This article is way overdue, and my excuse is that my computer ate my homework.
I suffered a catastrophic failure of my hardware, and it’s taken me a few weeks
to get up to speed. My data was recovered, but due to limited space, I’ve spent
the past week and half combing through all an alphabet soup of JPGs, DOCs, PDFs
and other files, pruning, culling and harvesting.
I know my readers (both of them) don’t
really care about excuses. I’d just rather head off any questions ahead of
And now, back to our regularly
Recently, a friend asked me to
search my bookshelf for a particular series that came out in the mid-1980s.
Kidding around, I said I would check my archives, which is what I laughingly
call the many boxes of comic books stored in my closet. He then commented, “I
figured you’d have the trade paperback (TPB),” knowing that many “serious”
comic book fans prefer the collected editions, but I indicated I preferred the
single issues over trades.
Mrs. Wife caught this exchange, and
later asked why I prefer the single issues over trades. She lovingly indulges
my interest in comics (she goes so far as call it an obsession; funny girl). When
I’m dead and buried, it will be her sad task to dispose of my archives in such
a way that doesn’t involve a can of gasoline and a match. So safe to say she
has a vested interest.
So here’s my reasoning:
- It’s very rare that comic book stories are launched in
trade paperback form. Usually they begin in the monthly comics, either as
part an ongoing title or a limited series. That is never a guarantee there
will be a trade. If the title doesn’t sell well, what incentive does a
publisher have to repackage the material as a TPB?
- Once I’ve amassed the individual issues, what do I need
the TPB for?
- Older originals (from the 1960s-1980s) often contain
extra material not found in the trades, such as letter columns, text pages
and the like. House ads will often provide a small window as to what else
might be going in comics at the time. These can be mildly entertaining,
like watching toy commercials from old videotapes of Saturday morning
In the past, many
collectors believed that their “archives” would accrue in value over the years,
as some issues became more in demand. However, since the advent of the trade
paperback, many of those originals have become redundant. Some have to weigh
the merits of buying individual issues from multiple online sources versus
buying the TPB for a fraction of the cost.
I once believed my comic books were
an investment. If I took care of them, they’d be valuable someday, and would
finance my retirement. Uh-huh. You really think that after a lifetime of
collecting, I’d part with them just so I can live in a slightly better nursing
To me, the collection is not a cash
cow. They are entertainment. Some hold a greater interest than others due to
who wrote them or drew them, or the characters they featured. Some are simple,
juvenile stories that provide a greater diversion when life becomes a fist.
Trade paperbacks are fine for those
who are perhaps very serious about their fandom, but I am not – at all. I’m a
comic book collector, not a trade paperback collector.