A Moving Realization – Trades Matter! (And a Bit More on Digital Comics)


When life is full of a transitions and madness and, well, packing, you need something to ground you, if only for a few minutes, to remind you that everything crazy eventually calms down. I am realizing that trades actually do this for me–they give me something to look forward to reading, something self-contained, and with independent trades especially, something that I can just pick up without knowing anything about the characters and the story and just enjoy. This is important, and though my trade collection may not be incredibly large, it has some really great titles in it, and, for the most part, I plan on keeping my trades for a very, very long time. Which means that where I go…they go.
So, as some of you who follow me on Twitter may know, I am moving to a new place in a few weeks. I have been in my current place for almost seven years, and suffice to say, I have a lot of stuff that I need to take care of.  I think of myself as pretty easygoing, but when it comes to moving, this almost forgotten, deep-seated lizard brain Type-A persona comes out.  Oh, sure, there have been a few nights where I have stared, wide-eyed, at the ceiling in the middle of the night, trying to figure out just what the hell I am going to do with those long boxes in my closet, but eventually I am able to let that go and just assume that eventually I will move to a bigger place and I'll just put them in that place.  
Well, now that place is a block and a half away. And it has less closet space. However, my priorities being what they are, I have taken over the bigger closet downstairs (that's a picture of it to the left), and have already starting moving my boxes into it.  I just actually, like thirty minutes ago, bought a handtruck so I can start really moving my boxes to the new place tonight.  Oh–that's the lizard brain thing; I am moving as much of my stuff as I can ever since I got access to the place a few days ago.  And you can guess which boxes got the royal treatment right away–yup, the trade collection.  We have a nice shelf that we use for them, and it's all great and fine and epic and oh-so-interesting for our guests to comment on, but that bitch is heavy!  I mean, you get trades one a time, right? Okay, so maybe you get 2-3 on a good day, but for the most part, you're not rocking twenty trades at a purchase, right?  And let's not even get to the Absolute Editions.  Those are monsters to move. Like, I can't cover the inside of a box with a towel (which the lizard tells me to do) and drop a bunch of trades and frame the box with a few Absolute Editions, my lower back would launch out of my body.  Even if I lift with my legs, my eyeballs would pop out right after my knees exploded. So I am packing trades with sweaters. To, you know, cushion 'em.
While I have ranted a lot about getting rid of my individual comics, as I have been going through all of my trades, I realize there are quite a few trades that I really don't "need" anymore. Like, I bought the first few trades of Ultimate Spider-Man, but now, like…I'm done with them. I don't really need to relive those stories, not even in trade. Maybe it's my lower back speaking, but I just don't really see myself reading them again, and I am okay with that, especially after…well, after using the Marvel iPad app, I gotta tell you.  No, it's not the same as reading a book, but I gotta tell you, it's not worse.  It's just different. It's a bit smaller, the screen, than the "real" page, but I can always zoom in, you know?  
(I wonder if the idea of zooming in will just be as natural as turning the page, eventually. Like, it will just be an accepted part of reading, you know? On the surface it seems like an extra step, but when it becomes so easy, easier, really, than picking the book up and bringing it closer to your face, it becomes instinctual and you don't even think about it.)
I think I am finding, even as I write this, that standard trades, like the ones that are just a collection of previously published comics, are less valuable to me, emotionally, and that I would probably be happy to view those issues on a digital device.  When it comes to more…specifc? original? trades, like the ones that Oni Press makes, where the form of the book is more…well, it's more like a book, right? With a different form factor, hard covers and pages that very much specific to that experience. They are less trades and much more, well, graphic novels, and as such, I am beginning to regard them differently.  A book like 3 Story: The Secret History of the Giant Man is just one of those books that just feels better in a hardcover format.  
During this move, I have been reading the books I got from WonderCon (which i was planning on reviewing; I will do that next week), and I have to say, it's been nice to settle down after a long day and dive into books that I really have no preconceived notion about.   I basically got them at Ron and Conor's recommendation but had no idea what I was getting into — I mean, one of them looked like Calvin and Hobbes on speed, another looked like some kind of Daniel Boone on steroids, and the other like one looked a lot like the Daniel Boone one, but with different hats. It's been kinda cool, really–like, when I go to bed with a stack of comics, it can sometimes feel like work, and, for the most part, I know that the comic will most likely end with some kind of cliffhanger that will be very exciting, sure, but then I have to wait a month for the story to continue.  With a trade, at least the kinds that I have been reading, there is pretty much a definite end that I can look forward to, that each night I am reading, I am working towards that goal.  It's oddly calming, I gotta say.
Maybe this move is just a glimpse into the future, you know? Like, I love single issue comics and I think that I will always buy a few that I really want, but I can definitely see me going to a portable digital versions of the books I will always read, which sounds odd, you know?  But if I maintain a relationship to, say, Daredevil, I kinda "get" the book–I love it, and I have read it for so long, and maybe, in a strange way, I care about the form less, you know?  Sure, if there was some special hardcover Daredevil story that Darwyn Cooke did–I would buy that, because it's "unique," right? But from month to month? I bet I could get used to a digital version just fine.  But there are going to be single issues comics that I just want to have around, mostly for the art, and also just so I have an excuse to go the comic book store. Just because I might buy into the digital comics scene doesn't mean I will start buying all of my comics in a digital format.  
This brings me back to trades. Like, I know we'll be able to get Parker: The Hunter on the iPhone but I don't care about that at all. And even on the iPad…I really think a focused, single story, like Parker, really is better, in a way, as a book.  I don't know–part of that impulse, I am sure, is because I like Darwyn Cooke and want to support him and have his art in my bookshelf.  Maybe his retro style just lends itself more to a more retro delivery vehicle…who knows.
Moving's interesting.  It's a chance to take stock of your past and a chance to create a new life.  I didn't think, when I started this out, that it would also provide a glimpse into my attitude toward how I will deal with comics in the future, you know? After using the iPad, I must say that I think comic book stores do have a challenge, but I think there's a real opportunity, too.  Like, putting out a few free digital comics will drive digital comic sales, but I think that there is a chance to drive foot traffic to comic book retailers, too, who will most likely have a much broader selection than what you can find on a comic book iTunes, for example.  I think comic book retailers that don't have a great collection of trades and hardcovers should probably start carrying more of those, too. While an iPad is nice for checking out a few issues of a comic book, I think a nice solid book like Asterios Polyp is still an experience that people can appreciate, something that will look, nice, sure, on an iPad, but has more of an emotional weight, as a physical object. The thing about digital comics is that there's always that chance for distraction, an email coming in, someone trying to chat with you, etc, whereas with a book it's usually a much more focused experience.
So, honestly, I really didn't mean this to be another article about the impact of digital comics…it just kind of snuck in there. How about you?  I am sure you've made the decision to move to another place or move in with another person…what did you realize about your comic collection?  What did you keep?  What did you give away?  

