Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I didn't see anything I liked, so I didn't buy anything...

A curious collection of stories by a number of talented folk.

Today was "skip week" in the comic book industry. Don't ask for an explanation because its one of those inside horrors those of us who read comic books suppress conscious awareness of until the event rears it's ugly head once every blue moon or so and we are forced to deal with the horrible reality of it. Simply put, it is a Wednesday where no trucks arrive at the local comic book store laden with their shipment of the "paper crack" we addicts of the four color print books live for from week to week. (I'm having difficulty writing a post this evening as the cold sweats of withdrawal ooze forth from the pores of my tormented and clammy flesh.)

I didn't know what else to do today so like one of the mindless zombies who shambled about the mall in that Romero movie I still made my way to the comic book store of my choice, Mavericks, in Dayton, Ohio and whimpered my way through the aisles looking for something, anything that might keep me going until the chronic arrives again next week. I found myself standing in front of the TPBs', (Trade Paperbacks) a place I would normally assiduously avoid, actually perusing the damnable things for potential purchase consideration. I can't begin to express how dirty I felt as the depth of the depravity of my addiction dawned upon me in that moment.

Let me illuminate...

I don't like trade paperbacks because they are a graphic disregard for anything even resembling respect, let alone even passing consideration for the "Green Movement". Many of the trade paperback books being produced are collections of comic book titles that were dreadful to begin with and are better off left to die and then fade away into a well deserved obscurity. Not every comic book story arc deserves to be collected and turned into a trade paperback release. Some comic book story arcs should be collected, recycled and turned back into usable paper upon which more deserving story lines could be printed and distributed to the general public. I think the comic book industry would do well to take a page as it were from the video game industry when it comes to producing trade paperback books.

Video game companies produce a limited number of any particular new game and wait to see how well it is received in the marketplace before producing more units. If a game proves to be a flop they're not losing large sums of money. If a game proves popular enough, by reaching a certain number of units moved, they release the game as a greatest hits release. Yeah, it minimizes the initial investment risk and maximizes back side profit by correctly meeting actual market demand as it actually materializes.

Most comic book companies are producing tons of titles in the hopes that if you throw enough stuff against the proverbial marketplace wall something will eventually stick and they'll make some money. The trouble is that with the economy being what it is right now they're spending more money than they can reasonably hope to recoup on the process of throwing a ton of crap at a wall that only a pound or two will stick to.

Trade paperbacks may produce a certain amount of sales, but are they selling at a rate capable of covering the cost of both producing and storing them in warehouses in the event one creates the big market demand? How many of those units produced are now winding up on after market shelves (like those at Mile High Comics) where it is hoped they will sell at a reduced price rather than continuing to eat up valuable warehouse space? According to the newsletter I received from Mile High Comics, Dark Horse just unloaded a ton of trade paperbacks upon them. And trust me, Mile High is working awfully hard to convince me just how much I need to think about starting my collection today.

So, I'm standing in front of the trade paperback selection when my eyes fall upon, "Weird Tales" Volumes one and two. Now, I have the original issues and consider them gems in my humble collection of books I wouldn't part with to save my soul. It is a rare occasion indeed that I pull them from the boxes they are stored in and only then to prove to a sceptic that I do indeed have them all in my possession. (I never take them out of the bagged and boarded preservation units that protect them from wear and tear. Would you?)

This is a series worthy of being collected and released as a trade paperback. As are all of the early works of Hellboy produced by Mike Mignola. They are historical and significant. They are artistic wonders and deserve preservation. As trade paperbacks they are books I can put into the hands of those less trained in the art of proper comic book handling and say, "Read this and behold the greater glory of comicdom." My originals are safe from harm and I can read and enjoy the stories without fear of ruining a classic comic that one day may bring my great grandchildren tens or twenties of dollars.

So many times when I attempt to share my love of the comic book art form with my younger friends I am rebuffed with, "Dude, how many trees do they cut down each week to feed your habit?" I may never be able to fully overcome this objection, but the argument's impact could certainly be minimized if the industry reduced the volume of books produced each month and focused on producing a higher quality of book. I dare say that a company launching a marketing campaign around the concept of producing fewer titles in order to go green would find a new and younger audience, to whom these things do matter, receptive and willing to invest their hard earned dollar in their product.

The times are tough. Everyone is fighting for survival right now. As Thoreau would say, "Simplify, simplify simplify. Instead of a hundred, make of your affairs fifty. Instead of fifty, make of them ten." Crossovers? Trade paperbacks? Multiple character titles? Gentlemen, the times should be forcing you to rethink and re approach your tactics. The real key to survival right now is simplification, not the old market saturation tactic made so popular by Coca Cola. I go to the comic book store each and every week. Tons of books not worth the paper they're printed upon vie for first my attention and then in turn for my dollar. Quality always wins out over volume...

And yes, I also have Hellboy Junior, both in original release and trade paperback...

Oh, can anyone name the song the title of this post is from?

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