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Party of Five Round III
Posted July 11, 2005

In each round of Party of Five, Bookshelf Comics editor James W. Powell poses a question to five members of the comic book community — a creator, a publisher, a retailer, a critic, and a fan — to get a variety of perspectives on the current subject.
Previously on
Party of Five:

 
Party of Five features a rotating panel of guests, so if you would like to participate in future editions, please email the editor.

 

The Question
Party of Five logo DVD studios are notorious for double-dipping: they produce a barebones DVD release and if it sells well, they re-release it as a Special Edition. Now this double-dipping is making its way into comic shops as the big publishers begin to reprint collected versions of their more popular comics in hardcover format, often with bonus features. What are your thoughts on this new craze of producing hardcovers of those books that have already appeared in tradepaperback form?
The Creator
Nadir Balan
Nadir Balan

Don’t tell anyone I told you this, but I’ve fallen sucker to the double dipping trend. I’ve bought the same movie twice, and you know what? … I liked it…Lemme explain.

I was in college, interning at Marvel over the summer and I was anxious to get the first release of The Fellowship of the Ring. I got it, watched it, and was happy. Well, we all know what happened next: they released the most amazing bonus featured DVD I’ve ever seen. I had a dilemma. On the one hand I had the movie, what I originally wanted. On the other hand there was all this behind the scenes stuff that I was dying to see, in a really nice package, plus the extended movie. I couldn’t resist for long. Despite the foolishness of buying the same product twice I was happy with the quality and plentiful extra material.

Now does this all translate smoothly into the TPB form? Sort of. Admittedly I haven’t bought the same comic twice since the early 90s (good times), but there’s plenty of appeal in having a really nice hardcover, sketchbook included trade of your favorite title. If it appears on the scene after the barebones version is a success, then you obviously have a product that will be enjoyed in a better packing as well, and I see no harm in having that option.

Let’s face it, selling the same product multiple times is nothing new, and today's consumer expects it. Toys with different paint jobs, same molds used for alternate versions, or entirely different characters (staple’s of my childhood era toys), books being released in hardcover before soft, and let’s not forget multiple covers on comics. Sometimes these things get annoying, but on occasion there’s a product that is so well done, you enjoy having it again in a slightly different form, even if you don’t want to admit it.

I know the standard reaction would be to oppose being sold the same product twice, but if the marketing and appeal is good enough that you think you are buying something different, but then in return genuinely enjoy it as such, where’s the problem? It’s about furthering your entertainment. And if you’ve achieved that by seeing sketches from your favorite artist, or an extra story, or by reading a long foreword by the writer, I’d say it’s worth it. I also think today's collector understands the dynamics of the American money making market and is savvy to being sold a poor product twice, so if this trend of putting out existing trades in hardcover continues without satisfying extras, then the trend will die out soon enough anyway and, therefore, again, I see no problem with it. I might just be the devil’s advocate here but for the time being I enjoy living with options.

Nadir Balan is the head illustrator at Blue Water Productions. He pencils Judo Girl, Victoria’s Secret Service, and issues of The Tenth Muse and The Legend of Isis published by Alias. He is also the head illustrator at Southern Island LLC designing action figures and busts of comic book and anime characters including popular titles such as Full Metal Alchemist and Fruits Basket.

The Publisher
Jessie Garza
Jessie Garza

Well, I can only speak with thoughts and inside perspective of a small independent publisher’s point of view. As we all know the comic book market is very tough to make it in, and competition for sales is difficult. I believe what happens is that publishers find themselves trying to find additional ways to capitalize on projects that generate profits to help subsidize for those that don’t.

That being said, I can speak from experience that we are always looking at ways to not only produce books in a better format, but also for ways to tap into new markets or audiences. By producing a book in a hardcover format it can possibly lead to accessability in a market that may not open its doors to paperback format.

Jessie Garza is the President of Viper Comics, best known for publishing Dead @17 series and Daisy Kutter. Viper Comics has been publishing comics and graphic novels since November 2003.

The Retailer
Will Murakami
William Murakami

The question has been posed to me asking my opinion on the recent comic publishers trend of producing new hardcover books of old trade paperbacks with new pages, art etc., much as the DVD studios do. I have several thoughts about the issue. While I certainly dislike the movie studios practice of releasing a DVD and a special edition six months later with added features, I do not have as many issues with the comic publishers.

I have seen Marvel and DC both produce new hardcovers with extra art, covers, etc. a while after the trade paperbacks have been in print. While the ultimate "collector" has to have everything, we as consumers can choose whether or not to support the publishers with our decisions to buy the hardcovers.

I have noticed that the buyers of these new hardcovers tend to be readers who collect hardcovers for their libraries or book collection. Most of these purchasers did not purchase the trade paperback. Most of the collectors who did purchase the trade paperback generally pass on the hardcover. For the most part, the publishers are actually selling to a new group of consumer so the double dip really doesn't apply as much as it does with DVD purchasers.

If the publishers were to take it a step further and add an all-new story into the hardcover, I might change my opinion but for now I see their practice as being good for the comic book industry in general.

William Murakami is the manager of the Mile High Comics store in Glendale, Colorado. He has with Mile High Comics since 1989 and has been a comic collector for 30 years.

