And no, I do not mean trade paperbacks. I mean the good old-fashioned monthly comic. Remember Marvel Tales? Or Marvel Triple Action for that matter? It was these titles that as a young reader, drew me into the rich history of the Marvel Universe, rather than just focusing on the hottest and newest events.
Reliant as I was at that age on the newsstand, as the direct market was only just in its infancy, there was little other ways I could have been drawn into the urge for back issues, never mind having that desire fulfilled.
Of course the concept evolved over time. Enter the Classic X-Men, reprinting stories, but with each having an eight-page back up strip that a) expanded on the story or b) retroactively introduced elements to the story that could be utilised again. Easily a concept that could be utilised in today’s fashions.
Of course, now we are firmly in the age of reboots and retcons, this could be a very useful tool. However, the concept evolved itself out of existence, if we look at teh poorly executed ‘Professor Xavier and the X-Men’, which if I remember correctly, barely lasted for eighteen issues.
In the age of direct market shops and digital archives, is there a place for such a product? Every store is burdened with endless back issue stock, while the popular stories can be found collected in the trade paperbacks.
There is always discussion about attracting new readers, how comics are competing for the entertainment dollars with the gaming industry, and how the average age of the comics’ reader is rising.
What youngsters have the cash for a trade paperback, and even if they have, does a complete story deliver the urge to come back for more? Where now do parents get the opportunity to just grab a comic off the rack to give their child something to keep them quiet on the long journey they are about to take? Or just to keep them occupied for an hour?
Are they really going to swing by the local comic book store to pick up an issue? With the loss of the newsstand, there lies the loss of potentially thousands of new readers, who despite the many Hollywood movies remain unlikely to visit such stores, either due to geography or finance.
Reprints of such stalwart favourites such as the Hulk or Batman, Superman or the Fantastic Four could and should be made available on the newsstand. So what if they must be sale or return? These are loss leaders at worst, and at best recruit a whole new generation of readers with a passion for their favourite heroes. Readers that will collect not just for months, but for years, their consumption growing in proportion to their income.
Overheads are low. There’s no creative team to be concerned with (unless as a safety the eight-page back up idea of Classic X-Men is continued, and these can be collected later in a trade or direct market specials). Use a lower quality of paper, comics used to be disposable (blasphemy, I know), which is what made original issues so very special.
After all, it’s a lot cheaper than producing a cartoon for the networks; but coupled with the cartoons, you have parental brand recognition, and entire new vistas open up for the industry.
Make them cheap, make them throwaway; but make them and get them out on the newsstands.