For The Love of Hardcovers

I recently had an interesting realization. One of the many ongoing discussions that occur in and around comics is the whole “trade vs. issues” argument. Seems as if you can’t go 2 weeks without it coming up in some shape or form and I’m pretty over it. It’s not that I’m so loyal and loving of issues, or that I think trades are the future or any passionate position on either side, I’m just tired of the entire debate. I suppose it doesn’t help to be on the side of issues, but that’s another article completely. But the realization I had recently was that while I’m ever loyal to my monthly issues as my preferred format, I absolutely love hardcovers. Seriously, if you could date a book format, I would take hardcovers out to a dinner and a movie. I’d consider myself lucky if the Fantastic Four Omnibus, Volume 2 would talk to me after school. 

If you look at the format itself, there is something so innately attractive about a hardcover book. It’s got a spine, literally. There’s some heft to the 1/4 of an inch thick cover that wraps the pages. If it’s oversized, whew, that’s the best. The pages are printed on great paper, colors jump. There’s just something so elegant and mature about a hardcover. Plus they look great on that bookshelf.

But having a love affair with hardcovers as a format can be troublesome for several reasons. I ran into one such reason recently. A few weeks ago, I moved. Those who know me or follow me and my wacky personal life might have heard about this. I’ve been living a fairly zen, clutter/stuff free life for the past year or so, so when I did move, I thought it would be easy. I didn’t account for the amount of hardcovers I’d amassed in the past year. Fill up a couple of boxes of hardcovers for a move and I hope you’ve got a back brace. After the 4th or 5th box, I was cursing the entire format. What was I thinking? Sure they’re beautiful, but they obviously come at a cost.

Luckily, it just takes actually putting some muscle into it, moving the damn boxes and unpacking them to get me to forget about this problem relatively quickly. As soon as I pulled out my Absolute DC: The New Frontier or got to one of my more recent purchases, the Longshot hardcover, I was quickly back in love. Besides, I hate it when we fight.

This past week, I curled up with The Walking Dead: Book 4 hardcover (which comes out tomorrow in stores), for what seems like my yearly date with The Walking Dead.  You see, a couple of years ago I was introduced to The Walking Dead when I was given Book 1 in hardcover. Of course I instantly fell in love with this modern day classic book and scrambled to go find the second volume. But it wasn’t out yet. So I waited, and I waited. Finally Book 2 was released and I was able to get more of my zombie fix. Repeat with Book 3 and so on and so forth.

You see, my allegiance to this format of hardcovers impacted me in a way I never anticipated. I quickly had to adopt the skill of picking up on when people were going to start talk about how amazing the latest issue, or latest trade paperback, of The Walking Dead was and scramble to cover my ears and yell “Stop! Stop! I’m reading it in Hardcover!” Almost every time, the reaction is to look at me with concern, often with a tilt of the head, as they try to sympathize with my condition of having to wait a year before I could discuss the insane shit went down in that prison.

Going back to the whole issues vs. trades debate, there is often the reasoning that people prefer some creators work because it “reads better in trade.” Like the breaking up into 22 page increments doesn’t work to tell the story. Or vice-versa, that the smaller format is preferred over the collection or what have you. What I find fascinating about The Walking Dead is that the creators, Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard, either don’t care about any of this, or they are amazingly gifted in the pacing and format of the story. Over four hardcovers, which each collect about 10 issues or so, I have yet to be able to identify when the original single issues started or ended, or for that matter when the trade paperbacks started or ended. It is just a smooth narrative that works resounding well in the collected (and oversized) format of the hardcover. Sure it may take close to a year for it to come out, but when it does, it’s worth the wait. And it looks awesome sitting on the bookshelf, much more so than those dinky trade paperbacks.

