On Theoretical Situations, Organizing, the Industry, and more: It’s the August 2022 Mailbag Q&A
Yeesh! You all delivered this month, as the August Mailbag Q&A is a dense web of glorious questions from all of Off Panel’s patrons and SKTCHD’s subscribers. I’m writing this intro last, and you’ve all exhausted me with the glorious list of queries, so let’s get straight to it, shall we?
With quality comics coming out in so many different forms and apps, how do you keep track of your “too read” list? – Stephen Adkison
The short answer is, I do my best. I don’t have any formal approach. If I’m being honest, most things I do like this largely rely on a) me learning about something and then b) remembering it. That’s an extraordinarily faulty approach, one that will only increasingly backfire on me. But it’s my approach.
To be honest, there is just too much to read, watch, listen to, or whatever right now. There’s simply no way to keep up with everything, and I’m not going to fast forward through things just to say I watched it or listened to it or whatever. With that in mind, consider my reliance on my memory the comic book equivalent of natural selection. I intend to read everything…unless I forget. In that case, that’s just the way it is.
I understand why comics with established stories and fans are optioned, but how and why are comics getting picked up after only a few issues? Maybe I have my wires crossed, but I think that that happened with Chariot and Eight Billion Genies. – Alex Dimitropoulos
You are not incorrect. In fact, I’d wager that these deals happened even before then. From what I’ve heard – and I’m not speaking of Chariot and Eight Billion Genies in specific here – comics are often being pitched and even optioned before anything is ever released. Actually, that’s not just what I’ve heard. That’s just happened in the public space! A lot of that likely stems from the fact that the IP Race is so hot these days, and while these comics aren’t available to be seen by readers at that point, they do have scripts, story bibles, developmental art, or even finished pages to use as pitch documents for producers and production houses. It’s arguably even advantageous to creators to do this before release, because if they wait, the perception that the idea doesn’t work could take hold if the comic doesn’t sell.
Pair that with the fact that a lot of adaptations are…let’s say…fairly loose on occasion – and that’s not just comics, either, as you can look at something like Alex Garland’s adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation and quickly realize the creative freedom there often is in bringing these to life – and you quickly realize that these titles are often optioned with the idea that they’re a starting point for more. Just think of Eight Billion Genies. The Hollywood Reporter’s announcement piece for its deal said, “The lofty mission for the property is for it to be the basis of an expansive cross-media universe, starting with a feature.” It’s viewed as a potential “expansive cross-media universe,” and it’s an eight issue mini-series!
In the world of optioning intellectual property – which is all the Hollywood side of the world views comics as – if you’re not first, you’re last. So yeah, these deals are happening far earlier than we even realize. I imagine many are complete before we even see a single issue.
This is it. You’re all set to open your very own comic book store in Alaska. Just one thing: you need staff. Fortunately, by some bizarre power you have, you are able to pull five characters from the pages of comic books to staff your comic store. Who do you pick and why? (And please keep in mind the harmony of them functioning as co-workers.) – Mark Tweedale
This is an incredible question.
I think the important wrinkle to this is the last part. You need harmony and good vibes. So I’m going to cheat and I’m going to pick the Teen Titans. As much as I would love to have Wally West on staff – and his speed would be a compelling advantage for inventory management – to prevent me from having to choose between members, I’m just going to pick the five from the show (Robin, Beast Boy, Cyborg, Starfire, and Raven), albeit the comic versions of them. Dick would obviously be the manager, and each of the other members of the team would offer compelling advantages and draws to current and potential customers (i.e. Cyborg could probably come up with the greatest point-of-sale system in the world, and Raven would immediately become an icon in the community). I like to think of them as the Gabriel Picolo version, too, the crew that just chills together and loves to spend time with one another in ordinary situations. Like working in a comic shop together!
From a pure harmony standpoint, they’d be the best. From a skills standpoint, they’d also be the best. From a “We have a guy who turns into varying animals to have around the shop but also is hilarious,” they’d be the best. So yeah, the Teen Titans. They’re the pick.
How do you organize your collection? – Linus Lee
This is actually true when it comes to my single issues, but I am guessing that would not be an adequate answer. I used to organize everything alphabetically, but with the rise of my comic book garage sales, it’s largely become two melting pots of sections in my long boxes. One are the comics I am fine selling. Those are all organized numerically in sections, but there is zero rhyme or reason as to what is with what. The other are the comics I am keeping. And simply because I want to keep my boxes filled but not too filled, there isn’t a lot of logic behind how those are all together. Newer comics are largely together, and some boxes are favored creator-owned or independent comics. Two boxes are just Uncanny X-Men. But besides straight numbered order, my single issues are largely organizational anarchy, with little thinking behind what is what (see: a box that is four different Wolverine-centric books…and Jeff Smith’s Bone).
Trades and graphic novels are a different story. I have three eight space bookcases and one giant 25 space bookcase for those. One of the eight spacers is dedicated to Marvel/DC, and for those, they’re organized by title with the two publishers separated. And when I say by title, I mean by title within fiefdoms, i.e. all X-Men comics are together, even if it says “New Mutants” on it or whatever. The remainder is non-Marvel/DC comics, and there are two sections within that. One are the titles I only have one book from the creator on. Those are organized by creator name or title simultaneously, and that is purely based on which I remember first. The rest – all of which are comics I have multiple volumes of from the same creator – are organized by the dominant creator in my brain. Sometimes that’s the writer. Other times it’s the artist. It’s considerably simpler when it’s a cartoonist, because then I don’t have to choose.
But that’s the gist of it. But then I have my manga and oversized releases on top of the two indie/creator-owned bookcases, and those are again organized by volume number. I also have my spinner racks, which are organized autobiographically, as I walked through recently. It probably wouldn’t make sense to others, especially considering how there are nuances and subjectivity to it. But it’s how I do it!
You’ve mentioned the omnibus (omnibi?) is your least favourite format for reading comics. What’s your favourite format for reading and collecting? I’ve recently decided to wait a bit longer for certain series to come out in larger formats, for example the hardcover edition of Something Is Killing the Children, which collects three TPBs’ worth of comics, instead of picking up individual TPBs. How long are you willing to wait, to see if a series will be released in your preferred format? – Tjas Debeljak
My favorite format to read in is, effectively, the graphic novel. And by that, I mean just the all-in-one, single story book designed for that format rather than comics. That’s cheating relative to the question, though.
My favorite version of collected comics, though, would be a hardcover collection that would collect, say, ten issues, max. In fact, I’ll give you a perfect example: the Paper Girls hardcovers. That’s the best format in my mind. Substantial production value. Enough issues to get a hefty read but not enough to feel overwhelming. Won’t crush you to death under the weight of the book. It’s great!
That said, I won’t wait for that. My broken comic book brain reads single issues for highest priority reads, simply because the urgency required to get on the story immediately. I occasionally trade wait, but never for stories I’m urgently excited for. So I’m not willing to wait. I will buy it again later on in my preferred format – see: Brubaker and Phillips joints – but I won’t wait.
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