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Author Archive: "Matt Dembicki"

How Comics Can Succeed Digitally

As with other digital books, publishers of comics and graphic novels are itching to know whether — or when — the tipping point will come .

The talk lately on the success of digital books focuses mostly on electronic readers. With the premier of the iPad in April, many folks think we're about to make the transition to purchase more e-books.

I think there are more hurdles to jump. The biggest one is price. Web consumers, who are accustomed to free or drastically reduced prices for content, expect the same of e-books, and more specifically e-comics. A common thought is that a printed book that costs $25 should cost far less digitally because there's no printing involved.

Publishers, on the other hand, note that the cost of printing books is only a part of publishing. There are other costs associated with putting together a book — paying the authors, editors, graphic designers, and promotion, to name a few. Those costs are constant no matter how the book is published, so even e-books cannot be published as cheap as some would expect.

A Cultural Project That Conveys Unity

When looking for potential participants for the comics anthology Trickster: Native American Tales: A Graphic Collection, not everyone I contacted supported my efforts .

The director of a Native American program at one university — who was not Native American — was especially blunt: "What makes you think you have the right to do such a project?" She followed with a stern warning that I risked professional suicide by doing the project because most Native Americans would likely publicly deplore the book.

She went on to tell me that I ought to contact Joseph Bruchac, a well-known Native American storyteller and author from New York State, who would likely tell me the trouble I would stir.

I thanked her for her opinion and told her that I knew Joseph — in fact, I illustrated the story that he and his son James contributed to the anthology. There was silence. And then, "Oh, you know Joseph? OK, that's great! Well, I guess you've been vetted. We have to be careful about who makes books regarding Native Americans."

Persistence in Finding a Publisher

Too often, new writers and comic artists working on their first project become disillusioned and give up when they can’t find a publisher.

If you need inspiration to keep plugging ahead, I have two stories that might help motivate you — the story behind the novel Tinkers, which was recently awarded the Pulitzer Prize, and to a lesser extent (but perhaps more likely to apply more broadly), a new book I edited and contributed to called Trickster: Native American Tales: A Graphic Collection.

Last week, I read an article in Publishers Weekly Book Expo America edition about the story behind Tinkers, a novel about the deathbed memories of a clock repairer. The author, Paul Harding, had tried for years to find a publisher for the book and even sought an agent, to no avail. He tabled his efforts for a while, until an acquaintance who had some work published inquired about Harding’s manuscript during a night out with friends. Harding gave a draft of the book to his friend, ...

The Nonconformity of Kids’ Art

My five-year-old son loves to draw, especially anything to do with Star Wars. I enjoy looking at his take on how some of the characters and starships look. The renderings may not be photorealistic or capture every aspect, but they are bold, personal, and thought-provoking.

I often run kids' comics-making workshops at schools and libraries in the greater Washington, D.C., area, and my favorite part of the class is seeing how children tackle making comics. Kids — especially younger ones — are aware of comics, but they often aren't aware of the parameters or the traditional structures of making comics.

For example, most comics include square panels, speech bubbles, and read from left to right, top to bottom. That's just the way they've been made historically and the way most people think they should approach creating and reading comics.

But kids in general don't know that or don't care. When they make a comic, they approach it from a personal perspective. Sometimes they'll use circles or triangles instead of squares for panels — if they use panels at all. Or the dialogue will appear in free-floating text on a page instead of being wedged into a bubble or box. Sometimes the perspective will be completely off, but, strangely, it will work perfectly for the story.

When I look at these renderings, I think of artist Pablo Piscasso's famous quote: "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."

I didn't fully appreciate the premise behind that quote until I began to see how children make comics and art. There's a wonderful rawness, openness, and honesty to the way kids approach the world. Somewhere along the line, they are indoctrinated with the idea that standardization is best; in terms of comics: panels are square, dialogue appears in bubbles, and you follow a certain order.

Bye, Bye Bookie

A few weeks ago, I received an email from a childhood friend. We periodically email each other — two or three times a year — so it wasn’t unusual. But when I opened the email, there was no message, just an ominous link.

I clicked on it and went directly to a brief article and two photos, one of a store front and another of the store’s front door. I zoomed in on a small, hand-written sign posted in the window: “The Bookie’s Final Chapter. Store Closing Sale. 20-50% Off.”

What my friend sent me was essentially an obit announcing the demise of an old friend to both of us. The Bookie, a shop in East Hartford, Conn., that fed our comic book habit—was closing down.

It had been years since I'd last thought about The Bookie. It wasn’t the most organized or well-lit shop — in fact, it wasn’t all that appealing aesthetically, especially by the standards of today’s comic stores. But my friend — who got me into reading and collecting comics books — and I weren’t into appearances; we just wanted to get the latest comics.

Nearly every ...

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