Loose Cannon: Issue #31

Fri, August 17th, 2001 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Larry Young, Columnist

A TALE OF TWO KITTIES

[Willie]Some of you may recall that back in February, our cat shuffled off this mortal coil, the poor bastard.

So after a suitable time, we got another cat, and because the missus and I were still a little gun-shy about cats vis-a-vis the harsh world outside, the five-year old cat we picked up from the ASPCA, Willie, spent his first few months at Chateau Lar under a luxurious house arrest.

Oh, sure, we got him some play toys, and some catnip, and a little patch of grass for him to chew on to aid his digestion, and a scratching post and everything. But it was still a house arrest. And every morning at five or so when he sat on the sill and meowed to the other cats in the neighborhood that he was up and ready for action, it would occur to me that maybe Willie had been an outdoors cat wherever it was he had spent the first five years of his life.

After a little smooth-talking, I convinced Mimi that maybe we could try letting him out on supervised walks in the backyard and after a couple weeks of this, we were letting Willie roam about at will.

Last week, I was home having lunch, and I heard an awful mewling outside. "Uh-oh," I thought. "It's kitty conflict."

And as I went outside, sure enough, in our neighbor's back yard, I saw Willie in a stare-down with the neighbor's cat. It's a big orange thing, and it used to give our old cat Tom a bit of a problem every once in a while.

But Willie's not fifteen, and he's as barrel-chested as this orange thing is. More of a fair fight, this. And so I went up to the fence separating the two yards to watch this feline face-off. I thought we were going to have the whole thing: scratches, swipes, tufts of fur surgically removed with swipe of paw and clench of jaw. Either that, or once Willie saw me, I figured he'd run back into the relative safety of our yard. One or the other.

But the oddest thing happened, instead. Willie turned to look at me, slowly. He was on his haunches about a foot and a half away from that orange cat. Just staring. His head swivelled slowly over his shoulder at me. The orange cat, facing me, also looked up.

Slowly.

Willie turned back to look at the orange cat; stood up. Stretched. The orange cat stood up and stretched. Willie turned and looked at me again, this time turning his body towards me. His left front leg advanced… extended out… slowly. The orange cat turned away from us, moving towards his house… cocked his front leg and moved… slowly.

Both cats doing the same thing, mirror image, one in response to the other.

Of course, this made me think about marketing comics.

Specifically, the proliferation of .pdf files as a new marketing tool for the funny books.

Now, I'm sure most of you reading have checked out Savant at one time or another; they've been offering their content in the Portable Document Format since its inception. And there's the new Borderline, a very impressive magazine distributed as a .pdf. It's fifty-six pages of articles, features, news, reviews, previews, interviews ... like an Entertainment Weekly for comic books. I like that one a lot, so far.

Our pals Joe, Jamie, and James over at Oni Press have been offering free first chapters of various books in a stellar .pdf format, both for readers and retailers, as a tasty sample of the wares they produce.

And that's not to mention all the other websites which have .jpgs of comic book pages available for download and viewing.

The point is, these things are getting pretty widespread, but it all seems to me like two cats in a city backyard mirroring each others' moves because they have to stay competitive.

I'd recommend that publishers see the utility of this format and use it like a movie trailer, where the audience can sample a bit of the entertainment, and then make a better-informed decision as to whether or not they're gonna plunk down their hard-earned cash on the funny books that are offered for sale.

There's all sorts of reasons why publishers might not choose to do this. The way deadlines are structured now, comics are rarely completed before they are solicited. There just wouldn't be story and art ready in time to have readers make informed decisions. The free-milk-and-a-cow story comes to mind, as well. "Why pay for something you've seen some of already" seems like it might be conventional wisdom.

Well, if you've been a faithful reader of these online missives I craft just for you, you know what I think of conventional wisdom.

Why not release a .pdf file of, say, the first seventeen pages of an eighty-eight page book, before publication and during the ordering cycle? Three months before it's in shops, so retailers, customers, and the whole wide world can read a fifth of your project and see if they want to preorder the book?

I mean, at this point, it's not hype, right? It's turning over a couple of cards and letting the other players know you're working on an inside straight.

It's using the benefits of the .pdf file format to the project's advantage, by putting out a teaser when there's still a chance to positively effect the orders, rather than releasing it after the book has shipped and just metaphorically crossing the fingers in the hopes that it spurs backlist sales.

This seems like a no-brainer, to me.

So, in the spirit of putting one's money where one's mouth is, I offer up to you a fifth of Brian Wood and Brett Weldele's CousCous Express, for your reading enjoyment and perusal. If you like it, tell your retailer to order it for you using code AUG011709 before August 21st, when manual orders are due to the Diamond Comics Processing Center.

http://www.ait-planetlar.com/CCXp.1-17.pdf

Because that's the kind of cat I am.

Donating is a great way for librarians themselves to get familiar with our product and, more importantly, get comfortable with larry@comicbookresources.com

Swing by the Loose

Cannon Message Board and tell us which comics in the last five years you think would have benefited from a .pdf file marketing push, and pick a book or two from this month's Previews and let us know which books you'd have ordered this month if you could have read the first fifth of it.

Award-winning author Warren Ellis will be making his only U. S. personal appearance this year, no doubt regaling the crowds and making his mark in available copies of Transmetropolitan and Come in Alone, at Comic Relief, on September 8th from 3 pm – 6 pm. Hit the website for more info.

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