As print magazines fold and eBook devices like the Apple iPad and the Amazon Kindle are gaining favor with readers, the conventional wisdom is that it's a lousy time to launch a manga/comics anthology magazine. 'Print is dead,' they say -- or is it?
From this time of uncertainty comes a new breed of do-it-yourself publishers who want to defy this industry trend by taking matters into their own hands. One such effort is F*X*T (pronounced "fix it"), a comic and art print magazine being developed by San Francisco-based graphic designer Fawn Lau, with a little help from the online microfunding site, Kickstarter.
As Lau envisions it, F*X*T will be quarterly magazine, featuring serialized and one-shot comics stories, illustrations and articles, to "to showcase the talents of creators that don't quite have the chance to realize their ideas in print." For the first issue, Lau has assembled a line-up of pro and semi-pro artists who'll be offering the first taste of what F*X*T will offer to fans: a variety of story and art styles presented in a "magazine that is substantial in content and reminds everyone about the awesomeness that is print."
"THERE'S SOMETHING JOYFUL ABOUT SEEING ART ON PAPER"
With a lifetime of love for comics, and over seven years of experience as a production artist and designer for publishing companies, including a few manga publishers (and a few smaller but cool publishing projects like le Grand Grimoire), Lau knows the hows and whys behind the industry's current reluctance to publish comics anthologies.
"I just see so much hesitation and basically good intentions from most people, but extreme caution from the rest," said Lau. "I think (that there's) so much potential, but I also fully understand why things are so slow," she said. "There's not enough people taking risks in print, but I LOVE print!"
While publishers, large and small are shying away from publishing work by up-and-coming, but unproven new artists, where do the comic stars of tomorrow hone their skills and get their first big break? Nowadays, mostly online through webcomics and artists community websites like Deviant Art -- but Lau and some of the F*X*T creators still see the value in print as a medium for comics.
"There's something official about a comic in print, something more joyful of seeing art on paper, which is why i wanted to have F*X*T as a magazine instead of a website," Lau explained.
The artists participating in the inaugural issue of F*X*T also mentioned that the promise of seeing their work in print was also part of the appeal of participating in this project.
When asked whether it makes a difference to see his comics in print rather than just online, Powflip, the creator of Tracks replied unequivocally, "Print is better. Ask a movie director, or a screenwriter - would they feel better if their movie got shown on YouTube or in a theater?" He continued, "There's nothing wrong with getting it out there on the Internet, but what's most convenient for distribution isn't always the best way to enjoy the medium. It's not just about the artist's ego either - it's better for the reader. Exponentially better."
Comics creator (and F*X*T cover artist) Christy Lijewski agreed, adding "There's just something about holding a finished book in your hands and seeing your months of hard work bound into a neat little volume that I can't explain. It's a great feeling." She continued, "Sure, with the Internet you have instant feedback and a large audience but it's still missing the feeling of satisfaction you get when you see your work in actual print. A book is something you can take anywhere, read anytime, as many times as you want, whenever you want, it pays respect to the work by making it permanent."
SHOWCASING NEW TALENT BEYOND BEING AN "AMERI-MANGA ANTHOLOGY"
So far, several creators answered Lau's call for stories and artwork, including published pros like Lijewski (RE:Play, Samurai Host Club) and up-and-coming talents like Mia Schwartz, Helen Cho, Anna Bongiovanni, and Sloane Leong. Some, like Lijewski, knew Lau from her work in the manga publishing industry, as a production artist and graphic designer for several companies. Others heard of F*X*T's call for artists through word-of-mouth or through the F*X*T Kickstarter page.
"Fawn has some serious truffle-hunting skills," said Schwartz. "She can uncover people who hide in the dark, moist corners of Deviant Art and make them do incredible things."