How Comic Books Help Children With Autism

From Medium:

Children with autism often have unique ways of viewing the world and expressing themselves. However, traditional methods of learning and therapy may not always cater to their needs. That’s where alternative forms of communication, such as comic books, come in. Not only are they a fun and engaging medium, but they also provide a creative outlet for children with autism to express themselves and unlock their inner talents.

Understanding Autism and the Need for Creative Tools

Children with autism have unique perspectives and ways of interacting with the world around them. They may struggle with traditional methods of learning and therapy, which often rely heavily on verbal communication and social interaction. This is where alternative forms of communication, such as comic books, can play a crucial role.

Autism is a developmental disorder that affects how individuals perceive and interact with the world. Many children with autism struggle with communication, social interaction, and sensory processing. They may have difficulty expressing themselves verbally or understanding the social cues and nuances of everyday life.

Traditional learning methods often do not cater to the needs of children with autism. However, comic books offer a different approach. They provide a visual medium that can engage children with autism and cater to their unique ways of learning and expressing themselves.

Comic books utilize visual narratives, which can be easier for children with autism to understand and interpret. The combination of images and text allows for a more accessible and engaging storytelling experience. Children with autism can visually process the story, characters, and emotions depicted in comic books, which can enhance their comprehension and engagement.

In addition to supporting communication and learning, comic books also provide a creative outlet for children with autism. They can use the medium to express their thoughts, feelings, and imagination in a safe and structured way. This allows them to tap into their inner talents and unleash their creativity.

The Power of Visual Narratives in Comic Books

Comic books are a powerful medium that utilizes visual narratives to engage and captivate readers. This is especially beneficial for children with autism, who may struggle with traditional forms of learning and communication. The combination of images and text in comic books allows for a more accessible and engaging storytelling experience.

Visual narratives in comic books provide a visual representation of the story, characters, and emotions, which can be easier for children with autism to understand and interpret. The use of images helps them visually process information, enhancing their comprehension and engagement. The sequential art format also helps children with autism follow the story’s progression and understand cause and effect relationships.

Furthermore, comic books offer a unique opportunity for children with autism to explore their creativity. The visual nature of comic books allows them to express their thoughts, feelings, and imagination in a safe and structured way. They can create their own characters, stories, and visual elements, developing their storytelling and artistic skills.

Comic books also provide a sense of empowerment for children with autism. They can see themselves represented in the characters and stories, which can boost their self-esteem and confidence. Additionally, the visual nature of comic books allows children with autism to share their experiences and perspectives with others, fostering understanding and empathy.

. . . .

Comic books also offer a structured and safe platform for children with autism to practice their communication skills. They can use the dialogue and speech bubbles in the comic book to practice expressing themselves verbally. This can be especially beneficial for children who struggle with verbal communication. The visual cues in the comic book can also help them understand social interactions and gestures, improving their ability to engage in conversations and understand nonverbal cues.

In addition to verbal communication, comic books can also enhance nonverbal communication skills. Children with autism can learn to interpret facial expressions and body language by studying the illustrations in the comic book. This can improve their ability to understand emotions and communicate their own feelings effectively.

By utilizing comic books as a tool, children with autism can strengthen their communication skills in a fun and engaging way. It allows them to practice both verbal and nonverbal communication, providing them with the tools they need to interact and connect with others.

Link to the rest at Medium

Webtoons and Webcomics Keep Scrolling into Print

From Publishers Weekly:

Forget swiping right. Online comics are racking up readers, and the test of success is how far readers will scroll on down.

As demand for graphic novels remains strong, especially in middle grade and YA categories, publishers are turning to popular digital platforms to scout for turn-key titles.

Much of the webcomics buzz is driven by the success of South Korean–based global comics platform Webtoon, which bills itself as the world’s largest webcomics community. Launched in 2005, Webtoon has dominated the scene to such a degree that it’s become common to refer to all comics presented in the platform’s smartphone-friendly vertical-scrolling format as webtoons.

In 2022, Webtoon launched Webtoon Unscrolled, a U.S.-based imprint designed to bring many of the site’s most popular English-language series into print for the North American market. The trio of launch titles (True BeautyTower of God, and Cursed Princess Club) together sold-in more than 200,000 copies in the imprint’s first six months, according to the publisher.

Unscrolled plans to publish 20 ongoing series by the end of 2024, including Lumine by Emma Krogell, a fantasy about the adventures of a runaway werewolf and a witch boy, and the Eisner-Award nominated Third Shift Society by Meredith Moriarty, in which a psychically gifted but broke young woman finds work as a paranormal detective.

“As someone who did superhero comics for 35 years of my career, it’s wonderful to be on the creator-owned side,” says Bobbie Chase, executive editor of Webtoon Unscrolled, referring to the fact that the Webtoon platform allows the writers and cartoonists behind series to retain their intellectual property. The phenomenon of webtoons has, she adds, driven new voices to publish with “first-time creators producing smash hits out of the gate.”