Then there’s the final problem that comes with hardcovers and that’s the price tag. Unfortunately, there comes a cost to the most perfect format for comics, and it’s a literal cost. I’m not here to complain about the cost of comics or anything, mainly because we did that so well last week, but I’ll be the first to admit that dropping anywhere from $24.99 to $100 on a hardcover can be cost prohibitive. This past weekend in fact, I was holding volumes 2 and 3 of the collected Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire Justice League hardcovers. I need to own these books, but at this point in time, do I need to spend $50 on them? Unfortunately I put them back, even thought I really wanted them. Luckily we have Amazon and to help with making the price a little easier to swallow, but even then, it’s a bitter pill. It’s tough decision to look at the Youngblood hardcover, which also comes out tomorrow, by Joe Casey and Rob Liefeld and feel confident about spending $34.99 on it. (On a total aside, it’s TOTALLY worth $34.99, but that’s also another post entirely, which you can look for next week for my complete review)

Purchasing single issues, to me, feels like buying food. It’s sustenance. I need to buy them. But hardcovers are more like a fantastic meal at a fancy restaurant. It’s not the kind of meal you can have every night, but when you do, it’s oh so worth it. I’ve already begun hoarding my pennies for the rest of the Starman Omnibi in hardcover, and I won’t regret a single dime spent on those beautiful tomes. I just hope I don’t have to move anytime soon again.



  1. Ron…I couldn’t agree with you more!  In fact I only buy issues or hardcovers, no trades for me.  If a book I love doesn’t come out in hardcover, then I stay in issues.  I love getting issues, its something to look forward to every wednesday, like a little present each week.  If a book or title is good enough, I’ll check Amazon to see if a hardcover is scheduled for released and pre-order it.

    Regarding ‘The Walking Dead’, I love that book so much I get it in issues and buy the hardcovers! Once the hardcover comes out I give my issues to my brother or sell them to my LCS. 

     I’m hoping Criminal and Scalped come out with a hardcover! 

  2. i love hardcovers no trades for me at all. they are the best format i think. i do issues and hardcovers. i wish i could get those walking dead ones but sadly my LCS doesnt carry them…i will haveta go elsewhere

  3. Ron, I’m so glad that you are embracing the medium of hardcovers (Collected Editions). It does take some getting used too, however. Price is a major factor when buying these books, but for me it all comes down to budgeting well. As much as I’d like to purchase more, I know that it’s just not possible. Read reviews and choose wisely. These books are truly an investment and something that you can savor for years to come.

  4. Ron… ignorant slut.

    Paperback is the book style, whether prose or comics. HC is just too damn expensive and you know what I hate most about them? Those flappy covers that are always put on them without glue or something to hold them in place. Why put those on the book if we’re just gonna throw them off and most likely never put them back on? Obviously for comics we need the covers, but why cant we just put the cover on the actual front part of the book? It’s an annoying and unnessicary gripe, but it bugs me to no end.

  5. Ron, I too am a hardcover addict. If it’s worth keeping, it’s worth keeping in as nice a format as possible. I’ve started getting some real obscure older stuff of mine colleceted in library bindings, too. It’s not like anyone is ever going to put Starslayer out in HC  – or trade, for that matter – any time soon.


    And @TNC: They’re called slipcovers. Real books have them. When you grow up you’ll understand.

  6. If the page count permits it, a hardcover is great.  But there’s nothing I hate more than a slim hardcover like the Sinestro Corp collections.  Put those two together, and it’s just the right amount of content for a hardcover.  But alone, it’s an awkward construction and not worth the premium. 

  7. Okay can we just stop making fun of my age already? Jesus I dont make fun of any of you cause your either 20, 30, or even 40-something year old men/women who collect comics. Just drop it the joke, Christ.

  8. I agree with you paul on the short hardcover, its almost like the covers are thicker than the pages.  But I love me some hardcovers too, they look super nice on the shelf.  the omnbi are loverly.  All I need to know is when the x-men omnibus is coming out with the first 30 or so issues of the original 60s stuff.  THATs the book I would date.

  9. Age is more than the sum of years you have spent on this planet. =p

  10. Walking Dead in singles then HCs is the way I roll as well.

    Starman Omnibus is great, can’t to get more.  Same for Ex Machina.  I was tempted to sell my Y trades for the HCs, but that just seems silly.

