The Trials and Tribulations of Trying New Trades

Like most readers, I imagine that comics form a partial, albeit significant, portion of one’s overall entertainment time budget. We all have our Netflix queues, books to be read, and TV seasons we need to get through before the final season begins; but for me, the comic stack trumps all in terms of guilt. “The stack” as it’s known to the initiated, is a beast of promise and shame; those who know, just know, and if you don’t, please refer to the mounds of content produced on this very site during “stack week.” Stacks are an issue, but more and more I’m realizing that they may be an issue incapable of resolution, and I would like to explore why.

The cause of and solution to quite a few of my comics problems.

More and more, I’ve been transitioning to digital issues. This has made Wednesdays slightly more exciting without an LCS to call home, but has severely hurt my trade reading. This isn’t just due to the digital, I’ve been busy with real life work so pleasure reading has been minimized, but at the same time I don’t feel the drive to curl up with a comic at the end of a long day, and I want to understand why. I think, as with most things, the problem is multi-faceted.

I read about a study where they offered people 3 movies from a selection of 10. People usually picked 1 or 2 “fun” or “easy” movies and at least 1 movie that was a “classic” or something they “should” watch. They were then given a month to watch all 3 movies. The classic was always watched last, if it was watched at all. I think I suffer a similar affliction. I buy trades that are weird, experimental, challenging and different. I buy the “easy” stuff too but I usually read that right away, leaving me with an ever increasing stack of books that will take more effort to sit down and go through. They’re intimidating to start, but if I start one and it doesn’t grab me I’ll try another, leaving me with a bunch of half-read comics that I can’t keep straight tin my head. Then it gets to a point where I have so many unfinished books I can’t in good conscience go buy more “fun” ones and I’m left with a situation where I don’t find myself reading very many trades at all.

I knew Kevin smith was wordy, but I can't even see the panels...

There’s also the issue of introductions. I get why as the person putting the trade together you’d want an introduction, I personally have never bought a book based on who wrote the introduction, but somebody might. And finding a big name to gush about your book is just smart networking. The problem is they are pretty much all the same. Anecdote –> gush about the writing –> gush less about the art then onto the show. Wanting to dive into a new book and seeing an introduction can and has stopped me dead in my tracks. “Why not just skip the introduction?” Because I paid for this package, and I want to squeeze every drop of the experience to maximize my dollar to entertainment ratio, that’s why! Ultimately this is a non-issue. Introductions aren’t really preventing me from reading my books, but they are something that’s slowing me down.

What I’ve just really missed s the non-stop reading experience. The book you can’t put down until it’s finished. Outside of comics, I don’t read much fiction anymore. It wasn’t a conscious decision; I just became more interested in learning about the world than learning about stuff somebody made up. Oddly, this is the exact opposite of how I watch TV and movies because I find most documentaries tedious and most “based on a true story” films complete BS. Nonfiction books rarely get their hooks in me enough that I can’t stop, so when I do pick up a novel I wind up being voracious, often staying up late, getting up early, refusing to leave the couch until I’ve read “just one more chapter.” I haven’t had that with a comic in a while, which I think goes back to my first point about reading my fun books quickly and only having a large stack of more literate fare to choose from.

Finally, I’ve learned that I can read an issue digitally just fine, but for some reason trades on an iPad haven’t been working for me. I honestly have no clue what’s going on there, and am genuinely curious to hear if someone else out there has had similar experiences so we can come up with a theory for why this is happening.

For most of my time reading comics I was an almost exclusive trade waiter. With the rise of digital my habits have shifted, but I also seem to have lost some joy of having a collection in the shift. I’ve got some major deadlines and life events coming up, but I’m hoping that soon I can find the time on a rainy afternoon to find a hidden gem in the intimidating collection of unread trades scattered around my house.


Ryan Haupt is getting ready to move, so why even bother buying more comics until after that, right? Hear him deteriorate into a frazzled mess of a man on the podcast Science… sort of.


  1. Same boat. I’ve been able to read weekly issues on the iPad with easy and enjoyment. In fact, i’ve decided to switch all my weekly issue to digital.

    But I purchased the Gunther and Reed trade almost 6-8 months ago, and i STILL haven’t made it through. So I agree; trades made digital are very difficult.

    I believe it’s the amount of time looking at that screen that makes it difficult to read a trade.

