Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Give Me Your Questions!

Hillery Pastovich, National Sales Manager from Tokyopop, will be coming to a countywide meeting for YA Librarians in my area next Wednesday - and I will be there since, while I am (as of yet) only a lowly Library Assistant, I am in charge of YA stuff at my branch.

So, while I'm sure most of it will be a sales pitch to us, and I'm not sure how capable Hillery Pastovich will be at answering your questions, and I do need to be careful of what I ask because this is the first time I will be meeting all the other YA Librarians and I'd really like to get to be an actual librarian at some point, please do let me know if you have any questions you'd like me to ask.

I return, I will do my best to ask them and post both her answers and any other interesting information from the meeting.

Classic Graphic Novels

Especially since it looks like Kalinara could use some cheering up, I thought I'd share with you all that Sterling Publishing* is putting out a new line of classics adapted as graphic novels.

Unlike the last set we got in, which was pretty much junk, this one looks like it might be worth looking at. The artwork I've seen so far looks promising. The first two titles out are Dracula and Tom Sawyer (sorry, no A Little Princess yet, and since the line is called All Action Classics, likely not for a while). Dracula reminds me of the overly stylized Disney Hercules - not my cup of tea, especially with the tiny female waists, but it's at least pretty and readable, which is a step up from the other comic classics we got in. Tom Saywer looks really nice, however. It reminds me of Bone and the new Babysitter's Club, which makes me happy because I love Mark Twain.

Since it's from Sterling, I'm cautiously optimistic. We get a lot of junk from Sterling. They aren't really known for finding the next Newbery or Caldecott. Mostly they publish the kind of low end titles, such as an endless supply of sudoku or craft books, that are obvious attempts to chase the latest trends. However, Sterling also publishes some of our top selling classics for kids. Granted, they are top selling at my store in part because we get them cheap (due to no copyright and other reasons stated below), but they are also very nice looking and the abridged classics are about as good as your're going to get when you chop books in half - or thirds.

I'm not quite sure when they are due to hit stores. The only date I've seen is November, and we don't have any in yet.

*I should share that Sterling is either owned or in partnership with one of the companies that pays my bills (I'm a little confused as to the actual relationship). Since I'm not terribly happy with them, that doesn't mean a whole lot at the moment, but I thought you should know.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Comics for Girls - I'm Back From Hibernation! Edition

Jill at Feministe has a post up about DC's decision to publish and market a series of almost manga style (my words, not hers) graphic novels for girls.

There's a lot of good comments in response, such as:

I can’t help but feel that DC wouldn’t have to go to all this trouble if they just took down the NO STINKY GIRLS sign on the superhero clubhouse.
I think that's true - to a certain point.

It's important to remember why DC is doing this. Unfortunately, they are not doing it because the powers that be at DC have finally realized that girls do not have cooties after all. They are doing this because books for teens - most especially teen girls - are consistent top sellers at just about every major bookstore. Graphic Novels - most especially Manga - is also the biggest growing section at most bookstores. Other than new releases and workbooks for kids, it's pretty much the only section that keeps getting more room at my store. Within the last year alone, we've added several bays to the adult Graphic Novels (with most of it going to manga), several shelves to the teen manga, and an entirely new (but still small) section of kid's manga. And that doesn't even count all the random beginning reader books put out by Tokyopop, the influx of graphic novels in the first chapter books section (most of which are published by Tokyopop), or the soon to be half a shelf in young readers devoted to Bone alone.

Another commenter wrote:
i personally dont think theres a need to specifically target girls with girl comics…i certainly had no trouble finding awesome ones
Now this, I don't understand at all. I'm happy that she was able to find comics she liked, and I'd never suggest that girls (and women) don't read comics or that companies need to market to girls to get any girls to read comics, but I'd say it's pretty irrefutable that boys have an easier time finding good comics than girls do. Granted, as many people pointed out, marketing isn't going to solve the problem by itself. But it can't hurt, either.

As I commented on the Feministe thread, DC simply woke up and finally smelled Tokyopop's profits. The graphic novels for girls they are putting out are deliberately meant to ride on Tokyopop's coattails. Knowing how books get shelved in every B&N, and having helped several hundred kids look for books, it's quite obvious that the choice to make a series of black and white graphic novels - and not a series of comic books in color - and to market them exclusively at girls, was a marketing decision meant to ensure that their product would be placed next to Tokyopop's Kingdom Hearts and DN Angel in the teen manga section. The decision to hire a relatively well known author of books for teen girls is just the icing on the cake. (And suggests that DC is serious about making this work in the long run, and not just grabbing a few bucks - knock on wood.)

Compare that to Marvel's decision to revive White Tiger as a young woman and hire Tamora Pierce and Tim Liebe to write the new series. I applaud Marvels' decision as well, but I worry that it won't generate the profit's DC's line will, and thus will die an early death - the awesomeness of Tamora Pierce notwithstanding. I also wonder if Marvel made the right decision in making it a traditional comic book. Without a lot of marketing outside of the comic book world - and there hasn't been much - Marvel is barely capitalizing on the huge built in fanbase for anything with Tammy's name on it. Yeah, they can publish it as a graphic novel later - like Runaways - but that means that there's the danger that, like with Runaways, the comic book industry itself will tend to downplay the overall profits since much of it will not be made in the traditional way. Which means they'll have less reason to continue to try to break their own mold.

By the way, I agree with the sentiment that I wish they’d change the way they write comics (maybe hire a few more female artists/writers as well), instead of creating “just for girls” comics.
I really do wish this as well. But as long as simply writing a story along the lines of Anne of Green Gables or The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is considered writing something that is "just for girls" there will be a time and a place for "just for girls" comics. I don't like sharp gender divides, and I don't like how such attitudes suggest that stuff like Marvel's new White Tiger doesn't even exist, and I really don't like how this kind of thinking tends to ghettoize some of the best books ever written for children and teens.

However, I much prefer it to people thinking that "girl" stories are not even worth writing - which has generally been DC's attitude in the past. Just because you'd never read That Summer or would prefer Captain Underpants to Babymouse doesn't mean that they aren't damn good books and that the world isn't a better place for them having existed.