Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Australian Comic Book Week

I've been quiet about the concept of "Australian Comic Book Week", mainly because I don’t want to be one of those assholes that pisses on an idea without being constructive. Its annoying when problems are highlighted without solutions. Its easy to say what's wrong with something and its hard to fix problems. Easy is bullshit.

So what are my problems with the proposed 'Australian Comic Book Week'? Well, the plan from what I can gather boils down to release a comic in December. Since I’m an Australian comic junkie that buys pretty much everything local I can get my hands on, I want comics released every month. That’s a small self-centred point. In the current environment, creators wait till the various Supanovas (Sydney more so that Brisbane) to release their gear and practically and in the short term, that's a smart move. Creators get more money from books sold in Conventions (100% of cover) than in shops (50% of cover) plus there's heaps of people looking to buy. But it also means that comics come out in drips and drabs, if a comic is released annually, ie at every Supanova, there's a good chance customers/readers will lose interest. However if ACBW takes off then there will be 3 times a year books may get released, which is better than 2.

Having a lot of books released at once has its benefits; it shows people that there is a large variety of work available – presenting a lot of different styles and genres. It shows that Australian comics is not a genre where if they don't like one they won't like any. Plus an event like this hopefully will get people creating; when you are working to a deadline and in a group situation there is less chance of saying "fuck this - I'm playing xbox". There are other people that can offer support – it becomes fun, which is one of the few stated objectives of the event.

Lastly there is the opportunity of getting media attention.

Again, the opportunity for promotion is there, it would be great if the media got interested but what's the hook? Even more simply, what's the hook for non-creators to get involved, if not involved, at least interested?

I think a week centred around Australian Comic Books is great, but looking at what other industries do, the focus is wrong. The Orange Growers Association doesn't have "Sell an orange" campaign during Orange Week, they have "Buy an Orange" campaign. The Meat Industry spends its promotional resources getting people to buy meat, its spends less money getting farmers to produce livestock.

A problem with "Release a comic" is that the majority of shop owners may say "nah, not interested I still have a stack of Australian comics from 2 years ago" or "local stuff never sells" so if there is any publicity for the event and people do get interested they either won't be able to find Australian comics or they'll find old stuff.

Creating a demand is probably more important than creating a supply. With too much demand, you get sell outs and retailers and creators are happy (empty handed customers won't be happy but hopefully they'll be back). Over supply means that retailers get stuck with product they can't sell and get turned off local gear, just like what happened in the early 90s.

I think it should be “Buy an Australian Comic”, through it to the wider community. Creators still get involved because they have to create the books in the first place. With the wider focus though, the community can get involved (not just the creator community).

Problem with "Buy an Australian Comic", however, is why should I?
Back to the Orange and Meat example, the various industries explain that Oranges and Meat make you healthier, they improve people's lives and that’s why you should buy them. What does an Australian Comic do for me? How will it improve my life? If answers can be found to these questions; then "buy an Australian comic" is a goer. It has to be on some nationalistic ground. The only philanthropic promotional event I can think of that is of a similar nature (besides the generic Buy Australian) is Hole-Proofs campaign - "buy a pair of socks and help a sheep farmer" of the mid to late 80s when there was an oversupply of wool. It’s a hard road to travel because the benefits to the community are intangible, Australian Comics won’t make consumers richer, healthier or sexier.

If you had the time and money, yes you could have a campaign that comics make you sexy; (if they can make ugg boots sexy you can make anything sexy). But Time and Money is the ball breaker.

Otherwise, if tugging at heart strings or boosting egos isn't the way, then maybe bribery may work.
How will buying an Australian Comic make my life better? Well if you buy an Australian Comic during December you can enter a raffle and win stuff. Winning stuff makes life better. Every comic shop that sells local comics would provide entry forms with purchases, that get filled out with and sent to an address. A winner is picked and they get stuff. What stuff? I dunno - artists can donate art, people can donate money. That’s the relatively easy bit; getting shops involved, coming up with safeguards and the whole raffle laws are the main issues. But the benefits are, shops will see there is a demand and make money, readers might find something they like and buy more and creators may make some money too.

