Thursday, June 04, 2009

Can Someone Please Tell Comics This?

Dave Eggers offers this about the future of print:

"The new issue of McSweeney's, he adds, will be published in newspaper form, in an attempt to show that if the print model is changed, if it can offer "a clear and different experience" from the internet, then it can thrive. "We believe that if you use the hell out of the medium, if you give investigative journalism space, if you give photojournalists space, if you give graphic artists and cartoonists space – if you really truly give readers an experience that can't be duplicated on the web – then they will spend $1 for a copy. And that $1 per copy, plus the revenue from some (but not all that many) ads, will keep the enterprise afloat," he writes.

Eggers ends with a rousing call for the future of print. "This is a time to roar back and assert and celebrate the beauty of the printed page," he says. "Give people something to fight for, and they will fight for it. Give something to pay for, and they'll pay for it."

I want my comics on newspaper. I want to pay $1 for a big slab of culture with a lot of different comics in it... and ads for things I like... and a short story or two. I don't want to pay $3.99 for 22 pages of "story" (yes, that's sarcasm) on glossy white paper stock with card stock covers that winds up in a plastic bag and a board.

I also want to go online and read the comics if I miss the print edition. Surrounded by advertising and links and all sorts of "Google-ness" that pays for it.

But most of all I want to see kids reading comics again. With their folks. Just like my Dad and I used to do when I was a kid growing up in the small burg of Aiken, SC.

Every Sunday after church I would ask that we drop by the Aiken Drug Store to pick up the Atlanta Journal and Constitution which was the only paper in the area that carried DICK TRACY, THE PHANTOM and STEVE CANYON. All of this and the rest of the paper for only 50 cents.

Comics should be cheap.

The content shouldn't.

H/T to Warren


Unknown said...

Damned interesting, Bill. You always have the most thought-provoking stuff regarding media...I check it nearly every day!

Cunningham said...

Thanks, Dave.

I want to see Ghost Zero in a tabloid sized big, fat newsprint format like the LA WEEKLY or VILLAGE VOICE... and on Kindle...and on your web page...

You get the idea. We aren't going to grow the audience if we limit their participation through frankly ridiculous pricing. I will be looking at DC's new WEDNESDAY COMICS very closely.

We live in interesting times. We can either evolve or we can die.

I wish I could take credit for these ideas - I just find them and disseminate them for everyone to put into practice. The more diverse the offerings (and media portals) the stronger the overall market.

And who doesn't want that?

S. Harlan Cone said...

I wish we had more sci-fi and pulp magazines out there. I'd probably want to write short stories more often. I, too, am excited about Wednesday Comics.

Also: I live close to Aiken, it's an interesting place. I dig the painted horses.

Cunningham said...

I went to school at PC and USC and lived in Columbia for awhile before making the trek west. My brother and his wife make Lexington their home.

Harlan -- there will be more opportunities...I can guarantee it.

Chad Carter said...

It's time for publishing to incorporate as much of the technology as it can without losing the quality. Comics in particular have subverted quality of content in an effort to please a dying demographic ("fanboy"), literally dying. I can say without blinking that online content will not deter me from buying a collection of that fact, if I can read comics/stories/serialized novels online AND in a collected print edition, I think I'll be more than happy to pay for the content I've already seen for that which I haven't. Such as: articles from authorities on specific things like Pulp from the past you might never have heard of. Suddenly, you get not only the content you paid for, but the turn-on to another work, whether B-movie, novella, 1960s television show, webcomic, whatever. You could call it "grab bag" publishing, but still thematic, because you're exposing readers to a lot of interesting characters and concepts all at once. I'd argue I became a DC Comics fan because of CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS...because being a teenage fan of Perez, he showed me a plethora of characters I didn't know existed (and ceased existing because of the Event, which blew of course), in all shapes and sizes. I sought those cool characters out after that...unfortunately DC didn't stop to consider NEW readers like me in their rush to gain "new" readers. Excuse my run-on here.

Unknown said...

Archie comics have never been my cup of tea, but more and more I have to give them credit for succeeding in a lot of ways most other comics fail in the U.S.A.

They publish a digest on cheap paper, sell them in supermarkets and 7-11s, republish the hell out of their old material, and you can usually understand an Archie story without having read a million preceding issues. They use the same characters in weird off-genre spin-offs like the mysteries or the Lil'Archies.

I would love to see the same approach applied to superhero or science fiction comic.

Curt Purcell said...

As I recall, comics transitioned from newsprint to the fancier paper pretty much as they transitioned from newsstands and supermarket spinners to direct market comics specialty shops. I didn't like either change at the time, and with some years of hindsight, like them even less. I actually just posted something on this topic myself.

Here's an interesting article by HACK/SLASH creator Tim Seeley about ideas for making comics cheaper and more accessible again. I was really surprised at the way some avenues he explored turned out to be such dead ends, based on a variety of factors.

Cunningham said...

Curt -

The problem Seeley has in his interview/editorial is that he's still thinking that he has to focus on the comic book shops.

I call bullshit.

The point for all comics companies and creators is to get their product into as many hands and hearts as possible. That means expanding back out onto newsstands and elsewhere (Iphone and Kindle apps), making comics cheaper to read and reinforcing the idea comics are everywhere and for everyone.

I think you would agree that in general more people read comics in their Sunday paper than they do in a comic book format. That means that there is a huge audience out there of people who would read comics.

The current comic companies have wrongly equated higher production value with better content.

Again, I call bullshit.

Comics of all types need to be cheap again so more people will read them and discover the fun. Instead, we have ego-driven comics that serve a minute, and dwindling audience. With all the movies made from comics it's been interesting that the audience has grown for the trade paperbacks of the original stories and NOT translated into new monthly / weekly readers of comics.

That HAS to stop. Now.

And yes, it angers me that a media so ripe for creativity is being stifled by sweaty fucks in their parents' basements masturbating to drawings of comics in bags and boards.

Yes, I'm talking to you... over there in the corner. Put down the fucking sandwich. Wipe your greasy chin. Zip up your pants and go for a walk. Quit reading about heroes and go out and fucking become one by creating something of value. Oh, and would you shower and fucking use some deodorant when you go to the San Diego Comic Con?!!!

Duane Spurlock said...

Whether Eggers is 100% right or only partially so, he's working in the right direction -- thinking outside of the box, beyond the spinner rack/direct-sale comic shop/etc.