If a columnist publishes a column that doesn't discuss the Watchmen movie, will anyone read it?
Let's find out. . .
But, first, one to think on:
Jim Krueger did an entertaining one-off in 1999 ("Alphabet Supes") in which a 26-character superhero team was each powered by a letter. Geoff Johns' "Green Lantern" does the same a decade later with colors. Discuss.
Seriously, though, I loved "Alphabet Supes." C'mon, the "S" character was possessive! How perfect is that?
TIPS ON SWITCHING TO THE TRADES AND SAVING MONEY.
The mailman delivered a new box of goodies to my door step last weekend. "Astonishing X-Men" Volume 2 (the hardcover) and "Asterix and the Black Gold" (also hardcover) were inside. Amazon had both items in stock, a discount of around 35% each, and free shipping for the order. All I needed was a little patience for the box to make its way to me. All it took was a credit card and a week.
Quick experiment: Go to your local comic shop and see if those two books are currently in stock. I'd say you have a pretty good chance of the X-Men title being on a shelf somewhere. I wouldn't lay any bets on a random "Asterix" volume haunting the same bookshelves. And even if your retailer stocked "Asterix," would that particular one be on the shelf?
I'm happy and proud to say my previous retailer (Dewey's Comic City in Madison, NJ) stocked a pretty good lineup of "Asterix" books, which was a boon to me in my early readings of the series. (Unfortunately, my day job has since moved me away from them, but they're still a glittering jewel.)
Sadly, that's the state of the North American comics market today.
Both books are available through Diamond (for now). If you wanted, you could place an order through your retailer, and you should be able to pick it up from them in a couple of weeks, if you're lucky.
But I would almost bet the house that they wouldn't give you a 30% discount for your order.
For those who think switching to trades has to be hard: Don't worry. It doesn't. It's as simple as letting things go, taking a more relaxed attitude towards comics, and enjoying them more. Here are some tips on how to do it and how to save a bunch of money in the process.
Don't go to the comic shop this week. However, do make a print out of the comics you would have bought. Store it away; you'll need it next week. After all, all those shelf talkers telling you which books are new will be moved already to the new week's books seven days hence. You'll want to keep track.
You'll be amazed at how many comics you don't care about a week later. Maybe it'll be that money in your pocket that you'd rather not spend. Maybe it'll be some bad reviews you read on-line. Maybe the initial enthusiasm and excitement around the big releases will have fizzled out, and you'll find you just won't care that much anymore.
Whatever the reason, I bet you won't be moved to pick up all those comics the following week.
In the meantime, take that week you didn't go to the comic shop to read something from your "To Be Read" pile. Pull out those quarter bin books you bought at the last comic book convention, and get down to reading them. Read that trade you picked up last year that you wanted to read, but never found the time for. Failing that, reread something you enjoyed once before. Pull out "Watchmen." Pull out "Ultimate Spider-Man" #13. I don't care. You can still read comics. Just reread them, too.
Can that new issue of whatever you were about to buy this week really live up to the pleasurable reading experience you just had, instead?
Even if it could, wouldn't you rather wait a couple more months and read the whole story when all the issues of the storyline are completed?
Next, buy your comics on-line. It's most cost-effective with trade paperbacks and hardcovers. I've seen hardcovers on-line at discounts that make them comparable to the cover price of the paperback edition of the same book. It's good bang for your buck. Stick with it.
I don't care what on-line retailer you use. Find one you can trust and that has a solid selection of books in stock at all times, and throw them your money.
It's a good habit to train your mind to pay for books that you don't walk out the door with. Once you delay that instant gratification, you start thinking more about your choices and start only order the books you really want to read. You'll find out what's important this way.
The trickiest thing to negotiate in this process is The Spoilers Dilemma. You can't suddenly move to trades and not expect to have something spoiled for you. After all, the trade comes out twice a year. The comics come out monthly.
Spoilers will happen -- accept it. Embrace it. Go back to last week's column and reread my review of "Missing the Boat." Did you see how much I enjoyed the book, even though the ending was in the book's title? Pay close attention to movies and television shows for the next couple of months. I bet you'll find more examples of stories where the outcome is already obvious, or is shown at the very beginning. I first picked up on this from watching "Babylon 5," which featured scenes of the future showing what happened to the characters years before those things happened. That's, in a way, a spoiler. A story that relies on an O'Henry twist ending is good for shock value and an initial jolt, but often not much more. (A really good twist ending pushes you to reread the story to pick up on the clues you missed the first time. That's a good deal.)
It's not WHAT the ending is, but HOW you get to it. Justin Shady made me like the Churmanes in before they missed the boat and met their demise. When the inevitable happened, I still felt something, even though I knew it was going to happen. The trick in the storytelling is in making the road to the end be entertaining and compelling.
