How Monthlies Can Warp Our Perspectives

Talking about monthly comics vs the graphic novel is not revolutionary by any stretch. At this point we have heard from damn near every creator about which is preferred: the monthly comic or the graphic novel.

What is revolutionary is when companies like DC go same date and day for physical and digital copies of books. Previously, there was a few days/weeks in between digital and physical copies availability.  Now that has all been changed that Marvel is also going same day/date for digital and physical comics.

While there has been some bantering around about how this push to same date and date is taxing DC’s creative staff, what is perhaps more intriguing is how running comics, digital and physical, on the same day further warps our perspective on comics.This push has also been linked to the tremendous crash in art quality for DC comics.

But, even this downturn in quality is not the worst of it. What is possibly the worst result is that this push for monthly comics, both day/date for digital and physical comics, is that it creates an overall philosophy that companies can cut corners, quality can be rushed, and the product is all the more perishable for it.

We all know the monthly comic has been around since the dawn of comics, more or less, and will most likely stay around for the foreseeable future. The problem here and has always been, in particular, is comic books offer up a monthly segment of story by a creative team that understands if they cannot produce in time, they could be replaced. This is not a DC or Marvel, but a deadline issue, one stemming from the big Two’s need for dominance in the comics market.

Once again, we are witnessing spiraling implications to both artifact and culture growing out of the issue of monthly comics. Are deadline’s hurting the market? In a sense.

While any company needs revenue, comic books have always worked on more of a monthly revenue basis than an over all one. A market that has had great success (DC’s new 52) and it’s failures (Marvel going Bankrupt in the 90′s.)  But what is not apparent is how this has changed our perspective on comics themselves.

Adaptation is perhaps our greatest strength as a species. While it is easy to boast about how humans can, seemingly, adapt to almost any condition we find ourselves in, it is an ability that works to our detriment too.
Maybe you work somewhere with construction going on.  Almost instantly obnoxious, the jackhammer you hear sounds like it will never go away.  But, slowly, after a few hours, you start to notice it less and less.  What was once like the sound of a million kids all throwing fits, is now on par with the humming of the heater or fridge. We adapt to the environment so we can thus be ready for sudden changes.

This also means that things around us can loose a certain presence and power they once had. While most can still get excited over a new monthly issue of X-Men or Superman, for some there is a feeling of routine to it all. Some of us know, without even acknowledging it is Wednesday, that we just wake up and know it is new comics day.

But, this is not like Christmas and we wake up and walk down in our Green Lantern onesy, unsure of what, if anything will be there. No, this is on par with meeting your friends for lunch once a week.  Something you can be excited about, but nothing necessarily new, per say.

This demonstrated, for the new and old readers, that comics will always come out. Hell, the Diamond catalog alone is the size of a Cerebus phone book graphic novel. That alone says there is no dearth of comics coming out.

Let me repeat that, there is no small amount of comics coming out every month. Yet, some of the reactions to the idea of getting rid of monthlies is like asking a mother to punt her child for a field goal.

So, what is happening that creates this incessant need for the comfort of the monthly comic. The comic buyer and the comic company both have a similar stake, vested interest if you will. Comic companies business model is built on re-occurring revenue found in the monthly comic. The reader, almost by default, is largely left with the serialized comic if they want to find out what happens next in the Superboy.

In order to do away with the monthly comic, it would take an overhaul to the business model of not just the Big Two, but also the other smaller comics companies as well. What this develops is a reliance, as if by necessity, to keep the monthly alive because, well, we have been doing it so long.

This develops an almost detached need in the comics culture for the monthly comic. It is almost a security blanket for us. We become to rely on it because it brings a certain stability to our lives, impacted and entrenched in routine.

While this is not bad in and of itself, there are larger issues that stem forth and bring trouble. Perhaps it is time that we as a culture re-evaluate how we are driving the medium and if it isn’t time to jump lanes.

