Re: Why does nobody do compressed comics?

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tolworthy
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Why does nobody do compressed comics?

Post by tolworthy »

Threads on comic prices (£7 an issue? I'll buy a book or DVD instead thanks) make me wonder why nobody tries compressed comics? That is, see how much story can be contained in, say, four pages?

That solves price and distribution at a stroke, as fans wouldn't mind printing that much themselves, and once it gets a few hundred fans it could easily piggyback on existing publications: plenty of magazines (newspaper Saturday supplements, free sheets, etc.) are hungry for content, but they want it short.

To answer the obvious objections:
1. It's never been done before? Traditional painters and sculptors are able to make single images that people stare at for hours and continually discover new angles. Poets specialize in telling whole stories in just a few lines. Historians will extract huge narratives from a few fragments. Puzzle makers are experts at hiding different meaning in deceptively simple images.

2. How much story can be told in very little space? Some genres would be perfectly suited. E.g. mystery/detective/puzzle (hunt for clues); comedy (find new hidden gags you missed the first time round); deeper serious works that rely on symbolism. Just those three areas alone can support a whole host of different story types.

3. What about eyesight? If aiming at kids, their eyesight is immensely better than adults'. If aiming at adults we need fewer words because each one can contain more meaning.

4. Attention span? Plenty of kids like puzzles. They will concentrate if they have a reason. Plus the low distribution costs mean you only need to target a small percentage of the population. Of course, if you get lucky and something is popular, those same low distribution costs mean you can easily market your wares to the masses and become very rich.

The real problem as I see it is tradition. Readers, writers and publishers are used to throw-away comics that nobody returns to twice. Manga, for example, is often designed for three seconds' attention per page. It need a different mind set to treat comics like works of art or poetry, where you savor every line and come back to the same place again and again.

What would such a comic look like? Imagine Kit Williams' "Masquerade" drawn by Ken Reid at his most manic Jonah stage, all in an intense maximum-use-of-every-pixel style like Monster Fun's Ticklish Allsorts:

Masquerade: http://scifipulse.net/wp-content/upload ... de_int.jpg
Jonah: http://enterthestory.com/images/jonah.jpg
Ticklish Allsorts: http://enterthestory.com/images/Monster_fun_8.jpg

Sure, it wouldn't be to everyone's taste, but that's the nature of art: it surprises, challenges, and rewards.

If I had my life to live again that's what I'd do: become a comic artist who specialized in incredibly detailed single page epics with layers of hidden meaning, and photocopy and distribute them like crazy.

Are there any drawbacks I've missed?

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ISPYSHHHGUY
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Re: Why does nobody do compressed comics?

Post by ISPYSHHHGUY »

some worthwhile points, there, Tolworthy: I personally prefer the more lavishly-detailed comics work, but many kids today have the attention-spans of a common housefly, [probably as a result of 'zapping' TV channels every 7 seconds or responding swiftly to action on computer-games] so maybe they don't have the patience require to pore over more accomplished work.....ironically, this is the modern equivalent of the older days, when some concerned do-gooders lamented comics, encouraging kids to read 'proper' literature instead.

Having said that, word-only books for kids have proven to be big business, ---so it's a possible course of action. The problem would appear to be convincing the hard-nosed money-men, who by nature are accountants, who typically lack creative vision, and are responsible for much of the conformity in everyday life.......


PS: 7 quid for a comic? I remember the days when 7d, or seven older pennies, was considered dear for a comick! Looks like the '13 quid for a bottle of milk' days are indeed on their way.....

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Re: Why does nobody do compressed comics?

Post by Lew Stringer »

tolworthy wrote: Are there any drawbacks I've missed?
It's a nice idea. Just a few thoughts:

1: Producing a four page comic wouldn't necessarily reduce overheads significantly. Distributors would presumably still charge the same for shipping a four page comic as they would a 52 page comic, as it's still going to take the same amount of their time. Retailers would expect to make it worth their while to stock it, so they're not going to accept a comic that only pays them pennies. (They'd also hate the format.)

