Comics Rx: Eric Davis’s entry

December 5, 2008

Here’s Eric Davis’s prescription for the comics industry:

“I have no experience with the business side of comics, and I’m pretty clueless when it comes to business stuff generally, but the most encouraging sign I’ve seen for the comics industry is the recent increase (in Ontario, anyway) of clean and friendly comic book shops that stock beyond the Big Two. Our local shop in Kingston (4Colour8Bit!) runs weekly D&D, video game, and Magic game nights, as well as other special community events, and generally fosters an exciting, inclusive and not-at-all-boys-club atmosphere. So long as the industry supports and encourages stores like that, I think there will be plenty of fools like me happy to spend more money than we should on comics.”

That’s the last of the prescriptions. To look at the whole lot of them, click on the Comics Rx category, and thanks to everyone who entered!

Comics Rx: Rob McMonigal’s entry

December 5, 2008

Here’s Rob McMonigal’s prescription for the comics industry:

“I think the biggest problem right now is that the industry is using the trade-and-singles system all wrong. Rather than increasing the singles price more and more for titles people are going to read in trade anyway, just trade a Batman or JLA or Spider-Man arc every 3 months or so, priced at $9.99 or $14.99 or even $19.99, depending on size. Use anthology comics for the smaller characters and if they do well, give them trades as well going forward. Then use single issues to try and bring readers to the trades. A Spider-Man one-shots only monthly, for instance. Same for Bats, Supes, and the rest. And get that thing everywhere–book stores, toy stores, convenience stores, and–and this one’s huge–drug stores. With a limited product ala ‘real’ magazines and Shojo Beat style anthologies, they just might get the reader base going back up again.

“Then use the trades for people once they’re hooked or for long-time readers like us. Putting out material meant for a trade in single issues just doesn’t make sense anymore.”

Comics Rx: Kent Falconer’s entry

December 4, 2008

Here’s Kent Falconer’s prescription for the comics industry:

“I don’t really pay enough attention to the American comic book industry’s situation to comment on it, but I do pay close attention to the domestic licensors of manga. All of these companies need to narrow their focus to titles that they actually think can make some money. Far too often, they are licensing series that they later cancel, or at the very least slow down releases to a ridiculous level (Endo Hiroki’s Eden comes to mind, with it’s six month apart release schedule). I am all for niche series, but the companies are still pouring too much money into the mainstream series, where there is far too much competition.”

Comics Rx: Teg’s entry

December 3, 2008

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

“I’ve had only a small opportunity to relax and use my free time lately, and it seems to me that I’ve spent a great deal too much of it thinking about one thing and only one thing: comics.

“It’s no small coincidence that I am writing this essay as a contest meant as a sort of tribute to the masterwork of Osamu Tezuka. I only recently decided to seriously look into Tezuka’s work when I ordered the first volume of Buddha at my local book store a few months ago (The town I live in used to be populated by miners and then by millworkers. Right now the biggest draw has been an animation studio, and as such it’s been a deal easier to acquire what is seen as “the world’s dorkiest medium”). Upon finishing it, I promptly ordered the second, and so on; I bought up a small stock of Astro Boy from a comic shop while I vacationed in Maine; I began to seek out more and more of his material and learn as much as I could about his life and his work. Before I knew it I came to a steady average of spending about two dollars a day buying Tezuka’s work. I had first broken into comics a few years ago –my first was Serenity Rose, which I still claim to be an unrecognized work of brilliance- and had read all of the books considered staples of the medium -from the intelligent but poorly-aging Watchmen to the aggressively stupid Dark Knight Returns– as well as a steady intake of independent titles -after all, I got my start from an obscure goth comic with virtually no readers- but Tezuka’s work struck a note. Tezuka had been something different to the world. How on Earth can it be, that this man had revolutionized the way that the medium was seen for an entire country, executed such brilliant and simple solutions to comics largest problems, and written such an incomprehensibly massive amount of terrific and diverse works when American comics critics were still writing articles verbally fellating a man whose biggest contribution to the medium was to make Batman think in captions?

