Robot 6

Comics A.M. | Borders sets Feb. 1 deadline; will bande dessinée break out?

Borders

Retailing | The Borders death watch continues, with the struggling bookstore chain giving publishers until Feb. 1 to accept or reject a proposal to convert delayed payments into loans. Publishers reportedly are skeptical of the plan, which would see them take up one-third to one-quarter of the bookseller’s reorganized debt. The Ann Arbor, Mich.-based retailer also has hired bankruptcy and restructuring lawyers to advise in its restructuring efforts, which center on negotiations to secure a $500 million credit line from GE Capital.

Borders, the second-largest book chain in the United States, announced in late December that it would delay payments to key publishers and distributors, leading some — such as Diamond Book Distributors — to stop shipping books. Jacket Copy reminds us that Borders Group is closing nearly 200 Waldebooks and Borders Express outlets before the end of the month. Additionally, it’s shuttering 17 Borders superstore locations nationwide. [The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal]

Epileptic

Publishing | As the Angoulême International Comics Festival draws near, writer John Bryne ponders why, outside of Asterix and Tintin, Francophone comics have had difficulty finding an English-speaking audience — and wonders whether this is the year bande dessinée will “break out.” [The Irish Times]

Publishing | Top Shelf Productions has signed with talent and literary agency International Creative Management for media-rights representation. ICM already represents such creators as Kurt Busiek, Todd McFarlane, Grant Morrison, Paul Pope and Jeff Smith. [Heat Vision]

Conventions | Exhibitor registration is open for Small Press Expo 2011, set for Sept. 10-11 at the North Bethesda Marriott Hotel and Convention Center in Bethesda, Maryland. [SPX]

Conventions | Subhajit Banerjee previews the first Indian Comic Con, which will be held Feb. 19-20 in New Delhi. [The Telegraph]

Rob and Aiden Guillory

Creators | Congratulations to Chew artist Rob Guillory and his wife April on the Jan. 11 birth of their son Aiden Thomas Guillory. [Rob Guillory]

Creators | Birds of Prey writer Gail Simone is seeking realistic design recommendations for Oracle’s wheelchair: “Now, over the years and the course of many, many appearances, she’s had like eight million different chairs, mostly generic, but some a little ridiculous, and quite a few very obsolete in appearance. Unobtrusive is one thing, but some of these chairs looked like they came from the 1700’s. What I want to, and it’s way past time, is to update her chair, and to make it a consistent, reasonable design, that is still not hugely obtrusive.” [Ape in a Cape]

Creators | Carol Hills profiles “South Africa’s Garry Trudeau,” political cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro, aka Zapiro. [The World]

Creators | Writer John Jackson Miller talks at length about his work on the Star Wars comic series Knight Errant. [About.com]

Craft | Todd Klein launches a multi-part study of Daredevil logos. [Todd’s Blog]

Comics | Douglas Wolk rattles off 15 things that make him happy about comics right now. [Techland]

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9 Comments

Okay, the article was from the perspective of the UK and Ireland. That said, here’s the American perspective:

French comics don’t have a stereotypical genre, like American superhero comics.

A book for a young audience can have a realistic style, a “clear line” style, or be completely cartoony. The same can be said for books for adults.

It’s mostly a matter of marketing. Here are European comics which have been/are successful in the U.S.:
Persepolis (and every other book by Satrapi)
Epileptic
Smurfs (the movie-based relaunch is doing quite well at Papercutz)
Classics Illustrated Deluxe (resized European editions of classic English literature)
Geronimo Stilton
Almost everything by Joann Sfar and/or Emmanuel Guibert (Sardine, Dungeon, The Photographer, The Rabbi’s Cat)
NBM also has their line of Eurotica, many of which are serialized in the magazine French Kiss.

Meanwhle, Cinebook continues to import many European titles, including 29 volumes of Lucky Luke.

And, of course, the occasional literary masterpiece from Drawn & Quarterly and Fantagraphics.

hope boarders manage to get a miracle and be able to pay but odds are its only a matter of time before the bankrupty lawers get to work or they offer themselves to a buy out of barne’s and nobles. updating Oracles wheel chair means that dc finaly letting her not use it as much is not happening . guess that means Gail death of Oracle story line is not going to have Oracle take a dip in the Larus pit if she wants an upgrade to the chair.

Aren’t you forgetting something, Torsten?

A little magazine called Heavy Metal, 33 years in the market, selling hundreds of thousands of copies in the 70s.

Also, Moebius reprints seemed to do well for Marvel in the 80s.

And NBM’s porn mag is called Sizzle. French Kiss was from a different publisher and cancelled years ago.

