Posts Tagged ‘Wimpy Kid’

Breakfast with the Wimpy Kid

Monday, March 21st, 2011

As I sat at my breakfast table on Sunday looking at my newspaper (yeah, I still read those obsolete rags) I came across an article that was the cover feature in the syndicated supplement PARADE featuring Jeff Kinney and his hugely successful WIMPY KID.

The article inside is full of great inspirational stuff for comic creators because Jeff’s story (not the Wimpy Kid’s) is proof that amazing success stories can still happen.

I’m not intending that this blog feature be a review of the article or even a critique of The Wimpy Kid series. I just want to take a look at a few points of relevance that I believe reflect on the comics industry today.

First and foremost are the numbers. “Over 47 million copies of books in print in the U.S. alone…” These are figures in a market that many consider dead or at least on life support! Who wouldn’t want to sell 47 million of anything, especially comics?

Jeff’s works have been translated into 30 different languages so imagine how many millions more have been sold globally.

Of course there is a whole industry of merchandise that has sprung out of its success not to mention two films, one of which will be released this week.

I think this guy is making a living with his cartoons which by his own admission are drawn like a sixth grader because “That’s when I maxed out talentwise.”

Secondly I think it is important to look at the target market. Boys 9-12. Boy humor that has also hooked a lot of girls making it the most popular series for that age group, even dusting Harry Potter!

The books are encouraged by educators and librarians not because they endorse the bad behavior in the books but because they think the books get boys to read!

Can you imagine what the comics industry would be like today if educators in the golden and silver ages of comics would have had the same sensibility? I would have loved to have seen MAD magazine and comic books in those old book club circulars.

Mad Magazine 1

Now is the time for the traditional comics industry to win back this market that was the stronghold of the mighty superhero in a bygone era and is now dominated by this pencil-necked, victimized character.

The progression is interesting when we look at the success that Stan Lee had with Spider-man in the sixties. Reach a wider audience with a character that it can relate to. I think this is called demographics.

I guess it is time to realize that the forty-something geek male market may not be the best primary target for the success of the industry.

Finally we have to look at how the whole Wimpy Kid comic rose to stardom. The usual way. Not overnight. It got its start as a web comic in 2004 and built an audience of 90,000 visitors a day.

After amassing 1,300 pages of his feature Jeff took some of it to the 2006 Comic-Con in New York and showed it around and a month later he’s negotiating with the book publisher Abrams.

The rest is history but the point is that Jeff Kinney had a dream to create comics and after he had been turned down by every outlet he ventured out on his own and made it happen. He had faith in his ideas and faith in his product.

Jeff capitalized on what I believe is one of the main ingredients of a successful comic, irreverence, which can sometimes be translated as defiance.

Comics are the voice of the common folk, they always have been. Tumultuous times breed a defiant sensibility that even the young readers can relate to.

Wimpy Kid is successful because the victimized can see rejoice in the retaliation of the main character. Readers identify with it and want more, whether it is a web comic, a book or a movie.

So, my Sunday paper was quite enjoyable. I think I got a lot of inspiration for my $1.50 and I still can’t believe it was printed on paper.

Making Comics Because I Want To

Gerry Giovinco


Revolution?

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

There has been a lot of talk lately about a creator ownership revolution.

Are we kidding?!

Can we seriously refer to it as a revolution, now?

This whole idea of creator ownership and creator rights goes way back. What creator wouldn’t be hesitant to sell away the rights of their creation or just fritter it away on a work for hire contract, but hey, if you wanted to work in comics that’s how things were done.

Steve Gerber

Howard The Duck

The late Steve Gerber was the first guy I remember to have the guts to stand up and buck the system. The thumbing of his nose at Marvel who ironically was haggling trademark issues with the then adversarial Disney corporation over Steve’s brilliant creation, Howard the Duck, was the shot heard around the world for comic creators.

His collaboration with Jack Kirby on Destroyer Duck published by Eclipse Comics, an early Independent publisher, was an example of what was to come in regards to creator rights and ownership.

Destroyer Duck 1

Jack Kirby

Jack Kirby of course was the King of comic creators and he too required the support of comic creators everywhere in a battle for his rights which has yet to be settled years after his passing.

Creators have fought the good fight. They have educated themselves on copyright issues. They have marketed their works, self published, merchandised, licensed and have experimented with formatting in both print and digital.

Creators have brought diversity to the medium exploring genres well beyond superheroes. Their efforts have been awarded with film deals and other opportunities never afforded to comic creators back in the day.

This dynamic climate for creators has been in the making for over thirty years. It’s not a revolution, its a resolution to what was unfair in the industry for decades.

So why all of the sudden rhetoric? Why all of the jitters?

Because there is an air of complacency.

Distribution is one of the key ingredients to independence for the creator. The early days of the Direct Market, made it a haven for independent publishers and innovative creators. Without the Direct Market there would be no diversity in comics today. Marvel and DC have been happy to let a small niche of unique product proliferate but have always been quick to flood the market when there were signs of significant competition rising.

The Direct Market is suffocating as the demand for print shrinks and the biggest casualties will be the small publishers that publish the creator owned works, inciting an exodus to digital content distributors.

These same distributors have access to an enormous library of Marvel and DC works. If the big two were happy to flood the market of the monthly pull list, do you think they would care if they drowned the digital market with 70 years of available monthly content?

Remember, this is not just Marvel and DC we are talking about. Those guys in the New York offices actually love comics and probably enjoy a lot of the diverse content out there but Warner Brothers and Disney will need and want to protect their intellectual properties.

The best way to guarantee that Superman and Spidey have no competition is to make sure there can be none.

Comics are too easy to produce, publish and distribute compared to any other visual entertainment medium. Its too easy for another Mutant TurtleSpawn, Scott Pilgrim, or Wimpy Kid to sneak up and take market dollars.

TMNT, Spawn, Scott Pilgrim, Wimpy Kid

It is naive to think that the monster corporations are not intent on controlling digital distribution.

Revolution? No.

Wake up call?

YES!!!

Creators have got to be smart and protect the market for each other. We need to focus on innovative ways to market comics to the new generation of digital readers. Keep the sources open. Capitalize on the web. Be creative about sourcing revenue from free content as well as monetized downloads.
Be a community.

Beware of the competition. It is not each other. It is the super powers that be.

Most of all, value your creative freedom. It has been fought for for decades. Now is the time that we may have the greatest opportunity in front of us.

Let’s not let it slip away.

Making comics because I want to!

Gerry Giovinco



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