A Case Against Single Issue Comics: Mousa the 14
One of the things MYCK was founded on was diversity of opinions. As such, this is only one side of the debate. We hope you enjoy Mousa’s take and come back tomorrow to hear the flip side by Angela!
The traditional floppy. A mainstay of comics. The old fashioned kind of comic book we see in every form of media. The archetypical form of comic. Such a common visual, what a universal concept.
What a complete and utter piece of garbage.
A worthless flimsy set of glossy paper that costs more than what it’s worth. Presumably. I don’t know, I never took the time to invest in too many of the things because they’re functionally obsolete.
I’m Mousa the 14, I’m here to give my opinion on the whole thing, and that opinion is that I haven’t a clue what it’s good for.
I’m going to ignore all the other issues in the comic book industry that are causing the complete downward spiral of sales and profits and pop culture penetration. You know, like the monopoly of Diamond Distribution, the direct market model, poor advertising, incestuously small amount of behind the scenes content creators, let’s ignore all that and just focus on the product itself. Because I don’t have the kind of time to do a full history and dissertation on why people who enjoy comics can’t have nice things. Let’s talk about Floppies v Trades.
My first ever comics were floppies. Sonic The Hedgehog and Knuckles ones if you can believe it. They still sit on my shelf to this day, deteriorating, covers coming off, torn and worn. Which can be true for anything a person reads made out of dead trees. Paper is going to get worn, torn, etc etc.
But it’s so much simpler with the floppy, almost disturbingly so. The way in which collectors must spend so much to keep them in these plastic slips with card backs and meticulously held in long boxes. Delicately removed every so often to reread, if you’re even the sort to read and not, say, obsessively archive.
Which is all fine and dandy, but how was but a child supposed to understand that when you are an owner of floppy, then that’s just what’s supposed to be done if you wish to continue to have your slim flimsy comic book for as long as desired? You’d almost think kids are being driven out of comics or something.
But maybe that’s the point, in a way. Maybe they are meant to be disposable. Maybe that’s why they still only cost a quarter.
Or was it 35 cents.
Holy mother of inflation, Batman! You mean to tell me that the cover price of your average 32 pages of story and ads is $3-4 bucks these days? And back when I was a wee one it would’ve been around 2? First of all, if you know what it’s like to be an artist then you know a lot of good comics are massively underpriced. But since we’re going with how things are instead of how things should be; apparently in order for me to follow, I dunno, Squirrel Girl, I’d have to pay about 3.50 a month?
Volume 1 consists of 6 issues of comics and it costs about $16. I have my Black Panther, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Hellcat, and OG Ultimate Spider-man on my shelf right now, ranging from 15-18 bucks.
So on a monthly basis we have 6 issues costing and approximately 3.50 per month leading to a whopping $21. The difference isn’t large, but there is a difference. Enough of a difference that maybe, juuuuuuuuuust maybe, it’s more cost effective to buy a real proper book.
And the fact that they are shaped like and constructed like a real proper book is the benefit of a trade paperback. They sit on your shelf just perfectly like every other book or shelf item you might own. They have proper covers, backs, and spines so you’ve reduced the risks of typical superficial damage. And of course a bookshelf is easier to get something on and off for reading than flipping through a bunch of individual plastic sheets in a long box will ever be.
There’s also the fact that the monthly floppy sort of exacerbates the issues people have with getting into comics. That issue being the number of issues. Sure, Marvel and DC go through big renumbering kicks all the time but that doesn’t change the fact that you could go to a shelf and see issue #420 of something and have no idea where to go or how to start; since it creates this psychological perception of something going on forever and having no easy or proper way to jump in.
But people will read a book series with multiple books. Usually, because there isn’t as many and because you know exactly where the beginning and the end is of each book. Yes, comics technically have ongoing arcs, properly titled and everything, but you don’t know how far it goes if you’re just starting. You don’t know how much of that story is in some spin off or tie-in or crossover.
Even if a trade doesn’t have the content of what might have happened in other characters’ series, it helps create the illusion that what you have is a sole entity, and that works wonders on people’s perception.
It really makes the most sense for comic books to actually be like books. The graphic novel/trade format is how people are accustomed to consuming these sorts of media anyway. Some of the most famous stories in comics have been and continue to be distributed in trade format anyway. Like, Spider-Man Blue, Batman: The Long Halloween, and Superman for All Seasons. These are almost even presented like proper books they’re sold as being created an author/illustrator team, specifically Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale in this case. If one wants to take a look at one of these greats, then it’s as simple as looking at the cover and giving it a look. No #1s or #5s to worry about, it’s just the story at hand.
And it looks more like it are on the way. DC Comics are doing this thing with Earth One where a team gets together to create a retelling for one of their big titles lik Superman, Wonder Woman, etc. These retellings aren’t released in a month to month basis where one doesn’t have genuine time to color, draw, edit, and review something in a quality manner. Imagine no last minute changes, or last minute editorial mandates regarding crossovers and events or “The Movie Is Doing This Thing We Must Do the Same Thing RIGHT NOW.” Now you can have time to do those things and think them out. Imagine having the time and sanity to make a story within a reasonable deadline! Well imagine no more, because DC’s new Earth One stories appear to be released in intervals that could be anywhere from 1-3 years. And in some sort of single solid 100 or so pages of some sort of thick solid bound paper form of communication that is commonly accepted and easily accessible to a regular audience. Some kind of thing called a... Book?
As it stands, the serialized monthly format is little more than a burden on creators having to rush for that next bloody month. And so many comics have delays anyway, at least one can justify delays with being a proper year to year book release. Instead of, you know, shackling yourself to a monthly format where you create expectations that you are actually able to work at this pace. It’s giving the audience unrealistic standards for how quickly and easily creative works can actually be produced in a quality manner. I’m an artist, I know. Sure it’s possible to work fast, but that does mean things are going to work well.
Besides, making something that is actually genuinely a book gives time for writers and artists to actually make something, edit something, and have something to release that’s worth a damn (In theory. This doesn’t even happen with regular books, but it’s the thought that counts.). If nothing else, the ability to practice such restraint would allow enough time and research for the continuity to make a lick of bloody sense. I don’t know if you’ve heard of this guy called “Hawkman” but, uh… If you want to try to waste a week of your life, try putting together a comprehensive profile on him and his history. You’ll wish you hadn’t bothered.
Embracing trying to make comic books be more like books allow for things to come off as more self contained. And allows both the audience and the writers to be able to perceive things via single proper stories, as beginnings, middles, and ends. A solid unit one can look at and say “This is this book. This is this story”