Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

October 21, 2004

Build It, and They Still May Climb Over It to Get to the Manga

The best part of this mostly exasperating exchange between Comic Book Resources' Arune Singh and Humanoids Managing Editor Paul Benjamin proves to be Benjamin noting, correctly, how little of American readers both current and potential have yet to experience the bulk of science fiction albums produced by European publishers.

imageThere are a lot of nominees for worst part.

First, Benjamin seems to be asserting that American audiences will begin to find this work as soon as Humanoids product crashes the bookstands in greater waves and lands on more shelves. Does bookstore shelving really work like that? Has DC ever had success essentially launching a line into multiple marketplaces?

Second, the smaller size of the works -- which has distressed some fans who love the larger art particularly in the fantastic works and would seem to represent a reaction that new readers might have as well -- is dismissed by the Metal Hurlant editor as a publishing necessity and a gateway to added value. The first point is unconvincing and the second one kind of insulting.

Third, I have to imagine this provocative opening opening quote, "Humanoids is the first link between the European world of graphic novels and the American world of comic books" might not sit well with Terry Nantier and the album-focused NBM, or Pantheon and its success with Marjane Satrapi and recruitment of David B. and Joann Sfar.

The winner for worst part is the assertion of added shelves, because if it can be done and the books don't exactly set the world on fire -- I don't know that even prose science fiction is a hot category right now -- then it may have an impact on how bookstore buyers approach a range of non-manga material for years to come. Point number three has some bearing here, too. The recent modest success of everything save manga in bookstores seems to be about finding an audience on an almost title-by-title, artist-by-artist basis. Some publishers, like WW Norton with its signings of Eisner and Crumb, seem to be following that model. Others fall in the Humanoids camp. It should be interesting to find out how many soldiers that modest bridge from comics to general readership can bear.
posted 7:13 am PST | Permalink

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