I’d say that based on the high prices that his out-of-print books from the 80s go for that Hugo Pratt’s Corto Maltese books sold really well. The Jacques Tardi reprints from Fantagraphics are selling really well. Lewis Trondheim has had some successes as well, mostly his kids books, but I also liked Little Nothings quite a bit. Milo Manara has always sold consistently well. And Humanoids has put out some fantastic sellers, mostly notably the Metabarons and reprints of Enki Bilal’s work.

As far as I’m concerned, the fact that French comics have thirteen genres, six major publishers and a variety of different art styles is a feature, not a bug. One of the reasons why Manga has been so successful over here (according to some) is that it features stories that you don’t usually find in traditional superhero comics. So genre diversity isn’t a bad thing at all.

If anything, I’d say that the biggest obstacle to selling translated BD in America is the size and shape of the albums. To American audiences, they look like children’s books. And to LCS owners, they don’t fit on the racks properly (which is ridiculous in this day and age of Absolute editions).

But there’s more than enough good stuff that American audiences would be interested in, if they knew about it. And if it wasn’t marketed at superhero readers, but rather at people who are curious about comics as a medium.

“But there’s more than enough good stuff that American audiences would be interested in, if they knew about it. And if it wasn’t marketed at superhero readers, but rather at people who are curious about comics as a medium.”

And THAT is the mistake most people translating french comics make!

Forget the Direct Market, forget Diamond. Sell on real bookstores and be patient, because it will take time to reach the public.

Publicity would help, of course, but most publishers don’t have that kind of money.

On bookstores, the peculiar european format may even be a help, putting the books into more evidence.

Best,
Hunter (Pedro Bouça)

There are many French and European titles available in English. I commented on the article, only mentioning the ones which NOW are as successful as Asterix or Tintin.

Those earlier 1980s reprints (Epic, Catalan, etc.) never succeeded. French comics in the U.S. suffered the same as Graphic Novels in the 1980s. There was a boom, then a bust, and then decades before those segments became popular again. Even in comics shops, it was rare to find even Asterix or Tintin.

Heavy Metal continues to sell, but marginally. Their graphic novels are also marginal, little seen in bookstores.

I did not know French Kiss was cancelled. I did not intend to make a connection between NBM and French Kiss, I just noticed that many of the serialized creators in FK were later published by NBM.

The album size is not a problem in bookstores, where the “general” graphic novels come in all shapes and sizes. (Contrast with the “comic book” sized superhero graphic novels.) Even when spined, the Tintin and Asterix volumes sell well. Most bookstores also have slat walls where books can be displayed faced out.

As for concentrating on bookstores… well, Humanoids didn’t fare too well, even with DC behind it. It’s better to start in the non-returnable Direct Market, where the knowledgeable fans are willing to pay $100 for a deluxe edition of Moebius. There are some titles which sell to the literary crowd (Tardi, Satrapi), but many which would have a difficult time. First Second has the most success with European publishers in bookstores, because Mark Siegel and Macmillan know how to market books, regardless of origin.

“Fantastic sellers”… yes, the made money for the publisher, but do they get reprinted? Do they get reviewed in mainstream media like the New York Times Book Review? Do they even chart on the Diamond Top 300 GN list? Do they sell well in bookstores?

I’d argue that the Rabbi’s Cat and most of Sfar’s material is not as popular in English as Tintin and Asterix, but that’s really just splitting hairs. Or are you saying that these titles are as popular in France?

I would say that Heavy Metal is nowhere near as important or as vital as it used to be. In fact, there are probably people who have heard of this legendary magazine Heavy Metal, picked it up and wondered what the fuss was all about.

Translated BD are starting to show up in the New York Times Book Review – Persepolis and Epileptic were both featured – as well as Publisher’s Weekly and other mainstream literary outlets. Obviously, we’re a long way from Marianne putting out an entire issue dedicated to the kinds of works that you’d expect to see at Angouleme, but that has a lot to do with the state of the industry and the culture in both places.

On one side of the Atlantic (and the Channel), it’s a marginal art form that barely gets any respect. On the other side, there is no stereotypical demographic that is recognized as the only people who reads them. It’s not hard to see why people like myself would want to bring that kind of maturity and respect to these shores.

IMO, associating newly translated books with an audience that barely tolerates original, non-superhero material is a waste of time and effort. There is an entire audience of readers who are interested in comics, but find their choices limited. Why not market in that direction instead?

Well, Asterix and Tintin are the superstars. Tintin’s been in print in the U.S. since at least 1975, and Asterix is starting to gain some popularity, partly from B&N’s Sterling Publishing distributing the titles in the U. S.

I used “successful” not “popular”. Splitting hairs, yes. Dungeon, Little Vampire, and Sardine have multiple volumes published. The Rabbi’s Cat and The Professor’s Daughter were well reviewed.

In spite of everything, Heavy Metal, featuring 1 or 2 European albumes in every issue, still has a circulation of 43,212 copies.

Tell me any other BD translated to English (no Asterix, Tintin or Persepolis, please) that gets remotely near those figures.

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