The iFanboy Letter Column – 07.16.2010

Friday means many things to many people. For some, Friday means movie night. For others, Friday means pure unbridled hedonism. For some, it’s both. For others, neither.

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 — contact@ifanboy.com


To trade or not to trade? That is my question. I’ve recently decided to purchase my comics in trade format versus collecting single issues since there are so many positives associated with trades: $$$, neatly packaged stories, not having to hunt for single issues, etc. My dilemma is this: How can I determine if a 4-issue miniseries from Image, for example, will be sold as a trade eventually? Am I better off purchasing some titles as singles since the likelihood of it being sold as a trade is extremely low? Does your answer apply to all comic publishers (Marvel, DC, Image, IDW, Dark Horse, etc.)?

John

Your very specific question actually leads to a much wider one. If you’re going to switch your comic book format, what would that entail? Would you have to look at everything differently, from the way you decide what to buy to the types of stories you might follow?

I’ve thought about this a lot over the years as I my tastes have turned firmly away from paper single issues and towards digital singles and paper collections. It’s an interesting predicament. I wouldn’t follow comics the same way I do now, obviously. Until digital comics become more robust I’d have to find a way to keep up with what’s good out there without following the monthly discussion (or, at least, following it so closely). I haven’t quite worked out how that would all go. Luckily I don’t have to worry about it right now because doing iFanboy means I can’t abandon single paper issues just yet.

As for your specific question: there’s absolutely no way to determine what will and won’t be collected. especially from a smaller company like Image Comics. (Still waiting for a collection of The Circle. Stiiiiill waiting.) Marvel Comics seems to collect just about everything, and DC Comics used to do the same, though according to a story posted by our own David Brothers about a month ago, they might be rethinking that policy.

It seems to me that if you’re going to switch over to only trades than you might need to just not pay attention to single issues. If you’re going to get hung up on missing something to the point where you are contemplating buying it in single issues then you haven’t really switched over to trades, have you? I think that if you’re going to commit to being a trade reader then you should just worry about what actually comes out in trade and not what’s going on in single issues.

It’s tough, I think. Switching from a monthly format to a once or twice a year trade format means your whole comic book paradigm shifts and you have to change how you view and interact with the medium. Switching to only reading trades but then still picking up single issues “just in case” is kind of like breaking up with someone but still getting together every couple of weeks, getting drunk, and having sex. You’re never going to move on if you keep that sort of behavior up.

Conor Kilpatrick

 


 

What is the best ending you´ve ever read in a comic. It can be the end of a finite or mini-series, a graphic novel or even the end of an arc within a limited or ongoing series. I personally think Vertigo excels at endings. Both Transmetropolitan and Preacher ended on brighter, optimistic levels, which despite the frequently dark and disturbing subject matters of both books, seemed fitting. The skill in which Ennis and Ellis were able to tie up all the loose ends and characters made for endings that were not only satisfying on an emotional level but on a story telling one too. So what are you favourite endings iFanboys? And just for some cruel fun at the expense of the less fortunate, what are the worst?

Jack O.

Well, right off, I think my favorite ending is Preacher, so we’re agreed. Transmetropolitan was also very good, I remember, but I can’t recall many details either. It’s interesting, because a lot of people reacted badly to the ending of Preacher, with YOU-KNOW-WHO sitting on YOU-KNOW-WHAT, but as we mentioned in our video show on the series, I thought it was perfectly in keeping with the tone and message of the story all the way through. It was also funny. Then, just like in all good westerns, the hero rode off into the sunset.  Perfect.

I think you’re right about Vertigo, but not so much because they do it better than anyone else, but rather, because they end their stories. Most of the comics people read are Marvel and DC, and they simply don’t end their stories all that often. The stories are ongoing, and therefore, there’s always what comes next. With Vertigo series, the creators very often have their ending planned out, and work towards it.  As a result the endings of Preacher, Y: The Last Man, Sandman, Transmetropolitan and others do exactly what endings should, provided they make it to the ending.

In mainstream comics, I have a hard time even thinking of any Marvel endings, because it’s all one big, globby ongoing narrative, where no one changes, and no one ages, and if you die, you come back. That’s not a value judgement, but that’s what it is.  My favorite superhero ending is probably Starman, because it’s just so damn well done, and emotionally cathartic. They also really capped off the character of Jack Knight, and he didn’t show up in a JLA reboot 5 years later. (Here’s hoping…)

On the indie side of things, I’d go with Strangers in Paradise and Bone as classic stories that got to tell their endings after a long time. I found the closing chapters of Box Office Poison very pleasing as well, because you saw the ending of those characters’ stories.

