“I don’t mean to suggest that there isn’t work to be done of course, but we’ve hit a point where the lie espoused by the industry gatekeepers, that ‘there isn’t an audience for kids comics’ or ‘there isn’t an audience for girls or womens comics’ has finally been put to rest. Oh, the gatekeepers hung onto it as long as they could, ‘webcomics aren’t comic books’ or ‘manga aren’t comics’ or whatever nonsense they dug up. They’re still espousing it to some degree or another–I particularly liked this article by Heidi MacDonald on why superhero publishers will never ‘get’ women–but it’s demonstrably false. Comics for kids sell now, the Lego Ninjago comic has a 425,000 copy first printing, a number that dwarfs most others in comics… and DC had that license at one point btw. Comics for girls (and boys) like Smile continue to sell very well. Despite the gleeful hand rubbing over the demise of manga, it still sells quite well, thanks. And the internet…? The internet is home to a fantastically diverse array of cartoonists either making their living or a significant chunk of it from the online serialization of their work–and they’re coming for print too. They are COMING FOR PRINT.”
–Comics retailer and blogger Chris Butcher, reacting to the news that Smile by Raina Telgemeier took the No. 1 spot on The New York Times’ bestselling graphic novels list, but also providing follow-up commentary on the essay by Heidi MacDonald that Brigid quoted earlier this week. It’s a great piece by Butcher; go read the whole thing.
Raina Telgemeier has been busy — it seemed like she made it to every single comic convention in the United States and several in Canada over the past year — and last weekend she capped it off by picking up the Eisner Award for Best Publication for Teens for her graphic novel Smile. Despite all that traveling, she has managed to start work on her next graphic novel, and she announced it over the weekend: It will be called Drama, and, she says, “It’s about middle school theater geeks, stage crew, putting on a play, love and hate and friendship, and that’s all I can talk about for now.” The book is due out in fall 2012 from Scholastic/Graphix.
Every year, I participate in my city’s Community Reading Day, and every year I bring a big bag of comics to whatever class is lucky enough to get me as their reader. This year it was a fifth-grade class, and I thought their take on comics was pretty interesting — and should be troubling to publishers and marketers.
I always start by asking the kids what comics they read. Calvin & Hobbes is the one constant from year to year — often it’s the only comic most of them can think of. No one seems to read current newspaper strips, or monthly comics, or many graphic novels, but everyone knows Calvin & Hobbes. There is usually one kid who reads superheroes, but this year there were none (although one likes to draw them). Someone had a copy of Big Nate, and two girls who were obviously friends mentioned the manga +Anima. “It’s on the Internet,” one of them explained. Not legally, of course, but I didn’t have the heart to tell them that. If I worked for Tokyopop, though, I’d be worried — they were obviously reading it on a bootleg site, and what’s more, it’s the only manga they read. Whatever marketing Tokyopop is doing is missing the core audience. (Maybe they should buy ads on the bootleg sites.)