HARD TO SWALLOW… EVEN HARDER TO DIGEST
LET’S JUST JUMP RIGHT IN, SHALL WE?
How would you like to order a Marvel Trade Paperback only to have it arrive and be 1/3 to 1/2 smaller than you anticipated? My guess is you wouldn’t like it. At all.
Happens to me all the time… And I am sick and fucking tired of buying trades that end up being digest sized books. Worst of all? Marvel sorta seems to being doing all this on the sly…. So don’t feel bad if– like me– you end up buying
lots of books you don’t want because Marvel often buries the specs on their smaller format collections in a mountain of hype. Is it intentional? I have to believe it is– at least partially– since their other digest collections– like Marvel Adventures and their Runaways series– are clearly marked as being digest sized.
You might think that’s the only reason I harbor such a dislike for these tiny books. You’d be very wrong. I have many reasons… The 2 most basic being 1) As mentioned, I feel their sizes are often misrepresented in the Marvel Previews descriptions and 2) I don’t believe the smaller publication size is worth the FULL DOLLAR price tags Marvel charges.
How can a digest sized book seriously carry the same price tag as a larger, regular-sized trade paperback? Does Marvel really expect us to believe the smaller size doesn’t save them significant money? Cause it does– both in lower amounts of the paper and inks needed to produce the books and lower shipping costs incurred sending the products to their final retail destinations.
Before I vent any further, I want to state that I understand the bulk of the Marvel’s digest books are meant to be aimed at a younger, more GENERAL audience. I have zero problems with that. After all, you’re reading opinions from a person who proudly collects– (and actually reads!)– all of James Kochalka‘s Johnny Boo: The Best Little Ghost in the World books… And these books are aimed at kindergarten kids!
NO COMIC SNOBS HERE
I’ve always believed that general audience books can be extremely entertaining… And I certainly don’t need to read about ass rape and female decapitation every time I pick up a comic to feel like I’ve fully lived my life as a discerning comics connoisseur.
I understand that someone at Marvel assumes their general audience releases need to be made smaller– for smaller hands. But here’s the problem with that frickin’ assumption: Most of the concepts and plots in the “general audience” Marvel comic books are much more complicated than, let’s say, the plots found in Andy Runton‘s excellent Owly series… or Kochalka’s aforementioned Johnny Boo. And the crazy thing about Boo? Those books are hardcovers printed in a larger size format than the Marvel digests… For kids in kindergarten! Where’s the logic in that, Marvel?
Here’s just some of the plot for Black Widow and the Marvel Girls– transcribed word for word from the back cover of the recent Marvel digest release: “While removing a rogue weapons dealer from an impregnable safe house, the Black Widow remembers her escape from the brutal KGB training ground known as the Red Room…” Cone on, does that sound like the plot of a “kiddie” book? It is my firm belief that any child that can understand that story has to be old enough to hold a larger book.
How do I know this? Well to start, I wasn’t spit out of Hell’s foul embrace like an ignorant Hellboy. (At least I don’t think I was.) I grew up reading comics after I basically taught myself how to read… Conquering the thick Charlotte’s Web novel by the time I was five. If I could hold a book like that, I also held a comic book or a comic trade paperback (they were called “Annuals” back then) with ease. I have no doubt that I would have found these miniature comics just as irritating back then as I do today.
OKAY, SO I’M A “SIZE-IST”
The other reason I can’t stand these little buggers– besides the misrepresentation, over-priced volumes and too small sizes?
The artwork reprinted in these collections was originally rendered in a STANDARD SIZE– meant to fit in a “regular-size” comic book. The art is not drawn for Manga-size books (the format these Marvel digests most clearly ape)– where the artists tailor their work and storytelling techniques to favor the smaller format. These are regular comic pages reduced to fit into a pitifully small area. You can’t really enjoy the art… As the pages were never drawn in consideration of the digest format.
What thought– other than greed– could Marvel be using as they take all these great stories (that were once printed regular comic size) and reduce them to digest size? Are they that desperate to shave their margins on these books? I would have loved to read the collections for Spider-Man Secret Wars, Iron Man: Armor Wars or Dr. Doom and Masters of Evil in “normal” trade paperbacks. Not so interested now that the publishers have insisted on squeezing these stories into books one might easily find stuck in a McDonald’s Happy Meal box one day. I’m exaggerating, of course… But not by much.
Plus, why are almost all of Marvel’s recent female-centric books being almost surreptitiously released in this shitty format as well? Why am I paying regular sized trade prices for small books featuring these popular women as lead characters? Here are just a few of the titles (and prices) of some of the female led books I won’t be reading: Black Widow and the Marvel Girls ($14.99 USD), Models, Inc ($14.99 USD) and Nomad, Girl without a World ($14.99 USD). Only Marvel Divas (and monthly titles like Ms. Marvel) seemed to have escaped this sad reduction binge.
I have a WHOLE STACK of digest sized trades that I unwittingly purchased at
one time or another. Now I have decided NOT to read them because of their cramped art and pitifully tiny word balloons… And that just sucks.
Since I am finding it increasingly hard to determine what any Marvel book is actually going to look like until it arrives in the comic book stores– I have specifically requested that my retailer let me know if any of the books I have ordered suddenly turn up digest sized. I hate to ask– to burden them with yet another one of my idiosyncracies… But I really, really, DON’T want any more of these Marvel monstrosities entering my home ever again. Since I receive my books via mail order, I cannot look at them and reject them due to their small size… So I must rely on the fine folks at the comic shop to do it for me.
I really don’t enjoy feeling poorly fucked by Marvel when I open my box filled with comics. I want to feel joyful (or at least happy)– especially since I seem to spend over $200 on books every week. That’s a lotta moola to pay out– only to feel jerked around.
I’ve been wanting to type the following sentence ever since I started writing this Blog: I may want to read like a child but I don’t want to be treated like a child.
Hey Marvel… Be up front with me. Don’t distract from the sizes of your trades with razzle-dazzle bullshit or miraculously forget to mention your trade trim sizes in a lot of your product descriptions. The majority of your readers are not children. I know you know this… So even though a book’s content may skew a little younger– please stop printing them in digest size.
At the very least, print them in both large and small formats (like the Runaways series) so your customers can pick the format they want to purchase. I certainly wouldn’t mind paying a couple of dollars more for a larger book… And we all know that a “couple of dollars more” would actually be a big premium for us to pay just to receive slightly larger book.
At the end of the day, I would like to think that somebody– ANYBODY– at Marvel would give a shit about this… But the haphazard, bone-headed way they arbitrarily choose their Trade Paperback printing sizes would say otherwise. Just more crap from the former House of Ideas.