Comics Rx: Lorena Nava Ruggero’s entry

November 30, 2008

Here’s Lorena Nava Ruggero’s prescription for the comics industry:

“1) Pick good stories! This may seem along the lines of the U.S. Supreme Court’s case on obscenity, as in “I know it when I see it.” But, after seeing the changes at Tokyopop this past year, picking licenses should be about quality, not quantity. And for publishers of original content, good stories sell; it’s not about what may be most marketable.

“2) Go digital! While there’s no way companies can compete with illegal, online scanlations, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have an online comics reader available. Also, when are U.S. readers going to be able to read comics in a handheld, digital format? If I had the money AND could read comics on it, I’d buy the Kindle in a heartbeat. Same goes for reading comics on the new Google phone, the Apple iPhone or the Nintendo DS. They’ve done it in Japan; who says we couldn’t do it here?

“3) Make it cheaper! Let’s face it – we’re in the midst of a recession, people. And comic books aren’t a necessity, no matter how tough the times. But that doesn’t mean that people want to give it up completely. Now, bringing down prices on comics doesn’t mean across the board price reductions, but maybe consider discounts on a certain line of books (think Shojo Beat or Shonen Jump) or on a popular title (Naruto, anyone?). And if price reductions aren’t a possibility, how about offering paid online versions that can be downloaded before the book comes out in print? I’m pretty sure rabid fans would pay to see what happens next (at a reasonable price, of course), especially for titles that aren’t currently scanlated.

“Anyway, that’s all I have to say for now. Hopefully, “the powers that be” are listening.”

Comics Rx: Matthew J. Brady’s entry

November 30, 2008

Here’s Matthew J. Brady’s prescription for the comics industry:

“Amputate those gangrenous old sections that aren’t worth having around (lame, overserious superhero comics, mostly, although I would think that’s really just a little toe). Then, graft on some extra (robotic?) limbs in the form of more imports: more adult manga, more manga about esoteric subjects, more European comics, more comics from other corners of the globe that deserve recognition (India? Africa? South America?). Finally, replace the aging heart of the direct market with something futuristic (I don’t know what exactly; that’s for the scientists to figure out. But it should involve more genres, wider appeal, and easily-usable digital distribution). There you go: one cyborg patient, ready to march on into the future.”

Comics Rx: Judah Alt’s entry

November 29, 2008

Here’s Judah Alt’s prescription for the comics industry:

“For a healthy future, the comic industry needs to embrace the digital world. This means offering content online, and offering premium edition higher-end products for dedicated true fans. Stuff like the ‘absolute’ editions and opening chapters of comics.

“They need to sign up with a ‘Kindle’ provider once a digital, affordable, and high quality variation comes around. Right now Kindle is a great idea, but the execution is bad. The next Kindle generation will likely catch on more, and the comics industry should be there.

“Otherwise, low res scans of series available for free (at least the first volumes) would be a great way of getting people introduced to the stories/comics. Sort of like the Baen free library. But for comics. I’ve bought of books I wouldn’t have from reading Baen’s online content, and I don’t see comics being any different.”

Comics Rx: Laethiel Mazake’s entry

November 29, 2008

Here’s Laethiel Mazake’s prescription for the comics industry:

“Regarding niche titles, localizers/publishers need to show that they won’t leave fans hanging. A policy of ‘This didn’t sell enough, so we won’t publish the rest of it (even if that’s only one or two more volumes)’ may cut losses on that one title, but it leads to a lack of trust that similar titles will continue to be published. This naturally leads to fans being leery of purchasing niche titles that may not be continued, lowering the sales numbers on new niche titles enough that they also get dropped, continuing the cycle. Of course, it’s also up to readers to buy good titles so that they’ll keep being published, but that becomes hard to justify if a company has a record of dropping series in the middle.”

Comics Rx: Keath Patterson’s entry

November 28, 2008

Here’s Keath Patterson’s prescription for the comics industry:

“Since Manga is in better shape than Marvel/DC can I offer a solution about the big two?

“Hmm – I’m not sure how doable my wish for the industry is since they tend to play it safe by structuring everything around what their existing base wants rather than risk trying for new readers, but a good start would be to bring in artist and writers who are outside the comics world and then let them draw/write what they want rather than making them fit into predetermined story arcs. The comic world has become so insulated it’s like a continuous series of inside jokes and specialist knowledge which is unhospitable to new readers. Since there’s no real money in comics it’d be hard to attract established, top level talent from other fields (who aren’t already fanboys), but there are lots of up and coming writers and artists who’d probably be glad to take on the challenge if only for the additional exposure. And if they want to have Wolverine fight a talking banana, for God’s sake just let them do it – the fanboys will buy it anyway to keep their runs complete and just maybe they might pick up some new readers who like the zaniness. Mostly tho I’m hoping the new talent would bring good, non-traditional stories to the table so it’s not just another issue of Hero A fights Villain B for the 500th time.

