Friday, November 28, 2008

When Words Collide: Killer Serials

In this week's installment of "When Words Collide," I grapple with the concept of the serialized comic and explain why I prefer my monthly doses of comic book goodness to the trendy trade-waiting that the kids are all into.

The column was inspired by the two pronged assault of Morrison's Batman, which clearly has benefited from serialization (as it's grown larger in our minds because of the between-issues speculation), and Andrew Wales, fellow educator and man-of-serialization-preference-too.

I wrote the column a few days before Batman #681 hit the stands, so I foolishly included this line: "And I'm sure the conclusion to 'Batman R.I.P.' (scheduled for release the day this column will run) will hermetically seal Morrison's run all the more tightly." Little did I know that Morrison would give us even more to speculate about in the "conclusion"!

And, oh yeah, I really like Ghost Rider in my monthly doses too, and I really didn't want to put another image of Morrison's Batman on my blog (especially with "The Splash Page" soon to run and all). So, GHOST RIDER!


Andrew Wales said...

I definitely enjoy the aspect of enjoying the story as it unfolds. It's as if we're in the middle of it as it happens.

It was a big part of the fun for my brother and I growing up. We each subscribed to one comic. We each read our own and then swapped. Then we speculated as to what would happen next -- making predictions and speculating. I think these are great practices for kids to really understand text -- more than just passive reading. A lot of the kids comics now are done in one, which takes away that aspect of it. I love a cliffhanger!

David Uzumeri said...

I can't see either method ever dying out completely; it's like TV shows moving completely to DVD sets. Different formats for different tastes; the same product is equally pleasing however the reader chooses to consume it. Your argument against the daily or weekly webcomic is strong, but I really think that if we moved to digital distribution of comics, we'd just end up with the same 22-page format (because it works!), it just goes up on a website instead of to the printer.

Kris Krause said...

I think some comics are great as an experience, but others are better reads when collected.

One of your examples is Fables, and how you're not sure if you're missing something by reading it in trades. I used to read Fables in the trades, but then I switched over to single issues. Well, a couple months ago I decided to go back to reading it in trades and I don't regret that decision. With Fables, I felt closer to the characters when I could read complete stories at once.

I think big 2 superhero comics are generally the hardest comics to read in trade because they're the comics most people read and so that's where the larger shared cultural experience is happening, where as indy books and Vertigo books and so forth exist in their own, smaller bubble. It's less about a shared experience for those stories than a great comic.

Andrew Wales said...

I like having trade collections of the old stuff. I have a big honking hardcover of really old Hulk stories I'm enjoying now.

Ben said...

You raise an excellent point here! I came into comics backwards as a bright-eyed undergrad English major who took a Graphic Novel course. As such, I always prefered being able to read the story all at once. However, somewhere around my 2nd or 3rd reading of Watchmen I was struck with a horrifying thought: "What if I had to read this one issue at a time?!"

Now, a few years later, I also go by my "local" comic book shop and pick some stuff up that I know I'll enjoy reading; occasionally, I'll take a chance on something I know nothing about but looks cool. But a lot of the time, something I pick up as a serial, looks good until it's in trade.

You say something gets lost in the conversion, but sometimes, I think something's gained. Sometimes, reading a story that "was awesome" one issue at a time relied too much on that cliffhanger gimmick to sustain it. In trade, you see this for what it was and realize you were had (it was for this reason that I stopped watching Lost).

An example: I never read The Death of Superman in "floppies," and no doubt, I would have loved it (especially given I was about ten at the time). But when I finally read it in trade this year, I was seriously disappointed by the whole "Buy the Next Part Immediately" attitude of the story.