The iFanboy Letter Column – 02/20/2009

Friday means many things to many people. For some, Friday means you have to spend the next 48 or so hours with your horrible horrible family, begging to go back to the sweet mind numbing sanctum of the corporate office. For others, Friday is a night for mysterious dinners.

At iFanboy, Friday means it’s letter column time.

You write. We answer. Very simple.

As always, if you want to have your e-mail read on the any of our shows or answered here, keep them coming —

Do you think mainstream books are missing the boat as far as connecting with the reader? I got done with that Nova trade and there were no extras, and as much as I dug the book that would have been nice. I love Invincible trades for all the extras, and that’s what I love about Omnibi and Absolutes too. Are DC and Marvel saving extras for bigger hardback additions? I don’t know about everyone else, but I love extras and a bit of connectivity. I love the letters page in Powers and Savage Dragon over the years. Bendis is always out there, Hickman put a lot of himself into Secret Warriors, and Ed Brubaker puts some work into the back of his single issues. Could the big two benefit from giving us a little more at the end of their books? I recently read Jersey Gods #1, enjoyed it a lot, and wrote to let them know. I got a response, and though it was a bit of a form letter it was still cool. I know I’m going to support the book a little more now.

Tom Magnum

I know what you’re thinking and no, I’m not going to make that joke. You know the one. The one about the mustache and the Ferrari. I’m not gonna do it, because no matter what I think of to say here, it’s been said, and he’s heard it. Not gonna do it. I’m better than that.

The question of back matter in comics seems to have been born of the DVD revolution, where we, before buying a DVD, turn it over, and run down the list of extra features, and only deign to purchase said movie disc if the number of cut scenes, behind the scenes documentaries, video diaries, commentaries, children’s puzzles, and the never-ever used DVD-ROM features like interactive screenplays. And while I love the idea of these things, and can’t help but avoid “bare bones” DVD’s, the ability to actually find time to watch all that stuff is rare, and eventually, I forget they’re even there. I can’t remember the last time I actually listened to a DVD commentary.

This same idea crept into comics when people were trying to figure out incentives to get people to double-dip, or buy the collected editions, even when they’ve already bought previous versions. Hardcover, slipcased, oversized, and recolored wasn’t quite enough to cover the cost it seems, so the writers, fans of the DVD special editions it seems, started adding in extra stuff. This stuff has come to be know as back matter.

There have always been letters pages, until recently in most books, when it was deemed that the web took care of most of the necessity for letter pages, opening up a lower printing cost, or more room for ads in the issues. The letter pages still endure in some creator owned books, like Powers, Fear Agent, Invincible and the like. Books like Fell, Criminal, and Casanova both go the extra mile and include even more stuff in the single issues, that isn’t included in the collected version, in order to boost entice readers to consume the issues, generating much needed revenue, and starting word of mouth in anticipation of the trade.

While I like the inclusions of sketches and scripts in the back of books, I can’t say it’s a deal breaker in any way for me. It’s a bonus, neither needed nor expected. Of course, in the big re-issues, like an Absolute Edition, you expect things like that, but in regular run of the mill trade paperback volumes, I don’t tend to miss it. In those cases, I’m in it for the comics. I want to read the story. If they want to throw something in, hey, good for them, but I can’t say I miss it. I can read trades of Scalped and DMZ, and be completely satisfied with the story therein, never noticing that it was only comic book pages, outside of the obligatory introduction. But maybe that’s just me. I will admit that this is the first time I’ve heard people bemoan the lack of extras in collected editions, except for the ones where the stuff from the issues was omitted, like Criminal. I’ll turn to the readers here, and ask what your expectations are. Me, I want good comics, first and foremost. But expecting a DVD like experience isn’t all that unusual, because I hate where there’s nothing extra on a DVD. So I suppose it’s what you’re used to.

Josh Flanagan


I have a few questions about trades. I’m mainly a weekly comic book buyer who mainly buys indies in trade and some superhero arcs that are less important. I have a few superhero series that I’m thinking about selling the issues and then buying them in trade.

1) What is your trade strategy? What will you buy in Absolute or Omnibus form? What will you buy in hardcover or trade paperback form? How do you decide to buy issues and hardcover? Is it based mainly on how much you like it or are there other considerations?

2) How can you find hard to find trades? One trade I’m looking for is the first Sin City Library Edition. Another one I’m looking for is the Green Lantern Corps: Recharge in hardcover.

3) Do you have any idea when Invincible, Vol. 10 is coming out. Is it ever coming out? I can’t seem to find a release date for the trade even though Kirkman seems like he’s making new issues.

Jay from Southern California

Okay! Let’s do this!