  11. @Paul,Malakiilii — I actually prefer smaller/shorter hardcovers. My "Pride of Bahgdad" book is one of the better books in my collection. I find that the bigger hardcovers literally hurt my hands when I read them. I don’t know if it’s the weight or if I have tiny little freak hands or whatever, it makes reading comics a physical exertion and let’s face it, I don’t want that.

    Other than that little bemoan, hardcovers are sexy.

  12. Ron, I am there with you on the LOVE for Hardcovers.  I have been on a mad spending spree to obtain them now, before some of them are out of print. I have been dropping some of the monthly books from Marvel and DC because I know there will be a hardcover of Batman (Detective), Superman, Green Lantern etc. 

    Since I intend to build a library (shrine) the Hardcovers are going to be the most accessible books and will look better than long boxes (45 and counting).

    Walking Dead is such a classic in my opinion, I pick up the trades AND the Hardcovers.

  13. I totaly agree with the way walking dead reads. I have absolutely no clue where one issue ends. I’ve read the first four trades and what is funny is, they have awesome endings! So even though you can’t tell in the hardcover, it still has an amzing ending in the trades. It’s a terrific book.

  14. I too am smitten by HCs. My Miller/Klaus Daredevil Omnibus in Red w/ Black and matching Companion in Black w/ Red are jewels in my collection.

  15. I can has Hardcovers?

    I love hardcovers, nothing makes my library better.  I know exaclty what you mean about moving.  When I had to throw about 5 omnibus/absolute books into some boxes along with all of my gaming books I was not happy about moving them.  Doesn’t matter what it is, if I can get it in Hardcover I will.

  16. I hate hardcovers with a fiery passion.  TPBs for life!

  17. At least if we’re paying extra for the hardcover they could throw in a script, or something to make it feel like i’m not just buying a trade for more money, actually make it a premium edition, like the Angel hardcover Paul wrote about today.

  18. I’m in a weird synchronization with Ron lately.  Last week, we both talked about X-Men and this week he praises the hardcover, while in my column, I share my annoyance that Angel: After the Fall is a hardcover affair.  

    I don’t think we’ll have any crossover between Youngblood and Buffy next week though.  But time will tell.   

  19. I got the daredevil companion omnibus too, and it rules. can’t wait for the elektra harcover. two words: elektra. assasssin.

  20. Its weird, I used to be all about the singles.  Then magically I fell for trades like it was the new girl at school.  Then I started thinking "hell, I want the hard covers instead!  They look great, don’t have to worry about messing up the spine, and they are so soo pretty!"  Like Paul, I got the Sinestro Corp. hardcovers, and tales of the Sinestro corp, and they just look so amazing together.  Pride of Baghdad as well, and then…my pride and joy…Absolute Watchmen.  I probably won’t get another absolute or Omnibus edition, off the top of my head there isnt anything else that I A) love that much and B) don’t already have in single issues.  But I wouldn’t rule it out at all.  If Fables came out with Hardcovers, I would be all over them.  Next hardcover looks like its going to be Y (read the trades from the library) Oh how sweet they will be.

  21. my sentiments exactly ronnie!

  22. I prefer trades.  They are so much easier to read than an awkward hardcover poking you. Plus I don’t have to worry about bending the perfect hard corners or keeping up with the slipcover.

  23. although i have been picking up the jli hardcover, yeeeah!

    i bet ron’s excited for the x-men omnibus whch actuallt starts with x-men #1 this time


  24. If given the choice between hardcovers and sofcovers (they are both trade paperbacks), I try to always go with the hardcover.  They are more substantial, and look better on the bookshelf.  Same deal for prose books – I always try to go with the hardcover.

    Of course, as Ron said, fidelity of format is paramount.  If I start in hardcover I must continue in hardcover.  Same with softcover.

  25. In case anyone’s curious, I don’t really care.  Hardcovers are nice and all, but I don’t need them, except for special treatment for my most favoritest books.

    And uniformity is a disease of the mind.

