Comic books are becoming trendy again.
Perhaps they’re not in the sales charts yet, but the phenomenon is undeniable.
Just in the last few weeks, we’ve heard the following news:
- Historical American periodical, «Heavy Metal», announced an investment plan in itself, the details of which will be released in issue #300, scheduled for next August.
- French-American publishing house Les Humanoïdes Associés announced a new life for the magazine “Métal Hurlant”.
We must properly clarify: comic books, as we know them in Italy, are monthly periodicals that can be purchased at any newsstand. This definition is a bit narrow for the rest of the world, where you can buy comics in book shops, convenient stores and stationery shops — depending on the country or custom. And, above all else, on-line.
Simply put, what is happening is that publishers have realized the cost to invest in a graphic novel is the same as investing in a periodical. The only difference is that periodicals are continually published, whereas a graphic novel is a one-time job.
If a graphic novel is successful, the publisher must begin to flatter the author, in the hopes that the author would not lose his creative flair or, worse, end up working for a competitor.
However, the periodical — its headlines and its overall concept — belongs to the publisher.
A publisher of periodicals knows everything about its readers, including the physical addresses of its subscribers. On the other hand, a publisher knows nothing about the readers of graphic novels.
Recently in France, publisher Petit á Petit launched “Soif”, a comic science magazine with articles, in-depth analysis, games and stories. A graphic novel about the same topic would require a similar amount of work, but with the periodical a publisher can cultivate his audience over time.
A magazine is, simply, a brand.
It’s not an accident that many communication agencies publish their own periodicals, often related to the vertical niches they have an effect on. From food to luxury, to street lifestyle, it is a proliferation of magazines.
Now it seems that the trend has reached the world of comics, which up until the other day was only marketed to kids, so that — with the repeated worldwide success of films and TV series — it has become a catalyst for investments. Periodical magazines are the focus groups of comics. They are an ideal place to develop and test the so-called ip, intellectual properties, the recent obsessions of the commercial entertainment industry.
You can therefore imagine the periodical as the Research and Development department of the comics world, with a loyal little army of readers who keep it alive, as well as a launching platform for the authors that are featured in it.
Comics magazines are coming back. Maybe not in fashion, like the cultural phenomenon they once were in their golden age, but as an essential component of the entertainment industry engine (and a financial stabilizer for the publisher).
Whatever it is, I’m in. Are you?