The Beat has a rather interesting article on the debate between periodicals, as in the monthlies, versus original graphical novels. It is in response to what Brian Hibbs wrote in a recent column. It is a curious debate as some think the monthly format is becoming obsolete. From my perspective I thought it was obvious that the answer is a little bit of everything is needed. Hibbs does a nice job of explaining why the monthlies are still important, which really comes down to a reliable and steady cash flow. The collected editions and OGNs have value in addition to the monthly books, especially in recent years with traditional booksellers factoring in. This is one of the reasons why I think DC’s new Earth One line is a good move. They will be OGNs from named creators outside of the continuity that their monthly books are in. It is something that is in addition to reliable monthly line, but it would foolhardy for it to replace the monthlies.
The comments in the article at the Beat are the most interesting part to me as John Jackson Miller weighs in with numbers and thoughts on the trends. Miller wrote,
We had $320 million in periodical sales last year across all channels — comics shops, newsstands, and subscription; plus around $160 million in TPB sales in comics shops, and another $220 million in TPB sales in the mass market.
I have been wondering what kind of numbers the books were doing outside the traditional direct market. It is nice to have a number since most best seller lists just rank the books without numbers. It is very good to see how well the industry has done in the mass market. Those numbers also show why a little bit of everything is important. I do not believe comic shops will ever go away. Just as there is still a market for vinyl records, there will surely always be a market, however small, for the traditional monthly comics. I do think it also means orignal graphic novels have their place, especially with the types of people that are putting something together in their part time, much like the countless people out there writing their own novels in the hopes that might get published someday. Conversly the mainstream comics will continue doing what works for them, since they have people working full time on properties like superheros which as a whole are best suited for the monthly format. Looking at this from a creative perspective I think the future looks bright for comics and graphic novels in general.