Wayne’s Worlds: Moving Away from Trades

For years, comic books have suffered from what I refer to as “trade paperback-itis.” Most stories have been told in the exact number of issues made to fit inside a “graphic novel” or “trade” format.

Well, it seems like times, they might be a-changing.

It wasn’t that long ago, that Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso talked about Marvel Comics’ moving away from set six-issue storylines.

“We didn’t ask writers to shorten their arcs to accommodate artists’ schedules; we just wanted to mix things up a little,” Alonso said. “For a period of time, we purposefully structured stories in four-to-six-issue increments because it made for a good trade. Recently, we started to wonder if we were in a rhythm that was too predictable and that changing it up a little – doing some one-offs, two-offs and three-offs – would be a good thing.

“The fact that it might make it easier to maintain artists’ schedules was secondary – kind of the icing on the cake.”

Truth be told, some comics have become critical successes while frequently utilizing shorter story arcs. Mr. Alonso makes a lot of sense with this approach.

“A one-shot or short story certainly is a great way for a writer to show off their craft and a great way for an editor to gauge it for the simple reason that both provide a story with a beginning and an end,” said Alonso.

“There’s no need to worry about subplots. I love both, and I wish the market were more supportive of the anthology or short-story format.”

I agree with him here. I wish the recent “war” comics and Sword of Sorcery had thrived at DC as part of the New 52. I did my part, though, since I did buy and read them all!

Honestly, it’s been all-too-predictable with nearly every single adventure lasting a minimum of five or six issues. This has caused some folks who buy the books to wait until the trades are released before buying a story. That’s better than them not buying comics at all, but it still keeps people away from the habitual Wednesday trip to the local store, which has been important for shops to survive.

Trades or hardcovers are great for catching up on stories I’ve missed or for keeping a good copy of a tale I really loved stored in my closet. On the other hand, some storylines NEVER end, and that can be discouraging to readers. Every once in a while, something has to resolve!

I have to point to Scott Snyder’s recent run on Batman, which had a good mix of extended and shorter stories. He and Greg Capullo juggled year-long adventures with the occasional single- or two-issue tale. Well done!

I would truly love to see DC bring back the “52” weekly comics or the “Wednesday Comics” done in the format of Sunday strips. I know they were a serious drain on creators struggling to meet the crushing deadlines, but it was truly wonderful to know that every week I’d be picking up a special comic that would keep my attention!

I don’t think trade paperbacks will ever go away, but I personally love variety in my reading, so I hope comics will avoid “one format fits all” stories for the foreseeable future! And I’m not sure that Marvel has moved to shorter stories since Mr. Alonso said those things. They might even be working on longer storylines, seems to me! Oh, well!

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