1) I don’t know that I have a trade strategy, per se. If I have any mottos they are “the bigger the better” and “fidelity of format must be maintained.” I love the oversized format so I will try to buy that whenever possible, especially the Absolute Editions. Unless I really dislike the story (Batman: Hush; Superman For Tomorrow) I will almost always buy an Absolute Edition when it comes out. Marvel Omnibi are a bit trickier because they are so comprehensive, but I love having so many comics in one volume that I try to always seek them out. As for hardcovers vs. softcovers, if there is an oversized hardcover edition (Like JLA: Deluxe or Nova: Annihilation) then I’ll go for that. If there isn’t then I’m usually fine with a softcover. The same goes for series that I am following solely in trade, books like The Walking Dead, Invincible, Fear Agent, DMZ, and Ex Machina. I’m fine getting those in softcover. If a bigger collected edition comes out later once the series has ended then I’ll probably double dip if I really like the series.

2) When books go out of print — like the two you mentioned — it’s tough to find them. It takes a bit of work; it takes a bit of digging. You can go online and pay sometimes exorbitant prices at places like eBay or Amazon. Or you might get lucky at a comic book store or at a convention. There is no one way to cheaply purchase hard to find out of print books, you just have to do a lot of legwork and have a little bit of luck. It’s funny, I had no idea that the Sin City Library Edition even existed, had I known I definitely would have purchased it. But when I saw it was out of print I went against my normal instincts and bought the complete series in that nifty digest set instead.

3) Of course Invincible, Vol. 10 is coming out! It’s one of Image’s best selling books; the newest issue just came out this week! Amazon lists the release date for Invincible, Vol. 10 as March 1, 2009 but that seems highly unlikely as it’s just about a week away and there isn’t a cover shown and Amazon release dates are usually a few weeks behind when the comic book stores get the book. My guess would be that we’ll see Vol. 10 sometime in mid-summer. Summertime seems to be when the new Invincible trade usually hits. Vol. 9 came out in June 2008, Vol. 8 in July 2007, Vol. 6 in July 2006, etc.  Don’t worry it’s coming — and it’s always worth the wait.

Conor Kilpatrick



  1. I’ve been wondering about the new Invincible trade too. I tried digging around and a lot of comics website list February 25 as the release date. It wouldn’t surprise me if Amazon was a little behind because the big chains get the books after comics retailers. Mostly, I just hope I don’t have to wait until the summer for my next Invincible fix!

  2. I read both invincible and walking dead in HC format.  Grrrrrrr….

  3. I can honestly tell you besides deleted scenes, the only Special Feature I ever watched was the "Making of the Batmobile" from the DVD of the 1960s Batman movie. I don’t care about them, for the most part they don’t entice me to watch and have never been the deal breaker on DVDs. I would go so far to say that I’ve actually sought out barebones editions of movies to save myself money. I don’t need three Discs of The Dark Knight, I really didn’t want the two, either. (On a more serious note at the store where my mother bought me Dark Knight on DVD for christmas they convinced her that when I said "Two-Disc Edition" they she should buy two the single disc and double disc version. Suffice to say, I returned the one version and went on a nice little rant to said employee.)

    As for Trades… I’m a single issue guy. I’ve never "trade-waited" any new series. I usually will only buy trades f older series, I didn’t collect at the time. (Camelot 3000, Starman, Animal Man, Sandman, etc.) I did start both Fables and Ex Machina over the past year, but those series were already over the 5 trade mark when I started to be interested in them. I did just pick up Lucifer Volume 1. and plan on picking up Dynamo 5 in trade as well. But with something like Dynamo 5 I may jump to single issues after I ran through the extant trades. 

  4. @Prax: You dont like commentaries on DVD’s? Those are the best when it comes special features.

    I would imagine the only type of trades that carry any good special features are Absolutes. Watchmen, COIE, JLA vs Avengers; they all have great special features in them.

  5. The only DVD extra I care about is Robert Downey Jr. doing an in-character commentary as Tony Stark on the Deluxe Edition of ‘Iron Man.’  Who do I have to bribe or kill to make that happen?

    As for extras in comics trades, they’re not a deal-breaker but they can be a great bonus — especially if there’s some commentary and not just raw sketches, which I don’t know enough about art or character design to be able to interpret, most often.  For instance, the first trade of Brubaker and Lark’s ‘Daredevil’ contains some page breakdowns with (i think) both the writer and artist giving some commentary about their craft.  And the running commentaries in the trades of ’52’ are a real highlight of the books.

    I do miss letter columns, especially ones that are really interactive.  I know the web is there, but you can’t beat the immediacy of having the discussion as part of the issue.  When I decide to look for older books in issue instead of trade form, it’s almost always because they have interesting letter columns (like ‘Starman’ and O’Neil’s run on ‘The Question’).

