Support Shawn's writng with a donation

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Shawn’s Plans for the Isis Series and the Comic book Industry

Isis#1 for you comic fans out there
who want to go by numbers!
A decade ago, I originally planned for Isis to be a series of books. Serialized YA stories that had their beginning, middle and end in one easy-to-read volume.

When I resumed my work in 2012 on the new Isis series paperbacks I began my work on developing a new story model. I wanted to mix the style of serialized story structure of Independent reader rand Young adult fiction with the form of comic book continuity. In this model readers would get to read about the Isis characters in stories with events that related to each other, but the main plot of the story would start and finish in that one single volume. Every story is an entry point for the new reader.

In my story model, events from one story would be briefly mentioned in some chapters. For example in a new Isis story, Isis or one of her supporting characters would mention her involvement in The Thetas or having fought in AFC War of the Gods. Nothing special, just a hint of what happened in past stories. Something to give a reader incentive to see what happened in the previous story and try other books in the series.

And so far the model seems to be working. After reading one book in the Isis series, people do come back for the other books and the eBooks.

My original plan was to use the Isis stories as a springboard to develop a new story model for comic books. In this new story model, stories would be self-contained to one trade paperback volume with its own beginning, middle, and end. And in this model, comic book writers and artists could use characters from any era to tell any story they wished.

Along with this new story model they could use any art style they wished, whether it was traditional, Animated, Noir, or manga style. For example, let’s say a writer and an artist wanted to tell a story featuring the 1940’s Justice Society at DC Comics. In this model they could tell that story as a standalone adventure without being bogged down by years of continuity, worrying about who’s dead and how it would fit in with the DC Universe Pre-Crisis, Post Crisis- Post Flashpoint. Since the story is contained to this one volume, all a writer has to focus on is the 1940’s and the story they’re telling about the Justice Society fighting bad guys of that era.

Or say a writer wanted to tell a story about the 1970’s Avengers or the Neal Adams’ style Batman. Using the old comics as a reference, a writer and artist could create a new tale within the style of that old run as an updated standalone adventure.

In the past the Comic book industry has used this model sparingly on titles like New Teen Titans: Games. But the way I see it the graphic novel featuring all-new stories in single-self-contained volumes could be the future of the comic book medium. Libraries, bookstores, and online retailers like prefer comics in this type of format.

Customers also would probably prefer getting comics in this model as well. With stories in a single-volume trade stories are easier to access for new readers. With every story being an entry point, readers, especially new casual readers had no problems understanding the character or her history.

I believe this new story model and this new trade paperback product could also be the product that leads to the resurgence of comics at retailers like supermarkets, Wal-Mart and Target. These kinds of books are more durable and have a longer shelf life than 32-page comic books. They can be stocked for years and when taken out of print can returned for credit and resold in other areas like airport remainder stores, 99 cent stores and discount clearance stores instead of comic shops being stuck with them like they are with 32-page comics which go to rot in comic shops’ quarter bin.
Isis #4

I also believe books created in this model would also provide a higher entertainment value per dollar than traditional comic books. I believe consumers feel more comfortable paying $14 for a 128-160 page paperback book with no ads than spending $16 for four 32-page comic books loaded with ten pages of ads each. And at $4 to print a Trade paperback digitally through Lightning Source it’s a higher profit margin for a publisher than printing comics with Diamond.

In addition I also believe it’d be easier for new customers to access due to the fact that new readers are looking for titles and not numbers. It’s a lot easier to go into a store and ask a clerk for Isis: Amari’s Revenge than Isis Volume 2 #1.

Plus with the open continuity model readers can pick and choose the stories they want to read. If they don’t like a story, they can opt not to read it, like some did with my novelette Isis: Death of a Theta. Since events are contained to that volume the reader can just move on to other stories they do want to read.

Optional Read before Isis #5!
And the creative team can move on to stories the reader wants to read. Feedback from sales will tell a writer to pursue another story if a story didn’t sell. With the model of stories being contained to a single volume, it’s easier for a writer to charge a poorly received story to the game, not reference it and move on to other stories. In this model, creative teams can adapt to the market instead of being forced to do things like retcons, reboots and revamps that frustrate and confuse readers.

Isis  #5
The model I’ve designed for serialized storytelling is still experimental. While I’m still working out the bugs, it seems to flow smoothly for both new and veteran readers. New readers seem to be able to “jump in” and enjoy stories like Isis: The Beauty Myth and Isis: The Ultimate Fight and then go back to read older stories like Isis: Trial of the goddess or forward and read new stories like Isis: My Sister, My Frenemy.

Instead of reboots like the New 52 and Marvel Now, I believe it’s time for the comic book industry needs to start adapting to the changing publishing marketplace and creating a new business model for comic book publication. Instead of publishing $4 32-page comic books and pushing a serialized format that is clearly obsolete and hard for new readers to access, publishers need to start producing graphic novels with stories featuring single-self-contained stories in one volume. Utilizing an open continuity model, readers can pick any story they want to read featuring characters in looks from eras that they want to read. I believe with an open continuity model a new generation of new readers will be able to access comics and the catalog of characters for years to come.
Isis# 6 Coming soon! 

1 comment:

  1. I've been something similar to this for years. Whenever I go to the grocery story, right there in the check out line I always see a digest sized edition of Archie comics. There is no reason why DC or Marvel couldn't do something similar--except of course they would have to make the comics all ages, and of course that would never fly for a superhero comic these days.