by Nevs Coleman

Trade Off.

I’m told that there are some comic shops that actively discourage their staff from reading comics.  I don’t know about you, but I find this somewhat staggering. Let’s be fair here, there’s a point where you’re on the counter and ought to be paying attention so nobody nicks the Howard The Duck omnibus or something, but given how much gets published, you should be spending as much of your time as you can spare catching up on the field you, well, have chosen to work in. How crap would it be if you went into HMV and asked ‘Do you know when the new Paul Weller or Lady Gaga record is coming out?’ and they just didn’t know because they didn’t get to read the trade magazines and such? It would be muchly crap!

Well, I do TRY and read all that comes out. I start with the indies and then work my way through the Big Two. By the time we get to Saturday, I’m probably familiar with most of the week’s new stuff. And if I’m not, most of the time I can blag it:

‘Hey, I can’t remember what happened in New Avengers last month. Any ideas?

‘Er, they watched some telly, Norman Osborn shouted at someone, then they fought some Ninjas/Skrulls/Hoods/Goons? Then there was some cliffhanger with a man’s face.’

‘Oh, okay. Blackest Night Recap?’

”Three pages of zombie monologue followed by zombie trying to rip the heart/face/eardrums out of superheroes and then they get taken out by a space rooster with magic tuberculosis  or something?’

Alright, alright, fair enough. I’m twisting a melon a bit here, but that jaded outlook does mean that when somebody asks me what’s good, they tend to believe me because it does take a lot to impress me at this point. But if you happen to do so, I will push your comic like crazy. To be honest, unless you’re doing something amazing along the lines of JMS’s work on Spider-Man on Grant Morrison’s stuff on New X-Men, you’re probably out of luck while working at the Big Two. I’m 32, there’s not a lot you can do to Spidey or Batman that I haven’t seen before. It doesn’t mean I blanket won’t push a good superhero comic, I just don’t think they really need my help. I’m more inclined to get behind something at Boom!, Dynamite,  IDW, Fantagraphics, Drawn + Quarterly or such like.

Now, I’m more than willing to spend my money on good comics and I’m equally happy to get people to try out new and interesting stuff. That’s fine. That’s my job. But you guys need to play fair too. I’m pushing your work. Saying nice things about it on my facebook/twitter etc. Because it’s a pushed book, it sells out quicker and we go to re-orders on it. There’s a following gathering. We’re working together. Yay us!

Until.

We get about eight months down the line, and you solicit for the first trade. It’s nice and cheap. Good man yourself! First books always need to be cheap. Trust me, the more you know about how the drug trade works, the better you’ll understand how comics retail and publishing happens.  Once in a while I flick through Previews and wonder to myself: ‘Are the punters really going to pay that much money for this little content?  You could rent out an Xbox game for a week for the price of two comics these days. Oh yeah. They’re comic junkies. That’s what they do!’

Er, ANYWAY! Then I keep looking and see the words ‘Contains exclusive content never seen before.’

Grr.

There’s a school of thought that seems to think that the phrase ‘I’m switching from the trades to the comics!’ is a thing to be indifferent to. I tend to disagree. This is why:

So, we’ve got the sales numbers up enough that your publisher is going to get your trade out on the shelf. And now there’s going to be new stuff (including, in some instances, added story pages) that we don’t get because we were silly enough to buy your comic in the first place. So, essentially you’re packaging your book like a DVD? Well there’s a fundamental problem with that idea. Films and TV shows are intangible. Comics aren’t. You go to the cinema, pay money to watch a film and leave with nothing. If it were the case that you paid an amount to sit in the comic shop and read some of the week’s new titles and then left (as opposed to those guys who just come in, read and then bugger off. Thanks guys!), coming back to actually buy the book, that analogy might work.  But the idea seems to be: ‘Buy this thing. Then buy it again to get the added bits.’ Which isn’t on.

The problem is, I don’t really have a suggestion for a solution here. Possibly something akin to the model of Freakangels where content is online then collected. But comic shops can’t really work under that model, I think. I guess what I’m suggesting is something like a coupon that you’d send off to get a mini-comic that contains the material in the trade?  Or you could donate the comics to charity and get the trade for free from the publisher as long as you could show a receipt of some kind. I don’t know.

Suggestions/ideas beyond ‘I don’t care about the bonus stuff’ wanted, please.

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