  26. I always want to start building up more of an HC collection, but I usually curb my plans when I consider the cost.  I think that Marvel often makes it easier to put off buying HCs, since they usually follow up a Premiere HC release with a softcover just a couple months later.  I guess more than anything the big thing for me is to just read the stories, no matter the format!

  27. I’ve never liked hard covers, but I started coming around when I saw the Amazing Spider-Man for $60 on amazon. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited to get a book in the mail, even though it’s a pretty common occurance for me. I have the Starman Omnibus on my christmas list. Every time I see the New Frontier Absolute I  alllllllllllllllllllmost buy it, but the fact that I own the comics and the trades has prevented me from doing so thus far.

  28. TPs all the way, unless I can’t get the story otherwise and it better be worth it. Marvel can cram about 8 issues to a TP and so does DC so it needs to be more than that.

    That probably only qualifies The Freak Brothers Omnibus which is probably sold out. I never read that but saw that in a documentary about indie comcis.

    I usually sell all of my comics and books. I have a sell pile, wait and think about it pile – most of the things in that pile move to the sell pile, and the keep pile which is small, and the keep until you finish reading the arc – Un-Men TP #1 is in there and I will see if I want to keep it after I’ll read the second one which is the last one.

    Also customs and shipping to my comic book store adds a price, and since I’m hours from it that means the extra cost of shipping and it’s not worth it.

    Sandman Absolute 4 costs before discount (which I don’t know if they’ll give for this – they usually give 10% off for a big purchase) 127.2295 U.S. dollars according to google, and in Amazon before discount it’s 99 USD.

    Give me cheap and used and I’m happy. I try to get it used but people don’t like to use the mail system as a third party – they can. They have that service for a little extra. TPs or issues – I don’t care. I just want to read it and resell it so used and cheap is better and will be easier to resell.

    Also there are the people that publish they sell comics and I send them an email and ask for the condition and list and cost, and I get back a "In mint, one cent off cover price" sort of response and that’s not for me. Good luck to those guys.

  29. On the issue of size – The Walking Dead hardcovers are beautiful.  You’re getting a larger page then the normal paperback trades, which also seems to often be one of the sellling points (at least for me).  The Walking Dead are just about perfectly sized.  Sinestro War was dissapointly small.  Some of those splash pages deserve to be seen in a larger version.  On the far extreme, the Captain America Omnibus is gorgeous but perhaps too big for it’s own good.  It’s sort of like the Spruce Goose of comics. 

    As a possesor of many many many hardcover gaming books, let me just add that if and when you move… hardcovers are your enemy. 

  30. "uniformity is a disease of the mind."  Well said.  I also only buy the hardcovers if it is something I feel is essential (or if someone else is buying).

  31. @stuclach & Josh – You realize that you are criticizing the way things look (uniformity of appearance)in a purely visual media?  Uniformity is the whole point!  My old Marvel trades stick out like sore thumbs amongst their sleek younger brothers on the bookshelf(I’m looking at YOU Secret Wars).  While besides them, the Walking Dead look dead sexy.

  32. The pages inside still read the same.  I have series of novels as well that aren’t all in the same format.  That’s not a visual medium is it?  I like mishmashed shelves and sorts of sizes of books stacked every which way.  Having everything matched up up and perfect kinda scares me.

  33. My favorite HC is the Hellboy Library Edition Vol. 1, with Absolute New Frontier a close second. Every time I walk past the bookshelf in which it’s located I’m tempted to pick it up and lovingly caress the pages and smell the paper. Then again, Hellboy is one of my favorite books and Mignola’s art looks fantastic in large format so I’m predisposed to love it. Vol. 2 is on my Christmas list. Oh, and I really love my Absolute Watchmen, as well.

  34. I dont mind Omnibus’s or Library Editions, those things collect so many issues or stories it’s hard to make that into a paperback. From Hell is a pain to read, more so, because of it’s such a dense story with a shit load of pages.

    I’m talking about regular HCs like the recent Incredible Herc book. That shouldnt have the floppy cover, why cant it just have the cover printed on the book itself? That to me would make me buy HCs more then paperbacks….or lower the prices down on them, that is the real problem with buying HC.

