A little late, I find this post by Warren Ellis, spinning out of Twitter comments by Ed Brubaker and Brian Michael Bendis, about digital distribution of comics reshaping narrative in the same way that collecting everything into trades and hardcovers did:
Brian (and Joe Quesada, I guess) see digital comics as potentially doing to the serialised graphic novel what the mp3 did to the album. Digital comics services are still very much all about the single rather than the graphic novel. They’re not selling TRANSMETROPOLITAN as ten collections. They’re selling it as sixty singles. Mp3s are priced individually at most music services because people will buy the bits of an album they want. The days of being able to force the sale of a complete unit of songs, in a predetermined running order, are long gone. And I suspect what’s being said here is that there’s a belief that comics could go a bit like that. I also suspect it’s a bit of wishful thinking, hoping that waiting-for-the-trade will go away if you write technically infinite storylines that put the focus back on the individual single, and the individual single being the point of instant gratification that you load on to your tablet.
That said, if you deliberately write against collection as a method to embrace digital distribution…
…well, as I’ve said before, Archie Goodwin once told me that the only qualititative difference between superhero comics and soap operas is that superhero comics replace love scenes with fight scenes. And those shows only end when they get cancelled.
This isn’t a new idea, of course; the idea of comics as perpetual narrative machines was a selling point, once upon a time, and then an anti-selling point, when the bookstore market seemed to become more of a possibility/reality/new market eventuality. For that matter, the idea of purposefully re-embracing serialization and writing “against collection” is arguably something that DC has been pushing for some time; I’m sure Dan Didio has talked in interviews about making each issue so “important” that fans can’t wait for them to be collected (and thereby re-establishing the single issue market) before. But is it something that gains new impetus as digital becomes more of a focus, formatwise? Does that mean we’re going to see a change in the way comics are structured, just like we did with the whole “decompression”/”writing for the trade” movement, a decade or so ago? And if so, what will that look like?