March 26, 2008
There’s so much food for thought today.
I agree with Tom Spurgeon that the notion of an unholy alliance between Borders and Barnes & Noble is not displeasing. There are significant differences between the two chains that I wouldn’t like to see lost, though. I wouldn’t want to see Borders follow suit with Barnes and Noble’s approach to graphic novel buying. I’d much rather see Barnes & Noble’s offerings expand than Borders get trimmed.
I could be wrong, but when a key part of a comic publisher’s marketing strategy seems to be the plugging of unsanctioned leaks of future plot developments, there’s a problem.
That said, I would probably favor Marvel’s Secret Invasion over DC’s Crisis thing if I were still reading American super-hero comics. Of course, the fact that Secret Invasion is being written by the person who made most of my favorite Marvel characters unrecognizable to me in the first place would probably mute my enthusiasm, as opposed to if it were someone else cleaning up after that person. That whiff of apologetic desperation would be as irresistible as sautéing onions. (I couldn’t stop myself from taking a look at the preview pages at Entertainment Weekly, and wow, some of that dialogue is hilariously awful.)
Okay, speaking of that hilariously awful dialogue, Luke Cage’s “Hey, man, I need a solid, ASAP” prompted a friend to wonder if I wasn’t quoting slash fiction. I am deeply disappointed that there don’t seem to be entire sites devoted to Power Man/Iron Fist slash, but maybe it’s too easy.
Steve Bennett’s ICv2 column on Marvel’s and DC’s reluctance to embrace a manga aesthetic (and Direct Market retailers’ varied willingness to stock the product at all) is interesting, but I think it overstates things a bit. I agree that Marvel and DC show a bunker mentality with regards to their franchises, but I think Marvel’s project with Del Rey for a separate line of manga-style X-Men treatments is a promising model for the kind of product Bennett is talking about. I think a lot of the Marvel’s and DC’s existing audience would scoff or howl at the strategic introduction of a perceived manga aesthetic to the product they buy with such regularity, and I’m unconvinced that either company could convincingly bring successful elements of whatever that aesthetic might be to the table to begin with. That leaves the Marvel-Del Rey outsourcing model as the obvious solution – don’t change your primary product, but offer targeted side products to a different audience with the assistance of people who already know how to reach that audience. It just seems much more likely that the target audience for a shôjo-styled treatment of the X-Men or Wonder Woman would be prompted to pick up the “real” version than the other way around.
As for the Direct Market missing the manga bus, I’m decreasingly of the opinion that all retailers are fools if they don’t stock manga. Entrepreneurs seem to function on something of a financial razor’s edge to begin with, and there are probably plenty of places that already sell manga in their communities. It seems like it would take a remarkable amount of strategizing and effort for a local comic shop to compete with a Borders or Barnes & Noble. Do I like to walk into a comic shop and find a healthy selection of manga? Sure, but only if someone on the staff is knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the category. Token efforts lead to neglected stock, which seems worse than not bothering with manga at all. (I do think such retailers are dumb if they don’t make it a widely-known practice that they’ll order any kind of comic their customers want if they don’t see it on the shelves, but that applies to all kinds of comics.)