As reported here at MajorSpoilers.com, Alterna Comics is hitting 2017 head on, with a new logo, a $1.99 price, throwback covers, and newsprint.
While the price and content will certainly be strong selling points, that last item is what caught my attention, so let me share my thoughts about that!
JUST WHAT IS NEWSPRINT?
For those of us around long enough to remember, pretty much every comic was printed on newsprint paper. It kept the price down and was part of what was considered “disposable” at the time.
But just what is it, exactly? For that, let’s go to Wikipedia at this link: “Newsprint is a low-cost non-archival paper consisting mainly of wood pulp and most commonly used to print newspapers and other publications and advertising material. Invented in 1844 by Charles Fenerty of Nova Scotia, Canada, it usually has an off-white cast and distinctive feel. It is designed for use in printing presses that employ a long web of paper (web offset, letterpress and flexographic) rather than individual sheets of paper.
“Newsprint is favored by publishers and printers as it is relatively low cost (compared with paper grades used for glossy magazines and sales brochures), strong (to run through modern high-speed web printing presses) and can accept four-color printing at qualities that meet the needs of typical newspapers.”
It’s particularly remembered for the comics section in the Sunday papers. People used to sit and read them by the hour, and the paper was part of that experience, not to mention comic books using it as well!
The thing about newsprint that made it rough on collectors was that it turned yellow to orange before too long, and that made illustrations that were already tougher to look at become even less enjoyable. That also meant it would continue to degrade pretty quickly, sometimes causing a comic to begin to fall apart easily.
What made readers unhappy was that it didn’t show the artwork well, often losing a lot of the detail.
All that’s what made glossier, whiter paper very popular. However, that paper stock is much more expensive.
That doesn’t mean newsprint is free, though. It still has a significant cost to it. In fact, one of the phrases often repeated at a major metropolitan newspaper I used to work for was, “We lose money with every copy of today’s paper we print.” Advertising sales, hopefully, cover those losses and push a publication into the positive side. Notice I said “hopefully.”
WHY GO BACK TO NEWSPRINT?
If you turn off collectors and readers, why create comics on newsprint?
Peter Simeti, Alterna’s publisher, said this: “When I fell in love with comics, it was an entire experience. The stories, the imagery, and the paper. There was almost nothing else like reading a comic book. It was a fragile thing, but durable at the same time. Printed on newsprint with a thin, but glossy, cover, you could roll the comic – not that you’d necessarily want to – and they were lightweight and had a floppy feel. The smell and feel of the pages is something that no longer occurs on the new comic book day release wall, yet it’s prevalent in back issue bins across the country. Our goal is to create a comic book that would ‘feel’ like it just came out of a shop from 30 years ago.”
There’s a lot of nostalgia associated with newsprint. It had a certain aroma to it. It was lighter, so several of them were easier to carry and store. When I bought comics printed this way, I also had no trouble cutting out pictures I liked or even throwing it away. There’s that word “disposable” again!
Collectors will have to bag and board these books almost immediately to keep the paper from degrading too much. But hey, they already do that for comics anyway!
WILL TODAY’S READERS WARM UP TO NEWSPRINT?
To those comic fans among us around for more than 30 years, this is something appealing. It reminds me of Doctor Who fans who disliked the “new” Who – the props and effects from the early seasons of the show were clunky, admittedly, but that was part of its’ charm. At first, many of the Whovians wanted to leave the slick new stuff behind.
I don’t hear that any more, however.
The challenge facing Alterna will be that likely the vast majority of today’s comics buyers have only seen the brighter white paper. Whenever the younger fans have come across things printed on newsprint, they basically hold up their nose and dismiss it.
So, are there enough of us “old” fans around to make this viable? I hope so, and I hope it will also attract younger readers who would be willing to give it a chance.
And that price means you can buy and read more comics! DC’s “Holding the Line at $2.99” initiative has been proving that for years now!
IT’S THE STORY THAT COUNTS
Of course, all this won’t matter if the stories are boring. Or if the characters are uninteresting.
What makes a comic worth buying and reading? A good story featuring intriguing characters, honestly. These things increase demand among fans, which feeds collectors’ interest.
If the paper makes a good book easier to buy, then I’m all for it! But please, please, please make it one worth reading!
What do you think about Alterna’s plans to use newsprint? Does it interest you, or are you turned off by it? Please share your thoughts in the space below!