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Features could be original writing that doesn’t fit into Essays, Reviews, or News – but a feature post will more likely be composed of fun pictures or general nuttiness. We need some place to put it, right?

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By | Wednesday, January 19, 2011 | 6:30 pm | 2 Comments | Blog > Features

I was recently contacted by Corey Michael Blake (President of Writers of the Round Table) about a series of comics his company is publishing.

Collected under the new imprint SmarterComics, they’re mostly self help and business related publications. The promotion for these comics is definitely something different, with claims like “Guaranteed to make you smarter in 14 days, or your money back.”

Now, this is something that up until this point, I’d never considered purchasing myself.

However, as a fan of the sequential medium, the idea seems to work well – such topics could benefit from fun and easy to read introductions (or, if the kind of self help book I hate, could benefit from being trimmed down from a drawn out idea designed to make a full book out of a simple concept.)

I hadn’t read any of the original books these comics were based on, so I told him to send them on over. They came in today.

I was originally going to do a round up look on this relatively small sub-genre of comics. After flipping through the first one in the stack, I’ve decided they deserve a little more attention.

So I’ll be reviewing a few of them individually, mixed in with our other ongoing reviews.

In a way, I’m thankful – I come from a fine arts/academia background and could probably use some advice from the business world. Hopefully these books are as good as they claim!

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By | Monday, January 17, 2011 | 11:53 pm | 4 Comments | Blog > Features

I just found this while doing a little Spidey research. Matt Kuhns over at Modern Ideas created cool little visual timeline for the various Spider-Man publications over the ages.

Kuhns posted Spider-Man’s Tangled Publication-History Webalong with a bunch of fun (very nerdy) commentary, way back in October 2010. Not sure why it took me so long to see it, but it’s a nice little chart.

Exactly what I hope for from the internet! Check it out!

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By | Sunday, January 16, 2011 | 4:06 am | 9 Comments | Blog > Features

Four Color Process has posted a fantastic essay/manifesto titled In Defense of Dots: The Lost Art of Comic Books which contains the images I used to make the above animated gif.

It’s a great article and should be of interest to many of you collectors. There is definitely an aesthetic draw to printing, paper stock, even manufacturing errors.

As an artist that’s done his own printmaking and matrix creation, selections in those factors can do a LOT to increase the aesthetic appeal of a piece. As a reviewer of collected editions, it’s often hard to make a call on a particular volume.

It’s amazing, but understandable, how divided the comics community is on the subject of how to treat reprints. There are so many factors that come into play.

The artist’s original desires, historical value, the original presentation. The fact that some artists worked assuming said original presentation but that they may have changed it if they could have.

Even aging artists’ questionable aesthetic sensibility concerning their past material (Neal Adams, etc.)

I find these images to be very illustrative of the challenges inherent in approaching this media. They’re from Fantastic Four 49 and the Omnibus Vol. 2 reprint, I think. Someone please correct me if I’m wrong.

Jack Kirby, along with an unknown original colorist (possibly Kirby himself or cover artist Joe Sinnot), created the first image as they created most of their work.

Quickly, powerfully, and with the intention of reaching as many young readers as possible.

Their long term archival intentions were probably negligible.

But I think it would be wrong to suggest that Kirby, at least, didn’t think about the printing when he worked on the original art.

His bold lines were obviously designed to make the action as clear as possible in a media that often gave way to smudged and muddy pages.

It’s too bad that our historical colorist isn’t clearly credited. I’d love to know more about how they thought.

Personally, I think he may have used the colors the way some use watercolors (or how I used to use certain inks in the printmaking labs.) Knowing that they would bleed, the colors seem arranged to flow into each other, using the white space as a mingling area.

That first image features aesthetically pleasing gradients between green and yellow on the hands to the right of the panel, for example. The color shift in the white also feels like that area is more a part of the figure.

These subtleties are completely lost in the reproduction.

Of course, the reproduction is clearer, perhaps easier to read.

There’s no “right” answer here. It’s art and will always be subjective.

In an ideal world, every page would consist of smart paper, where at a touch we could flip between pencils, inked linework, original colors and restored colors.

Perhaps that’s what the future holds for collected editions.

But for now, we’re lucky to have bound reprints along with excellent curated blogs like Four Color Process, where you can see those ancient panel details you or your grandfather may have overlooked in the rush to find out what happens next.

Head on over there to read their essay and view more of those wonderful little dots.

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By | Saturday, January 1, 2011 | 8:39 pm | 28 Comments | Blog > Features

Eff yeah guys. The year twenty-ten is over. We did it.

It certainly was an interesting one. As comic fans, we’re in an amazing era – truly the age of the collected edition. While compiling the Marvel database, it’s amazing how many comics are now in some bound form.

Hundreds of books, just from the major publishers, contain comics that have been sitting around for 30 years or half a century, and now in the last two years have just been re-collected. It’s obvious that we’re only just beginning, with almost every new floppy ending up in trade and the publishers ransacking their archives to compile huge hardcovers. Very exciting.

Personally, the last year was a doozy – Beth finished college at SCAD, we announced our engagement to our families, adopted two kittens, moved between 2-3 different jobs each (not to mention freelance), and reorganized our house about 4 times.

Oh, and I started this website.

That’s a big thing, right? While this isn’t the one year anniversary (which will be in April, mark your calenders and expect presents at the party) 2010 was the first year for Trade Reading Order. Sure, I had lists of various forms hosted on my personal website, but the subdomain at tradereadingorder.ianaleksanderadams.com went up in April with this domain shortly following.

TRO in 2010: The Top Ten Highlights

Obviously, every single thing on this site came about in 2010, but let’s do a little rundown anyway.

1. Website Launched – TradeReadingOrder.com was put online, the wordpress set up, and the DCU TPB Recommended Reading Order uploaded from a CSV document.

