If I start talking about comics for any length of time I tend to get quite animated about it. That’s because – for me – it’s an exciting medium that I believe is going through one of its most vibrant periods at the moment. At events and on panels I’ve heard people talk about falling sales of comics, and harken back to a golden era where comics sold in their millions: why yes they did, during a pre-Internet, pre-video game, pre-DVD/Blu-ray period.
It’s unfair to compare the sales of comics in the 1950s – when radio was King, and television was a upstart prince – to the sales made for the always-on, always-entertained generation. Considering the plethora of distractions available to people today comics are holding their own very well.
Creators (especially in the Small Press/Indie Press) have to be realistic about the reach of their audience, but there are some fantastic sales happening. Consider that Kelly Sue DeConnick reported in October that the first issue of her comic with Emma Ríos, called Pretty Deadly, had to go into a second printing after its 57,000 print run sold out… There are plenty of novelists would be be delighted to sell over 57,000 copies of a book within a few days.
Plus, the graphic novel market is often where the sales really ratchet up. I’ve heard that some comics with low monthly sales are not being cancelled because their collected editions as graphic novels have sold so well (graphic novel sales are up 6% this October). And this is not even factoring in digital sales of comics: ComiXology reports that it recently hit 200 million downloads, and of that 100 million occurred in the past year. Back in July of this year the industry was reporting solid sales across the board. You can examine a comprehensive breakdown of monthly sales (via Diamond Comic Distributors only) on Comichron.
“Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece took the first place in the manga sales ranking again selling 18,151,599 copies in total. The manga has taken the top spot in 5 years in a row since 2009. It had 300 million copies in print with the 72nd volume which was released in Japan on November 1. The second best selling manga series is Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan. Thanks to the high-quality TV anime series, it sold 15,933,801 copies, 6 times more than last year (2,683,000 copies).”
What’s winning through is good storytelling combined with exciting artwork. Look at the runaway success of the likes of Saga (Fiona Staples and Brian K Vaughan) and Hawkeye (Matt Faction & David Aja) – new titles that have fired up fans over the last two years because of their imagination and scope.
And if you think I’m focusing too much on the bigger name comics, then check out the short-lists and winners of the recent British Comic Awards, which showcased an array of excellent talent making comics in the UK market alone. This is a market that continues to produce the weekly sf anthology 2000AD, and children’s weeklys The Beano and The Phoenix.
This year Thought Bubble in Leeds sold all their dealer’s tables in the space of a couple of hours, and had to put on a third hall. Anyone who attended this year will know that it was a huge success, with an estimated 8,000 fans going through the doors. This is impressive when you consider that this event focuses strictly on comic books – the really big UK events that cater to fans of cross platform entertainment, such as MCM Expo London, pull in 60k+ regularly.
So, as far as I can tell, looking at the huge range of comics that are selling on diverse platforms to a public that is soaked with choices for entertainment, comics are doing very well.
That is not to say that everything is rosy in every garden. Not everyone is going to be pulling in strong numbers, and as usual those with a lower profile and less publicity are going to struggle to be seen. No market can sustain growth forever (a lesson most countries in Europe learned the hard way), and it’s unreasonable to expect it will. That is not the nature of the world. However, there is a upswing at the moment, and the best thing to do is to work hard, produce good work, and network with your peers and colleagues.
And be ready to change when everything shifts again.
Stephen Downey, the artist on Jennifer Wilde, the comic I write for Atomic Diner, will have a table at the convention, so make sure to drop along, say hello, and perhaps buy a comic! He’ll be at table 120 in New Dock Hall.
A funny thing happened en route to World Fantasy Convention – I was at the airport and got a phone call from the producer of RTÉ Radio 1’s art show, Arena, about coming in to review issue 1 of The Sandman: Overture. Readers might remember that I did a segment back in July for Arena when news about the comic was announced.
I mentioned I was busy all weekend in Brighton at WFC, and this piqued her interest. Next thing I know I’d agreed to do a broadcast from the BBC Brighton studio on Friday 1 November, to talk about World Fantasy Convention, what was going on, and who was attending. In a nice bit of coincidence Neil Gaiman was announced as Master of Ceremonies of WFC just that day.
On Thursday I discovered about an hour before my panel on comics that Neil was joining Mike Chinn, Mike Carey, Christopher Golden, Joe Hill, and me for the discussion. It was a good event, and luckily I went prepared with lots of names of comics and their creators to recommend. I’m not great at remembering names on the spot, so I was happy to have a list in front of me to jog my memory. A number of people approached me afterwards and said they’d really enjoyed the panel, and asked if I’d post my list of recommendations. I’ll try and do that next week when I get a chance.