Mike Romo is an actor in LA and is happy to report he bought a dolly so he won't be straining his back as much. Email and twitter!


  1. I’m sorry Romo but I think I speak for quite a bit of people saying we’re getting a little sick of iPad stories.

    That said, yes moving trades is a bitch as well. I am quite thankful when I get to the Runaways digests.

  2. Oh, just realized after seeing my post. I don’t mean I’m sick of you writing iPad articles, I just meant I’m sick of iPad articles in general. Now I regret posting at all.

  3. Great read Mike.  I can totally understand where you’re coming from.  Maybe not the moving part, but the thought that trades are really where it’s at.  Single issues are turning into a preview for the trade for me.  Like i’ll pick up Flash #1, Avengers #1 and Secret Avengers #1 (and some others) and that will give me a feel if i want to get the trade when it’s on DCBS.  

     I’m really trying to break from single issues, but there’s something that just keeps me in their demon grasp on a few titles.  This is where i’d much rather get the digital version and then pick up the trade if i really liked it.  If i didn’t, well then i have the digital form on archive if i want to show my boy or a friend the issues.  Not as handy as a trade, but very doable and should only get easier as tech gets better and DRM gets less assy (is that how you spell that?)

  4. I think we may share a lizard (why lizard?) brain.  This article summarizes EXACTLY where I feel I’m heading as a comic book reader.  I want weekly issues digitally (so I can keep discussing them on this site in a timely fashion) and I want things that are WORTH collecting as trades.  This does not mean I want floppies to disappear.  It simply means I don’t want to have to lug them around and/or store them (or watch as my two girls tear them to shreds because they are excited about seeing Wonder Woman).  I don’t particularly need an iPad (though it would be nice), I’m more than willing to read them on my PC (as I have been doing with Wanted on Graphic.ly).

    Thank you for (unintentionally) summarizing my viewpoint so eloquently.  I hope your move goes off without a hitch.

