Waiting is the Hardest Part

It’s starting to look like they did mean March 1st, after all.

According to Amazon, Scalped, Vol. 6: The Gnawing came out on May 25th, 2010. I don’t remember if I got it that exact week or if it languished for a while in the purgatory that is my never-ending Wish List (where some books that I “want” have been in the on-deck circle since June 2005) but I know one thing for sure: I read it a long, long, long time ago. There are people living in my house who didn’t exist the last time a Scalped trade came out. That’s why, when I turned the last page of the sixth volume and immediately got online to look up when the seventh was coming out, I was sure someone at Amazon had made a clerical error.

“March 1st can’t possibly be right. Somebody fat-fingered that in the rush to go on a smoke break. November, maybe. Oh, well; they’ve got time to fix it. But not too much time, because this book is totally coming out soon. It has to be.”

It didn’t have to be. We’re creeping up on February now, and I’m still just as up in the air about what’s happened on Prairie Rose as I was last summer. Dashiell Bad Horse could be six months dead for all I know.

I don’t know how you wait-for-the-trade types do it. My ability to delay gratification this way is severely lacking. Scalped is the only book I still wait for in its collected form, and as the pirate said about the steering wheel in his crotch, arrr, it’s drivin’ me nuts. I think, “Well, I’ve gotten this far sticking to trades. Besides, it’s probably a much more satisfying reading experience than getting my fix one chapter at a time would be,” but then one Wednesday a month I see the latest issue on the stands and some twitching junkie devil on my shoulder ties off his arm with his belt and shouts, “If we raid the back issue bin, we could be caught up by this afternoon.”

That’s the weakness I’ve fallen prey to with every other series I’ve trade-waited on. It took me so long to get into The Walking Dead that I actually began reading it in the deluxe, hardcover Shelf Warping Edition. (Normally, I would recommend against trying a comic for the first time in its most expensive, space-occupying form—it’s a little like volunteering to decorate your living room with a giant painting you’ve never seen—but in this case there was a Borders coupon involved, and it worked out okay for everybody.) I read every volume on the market in rapid succession, got to the last page of the last one, and waited about a day before shouting “I cannot take it anymore” and switching directly from once-a-year hardcovers to once-a-month issues.

Out of sensitivity, I will pause now so all of you who insist on sticking with the same format so the spines look good on your bookshelves can have a moment to compose yourselves. I will tell you this much, though: switching to single issues was the best buying decision I ever made. Even if you think reading one chapter of Walking Dead a month wouldn’t be satisfying, give it a try one of these days; you might be surprised.

In comparison, my Fables collection is a disaster. I started in issues in the mid-forties, switched to trades, went back and got the trades of what I missed, and then switched back to issues again a few dozen months ago when I thought the book was about to end in a crescendo of magic spells and blind mice. I still have all of it in my house, but if I wanted to reread it from the beginning I’d need some kind of forensics team to help me assemble the stack. No matter, though; I did what I had to do to enjoy it when I wanted to enjoy it. I’m not shopping for posterity.

Fables and Walking Dead are just two of a handful of books that have somehow been collectively enshrined in the Trade Zone, the books you're almost expected to wait for (and never, ever spoil!) almost all of which I’ve ended up getting in issues before too long out of weakness. Invincible is another one, though I may soon switch to trades for that one. Actually, I may switch to “hearing other people talk about it sometimes” for that one; every issue is like watching a show on fast forward, and I may have seen all the punched-off jaws I need to see.

That’s the thing about waiting for the trade; when I’ve done it, it’s usually been for books I cared about just little enough to check in with twice a year. (I recently got Ex Machina volume 10 and read fifteen pages before realizing I’d missed volume 9 entirely.) In addition to not doing me much good, it also results in a bookshelf festooned with stories I’m lukewarm about while my favorites are in a box under the Christmas lights in the basement.

How many of you are pinnacles of restraint, happy to catch up with your favorite characters once or twice a year? For those of you who used to read single issues: how did you make the mental adjustment to leave them behind? For those of you who always read collections: are you ever tempted to just grab the latest issue and cheat on your paperbacks? I envy you, and I wish I was one of your number. On March 1st, I’ll be getting eight issues of Scalped for $11. If nothing else, I could talk myself into waiting for more prices like that.


Jim Mroczkowski also waits impatiently for New Avengers hardcovers, but that wait is mitigated by the fact that he’s already read them. He is sure his great-grandchildren will thank him when they’re cherishing all those hardcovers.


