I didn’t think that the perception around trade paperbacks and omnibuses would be so low.

While at the show, I also had my first real encounter with a comic book artist in the sense that I’ve actually seen his work in the DC and Marvel comics I’ve read. He was very gracious to talk to me, even though I outed myself as a newbie from the beginning. It was at that point where I got to thinking, “If this was an artist that I actively followed and liked, would I get him to sign my trade paperback version of his work? Is that cool?” Probably not. Now that I see how uncool these trade paperbacks can be, I would probably pick up a separate issue just to get them to sign something “cool”. I guess I should scoop up some individual issues of All New X-Men and Wonder Woman now if I get the chance to meet Stuart Immonen or Cliff Chiang at this year’s Fan Expo.

I guess this is a case of not being able to have your cake and eat it too. For me specifically, trade paperback probably works best in terms of cost and convenience, but the allure of keeping up with the stories on a more consistent basis sure is alluring. What do you prefer to read and collect?

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  1. animereporter / Mar 30 2014 7:39 AM

    I’m definitely a trade paperback fan, but then, living in Ireland, the prices for imported comics are driven way up and the individual comics end up costing even more in the long run. Ultimately though, what I really like is just being able to sit down and read a collection in one go. I know it can be irritating when spoilers abound online but I definitely prefer being able to finish a story the same day I started it, rather than waiting 8 months to finish an arc.
    Also, I have to say, I absolutely loved Hush! I’d definitely avoid the Return of Hush though, massive let-down.

    • Jett / Mar 30 2014 8:43 AM

      Thanks for the comment!

      One of my former coworkers recently moved here from Ireland and he talked about the country all the time. For some reason, a story about the blonde girl from S Club 7 performing at his buddy’s hole-in-the-wall bar is something that always sticks out in my mind.

      How much of a price increase does Ireland get for imported comics? In Canada, we usually just get US cover price. The same can’t be said for video games, where the currently weak Canadian dollar has all games to go up in cost by $5 and the PlayStation 4 to go up from $400 to $450.

      You’re totally right about wanting to read a collection in one go. One trade paperback is a nice few hours of reading and I get a full arc rather than comic-sized bits which are over in minutes and the anticipation takes months.

      I had no idea there was a Return of Hush. Not surprised though, as I’m very much new to this medium and am finding out new things that are common knowledge to those in the know all the time.

      I see you’ve done a lot of work covering Anime and Manga. Good stuff! Never read a Manga before, but I’ve grazed the Anime scene. Back when DragonBall Z hit Canada in the mid 90s, I watched all the way up until the end of Frieza saga. In the mid 2000s, I watched Bleach and stopped somewhere during the Bound saga.

      • animereporter / Mar 30 2014 8:52 AM

        Yeah, Return of Hush doesn’t exactly deserve as much fame or recognition as the original. You’re probably happier not knowing about it 🙂
        I supposed the average price for a new trade paperback here would be 25 or 30 euro. I don’t really remember how much the individual issues cost but I remember that I stopped bothering to pick them up early on.
        Manga is excellent really, with some of the longer shows like Bleach and One Piece, episodes can drag out quite a lot,like the individual comics, whereas a nice manga volume is something that usually hits just the right pace. There are some really good sites around like or if you’d like to sample a little bit of manga, see what you think. Manga will also usually avoid the lengthy, unsatisfying filler arcs that some anime need to keep up their production pace. Bleach is a good one, I’ve read a bit further into the manga than I’ve watched in the anime. People are usually strongly divided between one or the other. I think they’re both great, though manga is a little bit more accessible, especially for people who already like comics.
        Thanks very much, I’m glad you like my stuff. I’ll actually be focusing on manga more in the future to try to balance both media in my reviews.
        I’ll keep an eye out for your next post!

  2. jjmahoney007 / Mar 30 2014 8:55 AM

    Having just read all The Walking Dead comics mostly in trade paperbacks (the Kindle versions), I love being able to read huge chunks (or entire) story arcs in one sitting (or a few sittings, but not having to wait months for single issues). Being caught up now, I’m in the same situation as you. Do I wait for the next volume of 6 issues and risk being spoiled on the finale of a huge, epic story arc? I’d rather not.

    It’s similar to the Telltale video games series like The Walking Dead or The Wolf Among Us. I didn’t play TWD until the entirety of season 1 had been out for over 6 months. I managed to not get spoiled (or if I did I totally forgot them), and playing through the entire season over 5 back to back play sessions was incredible. But with season 2, I just can’t wait. It could be nearly a year before all five episodes are out. I’d rather experience them and have the anxious 2 month wait between episodes. I kind of feel that way about the comics now. I’ll read the short 30 page comic, then wait that tense month with everyone else.

    Whether it’s comics, episodic video games, or even TV shows, staying current can be a community experience, which is pretty great.

    For me these collected volumes are great for catching up on a series I’ve missed, which is pretty much everything since the X-Men/Batman comics of the late 80s/early 90s. But once I’m caught up, I want to be part of that community who are reading/watching them right along with me. Discussing the newest issue/episode is part of the experience.

    • Jett / Mar 30 2014 9:11 AM

      The Walking Dead comics are definitely on my list of comics to try out after I work through my initial stash of superhero stuff.

      With The Walking Dead games, I go episodic too rather than waiting for the package at the end. Part of the difference is that you’re literally getting the exact same thing in chunks vs. trade paperbacks where it’s a different physical thing. There also isn’t really any cost savings if you get the physical version at the end. I think buying a season pass is $20 when the physical disc at the end is $30 over here.

      The community part is something I haven’t really thought about. I’m just getting my sea legs with the current continuities and I’ve missed out on decades worth of content. Furthermore, besides Steff, I don’t know anyone IRL that also reads current comics, so there’s no one for me to talk to. Even then, she’s not reading all of the same stuff that I am, so I have this pent up desire to talk about all things modern X-Men with no one to talk to.

      • jjmahoney007 / Mar 30 2014 9:20 AM

        For me my community, in regards to video games, really started with the folks I met on Splitkick. Anonymous communities where people hide behind usernames was never as fulfilling as meeting someone via a site like Splitkick (like you and the Bosscast guys, or Jim and the Rocket Jump/SAG guys), and then getting to talk via Gchat about what we’re playing or reading. That’s my community. I talk to my coworkers regularly about games, but we can be playing and enjoying totally different games at any given time (although right now it’s Dark Souls 2. Other than them, I have very few folks locally that love games and comics, but I don’t see them regularly enough.

        Just so you know, I’ve got volume 1 of that X-men trade, and vols. 1 and 2 of the Detective Comics trade in my Amazon cart. I’ll likely be able to discuss those with you very soon. 🙂

  3. jjmahoney007 / Mar 30 2014 9:22 AM

    Oh, and I’ll probably end up buying the physical copies of those. They’re the same price as the Kindle versions (around $9 each).

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