Stack Week, Part Five: Absolutely Worth It… Right?

Stack Week continues to build, as all good stacks must. Here we talk of desire, hope…and despair.

Ah, the “trade.” When comics grow up, well, they become trades. They become stronger, with their “I’m ready for the real world” spine. Sometimes they become larger, with their proud pages transforming them from ounces to pounds. Some get a nice “dust jacket” to protect their hard cover from getting…dusty. And, maybe, just maybe, they will get their own home — an actual slip cover, protecting it from the elements, protecting it from time…for all time.

Yes, comic book, you have leveled up — you are no longer confined to the relative comforts of the comic book store. You are making appearances in malls and shopping centers in major bookstores around the world. You are… significant.

When I buy a trade, it’s because I am ready to commit, publicly, to the title. Oh, sure, I have comics, and I love my comics, but I hide them away in my closet, in anonymous long boxes, where they sit, er, stand, for…well, I don’t know. I have no idea what I am going to do with them, but that’s another article. The trade goes on a shelf, above Shakespeare and Neal Stephenson. They are my comic cannons, to be used when someone visits and mentions, “Oh wow, is that a Batman book?” These are for my visitors who realize, “Man, he must really like comics.” They are for me…to read and enjoy… over and over.

Or are they? I mean, seriously, aside from looking mighty pimping on my bookshelf (and yes, I keep them in a shelf, unless I am reading the book that moment). Of course, I try to read them, but usually, I mean, I only read them once. But I bought them for forever, right? But how about the ones I have bought and haven’t read? What does that mean? Damn you, Stack Week! Damn you for forcing me to take a long hard look at the bookshelf then in the mirror than back at the bookshelf then back in the mirror! So, stay with me friend, and let’s discuss the madness within. But, uhm first, take off your shoes and for goodness’ sake wash your hands with soap and let me take the dust jacket off before you start reading.



The Repeat

I have bought every format that DC: The New Frontier came in, and personally think I am rad for doing so, but I realize that it looks kind of silly. What you see in the picture are the original rad issues and the current super rad Absolute Edition. What’s not in the picture are the two smaller trades and you just have to know that I am mildly freaking out because I have no idea where they are. I bought them for Whitney so maybe she has them, but still, I don’t know where they are. The Repeat is a pretty solid reason to buy the book–you love the title and you don’t want to screw up the original issues. No problem at all, just take it easy. I did the same with Identity Crisis — I have the hardcover and the softcover (again, for my wife Whit — if you haven’t read this article, please do, it makes me sound reasonable).

The Absolute Repeat

Now this is just silly. I Absoluted (my new term) a trade — Batman: The Long Halloween. This is called, “I just got a raise and I like spending money,” unless, of course, you didn’t just get a raise, and then you are just weird and newly poor. I did not have the single issues of Long Halloween, I had the paperback trade. Then I went and bought the Absolute Edition because, according my memory, “It was bigger and bigger is better BETTER!” Of course, I did the same thing with New Frontier, but I think was also thinking, “It’s bigger and I really must have it.” That makes sense.

The Dark Knight — same thing. Never had the original issues (hey, I do have the original Killing Joke! I was just a kid, what the hell did I know?), but I think I have bought and lost the trades. I didn’t really like Dark Knight II: Electric Booglaloo, but whatever (yes, I have those issues, and yes, whatever) — you gotta take the oddly mediocre with the absolute pimping. Ah, the Absolute Editions. They are awesome. They are monolithic. They are…

