Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Poor old comics

Sometimes I get depressed about the state of comics. Funnily enough, it often happens after reading an issue of Comics International. Things like when I see the Top 100 sales, and the top titles can only muster about 100,000 sales (jesus, I sell more O Men. Not really. I wonder where O Men would come in the chart...). And I look at the reviews and I see how lacklustre everything seems to be. Titles like Countdown, which just make no effort whatsoever to make sense or be self-contained or be value for money. I bought a handful of comix this weekend, treated myself, and I can't say I was blown away really. They just don't seem to be whole packages any more, no letters pages, always aimed at the six-issue collection, making individual comics almost redundant. Leading on from that, you've got the comic shops themselves. Miss an issue and you're stuffed - the back issues sections just don't exist in most shops - it's sad. What is the point? Do the Big Two actually want to just move to trades?
Comics could be so good again, if they just made more of an effort - target them, make them make sense, make them accessible, make them good reads, value for money. Have we all given up? Should we go back to an era of just one X-title or just one Batman title?
But then after getting depressed, I think of how amazingly popular comics are in Japan - so the medium obviously still has legs, thank goodness.
And of course, there's always O Men 2.6, which I started recently lol...


Andrew James said...

Manga's actually in a similarly terminal decline in Japan, Marts... Sales dropped something like 13%, year on year, this year.

That said, it's because all the kids are reading the manga on their superpowered three-times-broadband phones, rather than not reading it at all, so the two markets aren't completely comparable.

In the same way, though, you probably have more people (and a wider variety of people) reading comics now than at any other time in the past - think of the different audiences that read, say, www.scarygoround.com everyday, but who wouldn't give a spandex book the time of day.

I think Countdown, Final Crisis, Civil War, etc. etc. are just the last hurrah for big, 'mainstream' superhero comics - it's already just a landgrab for the same, limited, ouroboros audience... and pretty soon, everyone will have left.

The simple alternatives: shunt your singles online, collect the worthy (WORTHY - not just every bloody thing... As Brian Hibbs said last week: do we really need the Ms. Marvel Civil War tie-ins in THREE different TPB formats within six months?) series into paperbacks, sell into the hungry book and library market.

Try new delivery methods, already tried and tested by webcomics - single page, daily delivery, for example, giving readers a regular hit and a reason to drive them to your site. Paid subscriptions unlock the archives, or you can read all of a current 'issue' for free. Or click a link to download the resized version to your iPod Phone / Video.

Superhero floppies as they stand are dead, but like the zombie meme, they just don't know it yet.

Mart said...

now i'm even more depressed!!

even though manga sales are down, surely they're still doing millions and millions?

sigh i just look at the x-titles etc, and just think, c'mon, do it properly, you can do it.

ipod comics sounds good. maybe O Men should pioneer this. O-pod.

Andrew James said...

I'm not entirely sure you'd be the pioneer (ClickWheel, etc.), but I'm pretty sure you could capture a whole new audience by making prior O-Men comics available for RSS download.

You might have to change your mode / manner of delivery, but I think it's really worth looking into. You would, of course, have to sacrifice some forms of page design, but I think you would be able to translate the comic quite accurately onto the iPod.

And, hey, look: I did some research for you.

Click here to see a video test of an iPod comic: http://makecomicsforever.blogspot.com/2007/07/comics-on-handhelds.html

I think the screen resolution for an iPod is 320 x 240 pixels, so if you resize each panel so that the width and height don't exceed that, and save them sequentially in an appropriately named folder, that should work. Send me the files for an issue of O Men (jpegs or tiffs) and I'll put together an example issue for you.

You'll have to test it, obviously, as I don't have an iPod.

Mart said...

ooh thanks Andrew!
what is RSS download?

I will look into all of this. I think the only prob with mobile/ipod stuff is that you are sacrificing your page layout, basically, which is all part of the experience.
Take O Men 2.4, for example, which is made up of double-page spreads.
I am thinking of moving O Men online - I mean, in practical terms, the double page spread issue would look a lot better like that - plus it took me long enough to get that issue together for the printer, lord only knows how I'll put the collection together.

I will put some O Men stuff together, and then I might focus on making my upcoming new comic, Spandex, an ipod comic. I do feel that Spandex has to be done differently in some way.

Andrew James said...

RSS stands for 'Really Simple Syndication', and it's a way of bookmarking data from a site in a way that feeds it to your browser, iPod, etc.


If you're reading this on Firefox, click the orange button in the address bar, or the blue 'RSS' button in Safari, to see what your site looks like in an RSS feed. It basically collates data and sends a note to subscribers whenever something new is added to a website - so you could RSS an O Men download with a new set of pages, or a new issue, for example.

If you're supplying iPod files as only one way of viewing your comic, then I don't think sacrificing the layout is such a big deal - especially if you're then driving readers to print collections. If you're just concerned with telling the story and increasing numbers of readers, iPod stuff is just another avenue to take.

Seriously, though... send me your tiffs for an issue and I'll mock you up an example to see if you like.

The idea of making something specific for the Pod is a nice one, though... Making the limitations of the format work for you - and you could play more with decompression/limited animation, given that the reader controls the pace of the panel progression.