2: Going with your newspaper supplement idea: newspapers don't feature comic supplements because newspapers no longer care about comics. It's cheaper for them to fill those four pages with celeb gossip or things their readers want, like sports news.

3: The one thing your idea overlooks is that the artists have to make a living! The idea is great, but would be very time consuming, probably needing 100% attention from the artists by dropping their other strips. Where would the money come from to pay these artists a decent wage? Even going with your self-publishing idea, how would it make you a living?

By the way, let's shatter this "£7 comic" myth. The single comic in question is Smart Bomb, which, as discussed elsewhere, is actually £4 plus postage & packing. As it's a limited edition of just 100 copies I think it's quite justified don't you? (Rab, yes comics used to cost 7d, - in the days when the average weekly wage was about £20. :wink: )

Lew
Last edited by Lew Stringer on 16 Jan 2010, 14:24, edited 2 times in total.
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Digifiend
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Re: Why does nobody do compressed comics?

Post by Digifiend »

Lew Stringer wrote:2: Going with your newspaper supplement idea: newspapers don't feature comic supplements because newspapers no longer care about comics. It's cheaper for them to fill those four pages with celeb gossip or things their readers want, like sports news.
Yes, and to prove the point, if they did still care, The Sun would've found a proper replacement for Striker, instead of just putting virals in the space.

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Re: Why does nobody do compressed comics?

Post by tolworthy »

ISPYSHHHGUY wrote:7 quid for a comic? I remember the days when 7d, or seven older pennies, was considered dear
Comic prices have increased about twice as fast as my disposable income. :(
ISPYSHHHGUY wrote:probably as a result of 'zapping' TV channels every 7 seconds or responding swiftly to action on computer-games
And yet those same kids will spend hours grinding through a level if the quality is high enough.
Lew Stringer wrote:let's shatter this "£7 comic" myth.
Last time I wanted to buy a particular comic it was £10, not £7. I wanted the Pet Avengers, so went to Forbidden Planet, and their minimum online order was £10. I could have had two comics for that, but only wanted one.
Lew Stringer wrote:Retailers ...aren't going to accept a comic that only pays them pennies. (They'd also hate the format.)
True, but that's been true for decades. But we can still have the same comics as today: Shorter higher quality new stuff and more reprints. Readers will appreciate the high quality, and it in turn has much higher reprint value.

IMO the best way to get a new idea noticed is to have extremely high quality so the blogs remember it. It also helps to have something that can demonstrate clear value in a single page for promotional purposes.
Lew Stringer wrote:newspapers no longer care about comics
I just picked up an old Daily Mail (I didn't buy it, I swear) and it's true, there's only half a page of comics. But there are three and a half pages of puzzles, and far more on weekends.Comics are quick to read, while puzzles will keep people occupied for hours.

I also notice that newspapers love conspiracy stories. Why not combine them? Imagine a comic version of a Dan Brown conspiracy on a single page (a Dan Brown style plot could easily be done on one page): with clues in the pictures. Readers could enjoy the simple story then solve the secondary puzzle themselves (Masquerade style): e.g. did they notice the carvings on the Rosslyn chapel pillar? Did they notice that the glass on the broken window had fallen on the wrong side? Answers in the next episode! A lot can be done in one page. This could be the next Magic Eye or Soduku. :)
Lew Stringer wrote:going with your self-publishing idea, how would it make you a living?
Newspaper columnists make a living off writing just a page a day. Certainly the comics I envision would take longer, but unlike columns they can be reprinted for years, and in every country.

Reprints would be a major source of income. If it costs £20 to print a long story, it cannot compete with DVDs and paperbacks. But if it only costs £5 to reprint it then we're back in the mass market.
Last edited by tolworthy on 16 Jan 2010, 15:17, edited 3 times in total.

tolworthy
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Re: Why does nobody do compressed comics?

Post by tolworthy »

whoops! Double post sorry
Last edited by tolworthy on 16 Jan 2010, 15:07, edited 2 times in total.

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ISPYSHHHGUY
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Re: Why does nobody do compressed comics?

Post by ISPYSHHHGUY »

SMART BOMB is a beautifully-realized enterprize, by the way, and justifies the money asked [which is more due to registered post issues]; it looks more airbrushed that computerized, and all the better for it.

check out the site: you won't be disappointed.

