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COMICS: A lot of webloggers and columnists (starting here, continuing here, here, and what led me to this piece, here) have been rehashing the old argument about the Death of the Floppy/Pamphlet/Single comic book. The last link in the list, Sean Collins's, is the only one that really means anything in context of the world outside comics. The first couple of commentators give very 'comic book industry' answers as to why singles suck or don't suck. They mention things like 'they don't travel well/they do travel well' as well as the old chestnut of 'singles are too collectible to read'. Collectible? Is this cribbed from Wizard, circa 1995? This type of thinking is exactly what has led me to my thoughts on the life and death of the single issue comic versus the Graphic Novel or collected trade paperbacks that are gaining in popularity. By the way, like a lot of comics conversations recently, this is all pretty much what Warren Ellis and others were saying years ago.

I don't think the single is going away anytime soon. I do think, however, that they will be even more of a niche market than they are today. A lot of people are going to be reading comics in the coming years but they will be doing it in bookstores (and mainstream book type stores such as Isotope and Comic Relief), not in comic shops. There's just too much good material and comics are getting into too much of our pop culture consciousness to be ignored any longer but as sales and time have shown, nobody wants to read single comics except comic book fans. In a few years at most, singles and single-based comic shops will be like stamps. A lot of people collect stamps and there are stamp collector stores but they are not really relevant to anyone outside the philatelist community. I'm sure a lot of stamp collectors would love their hobby to be a lot more popular but it's probably not going to happen, the same with single comics. Since I'm not exactly on the outside of the comic book fan community, I may not even have enough perspective to judge whether we are already at the point I'm talking about, but I think we're close if nothing else. Sales of singles are miniscule, bookstores are gaining in popularity as places to buy comics (look at the mainstream success and reviews for Sandman: Endless Nights and Persepolis), manga is proving that young people want to read comics and they want to read them in book format.

I think right now manga is the Cool New Thing but like most Cool New Things once the New goes away, the Cool will follow. But the kids who read FLCL and Chobits now will still want to read comics and they will know to get them from bookstores. This exposure to comics is the same thing that happened to computers, kids grew up with them and they are now an indispensable part of life. With the built-in base of kids exposed to comics early and often, combined with the large and varied audience of bookstore patrons, comics in bookstores have a bright future, as books.

It could be that the niche market for singles won't be enough to support the current companies. Marvel and DC may have to significantly scale down their single issue production, maybe even get out of that market altogether. But you'll still be able to buy Batman, X-Men, etc., in book format unless they don't recognize where the market is going and it kills them. I'm not worried about the future of my book buying habit but I do see a point where I have to wait awhile for new comics the way I have to wait for the new novels I like.