That’s a photo of the small BBC studio I was in for the Brighton broadcast. It was fun to chat about WFC and the events going on, and I will admit there was a small thrill at going into a BBC studio. You can listen to the broadcast here. Thanks to Sarah Marks for her hospitality at the studio.
After I returned to Ireland – feeling a little shellshocked for several days after the whirl of events at WFC – I then went into the Galway RTÉ studio for another Arena show to review The Sandman: Overture issue one, written by Neil Gaiman and drawn by J.H. Williams III.
As you can see from the photo I had both the digital and physical edition of the comic for the review. I’d bought the digital edition of Overture at Shannon Airport after getting the phone call from the Arena producer, using Shannon’s free wifi connection. There is something wonderful and magical about being able to get something instantly where ever you are in the world. On the iPad the comic looked amazing – Williams’ artwork is especially impressive, as is the colouring by Dave Stewart.
While in Brighton I dropped into Dave’s Comics, and picked up the physical copy of issue 1 – and was lucky enough to get Neil to sign it during the convention. There’s an impressive four page pull out in issue one, so I wanted to have both editions to compare.
Overall it’s a sumptuous comic, and while the immediate attention of the issue is the fantastic art and layouts by Williams, Stewart’s rich colours, and Todd Klein’s usual wonderful lettering, I think Neil is setting up a number of storylines that will pay off in a satisfying way at the end. It’s pretty hard to say that for sure based on the first issue of a six issue series, but having spent a lot of time pondering the comic and what is being established, my guess is that people are going to enjoy the series once the whole plan is revealed.
I haven’t had much time to blog about my time at Octocon 2013 (great fun!), but before I head off to Brighton for World Fantasy Con 2013 tomorrow, I figured I should at least mention one of the highlights of the event for me:
This is Róisín Breathnach, a costume designer and pattern drafter, who cosplayed Jennifer Wilde at the convention. Jennifer is the comic book character I write for Atomic Diner, and I believe this is the first time that any Atomic Diner character has been cosplayed (but it won’t be the last!).
Roisin not only did a great job replicating the costume (plus the locket), but possesses a strong resemblance to the character also. Here’s an image of Jennifer in one of her costumes, sashaying in her native Paris, drawn by Stephen Downey.
Nice work Róisín! I’m thrilled you chose Jennifer to cosplay.
Here’s a lovely compilation video from the wonderful 2D – Northern Ireland Comics Festival this year, probably the best comic book festival in Ireland when it comes to promotion of Irish talent, the variety of creators, and access for the public.
There are a ton of people interviewed in this video praising the event, including Herb Trimpe, William Simpson, Emma Vieceli, Dan Berry, Aiden Courtney, Jordie Bellaire, Will Dennis, and Nicholas Gurewitch, with sightings of plenty more in the background.
As soon as it was announced – several years ago – that World Fantasy Convention was going to be held in Brighton in 2013 I bought a membership. WFC rarely travels outside of the USA or Canada, despite its globe-trotting title, and the last time it was on this side of the Atlantic was in London in 1997!
After years of anticipation the event is fast approaching: it’s taking place from 31 October – 3 November, in the Metropole Hotel, Brighton. The event has a stunning membership list – including a lot of writers who rarely get over to this side of the world.
Like a lot of conventions of this nature panellists are chosen from the membership list, but because there are so many top-quality writers at this event there’s no guarantee than everyone will get to participate on a panel. So I consider myself lucky to be asked to be on a panel, and I’m even happier at the company I’ll be in.
I’ve been nominated in the ‘Best Irish Writer Published Outside of Ireland’ category, and my fellow nominees are Michael Carroll, Stephen Mooney, Darrin O’Toole, and Richmond Clements.
I’m particularly pleased that Stephen Downey – the artist for Jennifer Wilde, one of the comics I write – got a deserving nod in the ‘Best Irish Artist Published in Ireland’ category, and his cover for Jennifer Wilde issue 3 has been nominated for ‘Best Irish Comic Cover’.
Congratulations to the nominees and best of luck to all of us.
The third meeting of Laydeez do Comics – Dublin, will take place from 2.30pm – 5pm on Saturday, 30 November, 2013 in the 3rd floor bar of the Odessa Club, 13 Dame Court, Dublin 2 (not the rooftop bar on this occasion).
Since we’re on the cusp of the holiday season we’re offering a bumper meeting, and this time it’s taking place during the day at the weekend to facilitate as many people as possible who want to travel to the meeting.
