Friday, March 31, 2006

An Informal Survey

I am in the process of preparing for a meeting with the publisher of a local alternative newspaper in an effort to convince her that her publication should review comics and graphic novels (as it does films, exhibits, plays, and books).

Do any of the periodicals in YOUR area review comics? Have you ever asked them to? If I reproduced here a copy of my argument, would any of you use it talk to your local publishers? What evidence would you present if you were I?

The world will not give comic book fans -- or anyone else -- anything we aren't willing to ask for!


Marionette said...

Newsflash Jam, not everything is about you. People who already read comics have plenty of sources of information, sure. But this whole thing is about getting comics information to people who aren't comics fans.

You know, the kind of people who have no idea that V for Vendetta is based on a graphic novel, but once they found out, might check it out.

Walaka said...

Here in Seattle, the alternative weeklies - The Stranger and Seattle Weekly - routinely cover graphic novels (but not usually singles or pamphlets or whatever the heck we are calling comic books these days). The mainstream papers also cover graphic novels occasionally - such as recently, when the Seattle Public Library highlighted Persepolis in its programming. (See here for some details on that.)

I think Mari hits it on the nose: these reviews are for people on the fringes of the comix culture: those who aren't afraid of it but don't know much about it beyond what they may have seen in movies and video games. It's a readership waiting to be tapped into by these papers.

Scipio said...

Indeed, Marionette, I myself have found out that movies I liked were based on a comic book, but only after I'd seen the film (such as "Bulletproof Monk", and, no, I do not want any guff about liking "Bulletproof Monk")>

gorjus said...

Our local paper here in Mississippi, the Jackson Free Press, routinely reviews comics (and video games). Wish they'd do it more.

Perhaps suggest that Big Monkey would LOVE to buy an ad??

Anonymous said...

The Boston Globe reviews graphic novels on occasion, usually 4-to-a-pop once a month or so. I consider myself relatively informed, and they reviewed a few (independent, arty, or foreign) GNs I'd never heard of.

My former local paper, the Brockton Enterprise, published a syndicated column by "Captain Comics" once a week, (and I did reviews for the website that closed in 2001), which focused on the "floppies" and/ or general super-hero/ mainstream issues and trends. I miss doing reviews, but the point is moot as I can't buy comics regularly...

Yeah, so, getting out of wistful rambling mode: comics reviews in print are good, even for we who are "in the know."

Anonymous said...

The Village Voice and The Onion* both frequently review Graphic Novels- The Onion even includes reviews of mainstream comics from time to time (like Identity Crisis) and I have seen interviews with Alan Moore and Kurt Busiek in their A.V. Club media section. The VV tends to focus a lot more on the Joe Matt-Persepolis-Jimmy Corrigan kind of stuff because they're pretentious.

What the hell kind of local paper is this? "Oh, national distributed alternative papers cover this stuff all the time, but it's just too obscure for the Podunk Falls Argus-Press!"

Short pitch argument:

The biggest films are based on comics and fantasy novels (V for Vendetta, Harry Potter, X-Men, Spider-Man).

The NY Times Book Review reviews Graphic Novels.

The New Yorker has a yearly Comics and Cartoons Issue that also features original reporting on Comics.

YOU tell ME why these organizations are wrong and you are right not to review high-quality graphic fiction and pop culture tidbits.

* I live in NYC, these really are our freebie local papers

Anonymous said...

I agree with Tenzil -- The Onion AV Club is a good example: in their latest issue they reviewed a whole batch of "One Year Later" comics, and have been known to review (both favorably and unfavorably) mainstream work. Even the New York Press reviews issues.

Marc Burkhardt said...

Coincidentally, I'm a newspaper editor in my secret identity. (Don't tell anyone...)

Usually, when it comes to adding features in a paper, it's important to pay attention to the type of paper you're targeting.

A community newspaper, such as the one I work for in Silicon Valley, earns its money covering grass-roots news other newspapers deem to small to tackle. A local artist publishing a graphic novel would definitely make it in, but generic reviews of nationally distributed publications are less likely.

(I've tried to get graphic novels reviewed in our monthly books section, but have run into massive brick walls...)

A larger, alternative weekly would probably be a better bet since they usually have extensive arts sections. However, many are being consolidated into larger chains that could lead to standardized content, making it more difficult for smaller, off-beat material to be published.

Daily, chain newspapers are, on the whole, run by bean-counters these days. I wouldn't count on much response from them...

In any publication, it's important to spell out why a feature would be important to the paper's specific readership or format.

I get generic applications all the time saying how people throughout the world are interested in "fill in the blank," but no one takes the time to study the specific readership and the format of the specific publication and craft a proposal that fits the paper.

That's your best bet. Editors are bugged by people constantly to publish news, columns, reviews, etc. etc. Show them you've done your homework and have come up with something the paper can't do without.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

In Scotland, a free arts newspaper for the two biggest cities (Glasgow/Edinburgh) just did a feature on graphic novels. A bit of a shitty feature, but a feature nonetheless. .

Anonymous said...

What evidence would you present if you were I?

I applaud your grammar, sir.

Scipio said...

Thank you, Gus.

Would that it were everyone's.

Anonymous said...

The Metro in San Jose and, um, the New York Times have reviews of graphic novels and comics.
Yeah, really, the NYT, I'm not kidding.

Scipio said...

"Perhaps it should be considered, then, that since comics are for the most part not local publications, their inclusion in local papers doesn't make much sense."

Like movies? Or books? Or television? Or any nationally produced entertainment medium available at the local level?

Marc Burkhardt said...

"Like movies? Or books? Or television? Or any nationally produced entertainment medium available at the local level?"

I've made that same argument to a local publisher regarding music and graphic novel reviews, but he is able to justify (in his mind, at least) running movie reviews as a community service while excluding those other arts as being out of his paper's coverage area.

Sometimes it has to do with $$$. Movie ads bring in $$, while other art forms are less lucrative.

Anyway, hope you're successful!

Stewart said...

This can't succeed as a matter of fact, that is exactly what I believe.
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