Do Something Different
Posted: Tuesday, November 13, 2001
By: David Tang
Ok kids, the learning curve's a steep one today, so strap in and keep your hands inside the carriage at all times.
Let's take a couple of comics, say Bone (Cartoon Books, small press) and Green Lantern (DC, mainstream). Green Lantern sells better.
Let me tell you why: GL is printed in colour, Bone in black and white. DC Comics (a bloody well known comic company) publishes Green Lantern while Cartoon Books (which handles like one other book) publishes Bone. Bone costs $2.95, while GL will set you back only $2.25 .
If I were you and reading this right now, I'd be soiling myself as well.
So how can you compete with that? Try something different. Bone is a comic that contains adventure, a lil' romance, monsters, humour and even talking animals. I'll tell you this much, if Bone was an independent B&W $2.95 SUPERHERO comic, it would not sell nearly as well. The thing with Bone is it targets an audience that is not really into standard superhero fare.
For every five computer geeks that pick up a copy of Hot Babe #45*, there's a teenage girl, father or mother who goes up to the counter and asks for "something without superheroes". And if the retailer is worth anything, he'd point them over to the stack of small press comics lying in the corner.
What's my point? Read the title of today's column.
Chances are, if people decide to buy independent comics, they're looking for something a little different. If they wanted superheroes, I guarantee that they'll pick up Superman over your Dolphin Man** any day of the week, twice on a Sunday. How can a black+white Kinkos produced comic compete with the glossy, Photoshop-coloured, $1.95RRP mainstream comics? By offering something they cannot do. Here are some ideas:
Make your comic original: have a unique kind of drawing style, cover themes that haven't been addressed before. Cooking comics are big in Japan, I think it's time to bring them over to the American markets. Experiment with lettering techniques, panel layouts, photo collages and "reality comics" (where a character is bumped off every week thanks to reader votes).
Make the product original: taking a cue out of Jordan Crane's book and experiment with formats. Have a slightly different cover for each comic (for example, each cover could be an original hand drawn sketch, sure this may take ages to do, but it'll get people talkin!). Try printing in different colours, different coloured paper or different sizes.
Once you've created your masterpiece, discard with any dreams of making it big. If my art history knowledge serves me right, none of Picasso's contempraries liked his experimentive work, it was only AFTER he died did he hit the big time. Suffer for your art baby, suffer for your art.
*No, there isn't an actual comic called Hot Babe. I only made that up to illustrate my point, get over it.
**There isn't a comic called Dolphin Man either.
Special thanks to Caroline Chung and Michelle Tan for providing creative feedback on this article. You girls are "da bomb".
David Tang. Artist. Writer. Nice Guy.
The Incredible World of Mr Tang
Comics on my Mind
If you have a comment or question about Small Press then feel free to contact me