“Anyway – it just seems to me that crap like Final Infinite Crisis on Infinite Final Earths appeals to fanboys only, whereas something like Paris by Watson/Gane could appeal to pretty much everyone. It’s the lesson the Big 2 still haven’t learned from manga.”

Comics Rx: Michael Jewell’s entry

November 27, 2008

Here’s Michael Jewell’s prescription for the comics inudstry:

“My RX for the ailing comix industry?

“Creators: Plan conventions strategically. Hold your nose and keep cozying up to the mainstream lit press. Forget even thinking about relying on the Movie boom (for a bust, she’s a comin’). Be proud of what you do and never apologize for being a cartoonist. Make yourself a stiff drink.

“Publishers: Don’t turn your nose up at the manga boom; exploit it, but don’t really exploit it. Do it right. Quit it with the anthologies. Scale back floppies, step up trades and GNs. Don’t be afraid of change. Stop fucking your artists over. Seriously. Oh, and the movie point should apply especially to you. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket (majors) and don’t spread yourself too thin (small press).

“Press: Chill out. Everything’s cool.

“Take this and call me in the morning.”

Comics Rx: Avery Dame’s entry

November 27, 2008

Here’s Avery Dame’s prescription for the comics industry:

“I have two points which I think would help, though I certainly don’t think there’s a surefire solution.

“1. Digital Distribution: it’s the hold grail of comic industry success and for good reason. A mobile-device-ready format and contract with an existing media clearinghouse like ITunes would do wonders for getting people to impulse buy.

“2. Push to integrate comics into education, especially focusing outside depictions of classic literature: Comics can be great teaching tools even in areas one wouldn’t think of (see Japan, Inc.: An Introduction to Japanese Economics), make learning interesting, and gets the next generation to see comics as both viable lit and useful entertainment (and be willing to buy them on a regular basis). Also, educational comics can become a new market to tap.”

Debuting this week: Yōkaiden

November 26, 2008

Nina Matsumoto’s Yōkaiden (Del Rey) has a lot of things working in its favor, but the one that really sells it for me is its wry authorial voice. The peppering of sly, smart humor elevates what might otherwise be a fairly generic folklore tour.

Yōkai are spirits that range from benign to mischievous to deadly, and Hamachi is crazy for all of them. The orphaned boy wants to learn and teach about the spirits and prove to suspicious humans that everyone can get along. The people of his village think he’s kind of simple, and they’re kind of right. When Hamachi’s surly grandmother dies, apparently at the hand of a yōkai, Hamachi sets off for their dimension to find out the truth.

Since Hamachi is so well-informed about and enamored with yōkai, Matsumoto has no trouble introducing the various types either in the narrative or in end-of-chapter pages from Hamachi’s journal or in the form of excerpts from “Inukai Mizuki’s Field Guide to Yōkai.” (Mizuki is Hamachi’s inspiration and predecessor in human-yōkai diplomacy.)

Applying a consistently light-hearted tone, Matsumoto presents varied encounters between Hamachi and the objects of his obsession. He saves one from a trap, avoids having the skin of his feet removed by another, protects a surly, talking lantern from bullying, and so on. The individual episodes are fine, but it’s Matsumoto’s wit that really carries things along.

Hamachi is never smarter than he should be, and Matsumoto is able to maneuver him in and out of trouble with imaginative little flourishes. She gives the yōkai amusingly distinct personalities, peppers the dialogue with tart anachronisms (from schadenfreude to Kelsey Grammer), and is game for the occasional, amusing digression. (When the villagers learn of grandma’s fate and Hamachi’s quest, they engage in a discussion of just what kind of irony the situation embodies.)

Matsumoto has a solid visual sense as well. Her character designs, human and yōkai, are varied and charming, and her storytelling and layouts are clear and energetic.

(This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.)

Now, here are some other highlights from this week’s ComicList:

  • The Umbrella Academy: Dallas #1 (Dark Horse)
  • Mushishi Vol. 6 (Del Rey)
  • Tezuka’s Black Jack Vol. 2 TPB (Vertical)
  • Honey and Clover Vol. 4 (Viz – Shojo Beat)

  • Comics Rx: Lauren C’s entry

    November 26, 2008

    Here’s Lauren C.’s prescription for the comics industry:

    “Prescription for the comics industry? Give indie creators a better chance to get their work to major bookstores.

    “Okay, maybe that’s just me projecting.”

    Comics Rx: Matthew’s entry

    November 25, 2008

    Here’s Matthew’s prescription for the comics industry:

    “Refocus on quality instead of quantity. 300 Wolverine titles a month is oversaturation. Also end the mega- summer- cross-over events that will change the publisher’s universe forever. The few issues between events that don’t actually deal with the events seem like tossed-off filler. At the very least, don’t do the big events every flippin’ year!”