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GN/TPB Elaborations and Parentheticals.

[Edit 2004-01-12 2:30 am UTC]

To respond quickly to Dirk Deppey’s response to my response to him, I think (and thought then) that we are basically of the same opinion, but I haven’t dropped my quibbly attitude.

As far as I could tell from a cursory reading of John Byrne’s rant (and I wouldn’t want to give it more thought even if I were able to think beyond when I can take another decongestant pill and whether I’ll be able to breathe clearly enough to sleep tonight) the entire focus of the argument was on trade paperback collections of mainstream comments “mainstream” comics. Even the passage Deppey quoted, Byrne’s statement that trade-only publishing would be too expensive for companies to handle and have too little return in terms of drawing in new readers, need not be read as talking about anything more than the mainstream “mainstream” comics market. I assume Byrne does realize that people are buying and reading Blankets and Persepolis and that this is just not what he’s talking about. He’s questioning whether I would have paid $20 to buy Batman: Hush, had it been on the shelf beside Persepolis. In this case, he’s right. I, although not John Byrne’s Platonic Ideal Comics Reader, would be more likely to buy a $3 pamphlet or a minicomic to see if I can get a taste for a creator or story before investing more money and time into it. However I’d be even more likely to pick up a promising trade paperback or graphic novel for free at the library, where pamphlets aren’t readily available, and have bought books based on that. This is how I deal with much of my word-only book purchasing as well, since I want to buy books I’ll lend and read again.

To get back to Dirk Deppey rather than John Byrne, the point I was trying to make and, I think, didn’t is that different genres (or whatever word you’d like to use) employ different marketing strategies. Graphic novels don’t have to be composed of previously released smaller parts, but that’s one way to do it. I’ve read plenty of novels that began as short stories, or that contain previously published short stories, sometimes because I enjoyed the initial story so much that I sought out the larger context. In choosing the examples he did, Deppey actually gave a good implicit rundown of possible alternate, pamphlet-free routes to the graphic novel, which is what he was trying to do. I just think that they’re not what John Byrne was arguing against, and I was saying that having cartoons in Time or multiple reviews and interviews in The New York Times or a highly acclaimed first graphic novel can be seen as (loosely) functional equivalents to having previous pamphlet stories act as teasers for a trade paperback. I just still don’t think this makes what John Byrne said about mainstream superhero trade paperbacks wrong. I’m fully willing to believe he is, although I don’t know the economic details to know whether he’s right on that front, but I still don’t think the existence and success of graphic novels that appeal to a real mainstream readership, or at least some interested subsegment thereof, as opposed to “mainstream” superhero comics readers is actually a refutation of his argument at all.


  1. Barry says:

    Found your page thanks to Dirk’s link and I will say I agree 100% with your coments. I even posted more or less exactly what you’ve written, that Byrne is not referring to anything non-superhero/four-color/DC/Marvel/Dark Horse/Image. Just books from those company and mainly that genre. I’m pretty certain he’s not even aware of books like Blankets and Persepolis, as he doesn’t even read or know about most superhero books, much less black and white independent autobio graphic novels. So yeah, he’s pretty ignorant about that corner of the comics world and he’s not all wrong about fans not wanting to drop 18-20 bucks on a superhero ogn. Then again, if the superhero publishers can find an inexpensive way to sell their books in 4-color digest format, like Marvel’s upcoming Marvel Age experiment, it might be worth it to get that elusive, coveted youth readership. Otherwise, I have a feeling the single books aren’t going anywhere, as the current readership tend to enjoy that immediate Wednesday gratification and are unable to escape the collectors mentality to wait 6 months or more for a trade that may or may not come along.

    — 12 January 2004 at 5:30 pm (Permalink)

  2. Rose says:

    I’m glad, though not surprised, that I’m not the only one who read things this way. Where were your comments posted?

    That’s a good point about the collector mentality. I really think that there are a lot of people who don’t buy trades because you can’t have that satisfying bagging-and-boarding experience. I buy my comics to read, so I’m open to a lot of formats, but there are plenty of people who really are collectors and want one copy to save and one to touch.

    I do share comics with my little brother, who’s in the coveted 12-year-old somewhat nerdy boy demographic, but I tend to lend trades when available because they’re more substantial and there will be a longer wait before he’s knocking on my door asking for more comics. I’m trying not to encourage the comics-as-fetish-object mindset in him, and he’s read and enjoyed everything from Good-Bye, Chunky Rice and Sweater Weather to Young Justice and the Gus Beezer books (both in pamphlet form) to Cynicalman and especially Pam Bliss’s minicomics. If he’s any indicator, young readers are open to comics but have other uses for their limited spending money (in his case, mostly video game gear).

    I’m a little skeptical about the Marvel Age books because of the art, since I think anime-drenched kids might be able to tell it’s derivative and more than a little bizarre (although I hope this is only true of the preview look) but at least these are stories that hooked a generation of young readers before. Maybe they’re strong enough to pull it off again. I guess I can check with my brother when the time comes.

    — 12 January 2004 at 5:57 pm (Permalink)