The Absolute Problem

What’s that song by Metallica? “Enter Sandman?” Behold, Absolute Sandman I and II. BEHOLD! Look how important those books look! Big, bold, heavy, with little crossbeams along the side. They look like tomes that Morpheus would actually hold in his pale, spindly hands! They are… unread. Brilliant and utterly unread. I had a few trades, and I read those, but these… volumes… they, uhm… well, where can I read these in relative comfort? I mean, this is for all Absolute Editions. I mean, I am the kind of person that would prefer to read these books in such a way that I never actually had to open them, you know? Like, I am freak about bending the spine even in the way the spine is designed to be bent. (This is a problem that is not helped by the Absoluteness of these massive books.) I know I will read them, but I am just not sure when. Of course, I told my friend Sonia that I had bought the two Sandman Absolutes and she was like, “Why?” And, to be honest? I was totally speechless. “Because… I’m supposed to?” Not good, Mike, not good. So these books go unread because I don’t really know how to read them. Sitting at my table where I am writing this is one way to go, but… I don’t want to sit at a desk to read a comic! I just… I don’t know. I can’t travel with them, I can’t read them while I am eating at a restaurant or spilling coffee at a cafe, and I certainly couldn’t commute with them, even if I was taking the A train to get to work. I am sure the Absolute Edition theme week will come about, so I will stop here, but I have a lot to say about it, so…you just wait.

(By the way, can I just say that the MacBook Pro gets far too hot to type on. Both my head and my wrists are sweating and all I am doing is typing. Oh, that’s the other thing, I can’t read the Absolutes in hot weather because I might sweat on them. They should come with a rag or cloth of some sort. Or plastic wrap. Or sneeze guard. An Absolute Sneeze Guard would be really awesome in the spring.)

The Unread

Finally, there is the straight-up unread trade, which is the whole point of Stack Week, right? The fact is, I read most of the trades I get because that’s what the “normal” trades are really good for — catching up on stories as quickly and cheaply as possible. You don’t have to put them in bags (he types as he looks at his bagged Daredevil: Yellow hardcover trade that he never read and totally forgot about) and they travel really well. They are “real” books, to be sure, and are meant to be read, not coddled, not boxed, not bagged, more than happy to be carried in a bag or sitting on a shelf. So, what’s up with my Captain America trade? What did it ever do to me? Well, in this case, I had read half of the book in issue format and was, uhm, just waiting. I will read it, even though it’s heavy and hardcover. It’s not as big as an Absolute, but still, I hate bent corners (man, I gotta let go a bit)… still, I just haven’t read it because, well, where’s it gonna go?  (Yes, I realize I can’t find the New Frontier trades, but for the most part, these books stay on the shelf.).

The Unread and Unloved Whose Owner Was Unaware of Its Existence

I have no idea why I bought this. Seriously. I don’t want to write about it too much. I am sure we have a few of those, but whoa, like, what was I thinking? Was I blinded by the Alex Ross cover (again with The Trinity, jeez)? Is this book even relevant now, given the changes in the DC Universe? Given Wikipedia? I think I bought this when I was feeling really optimistic about knowing everything there was to know about DC. Yeah, I think that was it, and I think I remember starting to read it and going, “Why don’t you just read a comic, dude?”

So that’s my take on Stack Week: The Trades Edition.nI tend to read the trades when I get them because usually I am on the road and away from the unread stack (which bristles when it hears about a new trade coming home with me, it’s super uncomfortable for the first few days and I have to read a ton of of the unreads to chill things out). The Absolutes I buy because I think, maybe, I might need them when I am 90. I don’t know. I really don’t know why I buy them other than they are cool and I want to have them around for a long time (possibly to give to young people? Will they even care?) — again, we’ll have an Absolute Talk later. And, perhaps later I will talk to you about all the trades I wish I never bought or read. Here’s a preview: All five volumes of Batman: No Man’s Land, including Batman Cataclysm:


Oh yeah, I read them all.

Thanks for reading. Please don’t judge me too harshly. I’m really working on the trade problem – I, uhm, I’m fun at parties! That counts, right?


Mike Romo lives in Los Angeles and has two auditions tomorrow, so things are looking up. He can be fun at parties, just keep him away from Knob Creek bourbon–it’s not pretty. 