    • I’ve read The Walking Dead from #1to #100 this week as I had a lot of travel to do. I’m using the new iPad and the screen is great and causes me no discomfort at all. It might be the quality of your devices screen?

    • Possible, but it’s the 2nd gen iPad. It’s not that the screen resolution is bad, it’s….well, too good[?]

      It’s just tough for me to stay focus with a trade, digitally, where a weekly i can read and enjoy not time flat.

    • There’s a sizeable difference between the screens between the 2nd gen and 3rd gen iPads. Basically for every pixel on your current device the 3rd gen has 4 pixels. They claim it’s as high-res as print and I gotta admit that they really got it right. I found the 2nd gen iPad too uncomfortable to read comics on but the new one is a dream to read on. It might be a good excuse to trade up! 😉

    • That retina display makes a helluva difference in resolution, we put the new gen w retina display next to the last one w/out and the new one looked way better and the other one looks great by itself but next to the retina display it was obvious.

  2. It’s funny you write this as I’ve been sitting on Brubaker’s Fatale a few weeks now. I’ve had those sort of magical trade moments you allude to…I remember reading Ennis’s Battlefield Trade “Dear Billy” on my deck on a beautiful day and being totally engrossed until the last page. But now I try to recapture that, and a book like Fatale gathers dust.

    And meanwhile, an easy floppy copy of gets downed without all the turmoil.

    But a good trade experience can be so awesome, you’re sure you’ll have many moments in your future where that “gem” will shine when finally pulled off your stack…good luck!

    • “And meanwhile, an easy floppy copy of [insert random Marvel or DC superhero book here] gets downed with all the turmoil.”

      Silly forum software ate the original part I put in angle brackets…hopefully the square ones above worked?!

    • Well, Dear Billy is a way better story. And that’s not a slight on Fatale.

  3. Great article!

    I’ve come to accept that “the stack” is just part of being a comic book reader. The division you talk about between fun and challenging comics is one I’ve experienced too. The only way I get around this is to steadfastly stick to reading trades in the order I buy them. Otherwise I know I’m not going to get around to reading that classic New Teen Titans Omnibus! It takes a bit of discipline but that seems to work for me.

    In terms of the iPad and comics I find I’m using it constantly since I became a dad. The face that it’s a backlit screen means I can read in the dark, so when those sleepless nights happen at least I’m not sitting up bored. The other thing I’ve found is that some comics just look better on iPad than print. Saga especially looks way, way better digitally. I suppose artists have moved from paper to backlit screens to create, so maybe readers moving to backlit screens allows them to see the art as the artist truly intended?

    • I hear what you’re saying Ryan. For some reason it took me 3 months to read The Walking Dead compendium vol 1. It seemed daunting at first, but I got my act together and plowed through it. Similar situation with 100 bullets. I bought the first 3 trades then stopped reading till I bought all of em. That was 2 1/2 years ago and I haven’t finished. I’m gonna step my game up and start at the beginning cuz I don’t recall what occurred in the book.

  4. Oh boy Ryan, I feel you. When ever I buy a trade I am resolved to just skip the introductions, I found I really get nothing out of reading the gush factor from another writer or artist. I was already interested in the book hence why I bought it.
    Upon doing some comic consolidation, I realized I have bought to many trades in anticipation of reading them, based on the fact that when I wanted to go to the next trade in the past it was sold out, or I missed that rare opportunity of time to settle down and immerse myself in the world of the created in the pages of the comic.
    I try to stick to one trade until I am done. Even if I don’t enjoy the experience through out the trade. Comics are weird vs a novel in terms of pacing,but I realize I have to set up time to really get engrossed in the world like a novel.
    In terms of digital, there isn’t the Visual Que to get my senses going. For me, it’s been the whole reason I go to a good comic shop, I have bought many issue and trades based on a conversation and examining the panels, which I am not inclined to do with my digital issues. It’s just my own hang ups though.

  5. What do you mean “haven’t been working for me”? You’re not engaged enough to keep reading them? Or you are having technical problems?

    I read through multiple issues at a time, a trade’s worth, but I have bought very few actual trades. Digital comics deals seem to run more towards “bundles,” and I haven’t tried actual trades from iBooks and Amazon. So I guess if there’s a mental block between floppies and trades, I’ve skirted it by buying bundles instead.

    I read the trade front matter:
    If I’ve already read it in floppies,
    if I’m on the fence about reading it,
    or if I feel like I may be coming in at the middle of the story, and the front matter might bring me up to speed.

