I hate Memorial Day.
I don’t have anything against taking a day to commemorate the sacrifices of the country’s fighting men or women, of course, or marking a special day to let people know when they’re allowed to start wearing white or giving folks a three-day weekend in which they can go on short summer holiday.
But Memorial Day comes with a terrible cost, essentially adding a second Sunday to the week, and then throwing the rest of the following week out of whack, which messes with my internal calendar and, like any deviation from my routine, makes me a little cranky and ill at ease.
And worst of all, of course, is the fact that it also pushes new comic book day back a day.
Wednesdays have been my favorite day of the week for a good half of my life at this point, for a variety of reasons, but mainly because of New Comics Day. For about the last decade and a half, my Wednesdays have been structured around the arrival of new comic books.
In high school, it was the day I’d stop at the shop after track or cross country practice, buy the one or two comics I would read then, lay on my bed and prop myself on my elbows to read them, and, after organizing them in the half-dozen stacks or so I had (one for each title), I’d sit at my typewriter to pound out a letter to Dan Raspler or Peter J. Tomasi or Jordan B. Gorfinkel or Scott Peterson about the books I just finished, in the hopes of landing in a letter column of a future issue, and hope I got them all written before 8 p.m., when Beverly Hills 90210 started.
In college, it was the day I’d always eat a box of frozen peirogies for dinner, as I didn’t want to waste time cooking anything more elaborate and delay sitting down with the new issue of JLA or Hitman or Batman or Hourman any more than my classes and the long, uphill bike ride to my college town’s nearest comic shop already did.
And now that I’m a grown-up, Wednesdays still revolve around comics. My last few day jobs have worked out so that my days off were on Wednesdays, so I could spend the day running errands on the way to and from the comic shop, sitting in my favorite chair and reading my weekly purchases, which have grown as my funds expanded from an allowance to a salary, and then blogging about them.
Comics Journal blogger Dirk Deppey sometimes refers to the grown men who visit their local comic shops each Wednesday to buy new super-comics as “The Wednesday Crowd” (usually derisively), and in a recent post at comicswaitingroom.com Marc Mason referred to New Comic Book Day as a holiday for nerds.
I’m definitely part of the Wednesday Crowd, and while I don’t know that I’d consider Wednesday a holiday, given its frequency, it sure is a special day—kind of like my Sabbath day, I guess, or perhaps my Saturday. You know, the day people look forward to each week, where they don’t have anything they have to do, and can simply indulge their hobbies. Maybe it’s my Friday, the day I’d attach a TGI to…?
That’s what Memorial Day also pushes back a day, and that’s a large part of why I hate it. (On the plus side, it means there’s only a six-day wait until the next New Comic Book Day the week following Memorial Day).
I was thinking about how much I dig Wednesdays this week as I spent the day essentially just killing time, waiting for the belated New Comic Book Day to arrive—catching up on housework, hanging out with a friend who also happened to have the day off out of doors to enjoy the nice weather, reading a book-book (with no pictures! Yuck) and thinking about Mason’s post.
If you didn’t click on the link a few paragraphs ago, you can read his peice here (and go ahead and do so, because I’m finally getting to a point, I swear). The gist of his post was that New Comic Book Day isn’t at all necessary, an idea you see cropping up here and there now and again, and he explains how he gradually quit going to his shop each Wednesday, and didn’t even notice that didn’t miss doing so at all until he looked up and noticed five months had passed since his last trip.
He then wonders if New Comic Book Day is perhaps bad for comics (it’s not), and if it might not be better if there was no New Comic Book Day (which I don’t even follow, but we’ll get to that).
I hope this doesn’t come across as confrontational, as it’s not my intention to pick a fight with Mason or anyone else, and the reason I spent so many paragraphs talking about how much I dig the ritual of Wednesdays (aside form the fact that I’m apparently long-winded and like talking about myself) was to distinguish how different my relationship with New Comic Book Day is than Mason’s.
I can certainly see not going to the shop each Wednesday if I quit reading comic books as serial, single issues, and if the day ever comes where I switch to trades exclusively than I’m sure I will (in that case, I’d probably end up ordering them online to take advantage of discounts).
And I think the argument could be made that it’s bad for the industry to cater too much to people like me, that Wednesday Crowd Deppey speaks of (and it’s often in regards to companies or the direct market and its players in general catering to us at the expense of other demographics that Deppey uses the term).
But as far as I know, the day of the week on which comic book arrive is rather arbitrary, and if New Comic Book Day were Monday, Tuesday, Thursday or Friday, it probably wouldn’t effect me at all; whichever of those it was would simply be what my Wednesday now is.
