Gridlock

I live in a town with horrible traffic issues. I know… who doesn’t? And over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’d rather drive 20 miles out of my way and keep moving than sit in traffic go nowhere, or worse, frequently stop and start without making any meaningful forward progress.

I don’t read that many pamphlet comics, and I think there’s some carry-over from my disposition as a motorist. Not too long ago, I tried a monthly comic that had gotten very good reviews, and I may someday enjoy it in collected form, but the two issues I picked up on the same shop visit confirmed that 20-odd pages with ads is not a satisfying delivery system for me.

In fact, the advertisements almost made me lose my mind. Here’s the breakdown for the first issue, with actual content in italics:

Cover.
Inside cover advertisement.
Four pages of story.
Two pages of advertisements.
Four pages of story.
Two pages of advertisements.
Four pages of story.
Two pages of advertisements.
Four pages of story.
Two pages of advertisements.
Six pages of story.
Two pages of advertisements.
Back inside cover advertisement.
Back cover advertisement.

The four-two-four-two pattern was positively Zen-like compared to the jumble of the second issue. At one point, one page of story was sandwiched between two pages of advertisements. I imagine this is because there were a certain number of advertisers who wanted right-side pages, which forced the layout department to hack up the story in a way that would accommodate the advertisers. But seriously, just throw the page in the trash, why don’t you? Its contents are 90% lost anyways.

I get that it’s a business and some publishers who deal in pamphlet comics rely on advertising revenue, but I found the constant stop-and-start maddening. At least television producers can rely on commercial breaks coming at regular intervals and they can write their beats accordingly. They can even build internal cliffhangers into a half-hour or hour-long program and use the interruptions to their advantage.

But how is a comic writer supposed to know how their story will flow after the ads are inserted in ways that have nothing to do with narrative momentum or even logic? Why would writers even try, unless they were doing some work-for-hire product tie-in where it’s all advertising to begin with? (“Now, after those three pages, there’s a maze where Grimace has to find the three daily servings of fruit.”) And how’s an artist supposed to know that their illustrations stand a chance of leading the reader’s eye in the way they want when one of their sequences is bound to be chopped into thirds by things completely discordant with their visual style? Seriously, even if the ads aren’t hideous, and a lot of them are, the flow suffers.

So yeah, no more floppies with ads for me, because that just grated on my nerves. I’ve been spoiled by digests. The closest thing I’ve found to an advertisement in the actual story of a manga paperback is Yuu Watase telling her readers to buy the soundtrack from the Ceres anime because it made her cry.

13 Responses to Gridlock

  1. Katherine Dacey says:

    I’m with you, David, especially with floppies aimed at young readers. I’m enjoying the Shanower/Young Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Marvel), but find the advertising seriously off-putting. Issue three, for example, was filled with ads for superhero comics, a preview of Wolverine: First Class, and an ad for Hulk, Spiderman, and Iron Man fragrances. No, I’m not making that up. (The tagline is even worse: “With great power comes great fragrances.”) WHO COMES UP WITH THIS STUFF?! And perhaps more frightening still: WHO BUYS IT?!!!

  2. davidpwelsh says:

    I hadn’t even thought of comics specifically for kids. I wonder if they’re the same ads that run in the bulk of Marvel’s comics or if they try and target them?

  3. […] David Welsh explains why comics pamphlets with decreasing pages and expanding ad counts proved to be the last straw for him. […]

  4. Adam Casey says:

    You don’t have to read the ads…

  5. Dave White says:

    Well, don’t forget the actual ad for Nana stuff that get buried in the “Junko’s Place” backups in Nana… This has just been an increasing problem for years, though. It makes me pine for the days when, say, Dark Horse would run eight pages of ads but would push them all to the very back of the book after the main story but before the letters page.

  6. […] Fed up with intrusive and oddly placed ads, blogger David Welsh swears off monthly […]

  7. davidpwelsh says:

    Some publishers still do it that way, don’t they, Dave? I’d be willing to swear that’s Oni’s approach.

  8. Dave White says:

    Sure, but those tend to either be house ads or swap ads. Real paid advertisers don’t seem to like having their ads pushed off to one side.

  9. davidpwelsh says:

    Good point. Nobody puts Baby in the corner! Or something like that, but probably involving Gushers or Grand Theft Auto 7, or whatever.

  10. Katherine Dacey says:

    Marvel seems to be targeting younger readers with the ads in Wizard of Oz. The packaging for the various colognes, in particular, suggested that advertisers were trying to reach out to pre-teen boys–imagine Axe spray in superhero-shaped bottles, and you get the idea. Why Marvel thought that ad made sense in issue three of Oz… well, that’s anybody’s guess.

    Adam, I can handle ads in material aimed at grown-ups–I don’t like them (especially when they interrupt the story), but I’m certainly old enough to ignore them. I’m much more upset about ads in all-ages titles. When a kids’ comic is filled with advertising, the underlying message seems to be, “Come for the story, stay for all the cool products you can wheedle out of your parents.”

  11. davidpwelsh says:

    Kate, I find it difficult to think of Axe body spray at all, but I’ll take your word for it.

    And Adam, just to clarify, I don’t actually read the ads, but I still find their placement disruptive to what I consider a readable flow.

  12. torpor says:

    Sorry, this is just ridiculous.

  13. davidpwelsh says:

    Actually, it’s a preference, but thanks for contributing.

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