    Otherwise I save it until the end. At that point, if the story was really engaging, I’m anxious read any more scraps I can get a hold of. If it wasn’t especially engaging, I don’t mind skipping the front matter.

  6. No offense to comics but I find the majority of comics to be easy reading.

    I cannot relate to feeling “guilty” about having a stack of trades to read for two reasons.

    1) I’m not an obsessive strung-out comic buyer
    2) I don’t use the stack method. I file a trade in my home library and when I feel like reading a comic I check the shelves, pull it and read it.

    Unless you have to read a lot of comics for your job (like the iFanboy Three), I think it is silly to feel the way you do.

    Don’t be a slave to your entertainment.

    It is supposed to enrich your life not burden it.

  7. yeah, I don’t relate to this at all. Sounds like you might just have Comics Fatigue or something. There is literally nothing I would rather do after a long day then unwind with a new comic, in fact I can’t wait to that this very night.

    On the topic of introductions. You sound extremely OCD if you feel compelled to always read the introduction first. Lots of times there are spoilers for the very story you are about to read within an introduction. I usually skip them until the end, sometimes though (like with the Flex Mentallo trade) reading the introduction can actually be really helpfull.

  8. I have a plurality of stacks at my house, which my fiancee periodically reminds me of. I spend about 40 a week, and I don’t have time to read everything. I need to cut back to about 10 books per week, but there’s a lot of stuff I want to read right now. Plus, like some others here, I was out of comics for a while; for me, it wasbetween 2000 and =nfinite Crisis, so there is a lot of stuff from that era that I haven’t yet read. Some stuff is available at libraries, but some stuff isn’t. Plus I’m. Somewhat of a collector so it is sometimes hard for me to drop series.

  9. I read exclusiVely in trade, so to me The Stack just makes every day feel like Wednesday. It’s awesome

  10. I too have a stack larger than I’d like to admit of unread trades but look forward to em all and they’re not going anywhere so there’s no rush but prefer to stay mostly caught up which is impossible because they’re always releasing a new trade I wanna check out and love going back and collecting older runs I never read, so there will always be something. I don’t have an ipad but my girlfriend does and have found myself using it for a few digital exclusives only, I really enjoy it for its differences and love the HD resolution on the colors, its a fresh change of pace from tangible comix, while I still prefer holding them in my hand and love collecting absolutes, omnibus’s and trades in general as its just a classier format presentation for the medium, I’ll always buy issues as they’re in print but do see myself having a small digital library going as well.

  11. There is no worse feeling than when your “stack” begins to feel like homework. I’ve read a few books digitally & it’s ok, I find I get through them faster, but there is just something about holding a book in my hand, going to my LCS & seeing all the books on the wall, & picking out the ones I want that I’m just not ready to give up yet. As far as trades go, I like having the option to sell a trade to my local used book store (yeah, beleive it or not I still have a few of these where I live) if I don’t like it, or share them with friends when I’m done reading them.

    • My lcs gives good trade bait coin for used trades towards new ones I haven’t read so can’t complain there.

  12. It’s tough for me to read a trade on my phone or computer because something else is just the push of a button away. Too easy to get distracted

  13. I handle my trades like ongoings, read one issue per month, maybe two. In case the single issues are not seperated, like TWD i read the whole trade in one sitting and never buy more than one. When i am finished i go buy the next.

  14. Wrkngclasshero (@joinedtofollow) says:

    Here is what I am currently sitting on (darn 99¢ sales on comixology):
    – Morrisons Batman (full run)
    – Moore’s Swamp Thing (full run)
    – Brightest Day (full mini)
    – Y: The Last Man
    – Comic Book Comics (full mini)
    – DC New Frontier (full mini)

    I know. It’s all “great” just seems daunting to start these big stories.

    • I would start with Comic Book Comics. It’s totally engrossing and despite being stuffed with info, is a fairly quick read. It should also get you in the mood for other comics to devour. Like most comic fans, I adore Y: The Last Man and wholeheartedly recommend that to follow as it is another fast reading tale. That’s two off your list right there. By far the mostdense stuff is Morrison and Moore, so if you’re feeling daunted or in a rut, hold off on those until the mood hits you. I too have Moore’s Swamp Thing in my stack…still.

    • Wrkngclasshero (@joinedtofollow) says:

      Thnka for the suggestion. I’ll tackle CBC tonight.