Mason looks to other media as an example of how the comics industry perhaps should deliver new product, but I don’t follow his logic on the point.
New movies typically hit theatres on Fridays. That’s fine. But it isn’t always the case. TERMINATOR SALVATION arrived on this past Thursday, giving it a one day head start against NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM 2. Did this damage NIGHT’s box office in any way? Not even close. People still went to the movies this weekend and saw that film more than they did TERMINATOR. During holiday weeks like Thanksgiving, some movies will open the Wednesday before and some will open on the Friday after. All it does is ultimately give the consumer more options for paying for the product and get them to go to the theatre multiple times, buying more popcorn and soda than they would have in going just once.
Actually, new movies always hit theaters on Fridays. Exceptions—big, eagerly anticipated movies—sometimes open on Wednesday or Thursday, and midnight screenings push these up a day (kinda), but in those cases its only to expand the weekend from two and a half days to three or four days, allowing for a bigger gross.
While the bean-counters at studios certainly pay attention to ever dollar a movie makes in every conceivable market, the film industry is geared toward opening weekend box office, and after that they stop paying attention. When a movie opens earlier in the week, then, it’s not to give consumers a choice as a convenience to the consumer, but simply to start taking their money a little earlier.
Additionally, unlike comics, movies aren’t (except in the cases of certain franchises), serial in nature, so it’s tough to compare them too closely to comics, particularly when it comes to delivery. Going to see a movie is an event in space and time, buying a comic is acquiring an object to do with as you like. (Television is probably a better thing to compare comics to, since both are serial media, but then TV is more of an experience than an object too).
New music typically arrives on Tuesdays. But many “event” albums get released on Fridays. Green Day’s latest effort was a Friday release. Did that harm record stores? Of course not. Instead, it got consumers into the store on a day that typically might have had slower traffic. This is what is known as a “good thing.” DVDs are the same as well. They usually release on Tuesdays, but when TWILIGHT hit stores, it was a Saturday-at-midnight deal, pushing it into major event status and opening up opportunities to sell more merchandise on top of that release.
Books, by the way? Same story. Thursday releases, but major events like the HARRY POTTER books went to a different day.
I don’t follow any of these media that closely anymore, but I thought Tuesday was the day that new albums, books and DVDs were released? Anyway, it sounds like Harry Potter books and Twilight DVD releases are exceptions to the rule, and comics have done special early releases at least once before in recent memory, with the midnight release of the first issue of Marvel’s Dark Tower adaptation at participating stores, comics doesn’t have anything approaching a Harry Potter or a Twilight. The best-selling comics imaginable now, say, the Obama/Spidey comic which outsold everything else by three to five times by this point, do terrible numbers for music, movies, TV and prose sensation books like Harry Potter.
What if Marvel put their books out on Mondays? DC and the rest on Thursdays? (Or something to this effect.)
I don’t think Marvel or DC have much control over this, and it would come down to the distributors of comics. Which, at this point, is pretty much just Diamond. I’m not a retailer, and perhaps some of them have opinions, but I can’t imagine that would be something they’d want. I mean, comics distribution is complicated enough as it is, isn’t it?
I suppose individual shop owners could choose to rack new comics they receive on some sort of staggered schedule if they wanted, but that would probably just irritate customers, especially since they would likely know the retailer was doing so (Like, why should one customer have to wait until tomorrow to buy the next issue of Green Lantern if he and his money and the comic book are all in the shop at the same time today?)
I do agree Mason’s right on about one point though, which he makes in his closing paragraph: “For comics to survive as a medium they must completely shift to the graphic novel format and forget the pamphlet entirely…”
The so-called pamphlet does seem doomed, doesn’t it? I mean, newspapers and magazines seem on their way out the door, it’s hard to imagine single-issue comic books will outlive either.
And it seems publishers know this and are moving toward the graphic novel (In fact, DC’s weeklies and maybe Marvel’s weekly-ish Amazing Spider-Man are the only comics from direct market leaders that are encouraging serial reading). From my perspective, as far removed from publishing as I am, it seems like the direct market’s audience has simply become a sort of test-market for the graphic novel audience, a place where comics publishers can release graphic-novels-in-production bit by bit and build up some profit before they reach their intended, final format.
At any rate, Mason got me thinking about the medium and industry for a bit this week. I’m curious how other individuals view New Comics Day, and would like to hear what any of you who might have slogged through this long, rambling post have to say on the subject.
When do you get your comics?
Is New Comic Book Day a special event in your week anymore?
Lemme know below…