  1. Stack Week is driving me nuts – it’s making me realize how much money I’ve spent on trades and back issues I very well may never get to read. However, it’s promising to be a long hot summer, and staying in the the AC will let me tackle at least a trade or two by September.

  2. For my part, as Stack Week stacks up I feel as though a fire has been lit under my couch. Last night, I cleared the decks and read every single issue I had allowed to pile up in my house. (Just in time for Wednesday, naturally.) The more I see this stuff, the more I draw a line in the sand. "All right, you books! This far! No farther!"

  3. I’m loving Stack Week! Misery loves company and it makes me feel so much better to realize we are all in the same (sinking) boat. I have the Absolute Problem…boy howdy do they look pretty lined up on my shelf….is that shelf sagging in the middle? The Sandman Absolutes are HEAVY! A small child or pet could be killed under the weight of those things….do they come with a warning?

    You know you have a problem when you think about having some of your comics library bound. You guys did realize you can do that rather cheaply, right!? I’m currently working on having library bound my complete Bronze Age collection of Atlas/Seaboard comics. Why? i dunno. Just becasue I CAN, I guess.

    Great articles, kudos!

  4. Sigh.  I haven’t read New Frontier yet.  I did finally get around to Scalped though.  The first volume is fantastic!  I go through phases where I’m only reading prose and some where I only read comics.  I’m in a comic phase now.

  5. I’ll say this much; I’m getting more and more encouraged to whittle down my stack.


  6. I meant to say this earlier: I also have been known to buy the collected edition of a series I liked and bought in individual issues, but I do not then keep the issues. Like, I bought the Astonishing X-Men hardcover, but then those issues went right in the bin. It’s like buying the DVD so you can delete the show from the Tivo. What are you feeling when you keep the multiple versions?

  7. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    I bought three more trades today.  This is an illness. 

  8. You probably could have sold those Astonishing issues on eBay. 

  9. That bin is mostly metaphorical, though not always. When I bought that Ultimate Team-Up trade, I sold the issues on eBay and was rolling in the benjamins; when I bought the Ultimate Spider-Man hardcover from Barnes & Noble, I think I made about $.50 on those issues.

  10. My Name Is Alexg…and I have a trades problem…

  11. I love having the Absolute problem. I’m quick to dump issues or even tpbs for little or nothing to upgrade to Absolute size of something I know I’ll read again. If I make a little money on the dumping, then great. If I don’t, then I try to give them to someone who might dive into it. You can’t put a price on turning someone on to a new title or series. It is like becoming someone’s mentor to "understanding comics." Like rock stardom. 😉

    I am getting better these days at avoiding issues all together and getting the tpb or hc of stuff I know that I’ll like. Secret Invasion is a great example. 2 years ago I’d be on board for the issues and then I’d pick up the collected edition in some form shortly after. Now I am just getting the collected edition. Sure, I’m a pain to my friends sometimes as I leach issues off them, but you have to stay on top of things when you’re waiting for the nice tpb or hc. I’m happy. It seems to be working and the money I’m saving. Yes!

  12. Mike, I feel your pain when it comes to keeping your books looking nice.  I have a similar OCD-esque obsession with keeping corners and covers looking nice.  I’m thinking it’s kind of a problem because even my fiance is kind of scared to move my books around on the shelf without consulting me.  (Not that I’ve ever gotten mad at her, but I think she notices the way I preen them on the shelves.)  But damn, if you don’t buy them to keep them looking good and love them from afar.

    I also have no problem doing the double dip as Jimski pointed out, especially for things that I love.  I feel this is my way of showing my love of the title by supporting it.  It doesn’t make sense to some, but I’m ok with that.  It’s not their money I’m spending. 🙂

  13. I’d just like to commend all of you on stack week, really well written articles that ring so true.

  14. None of this matters anymore. Warren Ellis just twittered the following: "Just in from Wildstorm: John Cassaday’s started drawing PLANETARY #27."

    Oh,  it’s been a great series of articles this week. Well done, gentlemen.

