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The Middle Ground #2: In Which I Hate On Previews

by  in Comic News Comment

Sometimes, it feels like there are too many comics out there.

I know, I know; that’s not exactly the most popular opinion to hold, never mind share on a website devoted to comics and the worship thereof, but we all know it’s true. I’m far from the only one who sees solicitations for months ahead, or lists of that week’s new releases, and has at least one “Seriously? There’s really enough of a market for that?” moment. It’s easiest to do when looking at, say, Marvel’s upcoming releases and counting what’re essentially seven monthly Avengers books (Adjectiveless, New, Secret, Academy, alternating bi-monthlies Children’s Crusade and Prime and, of course, New Ultimates and Ultimate Avengers, for those who were wondering about my math), but all it takes is one step inside the non-premier publishers section of Diamond’s Previews to realize that there’s a lot of noise hiding the signal in the world of indie publishers, as well.

Now, I know that I’ve touched a sore spot by mentioning the much-maligned Previews. I mean, I think we can all agree that it’s a blight on humanity, never mind just the comic book biz, right? There are times – Let’s call them “Every month when I see the new catalogue” – when the very thought of Previews is enough to drive me toward a deep depression and despair about that month’s state of comics, in that it almost seems designed to hide all manner of wonderful things contained within from all but the most dedicated of readers at times. But Previews, as badly designed as it may be, is pretty much the definition of a necessary evil when it comes to comic distribution: The industry needs a catalog of everything that’s being released. Retailers and readers need to know what is going to be available, in order to get excited and plan and save up for, as much as bitch and moan and roll our eyes.

The problem isn’t Previews itself, but the amount of books therein, really. Every single month, there is a lot of amazing work solicited in the “back half” of any given issue of Previews, but you have to work to find it amongst all of… well, everything else that’s in there. I know that I’m excited about the new Kevin Huizenga book that’s coming this summer, but it took me looking through solicits for Tarot and Zenescope and literally hundreds of other books I have no interest in to find out about it. That’s not necessarily a slam on those books – Somehow, I doubt there’s a large crossover between those eagerly awaiting the next issue of Return To Wonderland and fans of Scott Morse’s work, to go the reverse route – but an obvious complaint about a really, really obvious problem: Why hasn’t anyone come up with – or, perhaps, implemented – a way to make it easier for people to discover new things that they might enjoy reading without making it such an ordeal?

I think back to things like Warren Ellis’ Artbomb, which was pretty much a review website that operated as tastemaker, but also just the basic idea of organizing comics by genre instead of publisher – More work for Diamond, perhaps, but think of the benefit for readers – or something, anything, that makes each month’s releases seem less like a deluge without rhyme, reason or quality control. Complaining that there’s too many comics coming out doesn’t make sense; there’s no set number of comics allowed per month. But can’t someone do something that makes the back of the catalog less overwhelming every month to make it feel less unnecessarily crowded?