Every once in a while, some trend comes along and changes how I buy comics—most likely, forever.
It wasn’t that long ago we started seeing trade paperbacks in the “mainstream” bookstores. I was worried that the local comics shops would go under when the “trades” (as we call them in comic-book fandom) caused a mass exodus to the nearby Borders or Barnes & Nobles. I was happy to discover that my fears had been unfounded. Instead, the local stores did better because readers who hadn’t read some issues could catch up by reading this compilation. Also, those folks who preferred to read these “extended stories” would stop by every few months to pick up their “trades” and catch up with those of us who are weekly addicts. I even could sample comics I hadn’t read before, so I bought my share of “trades.”
But there has been a new development in the last few years that has significantly altered how I buy comics, and for the better, I think.
What is this new phenomenon? Well, comics companies discovered that if some of us really, really liked a storyline, we’d shell out the extra bucks to buy an edition that would last longer than the “trades.” Thus was born the comics hardcover!
I know this doesn’t seem like a big deal, but to me, it was a revolution! Imagine knowing you have the stories you enjoyed so much in a format that will last longer than the paperback editions, which could go yellow on you in a few years. That alone makes the hardcover edition worth buying.
However, hardcovers provide other benefits as well.
They look like “real” books. I wish I could count the number of times someone has picked up a hardcover and remarked how wonderful it was that I was reading novels and the like. However, their expression changed when they actually started flipping through the pages, causing them to remark, “Hey! This is only a comic!” I combat this problem by not letting people actually open the books any longer!
Ultimate or slipcover editions are tremendously cool. When some story is hot as molten lead, that company will release a larger-size, square-bound edition of the book with extra material. It will have a slipcover there to apparently keep the cover clean. DC Comics calls them “Ultimate” editions, but other companies make them, too, including the release of Dave Steven’s The Rocketeer in slipcover edition.
They don’t slide around in cabinet drawers like “trades” do. Don’t laugh—this has happened to me. I loaded several prized “trades” into a drawer in one of my cabinets, but didn’t open the drawer again until I had to move. When I was getting ready to pack these valuables, I opened the drawer to find that I hadn’t filled it as full as I thought I had, and the books has slid into “less-than-mint” condition. Hey, I bought those because I LIKED the story, so they better stay in good shape. Hardcovers avoid all that.
I don’t have to worry so much about condition when I buy my comics. For years, some of us had to give our comics the “three-finger salute,” putting two fingers on the outer spine and one on the inner, to make sure we got primo, mint copies. If I’m going to buy a hardcover, I don’t have to fret about things like that as much. And if I don’t like the story enough to buy a hardcover, why should I care how the individual issues look? This trend has taken a lot of the stress out of my comics buying!
I can have a copy to keep, and one to read. That’s assuming the company publishes a “trade” of the same story after I buy the hardcover, which they usually do. And that also makes my local comic-shop owner happy because I now buy three versions of the same story instead of one–original comics, hardcovers and “trades.” Smart guy!
The first time I saw a hardcover was when a comic-shop owner in northeastern Pennsylvania (“Dave,” I’ll call him) decided to give gifts to his friends that couldn’t be bought. He sent several comics off to a binding company that returned them, bound in story-completing sets, as hardcovers. His friends were thrilled! (Maybe he’s the originator of this trend—who knows?)
Why am I discussing this right now? Because Richard Rivera recently compiled the first six issues of his Indie comic Stabbity Bunny into a hardcover edition, and you can find them at conventions we’re attending! It’s a very cool book, so don’t miss it! More info coming soon at stabbitybunny.com!