Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Genre-monkeys


I have been thinking a lot about genre lately. With the wave of DC comics trying out a lot of old ideas in new ways I have to think about what exactly is the sweet spot that people want to see. What is commercial? What is not? There is a part of me that hears me say that and rebels with all the punk rock rage in the world, screaming "Good storytelling is commercial idiot", and I agree with that sentiment, and have to wonder about the stories that I am planning and whether or not they will rock someone's world or not. Don't get me wrong, it is up to me to deliver the goods in storytelling and to make sure that the art and production are up to snuff (once again going into that world wherein I am no just a writer but a producer), but it is also my hope that the creations that I make don't just fall under a truck tire and get run over by the masses.

I think it is all in the phrase that you choose to market your project under and the artwork attached. I don't know if a pure romance comic would roll, but given that you had enough moxy to make is a long form comic, and enough talent that people would notice (like Terry Moore), you might be able to push the format back into play. Publishers like the big two are all about the money so they stick where the money is instead of hiring a genius, throwing some money at them and just settling back and watching them slowly build a beautiful story and build the industry as a whole. Vertigo has taken some chances like that, but they have done it with some financial restraint. They have also have had huge streams of revenue come from comics that they probably would have never thought they would have (Sandman, Preacher, etc.). Given a good push in the media, and a continued push throughout the run I believe that a creator(s) with vision could crack into mainstream America with something like romance. Especially if you could produce something that would have television crossover potential.

Archaia seems like a company that is willing to throw some dice on projects that they believe in, no matter what the content, or genre for that matter. If they can produce a beautiful product unlike any other publisher in this game, they can push it in markets beyond the direct market and reap the benefits from the fact that the big two are functionally stuck in the superhero/adventure rut.

I am going to state another example, Western comics. Although DC doesn't make much money making Western comics, and only has one (now named All Star Western, formerly named Jonah Hex) such comic, they have spun that property into a movie (that seems to have an okay following) and managed to keep the comic afloat.

With the relaunch we are effectively getting a mixing of superhero with romance/horror/sci-fi/war/retro and probably a couple of things that I can't think of at the moment. But they are mixed with superhero. Ack! That is not an expansion of the market, so much as a muddying of the water.

Take a look at Locke and Key. This is a straight up horror comic. IDW has a wonderful book on their hands, and I believe that the title does fairly well for them (if not in singles than in trades. Hopefully). This is an example of standing firm behind something that you believe in, investing in a title of genre that you think you can sell to people.

Given the right market savvy and a little push from WB or Disney we could have a market in this country like Japan, with little girls reading My Littlest Adventure Supermag as well as older women (and more) reading, say, a historical fiction comic set the the Elizabethan era. This would take forward thinking. This would take something that I don't see any of the large publishers doing or investing in, or advertising. It would take money to build, and in this fragile economy I don't see something that is even remotely risky happening sometime soon, even if it was just a title done by someone who is a comics super genius.

But until then, I will think about how to push my own little comics into the hands of people with interests like me, and hopefully push a little at breaking something different into the mainstream.

Not to say the big two haven't done some great, interesting initiatives lately. Pride and Prejudice and the OZ books from Marvel spring to mind, as well as some small, but failed wings of both publishers that have failed for lack of trying and attaching actual big name talent to them. I applaud the try, but dipping your toe in the water is definitely not like diving in and taking a look around. So, one title, one super genius, and a marketing push like never before. New sales points, bookstore and magazine store shelf space = expansion of market. MAYBE.

Martin

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