This is a guest post from Charles Paul Hoffman. When not reading, writing, or thinking about comics, Charles is completing a doctorate in legal history through the McGill University Faculty of Law, though he currently lives in Indianapolis just to confuse people. You can find him on Twitter at @CharlesPHoffman.
Like many in comics fandom, I recently picked up the first Lumberjanes trade after hearing its rave reviews. I was impressed by its fun story, rich atmosphere, realistic characters, and stylized art that meshed perfectly. But, I had a problem: there was no easy way to continue reading Lumberjanes in print.
I had, of course, heard great things about Lumberjanes practically since it was first released, but had not for various reasons checked it out until this past June, when my daughter and I met Brooke A. Allen—primary penciller for Lumberjanes—at Indy PopCon. After talking to Brooke for a few minutes, checking out her art, and even getting her to draw a sweet Kate Bishop for my blank cover All-New Hawkeye #1, we bought a copy of the first Lumberjanes trade collection.
While I expected my daughter—who loves comics and regularly asks when the next issue of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl comes out—to enjoy Lumberjanes, I clearly underestimated it. As soon as we started reading the trade, she didn’t want to set it down. And once we had read and re-read the trade came the inevitable question: “Is there more?”
From perusing the merch at Brooke’s table, I knew that Lumberjanes was then somewhere in the mid-teens, so I expected getting the next volume of the trade should be as easy as a quick trip to Amazon.com, plus the two days for Prime shipping. But that’s when I saw that dreaded word that strikes fear into the hearts of anyone trying to catch up on a current comics series: “Pre-Order.” Here we were at the end of June, and according to Amazon Lumberjanes, Volume 2 would not be available until October. Now, two months later, Lumberjanes has won two Eisners—for Best New Series and Best Publication for Teens—but we’re still waiting of that next trade volume.
Delayed trade release schedules are nothing new, but it is particularly irksome in the case of Lumberjanes. The series has been an unexpected hit for BOOM! Studios, meaning many of the early issues are now hard to find, especially after the Eisner wins. So the traditional alternative to trade-waiting—picking up the last few back issues—isn’t available. I considered buying the issues on Comixology, but my daughter prefers to read comics in print, and we’d already bought the first volume that way.
More critically, though, was that Lumberjanes’ trade delay seems substantially longer than the industry average. In October, BOOM! will finally ship Lumberjanes volume 2, containing issues #5-8, as well as Lumberjanes #19—an 11 issue gap between the trades and the floppies. With a six-month delay between trades and each trade containing only four issues, the gap between floppies and trades will only grow; Amazon currently shows a projected release date of April 2016 for Lumberjanes volume 3, by which point the trades will be more than a year behind floppies, barring production delays. In order to eventually catch up, I will probably have to start buying and stockpiling current issues while waiting for the next trade, a less than ideal solution when already struggling to keep my pull list down.
But while BOOM! Studios’ Lumberjanes trade schedule is falling further and further behind the floppies, other publishers have had success printing trades on an expedited schedule to help draw in new readers. On July 1, for instance, Image Comics published the second trade of Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s The Wicked + The Divine on the same day as the first issue of the third arc. Prospective readers could pick up the first two TW+TD trades, as well as issue #13, and be fully caught up. While this day-and-date publication strategy was atypical, Image has made a point of making trades available as soon as possible, with most coming out during brief hiatuses between story arcs.
BOOM! Studios—and other publishers, for that matter—could learn a lot from Image here. An expedited trade schedule not only helps prospective readers catch up, it also helps existing readers spread the word on a great series. For a series like Lumberjanes that targets teen and pre-teen girls—the segment of the market least likely to stumble into a comic shop—it is all the more important to make the trades readily available.