  1. Here in México, trades are the best thing for me.

  2. It is a lot more practical to read a whole storyline at once then it is to wait a month in between increments.

    I notice that I rate collections higher than I rate single issues. Perhaps because I can see the whole idea the creators are trying to get down on the page instead of a small chunk.

    It is also cheaper.

    It is also a nicer format.

  3. Oversized hardcovers are one of the cheapest ways to get more story in one of the nicest formats.

    Price the first two Ultimate Spider-Man trades and the first Ultimate Spider-Man oversized hardcover.

    That is when you factor in Amazon

  4. Things that i really value like Chew or Hellboy, i read in Trade because i want them on my shelf. Stuff in my longboxes i view as eventually disposable. 

    Even though i do read some single issues, i always find that i get a better reading experience when i read in trade. I actually like that more writers are writing for the trade, and its better for me to read a complete story or arc in one or two sittings than wait month to month for the issues to come out. Also i’m a lot more forgiving of those “2nd act doldrums or setup issues” in a trade than i am with a monthly. 

    I tend to get things when i get them. I was eagerly waiting for the 2nd trade of Powergirl but waited 5 weeks after it came out to actually buy it. Also I play catch up on older runs like Hellboy so for me its not a big deal cause i always have things to read. I prefer savoring over gluttony.

  5. I hate buying trades only but being a student and the prices of comics in my city being almost a dollar more than cover price it is just so much cheaper for me to wait for the trades.  If I win the lottery I would go back to monthly issues…but until that happens…

  6. In my case trade waiting is less a decision and more a necessity brought on by the lack of issue availability at my (one and only) tiny local shop.

  7. For the better part of 25 years, I couldn’t fathom waiting for the trade. And yet, for much of that time I was only in need of the immediacy out of my own Pavlovian training. After years of getting most of my comics via an online retailer, and having become too busy to keep up with my “to read” pile on a weekly basis even if I wanted to, it was this gradual progression away from the mentality that I needed to know RIGHT THEN AND THERE. 

    Then I began buying some trades of work I had missed as the TPB market really became ubiquitous and realized that in many cases reading the stuff absent the time urgency actually served to enhance my enjoyment of it. Or in other cases allowed me to see the story for its strengths and weaknesses the way I wouldn’t have if I were simply reading it off the shelves in an urgency to “keep up.”

    Now I find myself completely free of the “read now” urge. I buy my books bi-weekly through DCBS, and know going in that I probably won’t get a chance to read most of them for months. Sometimes there are titles I read right out of the box for awhile, and then let them drift into a pile that I’ll catch up on in one fell swoop. But I LOVE that it’s my choice. Not feeling like I HAVE to read them as they come out has given me a newfound appreciation for the medium that I sorely needed entering my 4th decade as a comics reader. 🙂

  8. Thanks for confirming that there hasn’t been a trade of scalped in the past 10 months.  I was just staring at my shelves trying to figure out if I’d missed one.  I generally prefer issues of continuing series precisely because I may forget a few things from month to month but will likely forget everything in the 9 to 10 months between trades.  But in the case of a story I really want to reread, I don’t mind gettting the trades and even double-dipping.

  9. For me, it’s always been about trades. I only got into comics a couple of years ago when I was in University and it seemed easier to order a bunch from amazon rather than track down a local shop. And now that I know of a fantastic little shop nearby (Gosh Comics, London), I still won’t make the switch to issues because there are sooooo many great things I’m constantly trying to catch up on (Walking Dead, Planetary etc). And then i hear about something else that i just missed out on like Fear Agent.

  10. In India, trades are the only option. I have tried ordering single issues some times, But I always end up paying much more than intended. It sucks to have to order TWD & others trades online coz shipping charges makes us pay more. DC is the only company that cares for little fans like me in this part of the world. (Marvel offers 10year old stuff and IMAGE etc. are unheard of……:)))

  11. I too, am on 100% trades.  When I can, I will wait for the hardcover larger editions too (10 issues+). 

    -I like the way it looks on a bookshelf.
    -If I don’t like what I read, it’s much easier to sell/trade it on amazon and recoup some of my $.
    -I simply enjoy reading multiple issues in one sitting.  Some books are great in single issues, but are any books “Bad” in trade?  Don’t think so!