2. Taxonomies and Fields – Originally just a list of books, I soon added many sorting fields making it possible to generate other lists from the one archive.

3. The Blog – The updates to the site originally consisted of one text widget in the sidebar. It was soon overflowing with changelog information, so I had to figure out a way to separate out the blog.

4. Reviews, Features, Essays and Giveaways – Now that we had a fully functioning blog, it was silly to let it go to waste. We’re now doing weekly giveaways, reviews (over 60 already!), features like Uncle Gorby’s Corner of Free Stuff, and will continue posting who-knows-what. Pretty amazing what happens when you suddenly become a publisher/media entity, even if it is to a tiny niche audience. THE POWER THE POWER.. er, heh. I mean, it’s nice to share!

5. The Forum – While not used as often as the blog, this still makes me feel like we’re a “real” website. A whole big thang!

6. User Accounts and Custom Sorting – At some point I figured out I could rework a “favorites” plugin in order to let people manage their own collections. I’m now using the site to do all my own sorting too!

7. Over 300 Users – Holy shit there are over 300 registered users! Not all of them are active, but just looking through a few of the profiles, I saw many accounts with over 200 books in their collection. It’s an awesome feeling knowing that this site is useful to other people.

8. Over 150 Subscribers – Our daily stats for visits go up and down (I think we had about 3000 unique visitors in one day as our high point, but our average is much lower right now), but I’m much more flattered by Feedburner reporting upwards of 150 subscribers to the RSS feed. That many of you actually care what I (and other posters) have to say? I hope I don’t disappoint!

9. About 2400 Database Entries – We’ve got a ton of books in the database, including novels and companion volumes, with more being fully fleshed every day. It’s crazy to think that this all evolved from what started as a personal list of essential Batman books (of about 100 trades).

10. Over 2600 Comments – That’s a lot of chatter! I’m extremely thankful to all of you who have offered advice, feedback, and even personal flavor and response to what we do here. There’s no way one person could get every detail of these immense publishing universes all on his own, and I’m indebted to you all more than I can possibly express.

TRO in 2011: The Top Ten Hopes

What are some of our dreams and aspirations for the coming year?

1. Our One Year Anniversary – This one is easy, but I’m still excited. Technically, all we have to do is make it to April. But in my mind, I’ve always marked this date as our official end of public beta. So I want the site to have reached a certain finished state – obviously not all the information will be up, as it’s going to be a long long journey, but I have some major goals. And we’ll celebrate with some hefty giveaways, cause I’ve found some amazing piles of stuff in my searches!

2. The Marvel List – This is the big one. I’ve been saying I’ll have it up soon for months, but it’s been a colossal undertaking. But I firmly feel I’ll be able to have it online before the one year anniversary, hopefully a lot sooner. I’ve currently got 2386 books in the offline database! This update will double the size of the website.

3. The Ultimate Marvel and Wildstorm Lists – With the big two done, their little brothers shouldn’t be so hard.

4. The Image Universe List – Similarly, this should be the last huge list. Then we just have Self Contained and smaller series to look towards as we head to 2012.

5. DC Covers – Every single DC Universe book will have a cover image. I think this is a realistic goal for 2011. Then we just have to keep up with it.

6. 364 Reviews – While the schedule might not be exactly daily, I want to have 365 books reviewed through the course of the year. I don’t care if it’s no reviews one day and 3 the next, this is the goal. At the very least, within 5-6 years I want a review with high quality sample scans on every single DC Universe book. If people really get into it, we could start looking at Marvel too… but one review goal at a time for my personal mental health.

7. 52 Giveaways – I’m loving this giveaway thing. I think you guys are also. I find books for a dollar or even free periodically, and I just get so much more satisfaction by giving them away.

8. More Issue Reading Orders – I created the section on the site, but I haven’t been concentrating on it. Perhaps this will be an area where I’ll find someone to collaborate with, since I don’t read floppies personally, but it certainly seems like this website could function as a repository for issue reading orders. It would be nice to have one place to go to instead of having to google a million random forums for threads where no one responds to your questions. Sorry, just grumbling from personal experience – but I’d rather fix it instead of just grumbling!

9. Fully Functional Personal Collections – This is going to happen. And possibly very soon. We’re working on the code now. Basically, right now all your collections show in one list, sometimes a little jumbled up. This will be fixed and it’s going to make the site a lot more useful. You’ll be able to see a reading order list for your personal Marvel collection, personal DC collection, etc.

10. AJAX!! – A boon to the server and the user! Right now adding books to your collection requires a page refresh. You lose your place in the list and have to wait for things to load. We’re going to add AJAX functionality, making just the little icon reload while the information is added to your collection. Kind of like how the comment replies work. Believe me, it will make adding all those books much easier.

There are a million smaller things on my to-do list, but those are the big goals. I don’t see anything on there that can’t happen by the end of 2011. Actually, I bet we’ll be surprised how soon some of those goals get accomplished.

Of course, if you have any suggestions for our direction in 2011, speak up! As I said before, this site goes nowhere without your advice!

And finally, I hope this first day of 2011 was a great start to your new year. I know this last one was a tough time for a lot of people, but let’s take the best of the past and run with it.

The future is is wide open and we are gonna %$&*#!’n rock it!

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By | Thursday, December 2, 2010 | 6:56 pm | 6 Comments | Blog > Features

I’ve finished sorting the posts into the new categories, replacing the temporarily changed formatting, and all the updates are complete.

Highlights are the re-optimized homepage and the ability to see much more review content before the “fold” (ie where you’d have to scroll down in your browser.)

So now that you’ve looked over the changelog in the last post and seen the new site for yourself, what do you think?

[poll id=”5″]

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