I can’t really think of a specific bad ending, outside of the stories that never got to end, because they weren’t given the chance. In the Vertigo camp, I was a huge fan of The Exterminators, but they had to rush through to the ending, and the second half of the series was much limper than the first half as a result. The story sort of gave up. Then some series just stop, and we see that a lot. Most will never know where Joe Casey was going with his Wildcats, and that’s a damn shame.

Josh Flanagan

 


 

I am a student and so usually don’t have much money to spend on comics and sometimes cannot make it to the comic shop every couple of weeks. However, the library system in my area evidently has someone who is a fan of comic books in charge of their stock and they generally have a wide selection of old and new titles for me to read.

In my opinion, this is a good thing for the direct market as it can draw in new fans and customers, but I can also see it from the POV of someone who considers this to be of detrimental value to the industry; in that it allows people to read titles in graphic novel format without having to pay anything for the privilege.

I was wondering if you had any opinions on this matter?

Luke J.

Do I have any opinions on this matter? DO I? Hell yeah I do! Now, I may be a bit biased as I found employment at libraries for about 8 years through high school and college, so I’m generally pro-library, but even if I didn’t have that link to libraries in my past I think I would feel the same way:

Libraries are GREAT for comics!

Why are they? Well, as you said it gives people who cannot afford the cost of comics and opportunity to read them and enjoy them. It also serves as a place to try and sample comics, and maybe then that reader goes home and buys more of what he or she read at the library? With more and more libraries embracing graphic novels and collected comics, it’s the perfect breeding ground for new readers, which is something that the comic industry is always looking to do. I personally know several librarians both in New York and the San Francisco Bay Area that have avid comic book readers on staff and are constantly adding to their wonderful graphic novel collections. The people in those cities don’t know how lucky they are to have such amazing material available, totally free for them to borrow! And the books in these collections? They’re not just a sampling of Spider-Man or Superman comics, no, not at all. They’re keeping up with the major storylines with the trade paperbacks as well as adding amazing original graphic novel works like Parker: The Hunter and Asterios Polyp.

But to your question of comics in libraries hurting the industry and possibly taking sales away, I can see why or how you may think that. But go a bit deeper. How did the comics get in the libraries in the first place? The libraries had to buy them. Every book in a library is purchased, and you know, a lot of libraries stock their shelves by shopping at Amazon too! And if a book is popular, they could even buy multiple copies of it to keep the patrons happy and not have to worry about not being able to get the book they want out. Do you know how many libraries there are in the US? Lots. Pretty much every town or county has at least one. Imagine if they all embraced graphic novels? The sales numbers alone would keep the comic industry afloat. It’s such an important aspect of the industry, that librarians are always present at comic conventions, and they have have numerous panels at the San Diego Comic Con to discuss stocking comics in libraries.

So are comics in libraries good for the industry? I say thee YEAH!

Ron Richards

Comments

  1. Speaking of endings (and I know I mention this alot)  I’m still mad at Crossgen for closing up shop 2 issues into Negation War.  Awesome stuff from Tony Bedard, that due to bankruptcy never got a conclusion.  In fact it was sort of the tie up of plots from ALL of the Crossgen books, and the ending never got told.

    Re: The Library (and Preacher I guess), I just recently (due to a heat wave) found myself in my Local, and was happy to find the first two hardcovers of Locke and Key, that shit is goooood.  Plus, it’s helping me finish off Preacher as I wasn’t able to find volume 6 in shops, but was able to grab it from the Library.

    So yeah, Graphic Novels in Libraries = Win.

  2. If it weren’t for my local library stocking USM, Y:The Last Man, Runaways, Invincible and The Walking Dead trades and hardcovers, I’m not sure I’d be a fan of comics today. So yay libraries.

    On a slightly different note, some libraries take book donations. I’ve donated more than a couple of trades when deciding to upgrade to hardcovers or Absolutes. It’s a really awesome feeling to go to  the library and see three Strangers in Paradise pocket books missing from the shelf knowing someone’s probably enjoying it as much as you did.

