Brainiac On Banjo: Behold The Comics Minibus!

Well I should’ve got off a couple miles ago, but I couldn’t get to the door. There isn’t any room for me to breathe, and now we’re gonna pick up more. “Another One Rides The Bus,” written by Weird Al Yankovic

Our friends at DC Comics*, simply known as DC these days until their owner du jure changes its mind again, have announced a new format stunt they’re calling “Compact Comics.” The idea here is that they’re taking some of their traditional older-audience-oriented trade paperbacks and hardcovers — mostly those that have gone through numerous packages, printings and reprinting — and publishing them in a format five and a half inches by eight and a half inches format, sort of like a glandular version of a paperback. They will drop this line at the fairly attractive $9.95 price point, and it will should the light of day this coming June.

Not a bad deal. I assume they’re looking to sell these books to, ahhh, well, to those who had not previously purchased the larger format trade paperbacks, albums, omnibi, encased and/or online editions. These are items people generations ago used to buy at bus, train and commuter stations and at neighborhood independently-owned drug or candy store.

Sadly, the former group has shifted to selling more profitable caffeinated potable products, occasionally accompanied by varying sorts of thick round carbohydrates containing cheese, jelly or first-stage chicken embryos. Nature abhors a vacuum and the list of print material that used to sell in those spaces has shrunken to Pym Particle size. The latter group — the mom ’n pop drug stores — by and large no longer exist.

So I’m not certain where DC is planning on selling their Compact Comics, or to whom they’re targeting. Maybe they’re wading back into the Walmart/Target/big box pool, which is retreating somewhat but still quite viable. Ten bucks has a better shot at impulse-buyers than the twenty-five buck version. But many of these store managers didn’t exactly make bank on DC’s thick-and-somewhat-cheap comic book experiments of about five years ago or so (I can no longer distinguish pre-Covid times).

They can’t use the readily-available but rarely-needed wire “traditional” paperback book racks; the Compact Comics are around 20% bigger than the paperbacks that got me through my adolescence. They’ll have to create their own cardboard display “dumps,” and they might have to pay their way into those chains. Fun Fact: Remember those Archie Comics Digests and Readers’ Digest and TV Guides and the greatly missed Weekly World News you used to find (and sometimes still find) at your supermarket checkouts? The publishers bought — rented — that space from the retail chains.

You will note from the accompanying illustrations so kindly provided by, and copyrighted (All Rights Reserved) by DC, their minibuses are labeled to identify genre. “Fantasy,” “Mystery,” “Thriller,” “Science Fiction” and so on. That might help, but only because these books aren’t being oriented towards the hardcore comics fans who might block the aisles in heated debate over which label best explains The Joker.

So I hope DC has plans to truly push the distribution of these comics minibuses into brand new markets to get them into the hands of new readers. The comics field needs that almost as much as Donald Trump needs to listen to his lawyers. It’s clear that Compact Comics isn’t expected to be a major portion of comic book shop sales — I see no variant covers in the offing.

Well, at least not yet.

* FULL DISCLOSURE: Your commentator is a nine-year veteran of DC Comics when it was called DC Comics. That is some three or four ownerships ago.