Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Why I Don't Buy Single Issues

When I started this blog, I barely read any comics. Three years later, comic book related content makes up most of the blog. I'm sure most people thing this is just a comics blog. I go to comic cons. I've even written a few comics. But as much as I've come to love comics, there is one controversial stance I've taken: I don't buy single issues.

There are quite a few reasons why I don't buy single issues. They're also known as "floppies" and that pretty much sums up how most of what I don't like about them. They're floppy. Too floppy.

The most annoying thing about single issues is that in order to store them properly you need to buy a special bag and a special board and then put them in a special box. None of these things are particularly expensive, but it's still a bit excessive.

It's also kind of annoying having to flip through them, especially if it's a bit jam-packed. I like how trade paperbacks fit nicely on normal a book shelf. They look like the rest of my books and you can scan a whole collection in a few seconds without having to go through them one by one.

Single issues can feel like they're not worth it and can borderline on a waste of money. A standard Big Two superhero comic is only 22 pages plus way too many annoying ads. An indie is usually 32. These things are about $4, which is more than I'd like to spend on something I'm going to finish on the bus ride home from the comic shop.

Comics are a form of storytelling and single issues are more often than not smaller pieces of a larger story. Sure there's a few series like Steven Universe where each issue is a standalone story, but usually a story is broken up into 4 to 6 issues. A trade paperbacks usually covers an entire story arc so you don't have to wait a month between each chapter. 

Every week on this blog I review the new comics coming out. These are free and digital, and yet I still can't stand it sometimes. During the month hiatus I forget who certain characters are or what their motivations are. There was a good stretch of Power Rangers where I wasn't sure which book was telling which story. It's just easier to read a whole story in one sitting than broken up into small bursts every month.

Comic books are one of those industries that stick to certain practices simply because it's how they've done things for decades. In some cases, if a comic isn't selling well it transitions to trade paperback releases. This should be ideal since that's overall a better way to read comics, but it's usually a death sentence, a prelude to cancellation.

I know I'm an outlier here. I've told people I hate single issues and even after they hear my reasons they tell me it's the best part of comics. It's just how the industry works and for plenty of long-time readers it's the norm. For me, it's a necessary evil.

I don't expect the single issue format to go away anytime soon, and I don't think the industry could survive obliterating them overnight. But I'd love to see a transition away from the format. Maybe instead of seven different books about individual DC heroes we could get one monthly Justice League book. Maybe various stories could be bundled into a Shonen Jump style magazine. And if that's not doable, can we at least get more series with standalone stories instead of never-ending soap operas?