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RANDOM RAMBLINGS: Where are my damn trade paperbacks?!

July 19th, 2013 by Irwin Fletcher 1 Comment

Every now and then our man Michael goes off on a tirade about this thing or that. Sometimes we like to print them for you guys to read because, lets face it, he can’t be the only one. We like to call these moments ‘Random Ramblings’…

I’ve spent the last week or so rereading some old trades. Particularly high on the list was Mike Grell’s ‘Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters’, the seminal reinvention of Green Arrow as the ‘Urban Hunter’. I got in the mood for that one after watching the final few episodes of ‘Arrow’, Warner Bros. hugely successful Green Arrow TV series. Jeff Lemire’s current run on the New 52 Green Arrow book takes influence from what Grell achieved with Longbow Hunters in its more serious take on Oliver Queen. If you want a copy of ‘The Longbow Hunters’ it’s relatively easy to get; DC has had it in print as a trade paperback for years.

It’s a great read but I got annoyed by the end and here is why; none of the subsequent Green Arrow series, again written by Grell, a series that kept this mature tone (including a ‘suggested for mature readers’ label) and kept the gritty urban style has ever been reprinted. Not a single trade paperback, no hardcovers, nothing at all, and this is considered one of the character’s seminal runs! I was left wondering ‘Where the hell are my damn trades of this!’ After all there is a successful TV show taking them as inspiration, and I can’t be the only one who would want them.

It’s becoming a pet peeve that so many great titles and famous works never see reprint. It’s not always the publisher’s fault I know, sometimes the reprints are solicited in previews but there is such little interest from comic shops that they are withdrawn and never see print. I can’t imagine I’m alone, there must be plenty of you out there who would love to read books from the 70s, 80s, or even 90s and just can’t afford to pay for a pile of back issues (even if you can find them). Much is made about what the current crop of comic book writers and artists read as kids and how it influences them today in their work and yet these books are rarely reprinted.

Runs from the 2000’s are easy to find as the idea of collecting a trade after each story arc had taken hold by then. However go any further back and you begin to enter a wilderness where few trades exist for books other than those containing the big guns like Batman, Spiderman, and The X-Men. Often we see the material reprinted in very expensive hardcovers themed by artist or the issues are re-printed out of context in ‘Best of’ collections. DC do have their affordable black and white ‘Showcase’ volumes which offers some hope that great runs will see print again and Marvel also have their reprints of old story arcs, but those are priced for only hard-core fans and collectors; not for anyone on a budget.

I was delighted when a few years ago Denny O’Neil’s terrific 1980s series ‘The Question’ began to see print again following the resurgence in popularity of the character after his role in the weekly series ‘52’. We got around six volumes, which collected the entire series, but they did not collect the following annuals or ‘quarterlies’ that completed the series’ storylines. It was a real frustration to have a book re-printed incompletely and it set me on the path to collecting all the missing issues at comic conventions and online (a task I am now only three issues away from completing).

A good example of what can be done is coming from Vertigo. Their reprints are both relatively cheap and becoming really comprehensive. Alan Moore’s ‘Swamp Thing’ and Warren Ellis’ ‘Transmetropolitan’ have both seen reprints in recent years and Vertigo are currently reprinting ‘Hellblazer’, every issue, in order for the very first time. All this is giving readers the chance to visit stories that they maybe weren’t old enough to read when they were first published.

In my view we should see more done by publishers to capitalize on the success of a character by using this popularity to get older trade paperbacks back into print. Green Arrow’s back catalogue should be mined and exploited on the back of ‘Arrow’. We should, and I hope will, see more Superman books being re-printed following ‘Man of Steel’s release. There are also terrific books that were once published by the big two which were not just the usual superhero fair. It would be great to see such titles as the great noir detective miniseries of the 1980s ‘Nathanial Dusk’ given new life in trade or hardcover form. With comics trying to reach wider audiences it makes good sense that the books of the past should not just be forgotten about and never seen again. Maybe we need a middle ground here where publishers like DC print smaller runs of back trades and comic shops take a risk and ordering a few copies of a re-print when they are offered in previews just to see if their customers will try them. Moreover, we the readers need to do our part by trying some of these older works when we see them. If more people do that then finally I might get my damn trades!


I'm an LA journalist who really lives for his profession. I have also published work as Jane Doe in various mags and newspapers across the globe. I normally write articles that can cause trouble but now I write for FTN because Nerds are never angry, so I feel safe.