In preparation for this week’s release of Umbrella Academy on Netflix, I review the first twelve issues of the comic book series, then ask some questions about trade sales at comic shops before celebrating the monthly pull list ritual!
Featured Comic Book Of the Week –
The Umbrella Academy Volumes 1 & 2
(Mild Spoilers For These Issues Follow!)
Title: The Umbrella Academy #1 to #12
Writer: Gerard Way
Artist: Gabriel Ba
Where to find: Umbrella Academy
For over a decade now, I have avoided reading The Umbrella Academy, originally released in single issues by Dark Horse, and I can’t entirely put my finger on why. There’s the “celebrity tourist” potential of My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way writing a comic (which Grant Morrison puts to rest in his introduction to the collected edition), but I quite like The Black Parade and have enjoyed Way’s Young Animal contributions, particularly on Doom Patrol. I genuinely don’t know where it comes from, but I’ve held on to a vague assumption that this series was overrated.
Simply put, like most vague assumptions, this was as asinine as they come. Way and Ba’s work on The Umbrella Academy’s first six issue story arc “The Apocalypse Suite” is as assured and entertaining as new superhero universes come. Way channels Morrison and Ba channels Mignola, and both of them transform those influences into a beautiful book that feels like Hellboy meets Black Hammer.
In other words: This is a highly recommended comic book series!
For the uninitiated The Umbrella Academy tells the story of seven children born in an incredible moment of superpowered babies. As the (reported) only survivors, they are taken in by a Dr. Hargreeves who raises them as a superunit, developing their powers and sending them on world-saving missions.
While this is the origin, Way and Ba wisely focus the majority of their story on these characters as adults. Some of them are keeping up the good fight, some of them have moved on entirely, and nearly all of them harbor some sort of familial resentment towards their cruel father figure or each other. In this way (and this is why I make the Black Hammer comparison), it’s superhero comics and family drama with the world at stake.
Like all good new comics in the superhero genre, Way and Ba’s work here feels familiar and fresh at the same time. For the most part, Umbrella Academy relies less on obvious analogue heroes (Kraken & his very own GCPD being the primary exception) which works to the stories benefit. My personal favorite powerset is Rumor, the team member who can seemingly do just about anything by telling someone “I heard a Rumor that [insert crazy thing happening here].”
What’s thrilling for me – coming to the series a decade late and with a Netflix TV adaptation right around the corner – is how much more story remains in the UA universe. Way and Ba plant so many world building seeds that aren’t the central cornerstones of “Apocalypse Suite” or “Dallas,” and I’d love to see more of the team’s history in action.
I’m extremely excited to see this series come to fruition on Netflix!
Comic Book Industry
TREND: Graphic Novel & Trade Sales
So here’s a thing I don’t understand: What’s the case for purchasing collected editions from your local comic book shop?
Anything that questions support of the LCS is somewhat heretical among fans, and I understand a lot of the reasons why. As a comic book fan I simply like having a personal, local store where I can pick up my single issues of comics I’m collecting every single week. I want to support their business with my dollars because 1) I like receiving floppy comics every week and 2) this is a store with Batman, Thanos, and Saga posters adorning the window, and I want to live in a world where stores like that exist!
Nonetheless, I’m always the first to admit the symbiotic relationship between retailer and fan doesn’t make a whole lot of common sense. Buying comics every week is a commitment of time, money, and storage. Many of these problems have easily identifiable remedies, such as digital comics, or the mere patience to wait until stories are available via services like Marvel Unlimited and Hoopla Digital.
These solutions are not favorable to the difficult reality of sustaining a local retailer.
Which brings me back to my original question: What’s the case for purchasing collected editions from your LCS?
As someone who generally does not do this anymore, here are the cases I can think of:
- A calculated decision to support your LCS. It’s an exchange of goods, but it’s also almost charitable, a la Patreon. I have a hard time imagining this is an economic pattern of behavior you could count on as a shop owner.
- Impulse purchases. Maybe literal purchases of Impulse. This I can see. For less frequent visitors, or those looking for gifts, comic shops will always offer the quick physical purchase.
- Discounted stock. If I see that my shop has a buy one get one trade sale, I’m at least thinking about a buy that day.
- Day of release demand. For the customer who reads most things via trade, and is eagerly awaiting the next physical release. The concept of a pull list for trades is very foreign to me, but maybe there’s an audience for this.
That’s about it. Here are the reasons I don’t buy trades from my shop:
- They’re cheaper everywhere else. With sites like discount comic book service, and Amazon running flash sales where Marvel trades are flippin’ .99 cents, paying full price feels as antiquated as buying a CD from Best Buy. I remain consistently disappointed that shops don’t have the best deals on comics merch (and not the reverse).
- The stories can be found – either for free or as part of subscriptions – via digital services like Marvel Unlimited, Hoopla, Comixology Unlimited, etc. I rave about it to the point that you’d think they’re paying me, but Hoopla releases trades the same day they hit shops. You don’t even have to wait to read for free!
- Space. No, not the final frontier, I’m talking about shelf space at home. This gets more into personal preference – I know loads of fans have glorious #shelfporn full of trades – but I’m only buying a collected edition if it feels like a real standout book and features excellent design.
To be clear, I don’t have anything against this. I’m 100% for supporting your LCS however you want. I just genuinely wonder about shops looking to manage an extremely difficult economic reality via trade sales.
So let me know – what are your reasons? I’d love to hear more.
LOVE OF THE WEEK
Speaking of ordering from your local comic shop, it’s a small thing, but I love the new orders pull checklist I get every month from my LCS. I imagine this is different per retailer, but my store hands out a simple bookmark length checklist of the upcoming comics that have been announced, sorted by publisher.
The week’s I get this list the first thing I always do when I get home is run through and select the new comics I’ll be adding to my pull list. There’s a lot of calculation that goes in to this as I weigh the pros of actually owning the series, and the value of reading in single issues against the cost and storage savings I’d gain from patience. Although I follow upcoming issues a little more closely as part of Comic Book Herald, there are always some nice surprises of series to add that I’d forgotten about.
I’ve long said that comics collecting is at least 40% thrill of organization, and updating a pull list with books that are all potential is an exciting small moment each month.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to talk myself out of pulling every single War of the Realms tie-in.