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Re: Why does nobody do compressed comics?

Post by Lew Stringer »

tolworthy wrote:
Lew Stringer wrote:newspapers no longer care about comics
I just picked up an old Daily Mail (I didn't buy it, I swear) and it's true, there's only half a page of comics. But there are three and a half pages of puzzles, and far more on weekends.Comics are quick to read, while puzzles will keep people occupied for hours.
Puzzles are also cheaper for the paper to use. Newspapers now see comics as an expensive luxury they can't afford to devote much space to.

Lew
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tolworthy
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Re: Why does nobody do compressed comics?

Post by tolworthy »

Lew Stringer wrote:Newspapers now see comics as an expensive luxury
That's a good thing, isn't it? Meaning if they could get the right product at the right price they might take it?

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Re: Why does nobody do compressed comics?

Post by Lew Stringer »

tolworthy wrote:
Lew Stringer wrote:Newspapers now see comics as an expensive luxury
That's a good thing, isn't it? Meaning if they could get the right product at the right price they might take it?
No, I mean they see them as too expensive to bother with. A luxury they can't afford. That's why space devoted to comics has been declining in newspapers for decades. (Also, I know professional creators who have tried to get papers interested in comic supplements (one of which was just a four page pull out) and every single UK newspaper rejected the idea.)
tolworthy wrote:
Lew Stringer wrote:going with your self-publishing idea, how would it make you a living?
Newspaper columnists make a living off writing just a page a day.
Sorry, but I don't see the connection to comics. Besides, which columnists? Are you sure that's all they do?
tolworthy wrote:Certainly the comics I envision would take longer, but unlike columns they can be reprinted for years, and in every country.
If they're successful, but even then that's a long-term plan. You still have to convince artists why it's a good idea to devote time to it in the here and now and how they're going to pay their bills on fresh air until (or if) the money rolls in.

Your whole plan seems to hinge on the belief that there are tens of thousands of kids out there who would love intricately detailed comics compressed into four pages, based on the fact that they can concentrate on books and computer games. I don't see the logical connection.

Sorry to criticize your idea. It's an interesting one, but I don't see how it could work in reality.

Lew
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Re: Why does nobody do compressed comics?

Post by chrissmillie »

It would be quite interesting to do as a 'hobby'. Maybe printing albums down the line a la Giles.

I see Chris mentioned photocopies, so I take it that was along the lines of his thinking too.

Might try that :)
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tolworthy
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Re: Why does nobody do compressed comics?

Post by tolworthy »

Lew Stringer wrote:they see them as too expensive to bother with... I know professional creators who have tried to get papers interested in comic supplements (one of which was just a four page pull out) and every single UK newspaper rejected the idea.)
tolworthy wrote:Newspaper columnists make a living off writing just a page a day.
Sorry, but I don't see the connection to comics. Besides, which columnists? Are you sure that's all they do?
I'm maybe going out on a limb here, but I'm guessing that not all newspaper contributors work for free. So my point is that they have a budget. And if they also see comics as luxuries, then it's simply a matter of making the costs and benefits meet for both sides.
Lew Stringer wrote:Your whole plan seems to hinge on the belief that there are tens of thousands of kids out there who would love intricately detailed comics compressed into four pages, based on the fact that they can concentrate on books and computer games. I don't see the logical connection.
Thanks for being patient with me!

If I was starting in the 1970s, back when I used to draw and sell comics to my friends, I would focus on kids, but I agree that today that market has changed. I don't think that market is beyond hope - they can concentrate and think if they want to - but I wouldn't target a kids market today. I wouldn't target newwspapers either, not for income. Not as an unknown. I'd work on getting a following first then approach them from a position of strength, if at all. Using them for publciity however is a different matter.

