It's the Spice of Life

Lots of discussion of format over the weekend, sparked by Chris Arrant's well researched article on Newsarama about Fell, followed by Spurgeon's summary of new formats and finally Ellis' inaugural The Ministry.

I love seeing "new" formats particularly when it comes to singles. Anything that can help a worthy title stand out from the pack is particularly welcome, a big reason I like the format of the Ignatz (buy Ganges!) line. On the other hand, I prefer longer works in a smaller format, particularly because if they get much bigger it'll be like trying to carry around a dictionary. As I said a few days ago, though, the format of the book should fit the content, rather than trying to fit the proverbial square peg into a 22 page hole. A standard sized comic shrunk down to a digest size is just plain annoying and hurt two of the better series to come out of Marvel recently, Runaways and Sentinel. Of course, Marvel turned around and went way too far in the opposite direction with the solution, the oversized $30 hardcover version of Runaways that weighs nearly as much as the kid trying to read it. Here's an idea, how about publishing it as a series of digest sized books with art initially designed for such a size, or collecting the series in the size it was initially designed to be printed in.

Probably my favorite size for long form works is the 6 x 9 that Persepolis and the DEMO collection both used. Big enough to avoid the miniaturization problems that plague shrunken digests but small enough to carry around like any other book market trade paperback.

One tangential discussion when dealing with format related specifically to the Fell article, namely the question of value. According to my incredibly informal research, $3.00 is roughly the current limit for most consumers to try out a single that they are uncertain about and even then there has to be a creator or concept attached that is of particular interest to them. The $2.00 price point on Fell is cited by many as a reason they gave it a try, but in reality it was the fact that it was a $2.00 Warren Ellis/Ben Templesmith crime comic that got a nice publicity push as a series of one and done stories. I enjoy Fell and I think its a nice experiment for the industry, but it doesn't stretch the boundaries of the format to nearly the extent of the Ignatz or "The Louis Riel" as Spurgeon calls it. What I hope most people take away from the apparent success of Fell is the individual/serial nature, ala television shows like Lost, 24 or even Gilmore Girls. The spot that Marvel and DC have put themselves in, somewhere in between singles as individual stories and singles as an indiscriminate chunk of a larger GN is what leads to the frustration with pacing that we're seeing.

As many things as I like to see become more standardized in this industry (from UPCs to data reporting to POS systems) the format of the books themselves is one area where I like to see as much variety as possible. After all variety is . . . (told you I'd spice it up).


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