The Boy Who Made Silence

Lately, it seems that I’m more interested in some of the creative marketing ideas small press creators are coming up with than with their comics themselves. Take, for instance, The Boy Who Made Silence.

The Boy Who Made Silence cover

It’s the first comic by Joshua Hagler, a painter who’s moving from fine art into creating a “serialized graphic novel”; this is promised to be part one of twelve (which may be overly ambitious for today’s market). A small-town boy becomes deaf after falling into a river, and the publicity talks about him gaining the ability to cause people to “switch places”, although that wasn’t indicated in the first issue I read.

On the other hand, maybe it was, and I just missed it. I didn’t understand a lot of what I read. I found a few of the painted images gripping, but taken as panels, I too often didn’t know what I was supposed to be looking at. The writing alternates between dialect and pretension. The book debuted at APE, which might have been the perfect place for it. At $6.50 for 38 pages, the author will likely have better luck selling it as an art object than a standard comic.

As part of the press kit that arrived with the review copy, he sent along a sheet of “Twenty Questions for the Author and Illustrator”. Some are obvious choices (“Where did you first get the idea? What are some of the other projects you have worked on? When will book two be available?”), but others invite the press to explore artistic motivations and character development. It was a cross between “interview made easy” and notes for a book club discussion. If he’d only included the answers, several PR comic sites would have had a whole article ready to go.


5 Responses to “The Boy Who Made Silence”

  1. Matthew Craig Says:

    “It was a cross between “interview made easy” and notes for a book club discussion. If he’d only included the answers, several PR comic sites would have had a whole article ready to go”

    Sounds great, but you wouldn’t want five identical interviews on five different sites, wouldja?

    //\Oo/\\

  2. Johanna Says:

    Well, that’s what happens with PR… cheap shot, I know.

  3. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » May 9, 2007: The itsy-bitsy spider Says:

    [...] Johanna Draper Carlson takes a short look at the first issue of Joshua Hagler’s The Boy Who Made Silence. (Above: sequence from the comic in question, ©2007 Joshua Hagler.) [...]

  4. Joshua Hagler Says:

    Hello Johanna and anyone reading this,

    I came across this post this morning, and though, as anyone probably would, I hoped for something more positive, I certainly respect your point of view on the book.

    I thought I would take advantage of the democratic nature of the web and make a short response to two points that were made in the article.

    First, the matter of contention regarding my self-promoting methods. The “20 questions” sheet that I sent in with the press kit is a very standard aspect of a press kit that was recommended to me by a friend in publicity to help in giving context and in giving the potential interviewer something to get the “juices flowing” if you will. Since there have been some interviews that followed and will soon be following from the review of the book in other periodicals, I have found that this has helped and I recommend that other self-publishers do it as well. Not only do I recommend the twenty questions, but I recommend any kind of self-promotion that will give you any amount of help in getting the word out about a self-published book.

    Self publishers do have only a small fraction of the resources of major publishers, and we’re forced to try extra hard to come up with creative ways of garnering any notice. Self-promoting can really make one self-conscious about their project, but it’s important to the future of the project.

    The second point I want to bring up is in response to this statement:

    “The writing alternates between dialect and pretension. The book debuted at APE, which might have been the perfect place for it. At $6.50 for 38 pages, the author will likely have better luck selling it as an art object than a standard comic.”

    For the record the book is priced at $5.95, but it’s not a big deal. I think I sent you an early press release before I changed the price to a lower one.

    Johanna is certainly correct in guessing that it probably won’t sell very well as a standard comic.

    First, it’s a self-published book that’s only been available for a couple of weeks. I’ve sold almost 500 copies of my 1000 copy inventory. That’s not very many.

    Second, The Boy Who Made Silence isn’t a standard comic, so trying to sell it as one would be a mistake. What I take issue with is forcing a dichotomy between “art object” and “comic book.” It is to imply that if one were to take interest in the former, one would not take interest in the latter, and vice versa.

    Though I may be making a slight stretch, the statement seems to imply that if you make something “dialectical” or “pretentious” it is better sold as an art object (because art objects are by definition pretentious.) It’s fair to say that the book is pretentious if that’s how you feel. But, for the record, I put everything of myself into this story (twelve issues.) It’s not for everyone. The first issue is slow paced and takes a lot of artistic license with the comic book medium. And I think it’s fair to say that it demands a lot of the reader. But my hope is that anyone who is willing to take their time with this book will find that it comes from an authentic place, and that it being a deviation from what’s thought of as a comic book is its virtue rather than its weakness.

    I don’t expect many people will read this, but if you’re out there, consider giving this a shot.

    I even have a few slightly damaged copies that I will send to anyone for cost of shipping if you contact me.

    Johanna, thank you for taking the time to write about it. I’ve recently signed a contract with a publisher (to be officially announced in San Diego), which will ensure the that the full story is published. I hope you will consider trying again at a later time.

    Thanks for the review for allowing me the use of the comments section.

    Josh

  5. Johanna Says:

    Thank you very much for sharing your viewpoint. I really appreciate it.

    I’m not criticizing the 20 questions, and I apologize if that wasn’t clear (probably because I wanted to take a cheap shot at some types of websites). I thought it was clever, and it’s great to see people using techniques from other areas to educate the comic press and readers. It’s a very good idea, and I do hope others follow your lead. It’s helpful in seeing what the author thought important about his/her work.

    If you’ve already sold 50% of your stock, bravo to you! That’s a good response. As for the “pretension” discussion, I think you might be reading a bit more into my words than I intended. I have several self-published works that I appreciate both as comic (story) and art object (format). I wouldn’t consider all art objects pretentious; I think sometimes distinction in that area is necessary to set oneself apart in an ever-more-crowded market.

    I second your comment, that anyone interested should check out the website and see for themselves.

    And congrats on the publishing deal! If you can say, will that be continued serialization or graphic novel release?

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