Friday, May 19, 2006

Trading Spaces

It seems that the comic shop of my youth is mostly gone, and I just realized what it is being replaced with.

It used to be that a comic shop carried new books and back issues... long box after long box of back issues. Part of the fun back then was filing through those long boxes, looking for that handful of issues that would complete a run, or discovering something by accident. The hunt, to me, was half the fun of reading comics.

After the bust in the 90's, fewer and fewer shops maintained their back issues. Mostly they were replaced by gaming paraphenalia or toys or both. Older shops that survived might have them, but newer shops mostly didn't even bother. I understood the economics of this, the burden of devoting so much floorspace to an archive, but I just didn't agree with it. The most attractive aspect to comics is the strong sense of continuity, and how can that sense be maintained without a way to verify it (ie. back issues)?

And then I just had the most startling revelation, startling in that I didn't catch on sooner. The trades have replaced the back issue. It occurred to me in a shop yesterday... lately I've been trying to catch up on a few series I missed during my years of semi-retirement from reading... as I perused through the selection of trades available. To me, trades were always a sign of a successful miniseries or particular run on a regular series, dressed up and represented for collectors to place on their bookshelf. It never occurred to me that they were simply a viable replacement for back issues.


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