There’s about 30 comic shops in Australia, and if they average 300 regular customers and if only 50% enter to get an original Ashley Wood painting or their likeness in an Eddie Campbell comic or the chance to write a Da ‘n Dill strip or shit even $250 bucks cash, that’s about 5000 sales right there.*

If the "buy an Australian comic" isn't liked, then i'd probably suggest that "Release an Australian comic" needs to be done in conjunction with something else, like a gallery exhibition. When organised properly it appears these things go well. Creators can sell their comics there, direct to the public - getting a bigger cut of the pie and its something more interesting for the media to hook in to and write about.

I think having a week glorifying the coolness of Australian Comics is well deserved but the proposed plan lacks a goal, besides release a comic and have fun but then what?

But I’m willing to help out with whatever I can with whatever happens.



Anonymous said...

Support empty Paras today (exclamation, exclamation).

Interesting idea mark. But unfortunately this little trickle of urine you've dripped on the subject can only lead to an overflowing of high pressure pissing now.

The main problem is as you've stated, how can buying a comic make an average australian's life better in the midst of such a national phenomenom as "cultural cringe"? that only australia seems to suffer from?

Hmmm, it is something that one must think long and hard about. The answer will come in time.


Anonymous said...

I think the point here is that Australian comics are...REALLY FUCKING BORING! And REALLY fucking amatuer and full of their own overloaded self importance.
Why aren't we recognised. Why aren't we purchased. Why aren't we this? Why aren't we that?


Because 99% of them are shit on a stick and not worth the toilet paper they're printed on.
Do the work before you get the kudos. Do the work before you get the recognition.

Fucking Australian cultural cringe and your retard tall poppy syndrome. Grow some fucking balls and make valuable work that makes people take notice first. THATS your starting point. You can organise as many dumbass Australian comic book weeks and flash in the pan distribution systems as you like.
It's not going to mean a damn thing or get ANYWHERE until the work makes people want to come back for more.
The answer is get some talented comic makers excited about making local comics. And some talent with vision and drive to actually DO...not just TALK.
Thats your answer.


Komala said...

Oh my, so much anger in the room...

I know that part of the reason my productivity clumps around conventions is not just the income thing, but also because I am a slack bastard who does comics for fun and there's nothing like a good deadline to get me going! My motivation varies wildly and I'm a really last-minute person, so things that get shat on in this fashion (see the 24 hour comic) work wonders for me. I could set all sorts of "fake" deadlines during the year for myself and they wouldn't mean a thing to me.

It doesn't help that all of the events are now clumped in one part of the year - I used to go to something every quarter, which worked great for putting out regular comics, but this year there are four events on four consecutive weekends. Those four events account for around half of this year's events of interest and they cover one month.

Still doing an exhibition in December whether or not the week goes ahead tho. I'm hoping the cafe will be open to people selling comics on at least one day...

douglasbot said...

I dunno...just hold a 24hr comp every other week. People seem to LOVE making comics when that pops up.

(I don't really know much about the Australian comic book week idea. Is it about giving people a reason to make comics? Or is it about promoting comics that get made once a year?)

Anonymous said...

We're tired of attention-seeking, poisonus outbursts like this, CR. It doesn't even make any sense. Go post it on the Dazzafan blog and close the door on the way out.

Mark Selan said...

Weber - As they say, Piss on the pot or get off

Yeah - cultural cringe is a massive problem in Australia - with movies, music, televsion and so on. And with comics.

And comics are the same - i think in comics case that in the last boom of the market a lot of the comics were crap. For every Platnium Grit you had a Cold Angel. And this is comic fans we are talking about, fans who essentially talk in absolutes; they'll buy marvel or DC no matter the quality and won't try anything new. And if they do and its crap, the whole scene gets painted.

Comic fans either think local stuff is crap OR don't even know that people make comics locally. Until they think differently it'll be a struggle.
Producing good work won't do it alone. It needs to be made available and people need to know that it exists.