  15. Hey, I can pull my earlier post into this article (aka segue). Now that Planetary 27 is in the works, the Absolute Planetary v2 should be on our LCS shelves sometime in 2009, and in a buncha unread stacks shortly thereafter.

    APv1 is my favorite Absolute on my shelf. I wish they’d reprint Absolute Authority v1 and 2. Or at least v1. That’s all.

  16. Funny thing is, whenever I buy a trade or a hardcover, it never goes unread. I’m always itching to read the entire book in one sitting. That’s even if I bought three or four trades at a time. A trade never goes onto my stack. The only exception to this is Showcase Green Lantern volume 3. I just can’t finish reading the damn thing even in installments!

  17. So obviously I am not alone in my trade-crastinating.  Yet I still hear more and more people say how they are switching to trades and dropping floppies altogether.  If I did that I would NEVER be caught up.  At least when buying the floppies I can force myself to read them knowing that I have to be finished in order to listen to my comics podcasts and then have a clean slate by the next Wednesday.  I’m only able to make a dent in my trades when its been a small week at the comic shop.

  18. Awesome writing. "The New Guys" have been a fantastic addition to the website.

  19. haha…I am glad to hear I am not the only one who worries about bent corners and stuff like that.  I am with samuraigrifter, though–I tend to really go for the trade basically immediately after I buy it–I am usually on my way somewhere or traveling when I get them anyway.

    the whole "dropping floppies for trades" is an intruiging concept, right?  A comic book store owner friend of mine totally supported that–he was like, "it’s cheaper, right? great way to save money!" I was hanging out with another comic book fan and he was obviously "just" a trades person but it totally makes sense, he has a kid and a crazy job and being up to date with what’s going on in the current universe just didn’t really matter to him.  I mean, when I think about the money I spent on Civil War and then what happened with Spiderman…I honestly think I would have been just FINE with the trades…ah, hindsight…(sounds like another article…)


    Camden, thanks for the encouragement. I know i speak for Paul and Jimski when I say that we are more than relieved and very, very happy grateful that you all have given us a chance and are enjoying our contributions so far.

    By the way, I have been getting a few people asking about a relationship article. I want to do one (though I freely admit I would just be doing my best to make suggestions and give advice based on my own experience and observations), but if you have any specific questions, or suggestions or ideas about that, please email me at

     Thanks again!


  20. Great articles guys, stack week has made me realise something about trades and that is what you have said is that they are meant to be read, they are the comic in its purest (most compact) form, no adverts (which are really pissing me off at the moment as I live in the UK most of the adverts are irrevelvant), no need to rebag the issue you have just read and carefully unbag the next, just read and read and read and enjoy. I was/am one of those guys who had to buy the 1st print floppies (cents editions not pence). but after I had absoluted some of my originals I saw the light. I dont have any children to leave my collection to so why read the comic in an expensive and unfriendly format. From now on to reduce my stack im going to buy trades where possible. Now this may not sound like reducing my stack but its good for the enviroment because I wont need to buy so many bags and boards!!

  21. @PaulMontgomery – You’ll be happy to hear I’ve delved into Gotham Central. As always with these things I’m cursing my prior procrastination. Once I motivate myself to dive into these things I constantly wonder what took me so long.

    I’d just like to take a second and mention how absolutely phenomenal the content of this site has become. It was always great, and easily my favourite website, but the Fanboys have come through with some of their best ideas and shows yet, and Mike, Paul and Jimski have brought some outstanding work to the table. Every time I visit this site I’m staggered. Just wanted to say thanks, and keep it up guys!

  22. Oh!  I thought Planetary was done!  There was supposed to be another issue???

  23. Yep, it ‘ain’t done.  I think this is the final, wrap-up issue.

  24. …. and then I heard its going to be Absoluted again!….Im looking forward to that

  25. It’s a shame that the lateness has tarnished the legacy of this book.  It’s truly one of the greats.