Trade Whiplash!

First of all: Stack Week works.

A couple of times a year, the usual gang of idiots here at iFanboy gets together and comes clean about the almost-always gigantic pile of “recreational” reading that we’ve chosen to pay money for and then never touch again. Theoretically, I guess this sparks discussion and gives you the reader a chance to see what kind of people we are (specifically the kind of people who buy new books without reading the old books we already bought, people with monocles and ascots and name-brand yacht polish and money stoves, apparently) but I’ve always thought it serves a motivational, self-improvement purpose as well: Stack Week gives us the gift of shame. It forces me to stand in front of the world and say, “I am too lazy even to amuse myself! Gaze at the monument to my own sloth I have erected on my coffee table! Look on my works, ye Nerdy, and despair!

Both times I’ve been involved in Stack Week, I’ve had to confess a ten-book shame heap. Both times, the heap had been sitting there for months. Both times, after having had to reflect on what it means to be unable to get it together enough to read a few graphic frickin’ novels — graphic novels are the 100-page ones with the pictures in them, you understand, the ones you finish in a sitting — I have gotten through the stack within about a week and a half rather than having to face it anymore.

The most recent Stack Week, however, left me with more than shame coal in my belly furnace. It left me with the implacable sense that I was doing everything wrong.

At first it was hard to tell, since I already feel that way all the time. This was different, though; this was comic book-specific.

It hit me as I was finishing the most recent The Walking Dead hardcover. I had read the previous two volumes of the series over the course of two days last June. Seven months later, here I was with another leaden tome pinning me to the couch, furrowing my brow and struggling, thinking, “Wait… which one is this guy? Was he one of the jail guys or one of the town guys? He seems to be bad news, but I have no memory of why that is. These come out, what, once a year? And no recap or cast of characters in the front? I guess I just need to hit Wikipedia and figure ohhhhh Wikipedia just spoiled what happens to that guy. Whoopsie daisy.”

Then I thought, “This happened to me last time, too. So much time passes between volumes, and so little time passes during the reading of each volume, that my brain either throws all the information out or files it in a tucked-away basement cabinet for which it then misplaces the key. Is this what is supposed to pass for ‘reading better in trades’? I mean, I get up to speed again soon enough, but this can’t really be the best way to read this stuff, can it? ‘Big, satisfying chunks’ aside?”

(People who prefer to wait for trades often refer to “big, satisfying chunks.” I earnestly wish they didn’t. The phrase doesn’t evoke what they think it evokes.)

I started thinking about the books that typically end up languishing in my stack of trades. The Walking Dead. Fables. Ex Machina. Fear Agent. All of them were the books you read about, books about which you constantly hear frothy-mouthed people raving, “Oh my God how can you not be reading this book? What does it feel like to slowly kill the culture? Does it feel good?” I loved reading Fables every time a trade came out. I couldn’t wait to read the next volume of The Walking Dead.

Why, then, was that exactly what I was doing?

For contrast, I looked at my pull lists over the last eight weeks or so to see the sorts of things I wasn’t waiting to read, and that was when I really got disappointed in myself. “Really? The Walking Dead once a year, but X-Men: Manifest Destiny bright and early Wednesday morning, huh?” I realized that the more loudly I said, “mmmmmI guess I’ll give this book one more probationary month,” the more likely it was that I would be buying and reading it in issues like I was punching a clock. I’ve always shouted down the cognitive dissonance by insisting there was a perfectly logical reason for doing this: because the “Big Two” books were so continuity- and event-driven, I needed to read them right away in order to stay current (and keep from being spoiled, which some of us have come to treat as such a horrific crime these days that you might as well be speaking literally when you say someone has “spoiled” you). And I guess that excuse is even true… but come on, Self. If you’re getting to Fables twice a year but are completely caught up on The Initiative, you’re doing everything wrong.

Oh, and coincidentally, several of the books I was waiting for were the kind of books that get canceled because nobody bought the issues. Effectively, I had already personally put Fear Agent in a coma. So, there was also that.

I resolved to completely switch which things I bought in trades and which things I bought in issues. Because I am a weak, callow manchild, I only managed to do the buy-things-in-issues part. The man-up-and-wait-for-the-trade-more part still hasn’t clicked. Still: progress!

As soon as I finished The Walking Dead a couple weeks ago, I hit the shop and bought all the issues that have come out since the last hardcover. I read all the issues voraciously, delighted that I would not have to wait a year to see what happened next. This was great! Hey, I recall this plot point from the last chapter, which I read quite recently! Why, hello, Rick, whose name I totally remember!

A week later, the newest issue came out. I was Current. I was In Issues. This was going to be awesome. I sat down to read my new treasure.

Here is a synopsis of The Walking Dead #59:

After a fitful night’s sleep, the gang has breakfast and discusses whether or not they THE END. CONTINUED NEXT MONTH!

