Could Manga-style Anthologies Work for US Comics?

Topic started by gia on March 11, 2009. Last post by Kiriska 5 years, 11 months ago.
Post by gia (3,032 posts) See mini bio Level 13

In Japan, the vast majority of professionally-published manga is released one chapter at a time, compiled with other series (usually in the same demographic or sometimes genre) into a giant phonebook style anthology, which may come out weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, or however: manga magazines. In a market where your average train-traveler reads these collections, it proved a great way to try out drum up excitement about old series, introduce new series, etc.

Producing the same kind of anthology in the US has proven difficult, probably because it's a relative niche market-- Shojo Beat, Shonen Jump, and Yen Plus are probably more effective as marketing tools than as money-making products themselves.

But could the same concept work for something a bit broader-- like American comics? Tim Seeley, creator of Hack/Slash, chats with Comic Book Resources about the rising prices of comic books and likes the idea of the format, particularly its ability to throw new titles out and then release them in TPB if they “stick.”

But Seeley admits that continuity-driven fans are biased against anthologies as being for side-stories, not the main stories.

Now, I'm totally biased: I'm very, very used to manga's release patterns, both in Japan and the US, so that I think putting American comics in anthologies would be awesome (I'd totally subscribe to, say, a monthly Vertigo anthology with some of their awesomest series and some new “test' series as well).

To counter my bias, I talked to Comic Vine's Gman and a comic fan friend, Japanator's John Martone. Both cited that the costs of such a publication would be too high and comic fans are too used to their traditional floppies (especially, of course, those of the collector's mindset, since a trade is unlikely to go up in value like an individual chapter could). Gman says the same thing as Seeley: it could be a good idea, but too many comic book fans would fight it.

I know a lot of you read American comics as well as manga. Would you consider subscribing to, essentially, a comic book “magazine,” presuming that it came out at the same rate that the floppy chapters would have-- basically just floppies of different series collected together instead of sold separately? Or do you prefer to pay for only the individual series you want?

Post by Bertmasta (151 posts) See mini bio Level 6
as a non reader of U.S comics i might find it appealing however i live in the Uk, so what does my opinion matter xD
Post by SimonJones (24 posts) See mini bio Level 1
There's little incentive for Marvel or DC to move in the direction of anthologies, because anthologies are best at promoting new talent, while those companies are a bit more property-driven.  Plus, the floppy is still profitable.

There are also very real physical hinderances to JP-style anthologies in the US..  Japan is the equivalent of half of the total US population squeezed into the state of Texas, so distribution doesn't pose the same financial challenge.
Post by gia (3,032 posts) See mini bio Level 13
SimonJones: I'd wondered about the feasibility of distribution these days, thanks for the tip.
Post by Kuro (559 posts) See mini bio Level 6
I would.
Post by Kiriska (112 posts) See mini bio Level 2
Considering the average price of a trade these days, the financial cost of both producing and purchasing an anthology of Western comics would be ridiculous. If they could make something the size of a Japanese anthology with Western comics for the same price? I'd be all over it, but I just don't think that's anywhere near feasible for huge number of reasons, many of which have already been touched on. :(
Post by Niko (865 posts) See mini bio Level 8
I have been wanting monthly anthologies for a while from the major titles. Imagine, instead of buying several different Batman titles, you buy a monthly book with Batman, Detective Comics, Batman Confidential, Batman and the Outsiders, Robin, Nightwing, Catwoman, Birds of Prey and whatever other Bat-titles there may be. Keep the paper cheap quality, not the nice stuff used in regular issues. Keep higher quality paper and inks for the trade collections

In some forms, we have them, such as Amazing Spider-Man Family having both new one-shots and old reprints. However, mainstream won't move in that direction. It's just as you say. Too many fans would be against it. That collector mindset that almost destroyed Marvel and DC in the '90s still persists. Gone are the days when a single issue was a form of disposable entertainment.

I personally hate issues. I collected Spidey comics for four years. I backed and bagged them, kept them in a three-foot-long box. When I got to college, the added cost combined with the closest comic shop sucking and eventually closing, I just got tired of it. Maintaining such a structurally weak format is annoying. As least with a book-like anthology, you can just throw that onto a bookshelf, dust every once in a while and be done with it.

In short, I'm pro anthologies, but it'll never happen.
Post by SunBender (2 posts) See mini bio Level 2
I know I buy most of my American comics in Graphic novel, or "trade" form. Its easier to read that way and much easier to keep. Thats just my opinion.
Post by gia (3,032 posts) See mini bio Level 13
Niko: I'm told someone tried that with X-Men once, actually, where you got a bunch of different X-Men series' chapters in a regular monthly chapbook kinda thing...but it didn't work very well. I don't know much about the details.
Post by Niko (865 posts) See mini bio Level 8
Marvel does occasionally try magazines and monthly comic collections, like the aforementioned Amazing Spider-Man Family, and I'm sure they don't sell as well as the usual stuff. That's because the typical comic book fan is a retarded collector that thinks 32 pages flimsily stapled together, containing ten pages of ads and the rest only a part of a bigger story, is worth more than a book with no ads and the entire story. I was there once. Yes, there are certain times when that's true, but usually, when one issue becomes a true collector's item, the other eleven that came out that in that title that year won't.

I don't necessarily want comics to be in anthologies either. I'd just love for the monthly periodical issue format to be disposable entertainment like they should be. Print them on cheaper paper and ink. It's a better and better idea as Marvel ups more of its monthly titles to a $4 cover price. That is an unnecessarily high price, and it'll just rise to $5 in two to three years at least.

It's all the '90s fault. Darn collectors' market.
Post by kiroshimatsu (94 posts) See mini bio Level 1
I love the idea, but the issue is that print is going out of style. Print there is still pretty involved... there are still a ton of corner markets that sell mags and newspapers and people still pick them up, while people here all own a computer and thus can look up anything online.

The other issue is the idea of scanilations. When the issue comes out, someone will scan it and make it available online for people to read for free instead of buying the thing for 10-20 dollars per mag (while in asia it's been around 5 dollars)...
Post by Niko (865 posts) See mini bio Level 8
So you're saying the US companies shouldn't bother because they need to be moving online anyway? While some (like Marvel) are moving their library online, I don't see  this replacing traditional print comics for the same reason as why anthologies and lower-grade materials in comics won't work: too much of a collectors' market.

Print will exist, and as more and more stuff goes online, the price will just go up to balance. Sad thing is, some people will keep on buying. It's just going to be more and more of a challenge for companies to figure out what titles would be worth it or not.
Post by transgojobot (122 posts) See mini bio Level 2
I stopped buying weeklies nearly eight or nine years ago. It just wasn't financially doable anymore and I'd grown weary of some of the titles I used to enjoy. I'm all about trades now, even if I have to wait six months to two years to see a story resolve itself.

I agree with Niko that print will continue to exist. As easy as it is to get my news online or through my phone, it just doesn't beat the feeling of folding my newspaper four times to hold in one hand and read it while riding mass transit.

Many comic buyers would like to continue to have that 'physical connection' with their favorites, whether as collectors or fans. But online comics are a good way to promote new talent and avoid many of the prohibitive costs of print and distribution that keep stories from reaching readers.
Post by Kiriska (112 posts) See mini bio Level 2
Forgot to mention that you need to also consider that most American comics are full color, which would make large anthologies even more expensive.
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