  3. It was because of comics in libraries that I first read Watchmen (then later bought), Dark Knight Returns, and most of Morrison’s JLA. It also helped me to get started buying Action Comics and Batman monthly. More comics in libraries can only enhance the wider appreciation of the medium. Now if they’d just move them out of the young adults section so it doesn’t look like I’m stalking teens among the stacks…

  4. When i was in college, my school library had a MASSIVE comic and graphic novel section in their main library. Everything from more current trades to rare indie and European stuff. I started reading gold, silver and bronze age stuff in collected form and finding out about guys like Moebius. It really helped broaded my horizons to discover stories and art that i would have never found at a comic shop or a book store. That Library is responsible for getting me back into comics after giving them up as a kid.

    Libraries are a great custodian of information. With comics and trades, they don’t stay in print very long and there is a great opportunity to be able to read books that are too rare and out of print to ever be possible to buy. Books published 5-10-20-30 years ago may be impossible to buy,but the library keeps it available for everyone to read. Which is the whole point of books isn’t it?

  5. Since we are talking about how sweet libraries are; In case you didn’t know, if your library doesn’t have a book you want to read ask your librarian about putting in an Inter-library loan for it. They will ask a library that does own it to send it to them for you. So you can get anything thats not brand new from your local library. They really are awesome for us cash strapped readers.

  6. in addition to all those great points made above, after reading a book from a library, why can’t someone say, "gee, mom/dad/sibling/friend/significant other/etc., I really loved this book I read.  I’d love to have a copy, but I just can’t afford it" whenever a birthday or Christmas or other gift-giving occasion pops up? anytime there is exposure to comics as a medium, there is possible dollars to be had.  I think most people in the comics industry would agree with that.

    now, here’s the devil’s advocate part.  what’s the difference between a library copy, and a pirated copy?  hmmmm 

  7. @ABirdseyesView: The library copy was paid for. The pirated copy was not.

  8. JFernandes (@jdfernandes) says:

    @conor, I think he’s asking under the assumption that the pirated copy was paid for and then scanned, so the library copy and pirated copy are both paid for.

  9. yes it was, someone paid for it, then scanned it.

  10. @ABirdseyeView: And then the scan becomes an unpaid for dupicate copy.

  11. Agree. I wouldn’t be reading this article now if it weren’t for picking up The Sandman at my library a few years back. Having access to those books when I was a student and couldn’t afford them laid the groundwork for turning me from a casual fan into a serious collector, now complete with the funds to support my hobby.

  12. @ABirdsEyeView – the pirated copy is also only available to those who can access the Internet and can find the material (and are willing to assume the risks of having pirated material). Hopefully, everyone, even those without computers by choice or by circumstance, has access to a library.

  13. Also, by having a pirated copy you assume ownership of something you didn’t pay for or obtain for free from the original source (i.e., publisher or LCS). You only can borrow a library copy, having it doesn’t imply ownership.

  14. JFernandes (@jdfernandes) says:

    @BC1, unless you’re a hobo.

  15. @ABirdseyeView – You have an interesting point where there is an initial payment and then repeat viewing by people who have not paid. But I respecfully disagree with you. 

    1) first and foremost the book in the library is a legal copy of the product.

    2) Furthermore, a book being in a library adds leginamcy and branding to graphic novels. So more and more people get exposed to comics and eventually decide to buy the ones they like.

    3) In addition a public library is a non-profit originization that doesn’t profit from the usage of the book. If you download illegal copies of a comic book, you’re also likely to download some spyware and/or tracking cookies with it; or they might have ads to criminal companies who support them.

    4) Library’s usually have only one copy, so if someone borrows it, the other person has to wait for it. Illegal sites allow thousands upon thousands of people to download and read the comics. 

    5)Finally and most importantly, the creator of the graphic novel can ask the public library to not include the books on the shelf.

  16. My mother-in-law is a librarian, trust me, they’d rather have you in there than not.  Graphic Novel’s, she says, is a growing aspect of the Library system, and a great way to get kids in the door, something I think we can ALL agree is important.  Granted they tend to gravitate to the Manga (One Piece, Ranma 1/2 and the like) but when YOU take a book out, it get’s noticed.  An increase in circulation of graphic novels will increase the $$ slated to the graphic novel budget. 

    Your local library loves you, go visit sometime.

  17. @John (Question-Man) & @Connor –

    I am forcing myself to switch to trades most because you can put books on a shelf and I hate having long boxes. But I do love reading individual issues because I feel like I can spend more time with the single floppy than if I were to read the trade. But I would switch to trades if they were released quicker. I hate being behind on what’s going on. 

  18. for the record, I am against pirating.  I just thought it was an interesting discussion point. 