I blinked. I turned the book over a couple of times to inspect it for missing pages.

“What the hell?… My God, it’s only thirty pages long. I have to wait a whole month just to read the next thirty pages? Where are my big, satisfying chunks? I’m doing everything wrong.”

I shouldn’t have tried to go cold turkey. The whiplash nearly killed me. I wonder if anyone makes a patch for this.


Jim Mroczkowski has a couple of strong leads regarding which end is up. By all means, send him an e-mail or join him on Twitter, unless you plan to post every blessed March Madness thing that happens, in which case he’ll catch up with you next month.


  1. The books that I read in trade are usually the ones that I jumped on late in the game, and they’re almost never superhero books. If I can switch to single issues without missing anything I will, as I did with Fear Agent, DMZ, and Dynamo 5, and I’m about to do with Powers. Although, I’m considering switching back to trades on Fear Agent and DMZ, since they just seem to work better that way. It’s also easier to keep track of all those nutty concepts (be they alternate reality/clone versions of the main character, or the imaginary politics of a war-torn Manhattan Island). Considering that, I may end up sticking with Powers in trades too. The frequency at which a series comes out issue by issue is a factor as well. DMZ doesn’t suffer from that too badly, but I think the subject matter is just better enjoyed in trade format. Ex Machina would be in this category too, but I’ve been buying the series "monthly" since issue one and by the time it wraps up, hopefully I’ll have a complete run which I’ll be pretty proud of.

  2. Also Jim, I think Walking Dead may feel like it reads better in trades because it’s such a quick read. I agree with you there. Fables on the other hand is great in singles since each issue is a denser story. I really feel like I’m getting my three bucks worth on that one.

  3. I am really trying to get away from mini series. I bought into Reign in Hell and every issue questioned why I was continuing. But once I was invested three issues into it, I figured I had to stick it out for the remainder!

    Hands down, the best trade book for me has got to be the Criminal volumes. I know that I am missing the essay in the back of each book, but it just reads so well in trade format that I can’t imagine getting it any other way.


  4. Dare I post thrice in succession? I dare.

    I just remembered this one subscriber at a comic shop I used to work at who wouldn’t actually buy the books that were being held for him until the story arc had finished. I never asked him why, but I assumed he wanted to read it like a trade, but still wanted to collect single issues. I personally don’t have that much self control. Can you imagine waiting to buy all the Secret Invasion books at once? Holy Crap!

  5. I am feverishly awaiting the next Fables trade.  I read all the trades, then started picking the issues around #70.  After War & Pieces finished up, I felt content to "wait for the trade."  Ugh, I think that was a mistake.  I might just go pick up all the issues since then.  I don’t like this wait.  I feel like I’ve abandoned the book or something. 

  6. *looks at his bookshelf*

    Come on Walking Dead vol. 10, appear! Like magic!

    I read Walking Dead from issues #48-52 after the ‘Holy Shit!’ moments in vol.8. Afterwords it became too quick of a read and I went back to trades. It’s amazing how much better a series can get when you read it in trade only. Walking Dead and Y: The Last Man might’ve been the only trades that succeed on that front then any other comic series.

  7. Can’t wait months for a new volume of Walking Dead. A lot of the seires is wirtten in cliffhanger, edge of your seat, biting your nails manner. I feel the terror and crushing despair of the cast’s plight is best felt when you read WD in issues. Those cliffhanger pages still happen in trade, of course. Only you are waiting much longer between volumes. Can’t think of a single WD issue that didn’t directly lead into the next issue in monthly format.

    Walking Dead is a very fast read no matter the format.

  8. I’m glad you brought this up because I have a similar problem with ‘trade-waiting.’  I know a lot of people say it’s hard to remember what’s happening from month to month, but I find it a lot easier to keep the momentum going that way than to wait for months or a year between trades — most of the time.  (The only book I really read in trade is ‘Scalped,’ and that’s because the flashback-heavy structure works better for me that way). 

    I think it’s a personal taste thing, though, and as you point out, there are drawbacks to both approaches.  "Wait until an entire run is over and read it all at once" might be the most narratively satisfying way to go (I did that with ‘Y,’ it was awesome).  But then there are cash flow problems and also people bugging you for not having read it + contributing the premature death of a book you might actually love.  Et cetera.

  9. I mix up trades and issues and it’s prettty much down to when i get on board. Scalped, Jack of Fables and DMZ I started recently and so they are trade, most other things are issues. Walking Dead and Fables I borrow off a friend and so I am always years behind. I would love to be reading these on a more regular basis but if I bought one for myself I’d have to own all the rest as well and I can’t justify that expenditure when I can read them for free.