In the spirit of gift-giving we’re also going to have a comic swap at the meeting: please bring along a comic book, or piece of art, that you would like to exchange with another person at the meeting. We ask creators not to bring their own comic books for exchange. This can be a comic book you have finished reading and would like to distribute, or a case where you own two copies of a comic. Please wrap it (newspaper is fine!) so they can be exchanged blind. If you don’t like what you get you can always try to haggle for a different copy later on.
Please don’t spend money on buying a comic. It’s meant to be a fun, free way of discovering new work and promoting other people’s comics.
As usual: all welcome! We look forward to seeing many of our regular attendees and some new faces at the next meeting.
It’s that time of the year again, which means I’ll be in The Camden Court Hotel in Dublin this weekend (12-13 October) attending one of my favourite conventions: Octocon.
There are two terrific guests of honour that I’m very excited about meeting: comic book writer Gail Simone, and author Richard K Morgan. Both of them have created work I both enjoy and admire, so it will be a privilege to hear them talk about their interests.
13:00 – Masterclass in Contemporary Fantasy (Pavilion) with Peadar Ó Guilín and Liz Bourke
15:00 – I Don’t Believe It, But It’s True (Abbey) with Ruth Frances Long, Leann Hamilton, and Alan Nolan
16:00 – Best 2013 Books for Award Consideration (Pavilion) with Peadar Ó Guilín, Liz Bourke, and Carol Connolly
19:00 – The Golden Blasters (Tivoli) hosted by John Vaughan (I’m on the jury)
11:00 – Cinematic (Abbey) with Gail Simone, Joanne Stanley, Michael Carroll, and Stephen Downey
13:00 - Comic Books That You Should Be Reading (Pavilion) with James Brophy, James Bacon, and Leann Hamilton
15:00 – Guess the Next Big Thing! (Tivoli) with Brian J. Showers, Derek Gunn, and Paul Shortt
I’ll have a pretty busy couple of days, so I hope I’ll get a chance to catch up with everyone during the convention.
Edited to add: I wanted to mention that an open meeting will take place at 5pm on Saturday 12th October at Octocon to discuss holding a Worldcon in Dublin in 2019. Information will be available about Worldcon, the venue, progress so far, what they hope to achieve, and what fans would like to happen. All interested parties are very welcome.
A visit to the Convention Centre Dublin is planned on Monday morning, 14 October for those wanting to get a better look at this fabulous venue. More information will available about this at the information session at Octocon.
Last week I was in Paris with Martin and my mother, and it was a wonderful holiday in a beautiful city. Perhaps one of the best memories of the trip was an unexpected spectacle when we visited the Jardin du Luxembourg.
It was our last day in the city and we decided to take it easy. We feasted upon galettes (buckwheat crepes) at noon and wandered down to the Jardin without any particular plan. After all the breath-taking architecture in Paris it was a welcome relief to be in this pleasant green space.
That’s the Medici Fountain near the entrance to the garden. We were lucky to have yet another warm, clear day so we drifted under the shade of the trees, listening to the sound of water, and admiring the numerous statues studded throughout the Jardin.
Just as we reached the pagoda we noticed a band setting up. Delighted at the prospect of a free concert, we pulled up a trio of chairs and settled in.
Shortly after the band began to play a group of people got up, formed a circle, and began to dance. It looked quite spontaneous to us, so we were perplexed, but enchanted by the sight. Honestly, the music and the circle immediately made me think of The Wicker Man!
It was quickly apparent that many of the people in the audience had attended this concert specifically to dance to the music. We later learned that this was a traditional Catalonian folk band (called a Cobla), and the people were dancing a Sardana (circle dance). Many of them were chatting in Catalan as well as in French.
I shot a short video of the dancers and the musicians at work.
This band is Cobla Marinada. I bought one of their CDs as thanks for the entertainment.
It was a magical afternoon. As we sat there and listened to the various songs, and the people rose up again and again to dance along to the music, I was deeply moved by this joyous expression of community, and cultural spirit.
After an hour and a half we got up and moved on to explore the Jardin a little further, but when we passed by later the music continued to breathe up through the autumnal leaves, and the dancers sweated and smiled as their feet stepped high to the beat.
It’s the 1st of October, and autumn has us in its damp grip. Today in the West of Ireland there is a flat, grey sky seeping dull light, and yet there is reason for happiness: Twisted Myths is now available to buy! (And as I type this post the sky the lightens…)
Like my last project, Twisted Fairy Tales, it’s a large-format hardback book, with beautiful illustrations by the supremely talented Jane Laurie. The cover and interior design was put together by Martin Stiff, and it was edited by Samantha Warrington. It features twenty short story myths from around the world.