Oh baby! This week’s top two are a tasty pair of treats, so let’s dig into that and more in Comics Disassembled, a look at ten things I liked or didn’t like from the week of comics.
1. Amulet Book 9, Arriving!
The prophesied return is almost here: Waverider, the ninth book (and finale) of Kazu Kibuishi’s Amulet series, now has a release date!
While it’s hardly on a George R. R. Martin level, there has been consternation amongst fans over the gap between the eighth volume of this tremendous all-ages series and its ninth. Book Eight hit September 2018 while Book Nine is now slated to arrive on February 6, 2024, a 5.5 year gap. Some readers bristled about that. I certainly have not. Kibuishi has been up front throughout that the process of making this book — which is the longest of the series, I believe — has been a lot, to say nothing of the world events that transpired between those two books. My take is we’re better off waiting for Kibuishi to make the best version of this title’s finale rather than having him just churn out something to stick to a schedule, and I cannot wait to read it now that it’s on the horizon.
I’m sure Kibuishi will be excited to get this out there, too, both because this series has been a labor of love he’s been crafting for a long time and because he assuredly has other projects he wants to get to (like returning to Daisy Kutter, I hope!). It’s wild to think that this series is now old enough to be a high schooler. I bought the first volume at a Waldenbooks, and that’s a bookstore chain that doesn’t even exist anymore! Both of those points make me feel rather old, and emphasize that it’s been a journey, both for me as a reader and for Kibuishi as a creator. But it will assuredly be one that’s paid off in full for readers. Plus, because we now know when it’s coming, we can all schedule our rereads to be timed for the ninth book’s arrival. That sounds quite lovely to me.
2. Viz Manga, Being Elite
Leave it to manga publishers to keep doing things in the best way possible, seemingly.
Faced with immense piracy and an endless thirst for what they publish, Viz could have responded in a number of different ways. The two most probable were as follows. They could have raged about piracy and accomplished nothing, burying their heads in the sand and changing very little. Or, they could try and find a solution.
They chose the latter.
This week, Viz launched Viz Manga, a new app and subscription service that contains over 10,000 chapters of popular (and curated by Viz editors) manga works from folks like Junji Ito, Rumiko Takahashi, Taiyō Matsumoto, and many, many more for just $1.99 a month — $1.99!!!!!! — as well as “simulpubbed” new titles in English for free. The thing is loaded. More than that, it’s just smart as heck. It’s so easy and so reasonably priced that even the most price resistant manga fan will have a difficult time turning it down. Heck, I’m probably going to subscribe to it after I finish this column!
That it all was announced in an incredibly charming video starring Viz’s rather dapper and fun seeming CEO Ken Sasaki – seriously, this dude seems like the absolute best – makes it all the better.
But the sizzle here is that rare combination of volume of product and price point. That’s one thing — well, one of the many things — that manga has seemingly lapped other sides of comics with. They’ve recognized that products like Viz Manga or Shonen Jump, two remarkably inexpensive platforms loaded with tons of material but not an inexhaustible amount, are perfect gateways to the print product, and that further profits can grow from there. Could they charge $4.99 or $9.99 or $14.99 or something for the same product and make more money off it? Sure. But they go in knowing there are legions interested in the product, and that hooking a significant number of readers who will then buy their faves in print offsets those theoretical losses on single users — and then some.
It’s just smart. I wish we saw this line of thinking more in Western comics, but it’s not just how that side of the overall industry does things. Alas.