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Sunday, November 16, 2003

Doane to Previews: Drop Dead -- So John Jakala has noticed how sick some folks are of dealing with/writing about Previews, the bloated, monthly catalog through which some comics buyers pre-order books shipping a couple months from the time Previews hits stores.

I have to thank Marvel for setting me free of Previews. I used to strongly advocate pre-ordering in a monthly column called "Pre-Order or Die" at Comic Book Galaxy. Every month I would spend a good couple of days poring through the gigantic catalog (the Luba's tits of comics-related publications, really) and work up a list of stuff I wanted to pre-order. Then I'd give it to my retailer. Then two months later it would come in, and toward the end of my time buying into the Previews foolishness, I would notice that probably 25 percent of the stuff that came in was stuff I had decided in the intervening weeks I really, uh, didn't want.

When Marvel started doing a separate "Marvel Previews" and Diamond paradoxically raised the price of Previews to mysteriously "make up" for a free supplement (those greedy fucks think we're really stupid, I guess), I first expressed my disgust for the entire sordid affair by leaving the Marvel supplement on the counter when I bought Previews. The next month, I left Previews behind altogether, and I don't regret it a bit.

It would be nice if there were a monthly catalog, something elegant and spare (say, 50 pages), that focused on worthwhile comics produced by and for adults. The closest thing to what I am envisioning is probably the Fantagraphics catalog, but not the current one, the old one that included stuff from other good publishers like Drawn and Quarterly, too. Now that Fantagraphics is including only their own stuff, there's no good single catalog that covers comics for grown-ups. If you know of one that I'm not aware of, please do let me know.

At any rate, the point is that Previews is a big, fat, gaudy, expensive slab of excess every month that absolutely no comics reader needs. With some major changes it could be valuable to retailers, at least, but in its current configuration it's good for nobody and ought to be fucking free, to boot. Hello, it's a goddamned catalog.

So in addition to crossing off all the shit books from your monthly buys (there's no Geoff Johns comic you truly enjoy, and you goddamned bloody well know it), tell your retailer you don't intend to pay for a freaking catalog anymore. You're smart, you know where the good comics information is. By the time you get the hard copy of Previews in your hands, all that information is already available free on the internet, and if you're really sharp you already have a comics journalist or three who you trust to wade through its ugly, ugly pages and let you know what you should be keeping an eye out for.

I do think it's important for readers to be aware of the good stuff that's coming, and probably even to pre-order it from a quality retailer (of which I think we can agree there are probably less than 200 in the entire country).

I believe we need a Previews column (dealing with the Beast as it stands today) that would do the following:

1. Employ multiple writers using their real names and reputations, standing behind their reputations over time. This avoids knowledge gaps, and over time ensures that readers come to understand the tastes of the writers, allowing them to better judge how they are or are not in tune with their own interests. "Siskel and Ebert" for pre-ordering, with Pauline Kael and other quality critics also weighing in, essentially.

2. Completely ignore books that genuinely don't need or deserve support -- no Marvel or DC recommendations. Those books will be available, and Randy Lander's monthly Previews column is a great example of why they should be totally ignored, their existence not even acknowledged. Telling someone to pre-order Batman: Hush Vol. 2 is like recommending someone pre-order TV Guide. For fuck's sake, you know if you want it or not, and you know where you can find it. We've got limited space and limited attention spans and we need to concentrate on things that fucking MATTER.

3. Emphasize that readers should pull their support (i.e., DOLLARS) from any comics shop that doesn't serve them properly. If they regularly pre-order independent titles that "must have never been published" or "didn't ship this week," FUCK THEM and find someone else who can serve you (and the artform) properly.

We keep this up, we'll be all grown up in no time.


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