    I also have to keep going in the format I started in, my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder will not let me do anything else. This is a real bind as I’m reading Captain America in omnibus format, i don’t even know if they are planning on a second omnibus for that, let alone when it is coming out.  

  10. I actually was never a big trade waiter. My LCS discounted me the first Y-The Last Man trade so I would get interested in the single issues. (The owner and his sons were big fans of the series, but it hadn’t garnered a lot of readers.) But I went right to #5 in the back issue bin and read it full through. I’m now planing on getting the Deluxe Editions, as I’m often as asked to lend out the issues. I started "trade waiting" with Ex Machina, as I heard good things, but didn’t want to take on a new monthly series. Same with Fables/Jack of Fables. From there my trade waiting exploding. I now have Dynamo 5, Fear Agent (pending a reading), Noble Causes and Lucifer (Series is over, I know, but it was something I didn’t want to start so late in its run.) That’s a lot of "trade waiting" for me. And I honestly enjoy it for these series.

  11. As someone who strongly prefers trades, the only books I read in issues are series where it SO goddamn good that I simply cannot wait one extra second to read it.  The number of series that meet this requirement are vanishingly small.  Or at leas they have been since Vaughn apparently stopped writing comics.  And I have some Ellis stuff on my list, but since it never comes out (Planetary, Fell), that’s not really an issue. 

    I have switched to an issues reader before.  And I have to admit that I enjoyed being a part of the discussion.  But ultimately it just wasn’t my style.

  12. I have a confession to make – there are even titles that I read in issues that I forget certain plot details of!!  Granted they tend to be the ones that suffer from scheduling issues, but it’s nice to know that someone else can suffer similar problems.  There’s a heck of a lot of stuff to read AND keep track of.  I folow most things in singles, but I think that has a lot to do with impatience, concern that titles will get cancelled and that buzz I still manage to get from weekly trips to the LCS.

    Great article, and a nice flipside to the wait for trade argument. (Alas however, trades and HCs will always look better on the shelf!)

  13. Because I have so many people borrowing books, and asking for recommendations, I stopped collecting issues a couple of years ago.  I still READ issues on Wednesdays, but I often find myself in the same perdicament you’re in:

     "Really? Walking Dead once a year, but X-Men: Manifest Destiny bright and early Wednesday morning, huh?"

    It fills me with the shame of a comic book fan who makes poor decisions (I’m sure there’s a German word for that, but I don’t have the time to research it). 

    Great article.  If you find a patch, please let me know.

  14. It happened to me when I started following Fables in issues. Untill recently it was one of the only 3 ongoings that I was following.

  15. It’s curious to me that of all the series discussed by the iFanboys, I have no interest in Walking Dead. So, I can’t comment on content, but day-in, day-out on here, twitter and from some friends I know who read it, I pretty much only hear from people who trade wait Walking Dead. I’m curious how well the series does in single issues vs. trades. Does anyone know? 

  16. Walking Dead in issues (for now),Proof, Fables & Jack of Fables, Amazing Spider Man in trade,


  17. It’s kind of a process to try to jump to issues, I have found, because there’s not always a solid backlog of issues at the LCS to cover the time since the most recent trade, so you wind up waiting for the next trade, thinking this next time will be when you’ll start buying issues, but if there’s any kind of lag before you learn which issues the next trade covers, you might miss some again.  When I decided to start picking up Powers monthly, I researched the upcoming trades (delayed, of course), then started picking up singles I knew I would have to sit on till I got the trades.  By the time the delays were past, I had two new trades plus a full trade’s worth of issues to devour at a gulp!

    Best meal ever.  🙂

  18. TWD should be read monthly, then pick up those hardcovers for rereading and sharing purposes.

  19. I really can’t imagine reading THE WALKING DEAD monthly.  I think I’d feel very unsatisfied with just 22 pages.

  20. Conor, you couldn’t be more right.  I started Walking Dead in trades, then switched to issues because I got too impatient to wait.  BIG mistake.  It’s like getting a taster spoon of awesomeness instead of the whole damn sundae.  I made the same rash move with Fables, and I regret it there too.  I’ve managed to maintain my discipline with DMZ and Fear Agent, and I’m cutting Fables off now that the most recent arc has ended.

    The problem with Walking Dead is every damn issue ends with a cliffhanger… so I never know where the trades would start or end.  It’s a damn shame.

  21. Ohcaroline, 100% OTFM.

  22. I read Walking Dead in singles and wouldn’t have it any other way.  Diff’rent strokes for diff’rent folks.

  23. For me, it’s almost less about pacing and more about the TYPE of content.

    For example: Scalped. I don’t just whip through an issue of Scalped. It’s a nuanced character drama, so even if I were to sit down and read an issue alone, I’d still wait until I could realllllly concentrate on it.

    Meanwhile, I can burn through an issue of an Avengers book during my Wednesday lunch break.

