Make It to the Staple

a whole issue would be niceI suppose, if there’s any lesson to be learned from the whole thing, it’s “Timing is Everything.” Actually, maybe it’s “Strike While the Iron is Hot,” or “A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss,” or “Whatever Cliché Best Conveys ‘Stop Letting Your Books Pile Up on the Coffee Table, Dum Dum.’” If I had just gotten through all my comics during the weeks they came into the house, I might not have registered how much wasted paper I had in front of me. Instead, I once again let my Wednesday habit grow about thirty or forty issues high and ended up becoming reacquainted with one of my biggest comic pet peeves.

Having reached a literal tipping point, my comics had been splayed all over the living room floor by a stiff breeze, so by the time I sat down to read them the other day they’d been shuffled like a deck of cards. I had no idea which ones had come out which weeks; I was just grabbing and reading completely at random.

The first thing I grabbed was Ultimate Spider-Man #150. I was excited to get to this one; not only was it one of my all-time favorites, but it was also a 100-page spectacular featuring a clown car full of artists. I sat down excited to sink my teeth into some meat, and sure enough it was a top-notch issue.

Or rather, half of it was.

As I learned abruptly mid-read, the last half of the book was a reprint of Ultimate Spider-Man Super Special #1, the last issue of 2002’s Ultimate Marvel Team-Up series. I didn’t read that part of the book, but I’m sure it was still as good as it had been when I bought it the first time eight years ago. If not, it was surely as good as when I bought it the second time in trade two years ago. The discovery that I’d spent six bucks to buy it a third time, instead of fifty new pages I thought I was getting, was not a welcome one. At least last time, I knew what I was getting and got to sell the duplicate.

With a mild harrumph and a “well, tut tut, that sours the whole affair,” I was on to the next book in the pile, which just happened to be Thunderbolts #150. It was another anniversary issue, another super-sized spectacular… and another $5.00 book in which the new material ended halfway through. The second half of the book turned out to be a reprint of Thunderbolts #1, which in addition to having nothing whatsoever to do with the characters or story currently in the book also happened to be in a trade paperback that I had literally just read 48 hours earlier.

That one didn’t get a “tut tut.” That one—I’m not going to lie to you—that inanimate object got a little salty talk. Not shouted, mind you. Just hissed.

The next book on the pile was Batwoman #0. The story ended at the staple. The rest of the book was an excerpt from Detective Comics #871.

Detective Comics #871 was the next book on the pile.

I went out on the porch and did one of those movie screams that make all the birds fly away. When I went back inside, I was so relieved that Detective Comics #871 didn’t have eleven pages of crock pot recipes in it I gave it six stars.

The thing that gets me is, even as I declare, “I will never buy another ‘96 PAGE SPECTACULAR’ anything as long as I live,” I know they’re going to get me again. I’ve been trying to kick this Lucy's football for years, and they get me every time. They got me with Daredevil #100, then two years later (??) they did it again with Daredevil #500, Marko Djurdjevic cover and all. Like a nitwit, I keep plunking down my lunch money thinking that the new comic I bought is going to have a new comic inside it when I get home instead of ending at the staple.

I don’t ask for much. Just make it to the staple. For the sheer psychological value if nothing else. If you can’t, just end the book sooner, give me my change, and let those trees live. Because I’m not even much of an environmentalist by any means, but when I buy a new comic that ends before the staple it’s like I can see you driving a bulldozer through Yellowstone. Those trees, I didn’t want to die. I’m also thinking of another kind of wasted paper. It’s green and has a watermark on it, and I keep having to explain to my wife where it went. I’d love to get you on the phone next time I tell her you just baited-and-switched me into buying something for the third time.

Dear readers, are there a lot of you who get to the Handbook entries and reprints and previews and think, “Wow, talk about value added. I am stoked about paying six dollars for this”? My feeling is more like this: between Wikipedia, the Marvel Comics Database, and Marvel’s own site, there is no reason I should ever again pay for a single piece of paper with a Handbook entry printed on it. Especially on accident. In an age with digital comics apps, trades and Showcases and Essentials keeping everything perpetually in print, and preview pages posted on every web site in the land, why in the name of merciful choir-rockin’ heaven in the clouds above us would I be paying extra for material I could have gotten six different ways in four other formats already? We could get that stuff if we needed it, and without the stuffing.

Ink and paper are resources. They take up space and cost money.

I realize that, to non-Jims, this is probably pretty trivial nonsense to get worked up about. That’s why I called it “a peeve” and not “a pox” or “a worrisome symptom of the tone-deaf wrongheadedness that will put this business in the ground.”