You need to retrain yourself now to read comics more for the emotional investment and less for the big shock moment. Look for the thrills, the adventures, and the engrossing experience. Stop looking for "What shocking thing will Corporate Trademark ABC do this week?"
I've accepted the fact that I can't keep up on everything, even if I did try from week to week. It's not that much of a stretch to waiting for collected editions after that. I know how "Astonishing X-Men" ends. Even knowing that, I look forward to reading it, because I want to see if Joss Whedon can make me care, or if John Cassaday's art leading up to it makes me happy enough to not care.
Along those same lines, your internet habits will shift, too. Reading interviews with creators talking about this week's issue of your favorite comic will have to be put aside. There's an initial excitement that you'll miss out on from things like that, but you have to take the long term view on this. There's plenty of comics reading material out there on the internet that's not based on What Shipped This Week. You'll need to change some of your reading habits, too. Find some themed blogs or some trade-centric websites. Skip interviews that are based on the new releases and seek out the career-spanning kind, or the more general interest types. Or, learn how to skim an interview to get over the part where they discuss the latest issue, and skip straight to the rest of it.
Also, learn to love "Previews." You'll want to do more pre-ordering to guarantee getting the collected editions you love, to know what's coming out and how long you'll have to wait, and to get the maximum possible discounts. (Amazon has a slightly bigger discount on books if you pre-order them, for example.) Marvel makes it easy -- just skip to the end of their mini-catalog to get to the hardcovers and trades. DC mixes them in by groups. The back half of the entire "Previews" catalog is now moving quickly to books-with-spines in reaction to Diamond's new minimums.
The point is, there's plenty of reading material out there for you to read without having to go to the comic shop every week or following the latest and/or greatest 32-page releases.
When mixing trades and single issues, you might think it can get confusing. This modern era of crossovers everywhere can make it difficult to keep up with the status quo of your favorite monthly book while waiting for the collection of the series that set that status quo somewhere else. But you know what? It's annoying, but not difficult. We're all smart enough to handle four Superman, Batman, or Spider-Man books a month. Surely, we can adjust our mindset to handle separate continuities or jumps in chronology between series.
Waiting For The Trade is not something that you'll do overnight. I could write up a simple checklist for you so that it could be done overnight. But old habits die hard. New ones take time and repetition. Keep all of this in mind if you're seriously considering trade waiting. Remember: This is about making your comics reading experience easier and happier, not about following a trend or trying to fit in.
In the end, the format doesn't matter. It's what makes you happy. Don't make this change if it's going to bring you more angst than enjoyment. When your time comes, you'll know it.
Wow, that's a little too Zen for me, but I think you know what I mean.
Next week: Why you should support your local comic shop, and what they should do for you.
THE PIPELINE PODCAST UPDATE .
At last, the technical difficulties are over. Embarrassingly enough, I thought I was recording on my external microphone last week, but was actually recording on the built-in mic on the laptop. I missed a setting. Whoops. I think you'll hear a huge difference in the sound quality to last week's show (roughly 15 minutes) as a result.
I'm also planning on bringing back the Top Ten this week or next. The podcast needs some more focus, I think. That should do the trick.
Also, the RSS feed file for the podcast was getting large. After four years, it had expanded out to about 200kb. That's a waste of bandwidth. So I cut everything out of the feed that was in there for podcasts pre-2008. If you want to download those shows, subscribe to this historical feed, which will be available when the next podcast goes up tonight:
Also, don't forget that "The Comic Book Podcast Companion" is now available for pre-order through Diamond. This is TwoMorrow's upcoming book exploring the world of comic book podcasting, featuring interviews with a whole array of well-known comic book podcasters, including yours truly.
The Diamond order code is MAR094433, or you can pick it up on-line at all the usual places.
Next week: So, you liked that "Fearful Symmetry" issue of "Watchmen," did you? I've got another comic just like it that you've likely never heard of. We'll take a look at how tricky it can be to pull such a story off in the next edition of Pipeline Commentary and Review.
And, seriously, your local comic shop may deserve your support. I'll tell you why.
The Various and Sundry blog is starting to pick up steam now, mostly thanks to my compulsive American Idol reports. I vowed not to do them this year, but I haven't lived up to that promise just yet.
AugieShoots.com had some great pictures this week, including a pair of sunsets and a couple from my new series, "Lonely Shopping Carts."
Don't forget to check out my Google Reader Shared Items this week. It's the best of my daily feed reading, now with commentary!
My Twitter stream is like my public e-mail box. I check it daily, looking for responses and new conversational threads. Heck, you're more likely to hear back from me if you ask me something on Twitter than my own e-mail box.
More than 800 columns -- more than eleven years' worth -- are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They're sorted chronologically.
If you've read this far, I apologize.