  5. Fun article, Mike!

    I moved about a year and a half ago and at the time I had 3 boxes full of trades and two and a half long boxes of comics. Since then I’ve at least doubled, if not tripled, the size of my trade collection and decreased the size of my singles collection by at least half. It’s not that I pick up less month issues, it’s that I sell/trade them if they are stories that I don’t see myself reading ever again. I don’t want them taking up space and not being read at all, so I’ll trade them online or sell them to the local book store for next to nothing. Then I use the money to buy myself more trades than I really should.

    For the most part, I’m with you on the whole "which trades to buy and keep" philosophy. I love Asterios Polyp, got the Criminal hardcover after your twitter recommendation, and just dropped money on the gorgeous I Kill Giants hardcover.  Most of the trades I get are the self-contained stories that I can read whenever and that I can pass along to family and friends that might one day be curious about comics without necessarily diving into my superhero collection. I’m right there with you about reading some stories on an iPad or some other digital device and then buying physical copies of others.

    And with that, I’ve written my longest comment in who knows how long. Your article just struck a chord with me I suppose. Again, great article. Yours are always enjoyable to read.

  6. Moving across the country is a bitch. I’ve lived on the east coast for eight months now and over half of my comics are still at a friend’s house on the west coast waiting to be shipped to me.  I took as many comics as I possibly could (a whole six I think) when I moved out here, but I was limited by the amount of luggage I could reasonably take on the plane.  I’m just worried about the day when I end up moving from here to somewhere else……

  7. I’m slowly getting the trades that I need, then I will burn all my floppies in a massive bonfire, dance around naked, cackling madly and flinging my poo at passerbys. Either that or just give them away. I haven’t decided yet.

  8. I’m moving in May. Luckily we’ve planned for it and saved money to hire movers. So I’m keeping every little thing I own and not worrying one bit. Lucky me!

  9. I feel your pain, Mike. I moved a couple of years ago and had only two bankers boxes worth of trades… reasonably sure they ripped through one of the boxes, too.

  10. I’ve got a move in my forseeable future, and my fiance is freaking out over the prospect of moving my 24 long boxes and 300+ trades and hardcovers. She won’t have to do any of the actual moving of them mind you, she’s just worried about the space they’ll take up.

    I never considered getting a handtruck though. Smart move Mike.

  11. @cromulent – Hopefully a lot of others have the same idea, and the value of mine will shoot up!

  12. But seriously, everytime I go into my longboxes to really (no really this time I mean it) cut out the massive amount of comics I honestly don’t really need, I chicken out and go "Oh wait this run was pretty cool. I’m keeping that for now. Oh wait I’ll give this away…no wait I like that one page, I’ll keep it"

  13. @NawidA: They’re not going to stop anytime soon so your only solution is not to read them.

  14. I went through and purged about a shortbox and a half worth of comics a few months ago. I even eliminated a stack of trades about 4 feet high. These are all books I am happy to have read, but I know I’ll never reread them at any point in the future. I’ve had to reassess my buying behavior. I will only buy trades now that I know I will reread in the future. My monthly issue pulls are limited to the titles I truly cherish. Comics that I would like to read, but don’t necessarily want to own in tangible form, are perfect for the digital platform. And hey, they’re cheaper too, so I don’t feel as bad deleting a comic that cost me 1.99 than to throw into a recycle bin a comic that cost me 3.99.

  15. Trades are what got me back into comics and what i’ll keep reading for the most part. I like the price and the fact that you usually get a complete story (or at least a sizable amount of one) in one purchase that you can read in a day or two instead of waiting 6+ months for a story to unfold. I also keep most of mine on a bookshelf since they are actual books. 

    I like the IDEA of single issue comics and i tried it again (after a decade away from comics) with Blackest night, but I always felt a bit ripped off. $4 for something that I read in 15-20 mins and left the story unresolved I dunno. 

    The only downfall is that by the time I read a story in trade and want to talk about it, its 6-8 months after it came out and its everyone’s old news. 

    Oh yeah and i’m moving soon too. I don’t look forward to that…but you think you got it bad? Most of my collection is art books. Yeah thats never easy. 


  16. About digital comics… you guys do realize that you can get digital comics of current issues, right? You know digital comics are not some concept from the future, right? They’re here today. Thousands of them. On my laptop computer. Right now. Not only that, but thousands of comics going back to the 30’s including every Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Flash, Thor, Stray Bullets, Transmetropolitan, Howard the Duck, Fantastic Four, etc, etc, etc has been digitized and is on the web. Baby Huey comics? Yes. Air Fighters Comics? Yes. Weird War? Allan Moore’s run on Miracleman? Jack Kirby’s Devil Dinosaur? Yes. Yes. And yes.

