The native are restless. Or at least the artists are. In our previous item we mentioned Bryan Talbot and ALICE IN SUNDERLAND — it took him five years to finish it, and that’s a long time to be working on anything. The one downside of the graphic novel boom is that creators have to sequester themselves for years at a time, and sometimes they have to sequester themselves from a paycheck as well. It started with Becky Cloonan:
So we’re seeing this huge boom in “OEL” books right now, believe me I think it’s great. Many people are seeing more publishing opportunities and this 5×7 format has really taken off (my favorite size is still 6×9 for gn’s though). But I have a bad feeling about it– some people say the market is getting over-saturated– and I agree to a point. However, I feel that the biggest problem is that most artists weren’t meant to work this way, that is drawing 150+ pages at a time.
“But look at all the graphic novels coming out from Japan!” Yes, look at them! And they are all first published in small, 10-20 page chunks in a weekly or monthly magazine. (Not to mention most artists have assistants there– hmm it’s not much different than the so called “assembly line” production you see on mainstream American comics.)
Corey Lewis also chimed in:
But how fucking honestly reasonable is it to ask ONE DUDE to produce a roughly-200 page OGN in the span of a few months? IS THIS SOMETHING WE CAN REALLY DEPEND ON? I’m dying every fucking second. I have no studio. I have no “people”. Sharknife Co. Ltd. ™ is all one guy. It takes a shit ass load of energy and intelligence to construct an entire universe for this shit!!! I’m not complaining!!! I FUCKING LOVE TO DO IT. But without instant success, piles of royalty checks or some kind of media tie-in deal, the OGN format is amazingly hard for a young BASICALLY “freelance” artist to commit to.
A few days ago Tania del Rio piped up, and working on the monthly Sabrina comic, she had a different take.
But now that I’ve been working on Sabrina for 3 years I can definitely see the advantages of this format. Not only do I get the gratification of seeing my work on newsstands consistently, I have a steady paycheck. Every week I turn in pages, and every 2 weeks I get a paycheck. It’s nice! As long as I keep doing my work, I don’t have to worry about when my payment will arrive (a rarity in the world of freelance!).
I’ve also been lucky in regards to getting fans and loyal readers. Rather than putting out one graphic novel, and trying to maintain my audience’s attention for the next year until the next one comes out, I’m fortunate that new issues of my work are available at any given time, and that each month, I gain new readers. For every issue I get feedback – I can tweak a future storyline if I realize my fans aren’t digging the direction I’m going in, or sometimes I’ll deliberately do the opposite just to stir the fans up! (Hehehe)
Tintin Pantoja points out the economics of multi-formats:
The real money is in reprints, in the trade collection and merchandising.
You only really start to seriously profit from your comics after they’ve been reprinted and exploited several times, in different formats. I know it’s pretty cynical, but look at it this way: a comic artist has only so much time to work on a comic. Comics are notoriously labor-intensive. Sure you can have your $15 super-glossy-cardstock full-color album-sized masterpiece, but why not subsidize it by another edition of the same comic, but this time printed on toilet paper, selling for $1?
This is exactly Phil Foglio’s strategy: Girl Genius comes out on the web, as a black and white phonebook-sized newsprint ‘omnibus’ , and as a full color hardbound collector’s album. My argument here is that to make money, creators have to be a little more flexible in terms of formatting. That way one can have the art and the money too. Sure, the omnibus looks like crap (compared to the albums anyway) but they’re pulling in newer readers. We need a cheap disposable and serialized format AS WELL AS a prestige format, even if one or the other isn’t the bext format for your book.
Vanessa Santone also comments, while wondering if the Shojo Beat-like anthology can ever take off here.
I would love to see a low-price monthly anthology, but the industry doesn’t seem to be going that way. Shoujo Beat is $5.99 an issue. I assume that Shonen Jump is about the same. But nobody seems to want to try it with original comics in American. There’s an interview with Kurt Hassler on Newsarama (which I haven’t read yet, ’cause I’m lazy), about Yen Press. They’re going to be publishing a monthly anthology, containing translated Japanese comics, and original American comics. I’m hoping that if things go well with Yen Press, other companies might try following suit.
As a creator, I would love to get my comics out to people every month. (But then again, I’m not published, and I’m slow as fuck, so who am I to talk?) On the other hand, I don’t think OGNs are necessarily a bad thing, either. After all, comics are books, and prose novels don’t come out on monthly, one chapter at a time, schedule. I’m kind of torn on the subject.
Vanessa is torn…WE’RE ALL TORN! Unfortunately, the pamphlet long ago ceased to be a “satisfying chunk.” The monthly comics ARE essentially one-story serializations of the graphic novels. Go back and look at that Web 2.0 business plan Joey Manley was talking about. With the monthly print anthology — Yen and Viz aside — still failing to find any traction here, monetizing web serialization for the eventual print collection appears to be the most likely business model for the comics of the future, whether its in the iTunes/Eyemelt model, or the Penny Arcade model.
As all signs point to Marvel and DC ramping up their online business plans, the delivery system is really going to become more and more important.