Webtoon’s readership skews young and female. Almost half of the site’s creators are women, and many of the top series are by female or nonbinary creators. Chase notes that while romance comics rose to the top in the early years of the original Korean platform, the English-language version of Webtoon boasts a broader mix of genres, including fantasy, science fiction, and horror. (For more on the enduring popularity of romance comics, see “Readers Swoon for Webtoons,”).

Because Webtoon comics are creator owned, authors and artists are free to sign with other publishers, as well. Rachel Smythe’s mythological fantasy romance Lore Olympus, one of the biggest English-language properties on Webtoon, was first published by Del Rey at Penguin Random House. PRH recently made the bestselling series the flagship title of its new Inklore imprint.

Though Inklore isn’t exclusively focused on webcomics, it plans to publish several web-to-print titles, including series from South Korea and Japan, such as My Love Story with Yamada-kun at Lv999 by Mashiro (Apr. 2024) and Cherry Blossoms After Winter by Bamwoo (Nov. 2024).

Doing it for the fans

Inklore editorial director Rebecca “Tay” Taylor describes the imprint’s audience as in the 18–35 age range and largely female, and often seeking LGBTQ content. “They’re reading romantasy, they’re reading BL [boys’ love], they’re reading horror,” she says. “Basically, anyone who’s reading or writing fan fiction on AO3 [the fanfiction megasite Archive of Our Own]—that’s our audience.”

Taylor observes that these readers “haven’t been catered to by traditional publishing… so they’ve created the content they wanted to see in webcomics, fan fiction, and fan art. And they are legion.”

Online comics are “one of the fastest-growing categories out there,” according to Michael Petranek, editorial director at Scholastic’s Graphix imprint. Graphix’s web-to-print titles include the Prism Award–winning Magical Boy by The Kao (out now), about a trans boy who fights evil Sailor Moon–style, and Rainbow! by Angel and Sunny Gloom (Mar. 2024), in which a neurodivergent teenager tries to find love. Both first ran on Tapas, one of Webtoon’s biggest rivals.

Emilia Rhodes, HarperCollins Children’s Books editorial director, says the decision to publish UnOrdinary by uru-chan, a superhero series from Webtoon, arose from “organic enthusiasm” she picked up from colleagues. (Volume two will be released in July 2024 from HarperAlley.) “A bunch of younger editors at the office were obsessing,” she adds, “and they totally turned me on to it.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Manga Freelancers Say, ‘Show Me the Money’

From Publisher’s Weekly:

Despite some slowdown, manga is still leading graphic novel sales in North America. But that success hasn’t necessarily trickled down to the professionals who help bring manga to market: translators, letterers, and editors, including many freelancers.

After the last manga boom/bust cycle (roughly 2007-2008), which resulted in layoffs at many publishers, freelancer rates were cut dramatically. For the most part, rates haven’t returned to pre-2007 rates. For example, translation services companies MediBang and Amimaru have drawn criticism for paying letterers as little as $1 to $1.15 per page, as reported on Anime News Network.

M, a veteran Japanese-to-English manga translator who spoke to PW on conditions of anonymity, said that “some manga series move a few hundred copies. Others, millions. But I get paid the same for both.” They complained that the standard is flat fee payment for translation, without residuals, and bonuses and raises are atypical. The result, they said, is that “rates drop every year when taking inflation into account.”

But with manga publishers enjoying a period of prosperity, freelancers have begun speaking out and demanding pay increases. The United Workers of Seven Seas, the first US manga/light novel publishing union, was formed with the support of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) last year; the union was recognized by Seven Seas Entertainment soon after. Two publishers, Yen Press and Viz Media, also reportedly responded by raising rates for freelancers. Specific payment terms were not disclosed by the publishers, who offered no comment. But according to M, between the two major manga houses, base rates rose between 10-20%. “We were thrown a long overdue bone,” says M.

That said, translation costs and time present a real concern for manga publishers, especially for digital releases, which may net less margin combined with shorter turnover time for simulpub print and e-pub volumes.

One possible solution being actively explored is machine or AI-assisted translation. As Beth Kawasaki, executive director of content and marketing at Media Do International, a leading digital manga distributor, put it, “human editorial expertise is still needed, but advances in tech may make (AI-assisted) localization more cost effective in the future.”

Machine learning and AI-assisted translation is a controversial topic, for both manga publishing professionals and readers.

“Quality comes a cost,” explained Kae Winters, marketing lead at Tokyopop. “I understand why there’s a lot of interest in machine translation as the technology progresses…but I think we’d all agree it’s got a long way to go. If you’ve ever run a Japanese book description through Google Translate, it’s a coin toss whether it’ll even be understandable.” And yet, she added, “I’m sure when the radio was invented, the idea of having moving images to go along with it sounded like science fiction, too.”

From the professional translator side, M defends the skills required by human translators in capturing the nuances of Japanese language and culture in manga storytelling. Manga is “filled with puns, jokes, cultural references, allusions, context-sensitive SFX (sound effects), callbacks, call-forwards, and unspoken nuance that all requires the deft touch of a fully bilingual human brain to parse, contextualize, reimagine, localize, and write,” M explains.

