Comics Disassembled: Nine Things of Note from the Past Week in Comics, Led by DC Going Compact

This was looking like an exceptionally short week. But then, like the darkest of knights, DC came to me and saved the day. Let’s talk about that big news as the lead item in Comics Disassembled, a look at nine things I liked or didn’t like from the week of comics. It’s still abbreviated, but it’s not so abbreviated!

1. DC, Making Big Moves in Small Formats

There was nowhere else we could start this week. DC announced a bit of news this week that was like catnip for my brain. I’m talking about DC Compact Comics, its new line of exceptionally designed, slightly smaller – not quite digest sized like Marvel’s Runaways volumes from the 2000s, and not quite manga-sized either – editions of books with a reader friendly price point of $9.99. That’s a 5.5″ x 8.5″ book for $10, with a first wave of titles that includes classics like Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All Star Superman and Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen but also unexpected (but excellent) picks like N.K. Jemisin and Jamal Campbell’s Far Sector and Darwyn Cooke and Ed Brubaker’s Catwoman: Trail of the Catwoman. Not only that, but these tomes aren’t collecting abbreviated versions into multi-volume sets, but complete stories of even 12 issue maxis like All Star Superman and Far Sector (not of American Vampire, though, as that’s a Volume One, which naturally suggests a second volume to come). That’s incredible! It’s honestly the best thing to come from one of the Big Two in I don’t even know how long.

It reminds me very specifically of Urban Comics’ Nomad line for DC material, in which the French publisher collected notable comics like All Star Superman and Batman: The Court of Owls into similarly sized, similarly priced paperback editions like this, with each volume even having a genre marking just like the ones these Compact Comics have. But this all makes sense given the fact that François Hercouet and his team at Urban have been sort of a test kitchen for DC for a while now. I’m not saying DC just followed Urban’s lead, but it has been established that these can be effective in a market, even if we haven’t seen it in the U.S. yet.

One difference between the two is the composition of the line. Granted, it’s early – I am sure DC has plans for future waves already – but Urban has leaned a bit heavier in the direction of Vertigo to date, something that makes a lot of sense for the bookstore and mass media market focus Compact Comics has. I won’t bemoan selecting Watchmen for this initial wave. It’s an evergreen seller for a reason. But given the manga-adjacent size and its lower price point, it’s a bit surprising that this line feels like it’s built more on existing top sellers like it rather than better potential fits for the format and audience. There’s a part of me that would have loved to have seen something like Gotham Academy or Wonder Woman: Dead Earth or a collection of Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo’s Nightwing in this wave over something like Watchmen or Batman: Hush, two comics we’ve seen in a million different formats already. But that’s just splitting hairs at this point, to say nothing of figuring out how Dead Earth’s oversized Black Label Prestige Plus format would translate to this.

The point is this, though: It’s a great idea. It’s a necessary one too. I know there’s skepticism as to whether this will truly open doors to manga readers or new readers or whomever, but my take is you have to try. And this is an appealing, familiar-ish format filled with mostly complete stories at an extremely reasonable price, one that’s being aimed at mass market stores and bookstores. That’s a great theoretical path to onboarding readers, something well timed as the build up to James Gunn’s DC universe films continues. I have already heard from a bevy of jazzed readers and retailers. The excitement is palpable, and understandable. DC Compact Comics is a fantastic idea, and one that seems as if it’s being executed in an effective way. I really dig it. Good job, DC!

2. ShortBox Comics Fair, Putting Up Numbers

File this one under great news: ShortBox revealed how October’s ShortBox Comics Fair — a pop up, online only sales event featuring 100 new comics from tremendous creators — did, and it was a bonanza. 52,000 comics sold! £323,000 in revenue! 105,000 unique visitors on the website! Those are dynamite numbers, especially considering that ShortBox is an independent outfit with little push behind it outside of glowing word-of-mouth about how these comics looked. Evidently ShortBox will be providing more data and analysis about the results next week, but shouts to everyone involved with the fair on this exciting news. I truly love to see it.

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