    @BC1- I think your point about downloading a copy being assumed ownership is the best point that’s been made.  I don’t think it’s 100% solid, though.  would someone actually claim they own an issue if they have just a copy?  I have a handful of those complete collection DVD-Roms from a few years back, but I’d never claim to have all 500 issues of the Avengers up to 2005.  I think the delineation between piracy and library borrowing is only so easy because of a) the laws and b) the actions involved are completely different.

  19. @thisisegan I learned to use that aspect of the online library system also, I’m currently working my way through all the Preacher trades.I find it great when I get a notice stating the book you requested is being held for you.

    For me BEST endings, in no order: Watchmen, I kill Giants, Y, Kingdom Come,

    not so great : the only one that left me really dissappointed: Final Crisis (here we go)>I know, I’m an idiot who just didn’t get it xP

  20. Best ending ever. Y the Last Man. No others need apply.

  21. @zombox-I was just about to write that and you beat me to it.  I can’t imagine a series ending better than that one did.  You ran the emotional gamut for the last few issues and the final issue was wonderful.  The best payoff of a long-term time investment I’ve had in comics.

  22. I think Joss Whedon’s ‘Astonishing X-Men’ run is a mainstream comics story that really has an ending.  Obviously, there are threads for later writers to pick up, but the story’s definitely written with the intent that readers can end there and makes an effort to wrap up emotional and character threads, if not the entire story.  There are probably other runs that come to a similar conclusion, but most in-continuity Marvel or DC stories try to move readers on to the next thing.  

    Re: the library conversation, libraries are a real boon for midlist prose writers (there are a certain number of sales you can count on), and I imagine they’re becoming more and more of an important market for comics publishers as more libraries stock comics.  This is a good thing!  And a digital copy isn’t the same as a physical copy, anybody saying otherwise is being dense or disingenuous (this is why even when you get an e-book from a library you have to ‘check it out.’  They buy a license to lend a certain number of copies at a time and no more).

  23. @ABirdsEyeView- you may not claim it, but the law probably would. You have in your possession a piece of property that has value, but you were not given it by the original source, nor did you make a legal transaction for it. Even if what you have is not the property’s original form (like a scanned copy), you still “stole” the content if not the delivery method. Same as if you burned multiple copies of those CD-ROMs and gave them away.

  24. Thanks for answering the question Josh! I too like The Exterminators and while I will admit it lost a bit of the immediacy and drive of the first few trades I still think the last few arcs and one shots were damn good comics. The last arc expecially was fun although I agree it was very rushed. Also some great art from Tony Moore, Darick Robertson and some chap called Chris Samnee.

    I added the arcs option in the email because as you rightly pointed out, mainstream superhero comics don’t generally end. But great answer and as always for the letter column, some really good questions (from the other people, I’m not talking about me!)

     

  25. My neighborhood library just started buying DMZ trades for no other reason than I asked them to. I also own six volumes of Scalped because the University City Public Library had volume 1 on hand for me to try out when I was on the fence. Whiteout, Sandman… some of the best comics I’ve read, I’ve gotten from the library. I even wrote a love letter about it once.

  26. Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

    Ron is right: There are plenty of comic fans working in libraries these days. I think that I’m a fine example of that phenomenon. But there are plenty of other people who enjoy comics in their "civilian" life and that helps inform what comics to buy and how many copies to get for their library’s collection. It’s great.

    And if your local library doesn’t have the comics that you want, you can request that they purchase them. It’s not a guarantee, but patron requests do hold a lot of weight. Jimski shows that’s possible. Also, I’ve done that a few times. (We didn’t own the third GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY trade. That didn’t seem right.)

  27. That’s because people who read comics are readers, and people who work in libraries read.

  28. Ok for all the moral fingerpointing going on here, do you guys absolutely make sure that every youtube video you guys watch is infringement-free? Because watching an unauthorized video and downloading an illegal copy of a comic is the same in the eyes of the law.

    And no, streaming video is the same as downloading, because your browser caches it. Its on your hard drive. The moral difference is just in your perspective.

    But the original argument is a fallacious correlation. Reading a book at a library or a book tore, for that matter is not the same as downloading it. The end result may be the same, new people being introduced to comics, but the means aren’t the same.

    What bothers me is the original question; nobody should feel guilty borrowing books from the library, or someplace else. Publishers hate libraries and used book stores and people lending books to other people, but we do not read books to support publishers; we do it because we want to or need to, we should not feel guilty for reading. Unless you steal from the library, because thats just stupid, because you paid for it already!