Sure, some of the film and TV writers have produced great comics but some of them have also met with lengthy delays since the writers had more "important" projects, aka film and TV, to work on. It's this idea that comics are not as good as movies and Marvel seems to think they never can be. Why the hell would a COMICS PUBLISHER take that kind of attitude? It honestly astounds me. So, given Marvel's attitude on this, I shouldn't have been surprised when I saw something like this...
What Is A Proper Avengers Comic Exactly?
With the announcement that Brian Bendis is the writer of the upcoming Avengers relaunch, the subject of what is and isn't a "proper" or "correct" Avengers comic has been brought to the fore again. To me, this argument has always seemed incredibly silly and boarders on moronic at times.
I've always seen the Avengers as a team that does not have a core concept really. They've always seemed like Marvel's biggest non-X-Men, non-Fantastic Four team. There isn't really anything that can connect any one random Avengers line up with another random Avengers line up or create a distinct separation from any other random Marvel team, aside from the tag line "Earth's Mightiest," but that's a rather meaningless descriptor. I mean, half of the Defenders are/were Avengers (Namor and the Hulk) and the other two (Dr. Strange and the Silver Surfer) could be as well. Even the Champions had some Avengers (Black Widow and Hercules) in their line up and most of the characters (Iceman and Angel) could be Avengers as well. Hell, even a couple of New Warriors have been Avengers.
So, if the line up and concept are not particularly useful in coming up with a proper definition for what is or isn't a correct Avengers book, what is? Many classic Avengers fans would point to Dan Slott's Mighty Avengers and generally point out to its stylistic differences compared to Bendis's Avengers titles. Slott's Avengers work can be favourably described as old school or retro. However, stylistic differences are not a valid reason for why Bendis's titles can't be "proper" Avengers titles since style isn't inherent to a concept. There is absolutely nothing about the Avengers, or most comics for that matter, that states they have to be written one particular way or another. This is not to say that you can't dislike Bendis's Avengers work because of his style though.
The other big thing classic Avengers fans would point to is the tradition of the Avengers's comics up until Avengers: Disassembled - the characters, the line ups, the classic stories and events. I don't buy this either. Tradition is accumulated and usually isn't a core part of any concept since it is not there at the inception and means the original concept did not require tradition to be popular. Not to mention the fact that not everyone accepts those traditions as valid or even agree with what is or isn't part of said tradition. There is also the fact that tradition generally precludes most revamps or reinterpretations, which is what New Avengers was, so it is also a flimsy reason in that regard as well.
In fact, the first volume of Batman and Robin is initially going to be released in the same format and the first Batwoman collection is going to be as well. They are also re-releasing older series in the same format, such as Tom Strong, Uncle Sam and Fables. Although I don't think releasing new material in expensive hardcovers before the trade collections is a good idea in the long term, even if I intended to buy said hardcovers, it is part of a trend to both re-release old material and offer readers new formats to choose from.
Curious about the veracity of this, I decided to check to see what the highest selling trade was in November, the same month that S.W.O.R.D. #1 was released, which was the Chew Vol 1 TPB at ~6,000 units. Other big sellers were The Boys Vol 5 TPB, Green Lantern: Agent Orange HC, Batman: Battle for The Cowl HC, and the Incognito TPB which sold the lowest at ~4,500 units. These, of course, are Diamond sales and mostly account for what was just sold in comic shops (bookstores, Amazon, etc), but are a good metric.
Odds are that S.W.O.R.D. didn't have a couple of thousand potential readers waiting for the trade and even, at best, 6,000 additional readers might - might - have let the series make it to issue #12 but even that is highly unlikely. The fact remains though, as it was produced and sold by Marvel, S.W.O.R.D. did not have a large potential reader base and there probably wasn't much that could be done to change that.
So, as a trade waiter, I figured I'd use this an an opportunity to explain exactly why I do so and hopefully provide some insight on why some readers prefer the practice. For me, it comes down to two reasons - 1) I intensely dislike the weekly and monthly grind that comes with buying single issue and 2) trades are a better format for my reading habits.
I got back into comics in college, first with trades and then eventually I got impatient enough to start getting them in singles again, partly because the LCS I went to was literally a block south of the campus. I always went at lunch time and it was never more than a couple of minutes away from any class I had around lunch. Getting comics and lunch was a nice way to spend the hour or two I had between class but, after I graduated, I had to go out of my way every Wednesday to get my comics, which got tiring pretty quickly. Aside from the drive to and from, I also had to get there early enough to make sure I could get any shelf copies of any series or issue that wasn't on my pull but still wanted to get. The UPS deliveries were also unreliable at times and I could spend up to half an hour, or more, waiting for the store to finish sorting all of the new comics.
Finally, I'd like to touch on the economics of trade waiting. When a series is canceled, often times trade waiters are accused of not "properly" supporting said series and contributing to its cancellation. Personally, I call bullshit because the underlying principle behind the sentiment is generally that it is my moral responsibility to support the comics industry which is, again, bullshit. Why is it my responsibility? Yes, it sucks that I'm not really "counted" as a reader in many cases because single issues sales are considered more important than trade sales. Yes, I hate the fact that I can't effectively support many of my favourite creators and help to make it possible that creating comics can be a sustainable and effective way to support themselves but I have myself to worry about first and foremost. And, you know what? I can understand the bitterness that some creators may feel because people would rather buy their series in trade which may have caused it to be cancelled but I can't put their well being ahead of mine. Period. They get money from the trades I buy. The industry is supported just as much by my trade purchases. If they want someone to blame for their book being cancelled, they can look at the stranglehold Diamond has on publishing or the practices of Marvel and DC or, in many cases, the quality of their own work and how they promoted it.
Personally, I would love for it to be affordable for me to buy a comic in singles and trades but it just isn't and I'm not going to put the needs of the comics industry over mine. Yes, comics are a wonderful form of entertainment and I love them dearly but many of them are still just entertainment at the end of the day, no matter how great a few may be.