  17. I tend to move a bit more then I’d like so I know that feeling Mike has.

    For me I’m still in love with the floppy single issues, and I can’t seem to stop. I had almost stopped everything but Marvel 616, but after a few months I jumped back to DC and Marvel Ult (Damn you Palmiotti and Bendis).

    I have left Vertigo, Image, Dark Horse etc all to trade.

    For me I think its all about how we are introduced to the group of characters/title. To think about it watching TV on DVD. There are shows that I will always watch once the DVD set comes out and completely ignore them when they are airing on their broadcast channels. And those shows I was late to the party so I watched them on DVD for the first time. But if I jump on early and see an episode on TV or Hulu and I like I will tend to stick with it till the end in that way and ignore the DVD. Same with comics, I show up 38 issues late to the DMZ party I pick up the trades and stick with the trades. But Power Girl I’m there since issue 1.

    As to storing and collecting, I came to the realization that comic books are not work a dame thing when it comes to currency. Its like trying to sell movie ticket stubs. So once I stopped caring about condition and getting everything bagged and boarded I learned about a new thing to do with your books. Comic Binding. While I’m new to it I love the idea of 18 to 24 of your favorite floppies collected in a hard bound book. Its great if you want to read thru a story arc again and not have to dig out issues and unbag them and then rebag them after each issue. You tend to read a lot more of your back issues this way too, making them (at least to me) feel like they are worth more, since I get more out of them.

    These are just a few of my collecting habits. I can’t be the only one?

  18. @ magadan 

    any good resources for the binding? Sounds interesting.  

  19. I only read single issues because of this site, but I don’t collect any of them. I donate and leave them around in public places.

    I moved a few months ago, but began moving my trades slowly (six months beforehand) to my work where I stored them in file cabinets. Then I moved them back (slowly) and now have them all at home.

    I also hired movers, which helped with my music/movies collection.

    I think my movers would have quit if they had to move my trades as well.

    I have library in my new house and will probably never move again.

  20. Luckily for me my entire comic collection is held in two shortboxes. 

    I love trades, I really do. I love having the stories I love on shelf where I can see them and revist them anytime I want. I still buy about ten books in single issues and the rest I’m following in trade. I know I am saving money by doing this and plus I love the look of my comic book shelf.

  21. @ wallythegreenmonster

    Here’s the two forums I visit.  



    Here’s the most popular Bindery due to low cost of the books (starts at $15).



    I’m all about the custom covers that he can print and use for the covers instead of the buckram. So it ends up looking like a Walking Dead HC or like a text book from high school. It helps to have some photoshop skills.

    The awesome thing is you decide what goes where and when. You wanna make a Blackest Night book, but don’t want to include all of the 1 shots but only a few of them. You want them to be in publication order or chronologically reading order. Its all up to you.

    For me I’m working on a Power Girl & Terra book that will end up including the 12 issues of the current series, the 4 JSA Class issues, the 4 issues Terra mini and Supergirl #12. You’d have to end up buying 4 trades to get all of those books, but if you already got the singles its almost a no brainer.

    Some people even print off articles and images from CBR or Wizard and include them as bonus material 

  22. @ magan3d


    Well i’m a graphic designer and i do a lot of book work so this is perfect for me. =)  

    y’know this could be a really cool way of getting miscellaneous things bound up.  

    This is how a lot of archives have their comics bound up. The good news is that they tend to last a very long time. The only downside is that sometimes i’ve seen them over trim the edges and its a bit sad.  

  23. Hmmmmm – You are all missing a storage trick. When I was younger I used to use my long boxes as furniture! A few as a table, A few as a bench…. The possibilities are endless!. For UK Ifanboys – I got the idea from "Roger the Dodger"’s dodgebooks!


  24. The binding is an interesting idea that I really should look into.

    I’m redoing my library/home entertainment room the past couple of weeks to give myself more storage and that’s a job in itself. Putting in 10 bookcases, 12 DVD units and 18 Drawerboxes (in a 6 wide, 3 high arrangement). Bookcases arrived this morning so I figure I’m gonna have a very busy weekend ahead of me putting them together.

    There’s some pics of the "before" scenario on comicbookresources if anyone’s interested.