Nah. I’m sure I’m overstating my own myopic perspective on the thing that drives me crazier than just about anything. (Lateness? I don’t even think about lateness anymore. A lot of times, I’m grateful for the breather.) Most of the readership didn’t buy that Ultimate Marvel Team-Up the first time; it was eight years ago. Ultimate Spider-Man #150 was a damn near ideal place to hop aboard, and that kind of supplement might be great for a newbie. On the other hand: do fifty pages of “classic” material for newer readers offset the same readers’ reluctance to pony up that kind of dough for a book they haven’t read before? I would argue “no.” Actually, I would argue, “Graaagh, I can’t believe they got me again.”


Last week, Jim Mroczkowski saw a bunch of people Twittering around about how wrong it is to put two spaces after a period when typing and said, “How can you people get so worked up about something so stupid?” He would, however, like to point out that every time someone sends you a message with two spaces after the periods, it doesn’t cost you an extra three dollars.


  1. When I realised I’d bought the Super Special again (for the 5th time – original, UK reprint for my brother, trade and hardcover for a friend) I was extremely annoyed.

  2. I don’t mind when they do this with really interesting reprints.  One example that comes to mind is the Cap issue recently (I think it was 600, but don’t remember exactly) that reprinted a golden age story.  It was a look at a comic that I was probably never going to read (and I’d wager almost no one had read), we got to see it on nice paper stock and it was fun. I don’t like it when they do it with something that is just a couple of years old, is collected in trade already, or the reader can buy in a back issue bin for a buck or two.  That just seems like filler.

  3. You guys got a good point on this subject it makes me want to give up on comicbooks

  4. I usually like the old reprints in anniversary issues. They’re fun.

  5. PREVIEWS PISS ME OFF. haha. Seriously though, the last 4 DC books that i purchased all have seemed to have been “normal sized” in terms of pages and thickness, and then i’m reading the story, and the thing just seems to end so abruptly! On yeah they cut pages, and in its place they gave me the same multi page preview across 4 books. They aren’t saving paper or printing, but on content. I feel a bit ripped off that i got the same preview content in 4 books.

    If it was a reprint or something i could deal with that, because there is a good chance i won’t have it. 

    Thats like negative added content. Its enough that its pushing me out of buying issues altogether.  

    @jim–don’t get so worried about the paper..the stuff they use in comics has more plastic and chemicals than wood pulp in it, and its at the bottom of the commercial paper food chain. Its the last stop and virtually un-recyclable. 

  6. I like the extras and am glad they are there. If you don’t like them I would suggest you look closer before you buy the book.

  7. reprints are good for new readers and people who don’t read as much as you.

  8. @wally I like preview pages, they don’t cost extra and don’t take away from the 20 pages of content in the DC books.  Admittedly I only read them once and after that they get a little irritating but it’s a great way to promote a book.

  9. @gobo  — well i see what you’re saying but i see it has a very transparent way to boost page count and product size. If they didn’t have the previews all you’d have is 5 maybe 6 (with ads) sheets of paper stapled together. Its tough to ask $3 bux for something that skinny. 

    I rarely read the previews anyhow so to me its annoying especially when i get the same one across all my books. 

  10. @gobo –and just to add…the current issue of Generation lost…solicited at a 32 page comic….but 12 of those pages were throwaway. Thats not really that good of a deal. 

  11. The Gold Standard to anniversery issues will always be Amazing Spider-Man #600. 104 pages of all new content.

  12. @bigben

    Yes. Amazing Spider-man #600 was fantastic. No ads as well. 

  13. @wally Comics have been 20-22 pages of content in 32 pages of comic for AGES. It’s got nothing to do with charging extra for reprint material and handbook entries like Marvel has been doing.

  14. I have mixed feelings on this because as someone who hasn’t been buying comics all that long, I often appreciate the history lesson.  On the other hand, I stopped reading that Thunderbolts issue at the staple, too.  I know there was a recent Captain America comic that included Cap’s first appearance and I was excited to see that , but IN GENERAL it’s not that exciting to get repackaged old material. 

    One thing I think that would be great is if, instead of, in addition to, handbook entries, we got a download code for digital copies of back issues that are relevant.  You may say I’m a dreamer, but. . .that would be pretty cool and I’d actually use it. 

  15. @gobo –oh i know that…maybe the cutting back of those 2 pages really made it obvious for me. For some reason i noticed the preview more this time…it seemed almost as long as the main story.

    @ohcaroline  –good idea! but i’d be shocked if we ever saw it.  

  16. History lessons are what free “saga” comic books are for.

  17. @ohcaroline  That’s a really cool idea. Who knows? Maybe someday.

