THE ALL TRADE PAPERBACK COLUMN
This month's PREVIEWS contains books due to ship in the month of August. This time around, I'm going to highlight some of the interesting trade paperbacks that are solicited. There are enough interesting things in that format to fill this column, so let's have at it.
First and foremost is the softcover graphic novel from Dark Horse, VIDEO NOIRE. Measuring 7" x 9 1/2", the book has 96 black and white pages for ten bucks. The main draw to the book is the artistry of Eduardo Risso. He's the guy that draws 100 BULLETS every month without missing a beat. It took a little bit of time for me to warm up to his style, but now I look forward to it every month. This ought to be a nice chance to see his art in a different setting. Carlos "CYBER SIX" Trillo writes. I have no idea what the story is about. I don't care. I'm giving it a chance.
Also from DARK HORSE in August is the fourth volume of AKIRA. The DVD will be out long before the trades are completed, so it looks like I'll have seen the movie before I finish with the comic. I've heard that the comic has more story in it, but I think I'd still rather read it fresh before seeing any part of it in the movie. Alas, I don't have enough willpower to put off looking at the DVD for a year.
From DC is the wonderful SUPERMAN/GEN13 crossover, by Adam Hughes and Lee Bermejo. It was the breakout book from Bermejo and worth every penny. If you're not in love with his art already, $15 for this trade should do it.
The last of Warren Ellis' run on STORMWATCH is finally collected in "Final Orbit." It's got the last couple of issues of the series, plus the ALIENS crossover that legal logistics darn near made impossible to reprint. Chris Sprouse did the art on the special, and Bryan Hitch (mostly) did the honors on the regular issues.
From Top Cow and Image Comics comes the collection of Gary Frank's mini-series, KIN: DESCENT OF MAN. It wasn't the most mind-blowing mini ever printed, but it was entertaining and I do hope there's a follow-up to deal with all the leftover plot threads. This trade will contain 6 new pages of story, with more wonderful coloring from Paul Mounts.
Just in time for the JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK movie comes the new graphic novel, BLUNTMAN AND CHRONIC. Originally scheduled to be a mini-series, Image is putting this out in one big book straight away to tie in with the movie. A photo cover should also help it stick out. Michael Avon Oeming draws what Kevin Smith writes. This book is just smart marketing. Now the only question that remains is whether the book will be entertaining or not. I haven't yet been disappointed in anything Smith has written for comics, so I'll give it a chance. $15 gets you 96 pages.
I've heard enough good things about Carlos Pacheco's FANTASTIC FOUR to give the new FLESH AND STONE trade paperback a shot. It collects the first five issues of Pacheco's run under one cover for $13.
The fanboy in me dies hard: X-MEN VIGNETTES collects the short stories Chris Claremont and John Bolton did for CLASSIC X-MEN #2-#13.
Frank Cho makes another smart packaging decision in August. His first was in printing his monthly Liberty Meadows comic in a cardstock cover on nice heavy white paper. Then, the FRANK CHO ILLUSTRATOR book is oversized and available in hardcover, if you so wish. It made for a beautiful package, and one I'm happy to have on my shelf. Now comes the first collection of LIBERTY MEADOWS issues. It looks to be the same format as the ILLUSTRATOR book, 9" x 12" with slick paper. 112 pages of the issues from 1997 are under this cover for $30. Yes, that's a little pricier than usual, but the quality is in the production. There's also a new 8-page story included.
Finally, TwoMorrows continues their eclectic publishing scheme with KIMOTA!: THE MIRACLEMAN COMPANION. I've never read the series, but I plan on picking this up. It should serve to be a useful narrative. I just hope the author(s) (no names are given) had enough time to write a follow-up chapter based on all the mess that's gone on in the past month with Miracleman.
Speaking of the Miracleman:
I've had a couple of e-mails asking for my take on the whole mess. The truth is, this has been the final straw to break the camel's back for me. I don't like jumping on the snide bandwagons that tend to rise up around people who are successful. Much of the sniping at Todd McFarlane over the years has been too easy and too petty. A lot of it has been unfounded or a product of misunderstanding or a willful slanting of the facts.
This MIRACLEMAN mess, though, weighs down heavily on McFarlane's shoulders. It's over for him. I can't take him seriously anymore. His doublespeak and backsliding and snide answers to the questions raised in regards to the Eclipse properties are deceitful, at best, and harmful at worst. He reminds me a little of Disney. The people who work on Disney Comics don't get their art back. It's completely illegal for Disney to be doing this, but who can afford to sue them? Likewise, what freelancer paying for his own health care package and office space (virtual or otherwise) can be bogged down suing the guy running the Spawn empire?