  35. question re: the walking dead hardcovers. i see the walking dead omnibus is coming out next month, which collects the same material as hardcovers 3 and 4 but is $20 more. for anyone who has the first omnibus, is there any reason to get the issues in that format as opposed to individual hardcovers? anything extra? thanks.

  36. I’ve been wondering something about hardcovers–specifically Absolutes and Omnibi. I know they are beautiful and all, but how are they to read? I’d like to have them because of the treatment and to placate my completest tendencies, but being rather new to the genre, I would like to actually read the stories. I just imagine that they are too large and cumbersome to actually read.

    I guess I’m a little intimidated that they would be "too nice" to read, which makes no sense. But I’m also one of those people that takes dust jackets off books before I read them.

  37. @ Josh – I’d argue that if it was only the interiors that mattered in book design, no publisher would pay for cover art.  I guess I can’t help myself, as wrong as it may be, a good cover is part of the story for me.  So, for example, my books from a Song of Ice and Fire have two different covers on them.  It hurts me deep inside and I have to keep them separated on the shelves. 

  38. I really like the hardcover format of Invincible. But anything larger than that I find incredibly annoying. I sold off all my Omnibi – FF, X-Men, Silver Surfer, Amazing Spider-Man, and a couple others. I don’t miss them. I rarely actually looked at them because they were too unwieldy for me. But the inch-thick hardcovers, those are nice.

  39. I’m too cheap to buy hardcovers. I’ve got a few – Absolute NF, JLA/Avengers, and some Vertigo OGNs, but for the most part, I’ll stick with issues, even back issues. I’ve amassed complete Giffen JLA, Waid’s Captain America run, and Sandman Mystery Theater in singles for probably less than I’d end up spending on trades or HCs. I still buy trades and HCs, but mostly if there’s some kind of discount or bargin bin aspect to it.

    That being said, my frugalness has led to another problem – an impossible-to-conquer to-read pile. It’s obscene, to the point where my wife is goading me to getting rid of some of them. I have an addiction.

  40. Great Post Ron! I am totally obsessed with hardcovers. Even though my whole paycheck goes to them when they come out. Doesnt help that freakin Absolute Ronin came out along with other hardcovers this week. But they are a great way to display your fandom. Its in my opinion the pinnacle of comic works is to have it published in a beautiful hardcover collected edition.

  41. I hold Absolutes and Marvel Omnibi up on a higher tier than the standard HC. I only own one of each (Absolute Watchmen and Morrison’s New X-Men Omnibus), but its getting harder and harder everyday (as I get older and my paychecks get bigger) to not run out and pick up the Bendis Daredevil Omni, the Brubaker Cap Omni, or all 4 volumes of Absolute Sandman.

    Sometimes HCs come in as the most convenient option, like in the case of the recent JLI releases or Y: The Last Man. I’ve read all of Y, but it was trades that I read while I was working at a comic shop. I started reading single issues around issue 50 or so, so I’ll be picking up the HCs to look nice on my shelf. And in the case of JLI, I had never read anything but vol. 1 in trade, and I freakin loved it, but couldn’t find any trades past that. Now that the HCs are coming out I can read something I love for the first time in an awesome format.

    I am addicted to the Marvel Premiere Classics series (of which Longshot and Magik were the most recent volumes). The X-Devotee in me loves the 5 volumes revolving around the X-Men or Wolverine. I have them all except for the Hulk: Heart of the Atom and Marvels, and Man! do they look awesome on my shelf (for the record, the only reason I don’t have those is because Hulk: HotA came out the same week as Longshot, and I can’t bring myself to spend even more money on Marvels, but I’m bound to pick ’em up eventually).

    Absolutes are strictly "Need-to-own". Watchmen falls into that category, and I need to pick up the Sandman volumes before I can’t get them anymore. I slept on the Alias Omnibus from Marvel, and now I can’t find it anywhere. It seems the only hope I have for getting that for less that 150 bucks is if they do a Jessica Jones movie and reprint the Omni. Sure, that’ll happen.