The Critic
Sean Maher
Sean Maher
I have my own preferences as a reader, of course — Supreme Power reads better in large chunks, Cassaday and Martin's work on Planetary looks gorgeous on an oversized page, and Bone: The One Volume Edition collects the whole series at a staggeringly low price point — but those are all personal choices.

The main thing, I think, is to treat your consumers with respect. Nobody wants to feel like they've been "duped" into buying something in one format when they'd prefer to have it in another.

Marvel's program is pretty plain-faced. They're pushing their "bookshelf comics" hard, and everyone who's paying attention knows it. Most of their hardcover collections are not a surprise, and I've often been able to find a tentative release schedule spanning months beyond the Previews catalogue.

So folks can plan their purchases, and no matter what they do, they're getting a good value for their dollar. I do have some serious issues with all of the misprints that have been reported in Marvel collections over the last year or so, and I think a recall program should be offered so readers don't get stuck with defective copies; Marvel's insisted for a while that they operate on a shoe-string budget, making recalls and such a tad cost-prohibitive, but you have to spend money to make money, as the fella says — either recall, correct, and reprint your afflicted collections, or hire staff to more carefully check your work before you invest in a print-run. This will increase consumer confidence in your product and will pay off in long-term sales. (I should add, for honesty's sake, that I've not personally bought a Marvel trade that had such mistakes, but I've certainly read about books I didn't buy that had them and it makes me nervous about each new purchase I make.)

DC's trade program, while the longer wait between different format offerings seems friendlier to retailers in that it offers them the maximum window to make their dollars from each format, seems a lot less trustworthy to me as a reader. The obvious example is the Loeb/Lee run on Batman — each new format has been released many months apart, and it leaves readers confused about what they'll have the chance to buy. I can understand the time span needed between releases, but we still don't know, some two years since the last issue of the run was released, whether it'll be available in a single trade paperback for an affordable price. There's an audience for the big $50 hardcover, to be sure, but why not let the people make informed decisions?

Basically, I like to see my options in advance; folks buying the Lord Of The Rings DVDs, for example, knew before anything was released that there would be a standard 2-disc set and, later, a more expansive 4-disc set for each movie. The folks behind Kill Bill, on the other hand, have been much less forthcoming with their plans (aside from teasing some different releases that have still not been formally announced) and I've not bought either DVD as a result.

I'm all about making extra material available, and I'm happy to have my bare-bones, story-only paperbacks and my extravagant hardcovers on the same bookshelf. It's just a matter of comin' correct with your customers.

Sean Maher writes reviews for Bookshelf Comics. He lives in San Francisco, balancing his love for comics with his full-time job and a full-time course load studying journalism as SFSU. He keeps a regular blog at The Zealot's Lore, where he's been nominated for a Squiddy Award.

The Fan
Michael Boyd
Michael Boyd

Hello. I'm Michael and I'm a serial double-dipper. When pricey laserdiscs were fading away, I eagerly upgraded what I could of my small collection to DVD. When better editions of certain DVDs came along, I have often upgraded to the newer editions for technical reasons like picture quality, anamorphic widescreen transfers, and even sound. I can't think of a single instance of upgrading for the extras exclusively. I feel the same way about this new wave of high-end collected comic editions. The extras are nice, but that's not the deciding factor. For my money, it's all about the presentation.

DC's Absolute line is looking really gorgeous so far. Size and quality are major factors in my desire to own these books. The re-colored art can really be showcased in the larger format, and for my thirty-four year old eyes, that is certainly appreciated. And who can resist slip-cased (an extra in it's own right) copies of their favorite books? It only adds to their perceived value and looks damn classy on a bookshelf at that. Finally, the cost of these books being nearly fifty percent off at certain online retailers makes it a no-brainer purchase.

Currently, DC seems to be reserving this format for reprinting their most classic and revered tales. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Dark Knight Returns and Kingdom Come in the Absolute line one day. However, if books fairly pedestrian like The Death/Return of Superman or just frankly piss-poor like the complete Bloodlines annuals were suddenly solicited, I would seriously need to re-evaluate the merit of this line.

To briefly touch on the Marvel hardcover line, I think fans have already caught onto their marketing strategy. Two trades with six issues each are released and an oversized hardcover (with no or few extras) will come out featuring all twelve issues in a few months. I discovered this just by a little internet research that collectors should always be doing. Of course no fans should feel taken advantage of when they are remembering to buy only what they enjoy. At any rate, in the "new economy", a double-dipper can always unload the older versions of trade paperbacks (and DVDs) on Ebay.

I've often heard DVD collecting compared to comic book collecting. Movie fans rabidly and passionately collect. New discs are released for public consumption on a certain day of the week (Tuesday). Some DVDs are even numbered like comics creating a desire to try for a complete collection! We have come full circle with comic publishers taking cues from that industry to produce books with "DVD style extras" and even "director's cuts." And I'm all for it as long as I'm getting an upgrade of quality reading material I am really in love with.

Michael Boyd is a 34 year old Texan and is attending his first San Diego Comic Con next week. Interests also include cinema history, filmmaking, writing and dating crazy women from the internet . He is also chomping at the bit to upgrade his Brazil DVD to an HD format.

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