If I was starting out in comics today this is what I'd do:
1. Get some dead end job for a year or two, and create one page every ten days to build up a portfolio.
2. Focus on whatever topics are calculated to get most publicity. E.g. comic version of high profile book, high profile unsolved crime, controversial topic, whatever.
3. When I had a portfolio, offer one page a week, for free, to newspaper or magazine, simply to raise my profile.
4. Give away one page at a time on my web site, and sell the anthologies. Long term that income should gradually increase.
5. Most of my income would be from bespoke work for businesses and individuals - the main reason for all the profile raising work. Eventually I'd have different anthologies for classic novels, famous crimes, satire, corporate work, or whatever would sell.
6. I'd promote myself by any means possible. As an "artist" rather than a comic artist, for posing purposes.
7. I'd work on syndicating my stuff to other countries, and finding new markets to open up. Always my policy would be to create a single page of lasting interest each week.

This would take a while to build up. But most people accept that they'll go to university and end up in debt after four years, so if I don't make enough money to live on for four or five years then that's acceptable.

Actually, this is sort of what I'm doing in real life, except with games, not comics (long story). I'm focusing on classic novels rather than controversial subjects, just because it's a gap in the market and more suited to the medium. But the basic idea - find something people have heard of, give them more for less, do something quirky and noticeable, slowly build up a profile and portfolio - that's my life.

Now possibly I'm hopelessly naive and deluded, but I'm putting my money (or lack thereof) where my mouth is. :)

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Re: Why does nobody do compressed comics?

Post by ISPYSHHHGUY »

nicely thought-out strategy, tolworthy, and I completely agree with points one and seven. [coz that's been how I've been living this past few years].

Any skill in any field takes a few years to procure; whether it's cartooning or accountancy.

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Re: Why does nobody do compressed comics?

Post by Lew Stringer »

tolworthy wrote: Now possibly I'm hopelessly naive and deluded, but I'm putting my money (or lack thereof) where my mouth is. :)
Sorry, but you're not doing that with your comic idea are you? It's all pie in the sky theory. It's all about "if I was an artist I'd do this". Which is like me saying "if I was a musician I'd shake up the industry like this...". Thing is, I'm not a musician and I know nothing about the music industry.

The reality is, your ideas are noble but unworkable. I've given you examples of how it couldn't work in a retail sense, and how newspapers have rejected such an idea. If creators could make a living out of a four page "compressed" comic in the 21st Century someone would already be doing it.

I'd be happy for you to prove me wrong though. Go for it.

Lew
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Re: Why does nobody do compressed comics?

Post by tolworthy »

Lew Stringer wrote:Sorry, but you're not doing that with your comic idea are you? It's all pie in the sky theory. It's all about "if I was an artist I'd do this".
I'm not doing it with comics, because I haven't made any comics since I was a teenager. But I'm doing something very similar with video games and it seems to be working.

As ISPYSHHHGUY wrote, developing skills takes time. But most things can be learned. I've been working on a computer game idea since 1997 - a bit longer than my "five years to make a living at comics" idea, but I had to learn more of the basics. E.g. I didn't learn to program until 2000, and I had several false starts due to not knowing this field at all. But my first game sold according to expectations - if all my game sel that well I can make a living at it.

My guiding principle is compression. Other indie game developers put out game after game, but I put out just one game an pack more and more into it. Right now it contains three full length stories (based on two thousand page epics, and one ancient Greek text). My goal is to have one hundred stories over the next thirty years, and still sell everything from around a tenner the lot. It probably sounds crazy, but so far it's working.

I know it's a game and not a comic, but I used the principles I outlined above:
1. I worked on this for years while doing a dead end, low paid job.
2. I focus on high profile names (in this case, classic novels)
3. When I have a few games under my belt I'll offer the first one as a freebie on a cover disk - the first magazine I approached is already interested.
4. That freebie plus large demos on my site all serve to raise my profile.
5. When I get better known I'll start doing bespoke work. I did this before when I ran my own multimedia business for a year (made 2.5 grand a month back in 1996). so it's certainly doable.
6. I'm promoting the game to non-standard channels: on my own site only, aimed at older players, people who like to read a lot of text.
7. And so on.

It also looks a lot like a comic on the screen - outlined characters, speech bubbles, etc. Judging from feedback and early sales it seems to be working. Maybe it will take another year or so before I can breathe easy, but all the signs are it's moving in the right direction.

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