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Kevin Thurman is a writer based in Chicago. He blogs about comics, life, and music at

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Also by Kevin Thurman:

Warren Ellis: The Captured Ghosts Interviews


Voyage in Noise: Warren Ellis and the Demise of Western Civilization


Shot in the Face: A Savage Journey to the Heart of Transmetropolitan


The Devil is in the Details: Examining Matt Murdock and Daredevil


a feature-length documentary film on celebrated comics writer Warren Ellis

creative consultant

Keeping the World Strange: A Planetary Guide



  1. David Balan says:

    I didn’t know day and date was linked to a crash in art quality – the art seemed just as good/bad as ever to my eyes. Example?

  2. David,

    Thanks for the comment! For the best examples, go to just about any of the DC52. For instance, if you compare Ressurection Man#1 with issue# 2 you will see an incredible decline in the art. Many of the comics, with the exception of Batwoman, look incresingly worse art wise. What is being said is that DiDio is pushing so hard for deadlines to be met that they are starting to cut corners.

    For instance, Mr Terrific is starting to use computer drafted/made backgrounds for the comics because it seems, someone, is running late.

    While I have no problem with computer generated anything, I do decry it when it is done to cut corners and not in service of story or style.

    At this point it feels like companies are producing monthlies just because. When you start cutting corners it is an obvious indictment that you care more about the artifact, the monthly comic, than they do value.

  3. Ben Marton says:

    I’m really glad someone else felt moved enough to comment on the poor quality of the rushed art DC has been producing over the last three months. ‘Action Comics,’ the only title I ever had any intention of continuing to buy beyond issue one, has seen three pencillers and as many inkers in three issues. And while Rags Morales was never a favourite of mine, his work on this book seems particularly unfocused and uneven. Even the fact that Grant Morrison is writing it (and let’s face it; can anyone really say it doesn’t feel lacklustre and work-for-hire?) has not been enough incentive for me to consider buying issue four. The poor art? Just the final, poorly rendered, straw.

  4. Interesting ideas–especially the comparison to “meeting your friends for lunch once a week.”

    Can I make a confession? I stopped buying monthlies several years ago. The last monthly I bought was The Dark Knight Strikes Again. That is until a couple of months ago. I guess I was feeling a little left out with all the hoopla over the new 52, so I broke down and got the first issue of Action Comics.

    I was excited. Grant Morrison. Superman relaunch. Hints of socialism. What was not to love? But when I finished the issue, I was reminded of why I had quit monthlies in the first place. There were some iconic seeming moments and a real sense of attitude, but as a reading experience it felt utterly empty–as if I had paid four dollars to watch ten minutes of a movie in progress at the local multiplex.

    And I don’t see that as a condemnation of the comic either. As I said, there seemed to be some interesting things going on and I look forward to the trade, but as a reading experience the single issue felt like a waste of time and money.

    That’s why I think most of the appeal for monthlies comes from the shared sense of community. And I don’t dismiss that lightly. After all, in my world, Bruce Wayne only recently returned and the “Ultimate” Peter Parker is still alive. But purely from a reader’s perspective, I don’t see ever going back.

    • David Balan says:

      I know how you feel. The last time I read a physical monthly was my mother’s old stack of Archie 8 years ago (which I thoroughly enjoyed, by the way). I got some digital New 52 to see what all the hoopla was about, and on the whole they’re quite disappointing.

      Many of the writers for issues these days don’t write with a substantial quality in single issue in mind – they just write arcs for trades and then cram it into issues, and the whole experience of paying 4 bucks for, like you said, a cheap amount of story?

      Really annoying. Monthlies can be done well, but they’re not right now.

  5. I think the main reason monthlies hold the market in the grasp it does is because a lot of the time people buy just out of habit. I can’t speak for other people, but when I quit buying floppies and started tradewaiting, a lot of comics ended up getting dropped. All of a sudden, I didn’t care about Green Lantern, the Avengers, Captain America, the event comics or it’s tie-ins which I had bought many of when I was buying floppies. I didn’t care any more.

    When I made the switch, I realized how much the monthlies depended on the cheap cliff-hangers and the fact that these were characters that I had been fans of since I was a kid instead of them being actual good stories. Having to wait 6 or so months between tpbs instead of just a month, I just didn’t care.

    Meanwhile, I’m buying a lot more manga, eurocomics, and self-contained stories from other companies, because they are delivering the satisfying reads that don’t rely on nostalgia and cheap gimmicks as often as the Big 2.

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