At this point, I can't see McFarlane as being anything more than a bully in regards to MIRACLEMAN.
As for the book itself: I'd like to read it. I hope Joe Quesada can wrap his mind around the issues at hand enough to land the book. However, it's not the foremost thing in my mind. When the trades eventually get released -- and I think it is inevitable that they will at some point -- I'll be in line to read them. I'm not holding my breath. When they come out, it'll be a pleasant surprise. I've gone 25 years of my life without reading those stories. I think I can wait a few more.
TWO OTHER TRADE NOTES
I heaped praise on the CrossGen trades in this space a couple of weeks ago, noting particularly how nice it was that the trade wasn't printed on a lesser grade of paper.
CrossGen Veep Tony Panaccio wrote in to point out that CrossGen "uses 50 pound paper for our monthlies, and the trades were printed on 60 pound paper."
So, there you have it. The permanent editions are printed on even better paper than the monthlies. I hope the other publishers out there are listening to this. It's a bright idea.
Secondly, I think I've found two books I'm going to drop the monthlies on to start collecting the trades of. The first is JMS' RISING STARS. The art turned out to be such a turn off for so long that I haven't even bothered to read the last three issues yet. I can save a couple or three bucks a month and get the preferable format in the end.
The second book is MONARCHY. I've read the first three issues. I'm dropping the title. In the chance that it turns around or that others tell me it got really good later, I'll pick up the trade and give it a second chance.
What is the purpose of a trade? It can serve quite a number of them. It can be archival. It can be the chance to get new readers to jump on an on-going series. It can just be a nice collector's item. It can be a method to get into bookstores. It can be the chance for a creator to get his or her original vision seen in one package.
I finally got my RED STAR trade this week. I've seen some complaints about it from people who were upset that it cost so much. They wanted to read the series and thought the trade would be the best way to catch up on it. Or, they mistakenly thought it would be a bright idea to ignore the series and keep up with it in trades, when there's no proven track record that this is a good idea with these creators.
But they didn't want to spend $25 on a deluxe presentation on a series they may or may not like.
I'm torn, actually. I liked the series enough to fork over the money for a deluxe presentation of it. And I gleefully plunked my money down for this one, even though I had read most of it already. To me, the larger sized pages work. I love seeing art on this slightly larger size. Check out the aforementioned FRANK CHO ILLUSTRATOR. See the Paul Dini/Alex Ross specials at Christmastime. Take a look, even, at the Marvel Magazines on the newsstands. Those are barely larger than standard comics, but the art looks so much cleaner and clearer. The grandeur of Frank Miller's 300 is almost lost unless you read it in the hardcover collected form. I'd like to see someone publish a new regular monthly series in an oversized format.
What about those who want the trade as an entry-level approach to an on-going story? Does printing these "deluxe" format editions hamper that? Is the gang at RED STAR, for one, pushing off potential fans for the sake of something pretty? My thought is that they're treading a fine line. Some people on limited budgets, no doubt, won't pony up for the trade. I think that's offset, however, by the people who will pick up the book due to its unusual size. I think there are people who would see it on the shelf and give it a chance because it stands out so nicely. The book benefits from the larger packaging and I think that opens up new sales possibilities.
Would a 'budget' version of the book sell, a la the Reader's Version of POWERS? Probably. I just don't know if that would be fair play. I think it would have been a better idea to announce such a thing at the same time as the Treasury Edition size.
It's early yet. There's still a lot of shakeout coming in the trade paperback arena. Different sizes and styles and marketing and publishing schemes are being invented and used all the time. There is no One Way Fits All scheme, though. We live in interesting times. I like to think of that as a blessing and not a curse, though.Come back tomorrow for some Pipeline Previews of books due out on Wednesday. The latest DETECTIVE COMICS issue will be featured, as will PUNISHER #1 and one or two others.
On Friday, I'll try to catch up on some of the reviews that have been piling up here.
More than 225 columns are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They're sorted chronologically. The first 100 columns are still available at the Original Pipeline page, a horrifically coded piece of HTML.
This year, you can still catch me at the Chicago Comicon (i.e. WizardWorld) and the San Diego Comicon (i.e. the Comic Con International: San Diego). I'm also tentatively scheduled for a day at the Small Press Expo in Maryland this September.