The seven-inch Supreme
I bought a comic today. That happens rarely enough that it’s an event. I’m reading comics all the time – currently the second volume of Casanova and Dave McKean’s Celluloid – but they’re books, collected volumes, graphic novels, whatever. It’s unusual for me to lay down cash for a floppy-covered actual periodical.
The comic I bought was Supreme #63, the relaunch of the title that picks up where Alan Moore left off with the last Alan Moore script drawn by Erik Larsen. Because I hadn’t paid enough attention to the details it was slightly disappointing: I expected the final issue of Moore’s second year, a big Supremacy-Daxia throwdown, and actually it was the penultimate issue. Should have paid attention to the issue number, I guess.
But it’s not the content that spurred me to write. It’s the feeling of leaving a comic shop with a comic in my hand. I don’t know when comics started being called singles, as in singles and trades, but that’s what I thought today: “I haven’t bought a single since that Giffen-DeMatteis retro Justice League.” Then I thought about actual singles, seven-inch vinyl singles, and how far back they’ve travelled into the past. They were even before my time, and I’m 38; cassette singles yeah, CD singles by the ton, but no singles in their defining form. They still exist, of course. On National Record Store Day, coming up soon, there’ll be queues outside the shops as men my age with disposable incomes try to hook themselves a limited edition from Gorillaz or Leonard Cohen or whoever.
The difference is that those vinyl singles are a deliberate anachronism. They’re a one-off designed to get people to the record shops, to give the record shops a profit hit, and to remind people how they got into music in the first place. The single I bought today is the comic industry’s economic engine. A format that’s hardly been changed in twenty years, that no longer matches anyone’s buying habits or new technologies, and retails at a price which can’t even pretend to represent value for money.
Imagine a music industry convinced that the only way to sell music is to get everyone back buying seven-inch vinyl singles. That’s the comics industry.