The key dilemma North American mainstream comics publishers are facing right now: They can’t afford to alienate comics retailers, and they can’t afford to not alienate them for much longer, either.
There’s something at stake there, certainly. It’s not the existence of printed comic-book serials, though, but the business model that’s based on the notion of comics readers going to comics stores every Wednesday to get their latest haul of saddle-stitched comic books. Will serial 30-page comic books exist ten years from now? Absolutely. Will they be the major factor in North American comics sales they have been? Probably not.
In his conversation with Kiel Phegley, Marvel editor and executive Joe Quesada gives reason to presume that Marvel is aware of all of that, at least.
That the company is walking on eggshells right now and dutifully saddling itself with nonsense like the higher price for the digital same-day release of the forthcoming Invincible Iron Man Annual is hardly surprising. It’s still a necessity to play nice with retailers and pay lip service to the necessity of “driving new customers into their stores.” But ultimately, it’s clear that Marvel’s determined to move in a new direction. That direction doesn’t lead away from print, but it does lead away from a business model that’s based on 100,000 people walking into comics stores every week.
This means that comic-book stores still relying on this business model—and that’s probably many of them—need to start looking for other, new ways to justify their existence and reinvent their businesses, if they haven’t already.
o “The Middle of the Road Is Where the Boring People Dance”
This and many other quotable things were said by Howard Chaykin at his creator-talk panel at Comic-Salon Erlangen panel on Sunday—and in a one-on-one conversation with yours truly, which will go up at Comicgate as soon as I find the time to transcribe and translate it. In the meantime, here’s a flurry of blurry impressions from Germany’s major comics convention.
o “Except for Those with a Sense of Moral Clarity, It’s Harder to Generate Nostalgia and Sympathy for a Guy Involved with a Bunch of Comics from First and Eclipse You’ve Never Heard of Than Someone Tied Into the Wider Pop-Culture Crackle of a Favorite Superhero”
Tom Spurgeon names “Two More Conversations We Could Be Having”: the prospect of an increasing number of destitute freelancers over the next 20 years, and what digital distribution will mean for comics creators financially.
Evidently, DC Comics editor Ian Sattler managed to pacify the critics objecting to some of the DC storylines of late that have affected the fictional lives of a range of minority characters by ending them. At HeroesCon in Charlotte, N.C., Sattler outlined some thoughtful editorial policies that convinced people to put their concerns to rest, or at least give DC the benefit of the doubt.
As a translator, I enjoyed this roundtable on comics translations at The Comics Journal, which deals with all kinds of issues that you don’t need to think about unless you find yourself seated in front of a comic that needs to be translated from language into another.
And, yes, English probably is the shortest of the languages. So, as someone who translates it into German, which, at the very least, tends to be one of the longer ones in most cases, I’m always grateful when I’m working with comics that leave some blank space in their balloons and boxes, because that leaves me with more options. (I’m looking at you, British and American comics creators.)
In terms of a general philosophy, I love the Art Spiegelman quote brought up by Kim Thompson: “What I try to do, is I try not so much to translate as to write it the way I think he would have written it in English to begin with if he had been writing it in English.” That about sums it up; if a translation reads like something that was translated from another language, it’s probably a bad one.
Out this week: the paperback collection Chew, Vol. 2: International Flavor and the comic book Chew #11, which starts a new storyline. So I figure this is as good a time as any to recommend this mind-blowing, idiosyncratic, by turns hilarious and tragic little horror/comedy/mystery series by writer John Layman and artist Rob Guillory, about a glum, short-tempered cop who gets psychic impressions from things that he eats, and his off-kilter supporting cast.
Since the very beginning, Layman and Guillory have shown to be impressively—and unusually, by mainstream-comics standards—in control of their craft and their narrative. I wouldn’t have expected one of my favorite comics moments of 2009 to be a double-page splash showing a guy eating a spoonful of soup, for instance, but there you go—it’s right there in Chew #1, and in the context of that story, it’s one of the most exciting and innovative things comics have done for me lately.
The link above has a nine-page preview of the new issue.