Dear Publishers, Please Stop Doing This

I was trying to get my bookshelves more organized a few days ago but was having a hard time staying focused because this kind of stuff drives me nuts!  (OK, admittedly, I’m a little obsessive/compulsive for sure, but…)  I’m as glad as the next guy that comics are no longer available exclusively as saddle-stitched periodicals or shoddily put together trade paperbacks, but if you’re going to go for the “bookshelf crowd,” at least make sure your books look good on a shelf!


ARGGGH!  If you’re going to “revamp” the look of a series, at least let it finish out first.


See comment above.


What happened here?  Maybe since they got “The Comics Journal Library” the wrong color in volume two, they just said To Hell with it from there on out?


Seriously, it takes more effort to do this wrong (assuming you’re just modifying an existing InDesign template for each volume).  Bonus WTF points here: they switched from glossy to smooth paper for no apparent reason for Volume 2.


I don’t want to seem like a total curmudgeon, so here’s how it’s done well. Q: Why is it that every Manga series looks great collected on your shelf?  A: Manga nerds post pictures of their bookshelves to message boards and they don’t put up with the foolishness on display above.


Another nice looking series.


1 ping

  1. Chris S says:

    I didn’t get the Dick Tracy books when they first came out because of the obvious-Seth-Peanuts-design rip, which didn’t work for Tracy and just looked terrible, and they’ve done the same thing. Thing is, I LOVE the new design but will never get it because the first five don’t match, and look terrible. They’re a whole different size, too. Like I said, it’s an improvement, but for a reprint series especially every one of those covers should be designed before the first one hits the stands.

  2. Ben Cohen says:

    Is it wrong that I agree with you…oh help us.

    By the way, I just started Amelia, great so far. Problem is once it makes it to the shelf…well, Ben…my Towle section now has three different sizes…whats up with that!

  3. Ben says:

    @Ben – Ah, but just rearrange things so AMELIA is shelved next to the other books from the series, like SATCHEL PAIGE, HOUDINI and WALDEN and…Problem solved!

  4. Ben Cohen says:

    EHHHH! fine.

  5. Greg McElhatton says:

    I feel your pain, Ben.

    That said, while I will grumble about it a great deal, I do give publishers a pass if they’re at least correcting a design flaw. The Scott Pilgrim spines had the title so small that they don’t stand out, and while I make a face when I see the non-matching editions on my bookshelf, fixing what was a big racking problem is good. (The fact that they’ve re-issued vol 1-3 with the new spines shows that yeah, they definitely know they made a mistake there.)

  6. Ben says:

    @Greg – Yeah, I agree: In both the case of SCOTT PILGRIM and the USAGI YOJIMBO books, the more recent versions are definitely better looking.

    In a perfect world, there’d be some sort of buyback/swap-out program for those of us that are so O.C. that we’re really bugged by this stuff!

  7. Elton says:

    Prose publisher have been unable to produce consistent spines for series for years. Not shocking that comics publisher can’t seem to figure it out either.

  8. Holden Carver says:

    “Q: Why is it that every Manga series looks great collected on your shelf?”

    Trick question! Looking to my left, I can see no fewer than three manga series’ that look pretty terrible, can think of another one immediatelly off the top of my head, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

    Planetes has Tokyopop publishing two volumes before slapping a Tokyopop logo on top of the spine for the remaining three; my run of Battle Angel: Last Order is a complete mish-mash of old vs. new Viz logos; and Azumanga Daioh is an unbelievable nightmare of messed-up ness. If you’ve never seen the latter before, I’ll try and get a photo later so you can see the awfulness for yourself.

    Elton’s right about prose publishers, by the way. Their favourite trick is to come out with new trade dress for the latest book in a series, and reprint all the backlist in matching trade dress. Then for the next book, instead of sticking with that style… yep! It’s new trade dress, and another round with the backlist! Many’s the time I’ve had to decide – do I get each new book as they come out and suffer a mish-mash, or do I wait for the last one and then get a set of matching covers? It’s tricky, it is.

  9. Ben says:

    @Holden and @Elton – This post is obviously just my ranting based on the extremely small “sample size” of the books currently on my shelf. I tend to sell a lot of the Manga I read back to the local used book store, so I’ve got maybe five or six complete series here and they all–for whatever reason, coincidence perhaps–have decent, consistent designs.

    As far as prose books go, my perception is that there tend to not be a whole lot of series outside of specific genres. I don’t read much fantasy, SF, mystery series, etc., so it may be that that’s the reason I didn’t see a whole lot of mis-matched designs on my shelves. And, the series stuff I do own (Tolkien, Ian Flemming, etc.) is not stuff that I purchased as the books were coming out.

    That said, it still seems to me that this sort of design inconsistency is far more common in the comics biz than elsewhere–particularly stuff like the ISSAC THE PIRATE example above that’s not new trade dress at all, but rather just sloppiness. (See any number of strip reprint series from the 80s, like NBM’s WASH TUBBS books or the Fantagraphics POPEYE books for examples of mid-series minor design changes that serve no real purpose other than making them look terrible on a bookshelf.)

  1. Ben Towle: Cartoonist, Educator, Hobo » Blog Archive » “Trenches” vs. “Tranchees” – A look at the Fantagraphics and Casterman Editions of Tardi says:

    […] of course.  I think on a purely aesthetic level, I prefer the Casterman cover, but after my grousing a week or two back about publisher’s keeping their series designs consistent, I sure not going to complain about […]

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