Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Princess of Tennis, Anyone?

Marvel is set to launch a new comic in July called "15 Love", and my initial response was to attempt to gouge my own eyes out to keep this horribly saccharine nonsense from entering my precious orbs.  But I've decided that I need to have some option in my holster other than blind rage, and I thought about it for a bit.

And you know what?  This isn't a bad idea.  Not a bad idea at all.  It's not perfect, mind you, and it certainly isn't a new idea.  The first and most likely source that came to mind was Takeshi Konomi's "Prince of Tennis", for all the obvious reasons.  I mean, if you just tear the dick off the main character and take away a little of the privilege, you get 15 Love's Mill Collins.

But then I started reading a little more about the bones of the story, and I come to realize that while Prince of Tennis is more about an elevated prodigy trying to reach for the sublime, 15 Love is more of an underdog story.  And we all know I'm a sucker for those.

Yeah, Mill's got some skills, baby, but her grades aren't where they need to be.  She's got to reach down deep and grow as a person in order to rise to the top of her sport, man!  It was then that I knew this was a clever mix between Prince of Tennis and none other than the mighty Louden Swain!  Now this is a comic I can get behind!

Well, I mean, not really.  Let's not go crazy, folks.  This isn't targeted for me, this is for teen aged girls, and that's bloody brilliant.  I mean, I'm no expert on the inner workings of the female mind, but it really seems to me like this could work.  Or at least it could if it were handled a little differently.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds",  and he was correct as usual.  I found this on newsarama, which is a comic book site, and not where 15 Love needs exposure.  The comics folks will see it on the rack.  Maybe.

It just boggles me into pain that Marvel continues to recognize that it needs new readers, and that young females represent a powerful untapped resource.  But you're not reaching them on newsarama.  That's the whole problem, dig?  They don't know about the comics, so you have to find them where they live.

Again, I'm no expert, but I think you might find them on ICarly, or the Wizards of Waverly Place. Plant some banner ads on a goddamn Twilight fan site, would you?  Buy some space in a tennis magazine or something.  It wouldn't take much to make a splash, relatively speaking.  This thing is going to sell 8,000 copies or less for the first issue, and 5,000 and dropping after that, unless they can get some kind of mass market distribution or teach the girls to come to the comic shop.  

And by the way, if that's the goal?  To bring in new female readers?  Lovely goal, but you made the book too expensive.  Marvel are asking $4.99 for 56 pages of material, and to be fair that's not a comparatively bad deal counting pound-for-pound value.  But the price becomes an entry barrier.  Nobody wants to spend $5 on a thin little pamphlet that they don't even know for sure they'll like.

$2.00 encourages experimentation, $5 practically demands the book will be ignored in droves.  Make it less pages and less scary to pick up.  Make those pages good, and get her coming back next month, and the month after that.  That's how the game is won, Marvel, why don't you know that yet?

Instead they're likely to follow the same losing strategy they always have: the "Field of Dreams" method.  If you publish it, they will come.  Well, guess what?  They aren't coming unless you find them where they are and invite them in. 

The job of getting these young women into the shop to find 15 Love and feel comfortable once they get there is a tall order.  Expecting them to simply stumble into the local comic shop and then spontaneously discover this book is a ridiculous, foolish consistency.  You can't keep doing the same stupid thing and expect different results.

Maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe the fine folks at Marvel are trading emails with right now for some juicy ad space.  But I doubt it.  Obviously I can't speak to the content of 15 Love, not having read it.  But it really does seem to pop to me, and Andi Watson has a quality track record.  This is a good idea going nowhere, you silly hobgoblins.

Good luck selling this to us fat 40 year-old dudes and the retailers that serve us.  I'm pulling for your skirted Louden Swain, but I don't like your odds.

- Ryan

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