“The West needs a Tezuka. That’s the most important step to saving the Western comics market’s collective behind. I don’t think it can be the first step or the last step that needs to be taken, but it’s definitely the key one. I’d say that if we can fix comic’s broken distribution system (as it stands it’s like having only one channel run by a bunch of television executives who’ve all decided that they want to see nothing but westerns for the rest of their lives) and its public perception (There is a reason why comic shops almost universally seem to also stock polyhedronic die and trading card game boosters), the rest will follow. But first and foremost, we need a renaissance man; a person who, like Tezuka, can draw people’s attention with a single work and introduce them to “clicquey”, with each publisher at first glance seeming to carry only one type of book (Marvel and DC cover superheroes, Fantagraphic covers obscure and depressing comics, SLG covers the goth scene, Oni covers the indie scene, etcetera), and creators like making thematically similar work. There’s nothing wrong with that model, but I really appreciate Vertical’s approach: try anything and everything at least once. Vertical’s runs of Tezuka impressed me. What impressed me even more was that all of this manga was being printed by what was otherwise an ordinary book publisher. What impressed the hell out of me was that said book publisher was publishing everything from Ode To Kirihito (violent and sexual medical drama by Osamu Tezuka) to Aranzi Hour (adorable chibi bunnies hang out and do adorable chibi bunny stuff). The public has shown that they’re more than anticipating new levels of genre diversity in comics (the manga boom has been a tremendous boon to comics readership despite almost exclusively bringing us shounen and shoujo titles; virtually ignoring seinen, josei, and kodomo titles). I think that having publishers and creators willing to take hold of that genre diversity and push the boundaries of western comics in all directions available to them will be the most important deciding factor in the future of comics. The west needs a Tezuka. The west needs a creator who is willing to try anything and everything once.”

Comics Rx: Eoin Marron

December 2, 2008

Here’s Eoin Marron’s prescription for the comics industry:

“My prescription? Hmm, I’ve a couple of thoughts…

“- Mainstream publishers (Tokyopop, Viz Media) should continue to listen to what the fans want. This is very true in the case of TP. It’s quite apparent that these guys are going online now to see what’s popular and what’s best to license. Only recently did Viz Media license a load of new series, one of which is Detroit Metal City, a scanlated series that has proven to be extremely popular so far. Viz are quite dedicated to their fans, perhaps a little too much, while TP just keeps licensing crap no-one reads. They’re still relying on their biggest seller, Fruits Basket, while Viz are picking up on major titles in Japan that are already well-known in the West.

“- Indie and smaller publishers (Last Gasp, Fanfare, Vertical, D&Q) should continue to publish what they’re interested in tackling, its what they do best! While I thought Vertical were in safe hands with the plan to release 13 volumes of Black Jack, they’re apparently hoping to branch out into more Shonen-typical fare. Maybe they believe BJ won’t get enough widespread recognition amongst casual and younger manga readers…

“-Oh, another point; people should stop giving credit where credit is due. While perhaps this is a minor point, I was frustrated to find that the readers of UK Manga and Anime magazine Neo had voted Tokyopop best publisher of the year again! I call scalpel to that! The only great impact TP ever had, was creating a manga-boom in Britain and America again; that was a few years ago now. Since then, they’ve done nothing to help, revolutionise or improve the manga market. I’d go as far as saying they’ve even brought it down a few notches from what it could be right now (i.e. Waterstones/Highstreet bookseller stocks nothing but copious volumes of the same ol’ Tokyopop series).”

Comics Rx: Francene Lewis’s entry

December 1, 2008

Here’s Francene Lewis’s prescription for the comics industry:

“I began by thinking of two of my local comics stores. Store 1 is an old-school comic books shop, long boxes abound, along with racks of current comics. But everything is organized by publisher, and it carries primarily super-hero comics. They charge a membership fee for special orders, for a pull file or even to pay for your items via check. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a woman in the store and any manga the store carries fits on two small shelves. I rarely go there even though it’s less than a mile from where I work.

“Store 2 is in my opinion the polar opposite of Store 1. Over the past 15 years, it has changed its focus from the big two super hero comics to more independent and smaller comics publishers and now at least half of the store is for manga. They also offer the largest selection of anime for rent or sale in the city. They will special order anything for no extra charge and call you when it’s in. Every graphic novel and manga comic is always 20% off. Women and teens frequent the store as well as men. Even though it’s farther away, I make the effort to drive there at least once a week.

“More stores like this are needed if comic book shops as we know them now are to survive.

“As a middle-aged woman who loves comics and manga, I’m not really excited by the run-of-mill super hero stuff, but my kids are interested. I’ll buy books for them if they aren’t overly violent or filled with gratuitous T&A. As a mom of three boys, I want them to read about strong women characters as well as heroic male super heroes.

“I work for an academic library where I’ve lobbied for a graphic novels collection. It supports a class or two, offers reading to our students and I try to purchase books that show the wide range of subjects, artists and ideas that are available in the comics field.

“Use the web to provide free content to get me hooked and then offer me a decent priced, well-made graphic novel to purchase. Offering stuff via the web gets me interested in the characters and story, and gives me a feel for your art. But I find it hard to enjoy reading longer stories on my computer, so I’m usually happy to pay for a collection.

“So we need better stores, a wide variety of great stories and artists/writers, books that are not just for teen-age boys and middle-aged men but look to the other audiences that are excited and interested in the comics medium.”

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.”