  6. Yeah, I usually don’t care for commentary tracks.  I’m sure I would find them interesting, I just don’t have the time for it.  On the internet it seems everyone always seems to have insider information about anything and everything that went on during the production of a movie.  After a while, I just don’t want to hear about it.  Gag reels are usually the best thing, especially in Apatow and Kevin Smith films.

    When it comes to comics, I would really like to see scripts of the comics.  I love reading what the writer imagined and then taking a look at the artist work.  Character designs are always fun as well.

  7. The only real commentary tracks I’ve ever looked forward to is the ones from the DCU that has Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, etc on them.  Those tracks are actually fun to watch.

  8. The Simpsons and Futurama always have great commentaries….I think that’ll change in recent seasons for Simpsons, but I would recommend getting at least the first 6 Simpson DVD’s for the commentary.

    Lost has great gag reels too.

  9. Magnum??? I love your show!

  10. This is how I select my trades.

    I buy all my trades/hardcovers from because the discount is substantial.

    I try to buy only hardcover. I like the format and I want durability, especially if I allow students to read them and borrow them in the classroom.

    This becomes a problem for books like Scalped that are in danger of being cancelled if sales aren’t strong or if books are only released in softcover like Queen & Country. I make exceptions in these cases.

    I like the oversized hardcovers but will not replace another hardcover edition that I’m currently buying with the oversized, for example, Premier Edition New Avengers with the oversized New Avengers.

    The problem is I never seem to know what the companies will release in oversized hardcover.

    Anyone know if they are going to do an oversized hardcover edition of the current Thor run?

    I collect about 10-15 titles in single issues. If I am blown away by something I’m reading in issue, I will buy a hardcover version (Magneto Testament). Otherwise, I give away my issues or keep them for reading material for students.

    In my opinion, discounted hardcovers are the best way to spend your money. If you shop smart, two bucks extra will give you a hardcover instead of a softcover trade.

  11. Magnum??? I love your mustache!

    (and also car)

  12. Guillermo Del Toro & Steven Soderbergh are the masters of Director Commentaries. Their movies are worth buying simply for the commentaries alone.

  13. @TNC Oh, I’ve listened to a few commentaries. Some interesting, most blah. I did enjoy the Geoff Johns/Mark Waid commentary on the first episode of Superfriends. However, it reached a sad point when I made the same quip Johns did about Batman/Robin and my friend, 10 minutes later, made a similar joke to Waid’s.

    And I listened to a commentary on the Season 1 ender of Dark Angel where they had no idea what to do and it produced this great line "Hey kids, see that black bird? That’s a harbinger. A Harbinger of Doom."

    But I honestly don’t care about extras. I do have to say, in something like Criminal or Incognito, I wish they put the "extras" in the bound editions, but understand why they don’t.  

  14. I can tell you all you’ll find the best commentaries on Simpsons, Futurama, Family Guy, Monty Python films, Super Size Me, LOTR special deluxe editon, and George Romero DVD’s are great. Their insightful, funny, and just interesting to listen too.

    Of course most of the time I use them to fall asleep. But that’s just after listening to them so much they are good for background noise to get me to sleep.

  15. Check out the commentary on the SPACED dvds from the BBC. For the American edition, they have guest commentators like Kevin Smith and Bill Hader. Funny stuff.

  16. Baby Mama had a great commentary track…

    It might get old really fast, but if a creator did a podcast where they went through one of their issues and you could follow along at home, that might be sort of fun.  Might be overkill for single issues, but maybe a major story or something.

    And on the topic of trades, I usually shop around for the paperback, unlesss I can get the hardcover for a good deal.  The only time I really go for hardcover is if its something I really like that I can’t wait for the paperback (i.e. Sinestro Corp War trades)  It doesn’t make it any easier that DC has a funky trade program, but thats a whole ‘nother topic.

  17. I enjoy backmatter in issues.  I dislike when old issues are shoe horned in, like in those Captain America one-shots from a few months ago.  My favorites are the letter pages in Image and Dark Horse books (I’ve had three printed so far!).  The ultimate in backmatter is Criminal, whose backmatter is often as good as the issue.  I’ve really been enjoying Incognito’s investigation of old pulp heroes.  It’s majorly awesome.

  18. I hate to say it but the creator commentary that wizard published for titles like Top Ten and Kingdom Come were really freaking good.

    the commentaries for the Christopher guest movies are very funny; they are done in character. Spinal Tap is hilarious.

    @ Conor. I read Fear Agent in trade up until the latest I Against I arc and I think the single issue experience is very enjoyable. The production of the book is fantastic, lovely cover stock and paper; each issue is written as a self contained story that combined with the back up story and material make it a really solid little title.

  19. And speaking of commentaries. Have you, Conor, Josh and Ron, ever considered doing a podcast commentary for DVD releases? So the listener downloads the pod cast and starts it independently at the beginning of the movie.