  12. People who read trades exclusively miss out on the now factor.  They dont get to have that friend or community (ie here) where they can go after reading their weekley issues and just talk about them.  By the time they read their trade, they can only talk to other trade readers, or hope their friends who read it in issues still remember the story.  As much as comics are a “Me” time, i love being able to share them with a friend. 

  13. Waiting isn’t that hard for me, except with DC titles. Man those take forever to be released.

  14. If I start buying a book in trade than I usually keep buying ti that way. But switching from singles to trade? That’s usually code for dropping the book entirely. By the time the trade catches up to where I’m at, I usually find I don’t even care anymore and don’t bother buying it. That’s what happened to ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN.

  15. I hope all you trade waiters realize that without the fans like myself and many others in the iFanbase and around the world going to the shops every week, you wouldnt have those trades to wait for.  I understand that if you are in a foreign country or out in the wilderness you cant find/get to a shop but if you want to support the comics industry going forward you need to pick up some monthly stuff!!!!!!!

  16. @jmsnyder  That’s an entirely simplistic and not totally accurate view on how comics work.

  17. I’m switching mostly to trades this year and I’m actually having to force myself to not go to the LCS for fear that I’ll break down and start buying singles again. My batch is coming monthly from DCBS starting this month and it’s been incredibly difficult not having weekly books to enjoy.

  18. The only series I get as they come out are scalped, chew, and the unknown soldier. With everything else I buy a bunch of trades at once. I have a subscription to amazing Spider-man and Daredevil(Or is it black panther?)

    Trades are where its at though, there’s no better feeling than reading a massive chunk of my favorite bit of entertainment. and they look great on a shelf. 

  19. @gwiz  oops, I meant to say I read those first three books in trade.

  20. I trade wait on all non-Marvel and DC series. DC and Marvel series tend to overlap too often, are talked about too much to avoid spoilers, and are often great reads in single issues, so I read them in singles Non-Marvel and DC series on the other hand are fairly self contained so I can get away with reading them in trades. 

  21. Anything from Vertigo gets the trade wait treatment, mainly because they look so nice on a shelf. I don’t trade wait anything Marvel or DC though.

  22. I have no method to my trade vs single issue madness really. But madness it is. I have vaguely come up with a plan for myself which pretty much includes buying trades for the more original/new books like Scalped, Chew etc and then buying my straight-up superhero comics in issues. There are a ton of exceptions to this “rule” however but this is as close as I’d ever get to something more structured. I’m way too impulsive and whimsical. For me it would probably be easier if there was only one option per book haha 🙂

  23. At least the regular trades are somewhat regular, I returned to comics 4 yrs ago or so and missed out on the beginning of Ex Machina, Y the Last Man, Fables, etc. and had heard so many accolades and great reviews that I started picking up the nice deluxe hardcover versions (or got them as gifts).  Now those really seem to really take forever to come out.  They only just now realized the second deluxe edition of Fables.

  24. @Conor & @jmsnyder

    On a recent edition of word balloon Matt Fraction seemed to indicate he felt pretty strongly about single issue sales being very important to the health of ongoing books.

    I have heard a few other creators speak out in favor of this model/theory seems to make sense
    there is no better prediction of consumer behaviour than purchase.

    There defintiely seems to be room for other sales models but calling jmsnyder’s comment
    overly simplistic is a little harsh.

  25. @ericmci  It’s not. The relationship between sales of issues and trades relative to the health of a specific title is complex. There are many books that would not be published based off of issue sales alone.

  26. Yes – 

    And there are defintie examples of where trade waiting killed an ongoing title.
    Especially with companies like the big two having such set numbers to hit in a rigid time frame.

    And though it pains me to say these words-

    Thor the Mighty Avenger.

  27. @ericmci  Which is why it’s complex.

  28. — just saying 

    I think that was all jmsnyder was proporting that supporting your favorite books in single issues
    can be important to see them continue.


  29. @jmsnyder  –i’m a trade waiter for a lot of things and its not my responsibility to figure out how to keep comic publishers in business or how to keep a comic title from being cancelled. Its a bit annoying to be told that my purchases are hurting the industry. As a consumer i have the right to decide how and when i want to purchase things. 

  30. @wallythegreenmonster  Well said.

  31. Waiting for the trade is a lot easier when you don’t have a shop with great back issues. Also since I have just gotten back into comics in the last year I always have things from the past decade to discover in trade form so I am not really into getting all of the indie series that I would normally trade wait at this moment. I can wait until there are a good number of trades availiable to get into. And instead of reading them I read the great stuff from the past.

