Comics Disassembled: Ten Things of Note from the Past Week in Comics, Led by New Formats for Old Hits

It’s a funky week in comics news, with no headliners like last week. So, in lieu of gigantic news, let’s talk about a great move by a great book, as well as nine other things I liked or didn’t like from the week of comics.

1. Saga, Back in a Brand New Edition

Back in my December 2023 Mailbag, I was asked about what moves direct market comics could make to benefit from the boom in manga and middle-grade comics. In my answer — which I emphasized that a hard look should be made at more digest sized collections — I specifically said, “Saga should really have digest sized volumes.” The reason was obvious. Saga has a manga feel, from a story standpoint, and it’s self-contained to the point you just start at volume one and go from there. If you package it at a manga-like size with a lower price point, my guess was that it would do fairly well. But that was only a guess, even if it was one I believed in.

We’re about to find out if my guess was correct. It was announced this week that Saga will be getting digest-ish sized — 6″x9″ — editions starting this September. The first volume will be $9.99, with future editions most likely coming in at $14.99 (which is two dollars less than a typical Saga trade), per ICv2. While that’s a smidge over the price of your average volume of Chainsaw Man (or similar manga series), Saga will also be published in full color, which likely is the bulk of the reason it’s priced higher. Needless to say, though, I think this is a smart move! I’ve been advocating for more digest sized editions of Western comics for a while, particularly ones that are accessible in a way Saga is. If positioned correctly, I suspect these editions will pop in a major way for Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples (who delivered a new cover for the digest edition), and Fonografiks’ long-running series, which is good for them and good for comics — if only from a proof of concept standpoint.

2. VeVe, Not Impressing

This news actually arrived last week, but to be honest, I didn’t feel like dealing with it then. Yesterday’s David got away scot-free, and today’s David must suffer for his inaction. Alas.

After Marvel announced its next wave of X-Men titles at SXSW last week, the presentation continued onwards to focus on another new endeavor that did not generate the same level of enthusiasm. It was the launch of the VeVe Comics platform, a new digital comics enterprise powered by the folks who had been fueling Marvel’s previous (and existing) forays into NFTs. In theory, Marvel embracing a new digital platform should have been big, appealing news in the wake of ComiXology’s disintegration, especially if it’s just the first of many publishers to sign up. Instead, it’s just weird, and the sort of solution that only seems like a solution in theory.

The good is the platform seems nice enough, with a guided view like experience and easy purchasing making it appear to be a potentially high quality replacement. The problem with this platform — beyond it being an apparent gateway to “limited edition digital comics verified on the blockchain” (all of which are even more expensive than the regular comics, including already ultra-priced releases like Ultimate Invasion #1, which has a limited edition version that goes for $11.98 instead of $8.99) — is the number of comics it apparently offers readers. It launched with “300+ new Marvel digital issues,” with new titles hitting day and date going forward. “300+” is one of those numbers that sounds like a lot in theory. The reality is, that’s…like…four months of releases for Marvel, tops. In its history, Marvel’s total releases are in the five figure range, so this is like looking at the world outside your window through a keyhole.

My read on this is that this isn’t Marvel or VeVe building a ComiXology replacement as much as it is them creating a platform for people who want digital collectible versions of Marvel comics. It’s a path to easy money, and it isn’t one for readers. The implication by that “300+” number to me is that if you’re a reader, you should go to Marvel Unlimited, and if you’re a digital collector, VeVe is for you. They almost certainly will build the platform’s library out, but this strikes me as a post-peak non-solution to a problem that continues to exist. There’s nothing to see here for readers, unless it changes its shape dramatically.

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