Hurts so good

I just have to get this out of the way: Lea Hernandez is awesome. At The Great Curve, she offers a rallying cry: “Comics need hurting. Go on, hurt them.” I plan to hurt comics at least three different ways before lunch. Four, if I don’t get too bogged down with work.

Okay, so yesterday the clerk at the store actually asked me why I wasn’t buying Countdown. I calmly explained my inoculation theory, which he accepted without suspending my nerd license. I swear he glanced accusingly over his shoulder at the new issue of Secret War, though.

So what’s my first impulse after escaping new comics day with a shockingly low price tag? Run to the grocery store and buy food? Flip through the stack of seed catalogs and place an order? Make a donation to the local animal shelter? Nope. The shop door had barely closed before I was telling myself to stop at the bookstore on the way home to buy some manga.

I resisted the impulse, but only because laziness triumphed over instant gratification. I’m sure the next couple of days will find me slurping on a mocha as I try to decide between Tramps Like Us, Wallflower, and Othello. (Who am I kidding? I won’t escape with only one.)

Speaking of manga, Franklin Harris does a fine Manga 101 article for the Decatur Daily News. At Bloggity-Blog-Blog-Blog, Laura Gjovaag has been sampling some manga titles and is looking for more recommendations. Go forth and inundate her at your earliest convenience.

Laura also shares the interesting news that the wonderfully entertaining Girl Genius will be published on-line. Kaja Foglio explains that pages will be available one at a time, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, replacing the floppies. Here’s Foglio’s thinking on the move:

“Graphic novels will still come out once a year (through Diamond Book Distribution, hooray!), but we’re suspending the production of the periodicals. This will free up a lot of my time, save some trees, and cut our overhead at a time when we really need to do something. Plus, I have to say, periodical comics serve two functions; one as a frequent reminder that we exist—sort of a placeholder; and two as a cheap entry point for new readers experimenting to see if they want to commit to the series. The Girl Genius comics, at the higher end of the price scale and on a quarterly release schedule, didn’t really do this as well as a more frequent Web presence will.”

That’s a really interesting approach, and if I had enough caffeine in my system, I would probably drone on about the influence of manga’s publishing approach, the rise of different distribution methods, and a bunch of other stuff. But I’m still kind of foggy, and I’m certain smarter people will cover that territory.

8 Responses to Hurts so good

  1. Ha! Thank ya, David!

    I wanna add that “placeholder” approach to publishing by putting it on the web, by making it free (or free-ish) for undecided readers, I did dat with my first graphic nvoel, Cathedral Child, in 1997.
    Woo, you’d have thought I was crazy. Comics on the web! Free sample! HURT COMICS.
    Did it again in 1998, for Clockwork Angels.
    I did it with Rumble Girls, too, in 2003, when I decided preiodical publication via Image was no longer for me. (Rumble Girls was a subscription comic (HURT COMICS), but new installments could always be read for free.)

    It’s a GREAT model.

  2. David Welsh says:

    I’m totally smitten with the idea of the loss leader as a marketing took, whether it’s shops letting people browse (HURT COMICS) or cheap, huge Shonen Jump (HURT COMICS), or this web model.

    Beyond being just plain smart, they seem to express a level of trust between creator/publisher and reader. It’s like saying “We have enough faith in this material that we’ll let you sample it for free (or cheaply), because we know the taste will make you want to buy the scoop.” Mmm… ice cream.

    And anything that indicates a comic creator trusts their audience and respects their taste and intelligence is a good thing (HURT COMICS).

  3. David Welsh says:

    “marketing took”… stupid lack of caffeine. “Tool.”

  4. So, how many ways did you hurt comics today?

  5. David Welsh says:

    Alas, work ate up a lot of time, but I hurt comics in my head a whole lot. And I began the process of hurting it by starting to draft my next manga column. Because if you like manga, you’re hurting comics! (At least I hope I am.)

    Oh, and I really like to think that not buying Countdown? Hurt comics! (Plus, it saved me a buck that I used on a cup of coffee. Bonus!)

  6. Money spent on coffee is almost always well-spent.

  7. Avi Green says:

    I wouldn’t buy Countdown even if it were being given away for free. But most importantly, something must be done in order to make the problem known to the public at large that this is a serious concern, how the comics companies are going about selling “major events” based on the concept of death. And then they have the sheer nerve to use the cover as a sales poster too! (And what next, are we going to find out that they’re selling it to buyers, just like they did with George Perez’s cover for Crisis on Infinite Earths? Shudder…)

    Part of the reason why these kinds of things are going on is because of how the mainstream press doesn’t cover these things seriously. The NY Times wrote sugarcoated articles on both Identity Crisis and even Marvel’s Truth: Red White and Black miniseries, to name but a few examples. The Scripps-Howard comics columnist Andrew “Captain Comics” Smith went overboard with a paradoxical column on October 3, 2004, in which he panned Avengers Disassembled but still went along and praised Identity Crisis. He repeated this double-stance of his on December 26 and January 2. Even worse, Scott Tipton of Movie Poop Shoot took a similar position on August 18, and not only that, he even falsified Jean Loring and Ray Palmer’s own histories when speaking to a mail correspondant in MPS’ mail column in December.

    This is why I usually tend to avoid comics coverage of the sort that the mainstream press features, because it isn’t dealt with seriously, and is usually slanted in favor of the steps taken by the companies, and only goes against what they do when the going is easy, or to try and argue something like, “see, we don’t like everything of the sort put out last year!” Where I come from, they call that “moral equivalency”, and man, does it stink.

  8. David Welsh says:

    Interesting points, Avi. I think the problem with mainstream media coverage of any niche culture, comics included, is that convenience and novelty will trump depth any time. So when a large comics publisher sends them a press release talking about the weird things they’re doing with the Super-Friends, it triggers the novelty alarm, and it lets them know there’s a source who’s only too happy to provide them with every bit of information they need. Then, they can do just enough work to play up the novelty without actually learning anything about the subject, because that’s hard. It’s not just comics: it’s the necessity of putting out an ever-increasing volume of information. I’m not condoning it, mind, as I thing journalism has become kind of crap during my lifetime, but I can understand the forces that drive facile coverage like this.

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