CR - How are people supposed to buy the work if they don't know it exists. How's it supposed to compete with everything else on the market, not just comics but video games, dvds, etc if there isn't some extra push.
Good work by itself won't do anything at all.
Look at something like the film Somersault. Good film but when it was released it didn't do so great, even though the critics loved it. Then it gets nominated and wins various AFI awards and its box office picks up.
The work can't exist in a vacuum, AFIS and Sundance film festivals don't just come from thin air. People work hard to put them together.
but why should they when anonymous people like yourself, CR, make generalised fanboy comments like "99% of them are shit on a stick and not worth the toilet paper they're printed on" and "dumbass Australian comic book weeks and flash in the pan distribution systems"?

That's hardly supportive.
and really from the top of my head - the list of unrealised initiatives are
-Alex Major's charity comic from the late 90s
-Avi's comic van distribution thingy
-Darren's creator studio
-The international distributor thingy that Jen put togther

Then there are stuff that's on hold like Toon Buggy and (i'm guessing about these because I haven't heard anything about them for awhile - but i'm not involved so what do i know)

And the only other distribution systems were Tim's and Aaron's that ran their course.

I think its healthy to talk about ideas, nut them out. Sure it would be better if some of them went a bit further but that's how it goes. Talking bullshit like "build it and they will come" is out of touch and it dismisses the work of PhaseTwo, Maggie, Ben Howard, Chaloner and others, who are building models and systems not just for themselves but for others.

Komala - I was actually kind of worried that the ACBW organisers would be a bit miffed. I'm not sure why anyone else would get upset.
Yeah - that was my other theory on why comics get released during supanova, you book a table early you better get it done or you just wasted $300.

I know someone was going to organise a exhibition in Brisbane as well. IF ACBW is a goer, maybe i might try and do something locally or try and convince someone else to do it. If not this year maybe next year.

Doug - ACBW isn't really giving a reason to produce comics, except to have fun.
That sort of thing is an issue; ideas are easy - details are hard.
Get the planning right - and everything else is butter.

Anonymous - thank you for showing us how to be truly constructive and supportive.

I love it when the anonymouses fight

Anonymous said...

make valuable work that makes people take notice first

Are there any Australian comics you like?

Anonymous said...

HAHAHAHAHAHAH Yes there are Australian comics i like.

You're just jealous because i'm more anonymous than you! HAHAHAHAHAHA

Anonymous said...

Yes but not as anonymous as ME!

Anonymous said...

Ok, CR. Tell us what they (or it ) is so that we may start to learn.

Anonymous said...

Less talk. More work. Get talented. More books like Killeroo. Everyone in Australia can learn from Darren and his vision!
Do they though? NO they laugh and mock.
He's created a really great concept and a creat product. There should be more in Australia like it.



Mike Hell said...

I don't see why its such a big issue at all. It wasn't intended to revolutionise the australian comic industry/community. Primarily I saw it as an incentive for people to make some comics. I like buying comics and I like the mini comic scene. I also like the 24 hr comic entries and I thought an excuse for peeps to put some extra work into them and actually release them would be cool.
I don't think there is any 'ACB organisers' for what its worth either. It's a community thang that may evolve by itself and by the communities wishes- who knows?
Let's face it, if people want to make comics for money they really should be aiming globally not locally.
But a word of warning - If you don't like this idea, you're REALLY going to hate my next one...

Mike Hell said...

And no offense taken Mark. Any discussion is a good discussion really. (as long as it's not a vitriol ic one!)

Mark Selan said...

Yes Learn
Learn stuff
Learning is fun
Learn to spell (its on MY list)
Learn to construct and respond to arguments in a logical manner
Learn from experience
Learn from OTHERS's experiences
Learn to, when in doubt, unnecessarily mock others

Mark Selan said...

Mike - No, i love people's ideas - my concern is if people are going to exert energy on this initiative, that getting the book done is the, relatively, easy bit. getting it in people's hands is were it gets difficult.

Good luck, Mike, i if i was a creator of any sort i'd have a book out for december. You've got my support for sure - CR's i'm not so sure. :)

Mike Hell said...

Hey Mark,
Would you mind posting some (or all) of this blog entry in the thread at PF? Esp. the bits about the name and focus.