The pitfalls of shoddy translation were evident in the recent release, then quick removal, of Blic Publishing/Book Live’s first digital release of The Ranking of Kings by Sousuke Toka from e-book stores due to complaints about the translation quality, followed by similar complaints about Titan Comics’s release of Kamen Rider Kuuga. Manga fans are eager for more manga, but as their taste for a greater variety of subgenres grows, so do their expectations for the quality of what they’re buying.

Link to the rest at Publisher’s Weekly

“Totally Spies!” Webtoon Adaptation in Belgium while Anglophone publishers still think webtoon is a dirty word

From The New Publishing Standard:

The publishing and reading landscape is changing beyond recognition, yet many publishers are missing exciting opportunities thanks to their fixation with the twentieth century publishing model.

France and Belgium are of course the home of comics, superheroes aside, so it should come as no surprise that they are itching to embrace the webtoon model as it trends to mainstream in the west, after a decade or more of consolidation and expansion in the east.

Many western publishers are wary of the webtoon concept, because it follows the oriental style of reading vertically rather than horizontally, meaning standard western-format comics do not easily transfer to the webtoon system.

Belgium’s Editions Depuis sees that as an opportunity, not a problem, and has partnered with Banijay Kids & Family to turn the “Totally Spies!” franchise into a webtoon for the digital platform ONO.

From Kristin Brzoznowski at WorldScreen:

“Developed for digital smartphone reading, the vertical comic strips will bring the characters of Totally Spies! to a new medium. The webtoon will be available as a weekly serialization in French and available for foreign rights.”

Annick Bizet, new business and strategic alliances director at Banijay Kids & Family, explained:

“Webtoons offer a new and modern reading format for young audiences, and this project will ensure we continue catering to our audiences and the changing ways in which they consume their entertainment.”

Link to the rest at The New Publishing Standard

Here’s an example of part of a webtoon:

Comics Retailers Navigate a New Normal

From Publisher’s Weekly:

In 2022, the comics retail sector attempted to level out the roller-coaster track of the recent pandemic years. After a period of significant change in the industry, paired with record sales, many retailers expressed a desire for a return to normalcy this past year—and a continued uptick in revenue.

The sales gains have held for now, at the very least. Coming off the high-water mark of 2021, adult graphic novels still boasted a modest 4.6% sales increase in 2022, according to NPD BookScan, with YA comics sales rising a surprising 20%. Though kids’ and middle grade graphic novels dipped by 3%, the category is still up 29% over 2020. Overall, it was a welcome result.

Last year wasn’t just a good year for sales. Supply chain issues also improved dramatically, particularly on the manga front, and there was stabilization in single-issue comics distribution, even if it remained imperfect. However, word on the ground from retailers was that added workload, increasingly complex logistics, and a glut of product complicated the overall positive outlook.

PW’s annual comics retailer survey offers an anecdotal look into the comics retail landscape. We checked in with retailers at six comics outlets across North America, including from the direct market—a section of the industry comprising 3,000 or so independent shops that buy mostly nonreturnable stock at wholesale from direct-market distributors—and general bookstores with robust graphic novels sections. Owners and staff shared their thoughts on year-to-year performance, the titles and genres that ratcheted up sales, the impact of economic uncertainty and industry changes, and their projections and mood moving into 2023.

While nearly every bookseller PW spoke with is upbeat about the market, some comics shops dealt with a slight downturn on the single-issue comic side in 2022, with the broader graphic novel channel offsetting that dip. Sales there were driven by manga and adult graphic novels. Frustration was expressed, though, about navigating the rapid growth in output from publishers that rushed to capitalize on the hot market. Retailers contended with an overabundance of title options, including variant covers (a quirk of the comics market: alternative covers for single-issue comics designed for collecting purposes). Shoppers like choices, but stores had to gamble on what to stock, resulting in high variance in sales and lengthy ordering processes. The impact of economic uncertainty was also starting to be felt.

. . . .

Jenn Haines, the owner of The Dragon in Guelph, Ontario, sums 2022 up as “a bit of a weird one in retrospect.” That’s because shops saw that this year’s largely flat or improved performance came with associated costs. For example, Haines mentions that her two storefronts enjoyed a 13% sales increase over 2021, but that she also closed a third location “in a strategic move” in late August. Her lease was up at an outlet that didn’t grow her customer base as much as it segmented it. The savings on rent allowed her to renovate her flagship shop, a move that’s proved beneficial. “The business is stronger than ever, and 2023 has started just as strong,” Haines says, but “it constantly felt like I was fighting my way to the finish line.”

Others chimed in with similarly contrasting reports. They commented on the unique stress factors that came along with riding out boom times in an ongoing period of change. Everyone in comics retail continues to deal with the ripple effects of the past couple years.

Challengers Comics + Conversation, a comics shop in Chicago, saw sales increase in 2022, but co-owner Patrick Brower admits it took a toll. “It was the most stressful and hectic behind-the-scenes year I think we’ve ever had,” he says. This stemmed from changes in single-issue comic distribution. Challengers is now buying weekly product from five separate distributors, each of which uses drastically different invoicing systems. It takes five times as long as it used to, he explains, meaning the gains the store made came with significant increased workload.

Link to the rest at Publisher’s Weekly