Lately, a couple of things have me thinking about the changes trade paperbacks have had on comics: Namely, creators putting together four- to eight-issue stories (mostly in the six-issue range) instead of single-issue stories.
The first was a friend pointing out that the current “Hulk” story, “Banner D.O.A” where Bruce Banner was shot in the head and has brain damage, was resolving too quickly. (Note: This was between Issues #3 and #4.) I pointed out that I thought the story was going be resolved in a six-issue arc.
The other was Warren Ellis’ “Moon Knight,” where each issue has been a stand-alone story. It has been refreshing to read these one-and-done stories. (Another note: Ellis has done this before with his series “Global Frequency” and “Fell.”)
There was a time when two-issue arcs were considered special and multi-issue stories were events. But over the past 15 years or so, monthly comics have seemed to focus on how they will present in a trade.
In a 2002 Comic Book Resources interview about monthly comics versus trades, Brian Michael Bendis pointed out that Marvel didn’t ask him to write for trades:
“I can only speak for myself, but you become very aware that a trade is coming, so you become very aware of both, you’re trying to make the single issue as good as possible but is it part of the whole? It isn’t like you’re writing for trades, but you’re aware of the story you’re telling so it’s an organic process. As far as any pressure from Marvel, as far as trade paperbacks go, it isn’t like they tell me how long to make my stories: they just want to know what I’m doing so they can work out the details for the trade. I can’t speak for DC or any other company, but at Marvel story comes first, and the collection is second. They didn’t tell me to make the first nine issues of ‘Alias‘ seem like one large storyline so they could make it into a hardcover. They just talked about whether or not to collect the first one or two storylines based on their merits.”
Has the creator’s focus really changed over the years? Why would writers go from single-issue stories to six-issue arcs?
I’m not sure. Other than Bendis’ comments, it would seem that there is some pressure to write for a trade, rather than write single, monthly stories. Also, not knowing how creators get paid for single issues and trades, I don’t know if there are other incentives to write for a trade. One thought could be that with more creator-owned titles creators are more aware of having the monthly comics in comic shops and trades on bookstore shelves.
Obviously, tastes change. Multi-issue story arcs are now the norm, with single-issue stories being special. After all these years, I guess I should be use to it.
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