  32. If I missed the start of a book, I generally go for trades. I did that with Ex Machina and and doing it for Irredeemable, and sometimes it is agonizing to wait. Typically, if I am going back to read an older story, I look for a trade, although sometimes I find singles of it. If I am loaning a book to a friend, I would much prefer to loan a trade than singles. Singles are easier to damage or lose and often hard to replace.

    There are several great used bookstores in my city that carry trades as well as singles, and I can sometimes find really good deals there. There are also a number of good online places like DCBS and such (see what I did there? lol).

  33. The trades I pick up are most often things that went under my radar and I then heard of through strong word of mouth.  Otherwise, I pick up the real greats in collected form, to have them in that “ultimate” form….which is why I double dip on Scalped.  Sure there’ll probably be a hardcover collection one day, but I just want this masterpeice on my shelf NOW.  So I buy issues because I can’t wait any longer, and then I get the trades too.

    Yes, I am a sucker.

  34. I’m constantly changing my mind about which books to read in trade and which to read in issues. I used to trade-wait for most of the non-superhero series I read but now it’s exactly the opposite. More and more I’m finding the whole idea of reading single issues to be too much work, and wish I could switch over to trades entirely. But, I’ll probably always pick up a few comics from my local shop as long as there’s one near where I live, even if it means I only stop in once a month. I will say that monthlies from Image and Dark Horse are much more pleasing to the eye than those from DC and Marvel due to their lack of ads.

  35. I couldn’t even contemplate not returning home on a Thursday without a stack full of comics to read. Discussing current arc’s and waiting for the next issue is a great buzz. If I like something I’ll then get it in trade too!

  36. I could’ve easily switched to trades, but I’m too impatient for that.

  37. I know that there’s a fine line between single issues and trades in terms of the industry making money. Both are obviously important right now and need the other’s existence. But I’ll go as far as saying that it it wasn’t for trades, that comics would be flirting with their deathbed right now.

  38. I only trade wait a few titles. They are generally Vertigo and indie titles. I find with DC and Marvel titles they are too intertwined and too often spoiled to wait on. Also, my store doesn’t always carry the other titles and it is more likely that I will want to keep a permanent copy of Scalped or Sweet Tooth. The only mainstream superhero title I buy in trades is X-Factor because it is very isolated and it reads better in trade.

  39. I am etremely busy getting a Masters, raising a son, working, and training my wife 🙂 Trades are just the most practical thing. I think my disgust with the tardiness of The Ultimates and Planetary put me off single issues forever. I miss the days when John Byrne could write and draw three books a month…on time.

  40. Generally speaking, I get more enjoyment out of reading multiple issues of series back-to-back and I got to point where I was doing that withsingle issues of most series that I subscribed to at my LCS.  There became a point for me where it just made sense to switch to trades, especially when I could barely keep up with my single issue ‘pulls’ at my LCS.  There are exeptions to switching to trades, of course!  Notably Invincible, The Walking Dead, and Savage Dragon if I had to pick three.

  41. Trades and digital issues for me. Both are easier to procure than weekly issues. And for digital, I mean from the iPad apps. 99 cent Mondays are awesome.

  42. For me, it depends on the book. As most people say, I enjoy some books better when I digest a bunch of issues at once. Similar to with certain serialized tv series. With certain tv shows I can’t get into the story nearly as well if I try it week to week, as opposed to wolfing down a big chunk all at once. I enjoy consuming myself, getting lost in the story and world. On the other hand, some things read/watch better a little piece at a time.

  43. Being unemployed is making it much easier to wait for trades

    And really I have such a crazy long back log of books I would like to read that it makes no sense in my mind to pick up the single issues.

    But hey, thats just me

  44. I can wait for Icon, Vertigo, and Image books in trade because I have Marvel comics every week to keep me company. I like the idea of having relatively complete stories between a pair of covers. I also like paying less for books that I’m likely to want to re-read or loan to other people.

    The only book I’m buying in issues that I’d rather have in trades is Echo, but that’s because Terry Moore deserves my money as soon as I can give it to him.

    The only book that’s killing me to trade wait on is Batwoman. I should probably just suck it up and buy the issues just to make sure she still has a damn book.

  45. a TPB is fine enough but there is something pleasing about a comicbook as an object that a big overproduced glossy thing can’t match. that full stop i hope you realise was deliberate, emphatic