    Thus, Scalped is a better choice for a trade (for me). I sit down and read it like I’d read a NOVEL. Whereas, I can take an issue of, oh say Batman, and I read that more like a magazine — a quick, light read.

    The popcorn, serial comics are also more disposable to me. I don’t necessarily need them on my bookshelf. But a book like Scalped would sit nicely on that same shelf, and I could easily imagine loaning it out to people (and I have). 

    Interestingly, even though I call the popcorn comics  more "disposable" — it doesn’t mean they’re not fun and that I don’t love ’em. I just don’t care as much about the "collection." They are first books that will become digital-subscription-only on my digital comics e-reader (whenever they perfect that device and distribution system).

    And: I’m with Labor on Walking Dead… somehow I think the big volumes would just be draining. I like the little serialized snippets. It does drag sometimes, though. But I’m not sure if that’s a matter of the serialization method or not.





  24. You’re hilarious Jimski!

  25. @themanagement

    Each TWD trade is 6 issues. Just figure the math. Me, I’m going to jump to issues for TWD after the tenth trade. Those covers are so awesome. 

  26. There’s reading in trades then the insanity of waiting for hardcover.  

  27. I acually am rationing out my captain america issues.  Ive read all the trades, and have all the issues since the last trade, but am on a strict weekly schedual

  28. The trades I’m currently reading are Preacher, the older volumes of Ultimate Spiderman, and in continuity Batman books that have been out for so long they practically give them away in stacks on Ebay.  It would be kind of hard to switch to issues.

    The stuff I read in issues is all the Batman books, all the Superman books including Supergirl, House Of Mystery, Amazing Spiderman, Incognito, Punisher, and Punisher MAX.  I would be waiting forever to hunt down everything Bat-related and Superman-related, plus Vertigo books don’t come out in too much of a hurry either.  I guess I could wait for Amazing Spiderman but it’s so fun reading it three times a month and you never lose track of the story that way neither. 

    Although, I guess it wouldn’t hurt me or my wallet to just wait for trades of Punisher & Punisher MAX.  Incognito?  I don’t know.  How long does it take Icon to put out trades?  I have no experience with them.

    You know what I do so I don’t forget whattever is going on in a trade when I read it?  I always know what is coming out at least a couple weeks ahead of time so I just re-read the last volume real quick once over as a review.  You can always just skp the boring and not important parts because you’ve already read it before.  I do the same in issues too.  I’m about to read the beginning of the Superwoman arc (Supergirl) because another installment comes out on Wednesday and I’m really into this one.  Plus it helps when you read your favorite issues more then once.  I read Battle For The Cowl like five times now so I am pretty much set for the part two.

  29. I’m a single issue dude. I do trades for older stories I’m interested in. I’m doing O’neil’s The Question in trade right now.

  30. I much prefer single issues mostly because of that dreaded stack.  If I buy the trade it sits on my shelf but the floppies I am forced to read every week or drown in the constant stream of new books.

    I’m reading Invincible in hardcover because I love the large format and I switched back to trades on Ex Machina because I liked the flow better, but aside out-of-print archives, thats it.   Do you think anyone soon will try an ongoing quarterly series released only in trade-sized format?

  31. I understand waiting for trades, I do NOT understand waiting for hardcovers. That’s just too much.

    Regardless, I’m really enjoying Y The Last Man, Scalped and The Exterminators in trade. It occured to me, though, that a lot of the stuff I’m buying in issues isn’t stuff I necessarily want to own in trade.

  32. I’ve got to admit that I’m not as much of a trade guy as I am a month-by-month reader. I think the most interesting thing you bring up, Jim, is the idea of why you choose what you choose. Honestly, there are a number of titles I read every month that I buy mostly out of the hope that they’re somehow going to ressurect into the title that I remembered liking when I first started in on the book.

    As that so rarely happens, I think I’m going to try a new approach. On the books that I used to enjoy and just seem to be picking up for the nostalgia of it now (I’m looking at you JLA and X-Men), maybe it’s time to wait for those to come out in trade and read some reviews before I jump in. I mean, if I liked the first novel from someone and was bored by the second, I would probably check out some reviews before buying the third, so why does my fondness for characters keep me purchasing things I already know probably aren’t going to match up to my expectations.

    On the other hand, the books that I love reading, would stay on my monthly reading calendar (I’m hugging you, Fables, Green Lantern, Secret Six, and Guardians of the Galaxy). I mean, why am I cluttering my home with stuff that I’m not sure I would like? Why not just wait for the trade and then decide if it’s a storyline that really sounds worth my time?

    So, anyway, there’s my personal new philosophy for approaching the trade vs. single issue debate. Now let’s just see if I can stick to it.

  33. @miyamotofreak

    The covers!  I knew there was a bright side.  The Walking Dead covers are awesome indeed.