  20. Commentary tracks can be great.  The commentary for Tropic Thunder made the movie for me.  The interviews on The New Frontier were quite nice as well.

     I’d like to see creators throw in an SD card for an extra ten bucks or so and give us some audio/video interviews, sketchwork etc.  In depth interviews and tons of art and/or scripts from the series without the paper costs would be outstanding for both the publisher and the reader.

  21. @rsmorley SD card?  A DVD would be much easier, more standard, and a lot cheaper.  And that’s a cool idea.   I wish more people spent time on the little extras.  Like the Black Dossier.  That’s just awesome.

  22. @YoSoyJu  I initally leaned toward the dvd and then decided I wanted something a little less fragile for transport.

  23. What the hell?  when is Invincible Ultimate Edition Volume 4 coming out?  It was orginally solicited like almost 6 months ago!  The same with The Walking Dead covers HB.

  24. @Conor

    When you do double dip, do you dump the lesser format?  do you sell the floppies when you get the trade, the trade when you get the HC, the HC when you get the omnibus?

  25. @UncleBob: As of yet, no.  I keep the multiple formats.

  26. In the 2 1/2 years that I’ve been fully back in comics, I’ve come to realize that smaller is better. I like comics, single-issue, roll-’em-up and read ’em, easily-damaged and easily-replaced, comics. Trade paperbacks can be nice for the price and it’s easier to trade them with friends. But I will never, ever buy another Omnibus or Absolute edition. I do like the Invincible hardcover format though. That’s the size limit of what I find enjoyable to read.

    As for the extras, it seems exciting to see a script or some other piece at the end, but I have to confess, I often don’t get around to reading it. That’s true for the Captain America #26 special edition with the script, The Ultimate FF hardcover with the Millar plot, the stories at the end of X-Men Noir. I like the idea of reading these things, but it just doesn’t seem to happen.

  27. @patio

    please accept this virtual high-5: /


  28. I never watch dvd extras, and rarely read the extra’s for comics. I’ll probably never read the script at the end of the dark knight returns.

    That sin city box is calling me, need something to pick up the break in my reading since preacher

  29. I enjoy commentaries on DVDs, that’s usually why I’ll buy a film I’ve already seen (life’s too short to rewatch or reread old stuff, though I buy things for the imaginary six-month convalescence from something heroically beautiful I will one day endure). I do enjoy introductions and text pages in comics and trades. If I had my way, every comic would have a letter page and every trade an introduction or afterward or creator interview or something. I’ve never even considered an omnibus or absolte – aren’t they huge clunky things? I like bendy trades!

  30. I mostly buy the DVD for the movie, the extras are mostly that, and some of the extra commentary doesn’t amount to much.  I’ll rewatch movies, sometimes multiple times to see things I’ve missed or just for the enjoyment.  I’ve always enjoyed the letters pages.  There’s a certain fanish feel for that, in that someone’s reading the same story and drawn into it like you are.  Sometimes they’ll bring out things you’ve miss. Since I hardly buy single issues these days as we do not have a good comic shop where I live, buying single issues is very hit and miss.  There’s nothing like getting involved in a storyline and missing out the next issue, arrgh.  I bargain shop for graphic novels and the like.  Odd that I’ll rewatch a movie, but I hardly ever go back and reread a comic.  Although I recently picked up a compliation recently of Miller’s Daredevil run, and want to reread those.  But my budget won’t allow buying the single issues, then the graphic novel, no less a fancier format that might develop later.  I could see that developing a long time ago with The Dark Knight, and the subsequent editions.  I had to cut things off somewhere.   Food does matter…

  31. If I rent a DVD I couldn’t care less about the extras, but they’re a nice addition. If I buy a DVD I expect extras. There’s a series of DVDs of a great comedy group but the DVD has zero extras which sucks, and the sketches they chose to put on the DVD aren’t the best versions, which might happen for a legitimate reason, but I know I won’t buy that DVD ever, even though those guys effected the Hebrew language, and showed things about this country that still go on to this day – sketches about a certain telephone company, and about the crooks that run car garages.

    Brilliant sketches that hold up to this day, and they started appearing in 1963. I doubt I’ll even rent those DVDs because the versions of sketches they chose are mediocre and I already saw a version that’s much better that is available on film in great quality.

    As for comicbook extras – they’re nice, but I’m not interested in them that much. I like that some of them print part of the script if I ever get interested in seeing how the different writers arrange those and build a comicbook. I prefer the visual extras – how Invincible evolved which is in the end of Invinvible TP #1, some drawings of the kids in Runaways HC vol 1, and the extra in the end of Deadpool Classic TP #1 which showed how the last part (one issue) was done which was great.

    But they aren’t a deciding factor. They’re something that I might get interested in in the future, so if the TPs are available at a library or my house, the extras can wait. I’m in no rush to read them.