  18. FYI to everyone Avengers #10 is going to include ALL of the new Heroes for Hire #1 for no extra cost.

  19. @wallythegreenmonster  It boosts page count, but if they were ad pages instead of the same preview, the company would at least be generating ad revenue. This way they’re adding those preview pages (which I suppose are an advertisement but for the PUBLISHER’S product), which costs money instead of generating ad revenue. Do the preview pages impact what the writers/artists/colorists/letters get paid for a particular issue? Probably not. So I don’t see any financial reason to include the preview. It would make more sense to sell more ads. I don’t want more ads, though. I am not advocating more ads, but the previews don’t seem to make much sense.

  20. @kennyg–as someone who does design and sends print jobs to press i understand the need to fill up pages to make a run work. There are certain numbers of pages you need to fit on a form so it is possible for it to cost more by printing LESS pages. BUT, as a consumer i hate getting 4 books that seem short, and have the same exact throwaway content in all 4. It just gives me a bad taste in my mouth and makes me want to drop the books altogether. I suppose thats just comics and i understand it, but it doesn’t mean i have to like it. 

  21. @Paul: Thanks for this article. Since I get my comics shipped to me once a month from DCBS, I had almost the exact same experience. I was pretty annoyed that Thunderbolts and Ultimate Spider-Man 150 had, I felt, ripped me off. The Thunderbolts reprint was completely irrelevant, and I was angry that I had to deal with it after reading the excellent story by Parker in the front.

    Another case where I got angry about this was the “Thor: The Might Avenger” TPB which reprinted, yet again, Journey into Mystery 83. I got that with the Thor anniversary issue. I also got a modern retelling of that same story this past summer. From a marketing standpoint it doesn’t even make sense. If you like TTMA, you’re not really going to buy the Marvel Masterworks of those old Journey into Mysterys. 

     Also, while I don’t mind previews, they are annoying, especially the recent Detective Comics preview. It was excerpted poorly, and it didn’t make me want to read that issue of DC. If you’re going to do a preview, at least excerpt the issue in a way that makes people interested (like a movie trailer). Or, by editorial fiat, dictate to all writers and artists that when their issue is going to be a company-wide preview, they need to make the first four pages an interesting hook. It makes me wonder how the editors actually choose those pages to excerpt.

    Actually, if you get a chance, Paul, could you do an article on what editors at comic companies do? They don’t seem to check grammar, spelling, or storytelling, and they obviously don’t know how to market well. And based on the problems with lateness, they don’t seem to keep the creators turning in work in a timely manner. Are they just complete sinecures, or just titular editors?

  22. @Kodaiji

    I think the answer to your last set of questions is pretty clearly in your questions. They are ridiculously overworked. They have to manage several stories at once, bring them up to a certain par, make sure things are running smoothly, prepare for the future, and do marketing? And that’s only really what you mentioned, I’m sure there’s more. 

  23. @Kodaiji  I think you have misread the name of the author of this article.

  24. @kennyg  –i realized i never even commented on how i agreed with you! lol

    yeah i agree the space should be more used for ads, especially with the state of comics right now. Maybe they can’t sell the space? Comics have VERY LOW circulation rates compared to magazines so it might be a waste of money. I wonder if they think/know is more financially beneficial to run a huge preview over selling adspace or running a backup?

  25. This sort of thing helps me decided if I’m going to buy a ‘special issue’ or not. If half of it is a reprint of something I already have, unless it’s vital to the stroy I’m reading now I won’t get it.
    This was a factor in my jumping on Thor The mighty Avenger as well, Originally I was going to go the trade route even though I really loved the series and my LCS had #2-4 on their new issue rack. When the trade solicit came out two things killed it for me: 1) the size. It was solicited as the Marvel Ages digest size. I hate that. I want a FULL SIZED trade, not some little thing that looks lame on my shelf and 2) it reprinted early Thor stories that I will have in the Essential reprints so, to me, it’s pointless.

    But I do understand that these are geared to people who don’t read them but only to a point. If they are geared that way then why put them in an ‘Anniversary’ issue that has a part of a continuing story? Why not have a special issue with these reprints. That was my feeling on that “Obama Issue” of Amazing Spider-Man. I did not want a comic with him in it in my collection but was forced to buy the issue because it was a back up and the main story was part of one I was enjoying.
    Fortunately, Marvel put out a good cover for it wich did not feature any politicians.

    Good article!

  26. @conor  I don’t know how or why I did that. Sorry, Jim! I don’t consider you and Paul the same person, but I do enjoy both of your articles.

    @NawidA  True, I know I make more mistakes when I’m overworked. (See above.)

  27. I usually like reprints but letely less and less. I bought Ultimate Spider-Man Super Special three times now and not even in trade, in regular issues. They’ve reprinted it twice already for landmark issues. It was great but i would have rather had another issue be reprinted or sketchwork from USM history.

  28. Poor Jimski. Maybe one day he’ll find a comic that pleases him. Then it will be cancelled.

  29. Looks like Iron Man #500 is 100% brand spanking new this week, by the way.