Bento Comics Combines Free Online Comics, User Customization

A talented group of young creators (many manga-inspired) has combined two online trends to create a brand new way of getting comics to readers. BentoComics.com has free webcomics to read, but they’ve taken it a step further — readers can choose their own entries to assemble into a customized anthology, printed on demand from Lulu.com.

The nine creators include Svetlana Chmakova (Dramacon, Nightschool), Leisl Adams, and Queenie Chan (The Dreaming, In Odd We Trust). Their mission statement runs like this:

BentoComics.com is created, coded and maintained by the In The Attic 6. We’re a group of artists, programmers, and designers who got tired of waiting for traditional publishers to deliver the comics anthologies we love to buy and read and so decided to MAKE OUR OWN, DAMMIT.

The plan overcomes one of the biggest problems with compilation books: content you’re not interested in or don’t care for. You only buy what you think is worth paying for (although be warned, some of the stories can’t be included in books). You can make a book anywhere from 32 to 740 pages, or split up the stories you like into different volumes.

Some caveats: I had big problems getting registered. All my tries using Firefox for Mac failed, so I had to switch to a different browser to get an account set up. Then, I couldn’t actually get the print-on-demand system to work. I set up a three-story book, the minimum size, and I wound up bailing on the processing page after an hour and it still wasn’t done. The page tries to warn you it takes a while, but it says, as part of sounding friendly, “take five”, which gives very much the wrong impression in terms of time length.

Prices are quoted at $2.00/book + $.04/page, which would make a 100-page anthology $6, a very reasonable price, but one that seems too low, given other POD projects I’ve seen. (Plus the cost of shipping, I imagine.) I can’t report on the price for my test book because I couldn’t get that far in the process.

On the plus side, you can search the site by keyword, genre, or age level or view listings by creator or title. I appreciate the material being clearly labeled and dated, so it’s easy to find what you’re looking for. And I love the cute touch of the navigation being foods, in keeping with the arranged lunchbox theme.


12 Responses to “Bento Comics Combines Free Online Comics, User Customization”

  1. Hsifeng Says:

    Does this remind anyone else of Personics? :)

  2. J. Kevin Carrier Says:

    I just tried the site out with Firefox on Windows Vista…I was able to register with no problem, and assembling a 32-page book only took a few minutes. So maybe it’s a Mac-specific issue, or just a random glitch?

    In any event, it’s an interesting idea. For the short stories, once I’ve read them online I’m not likely to want a print version, but I might purchase a collection of one of the longer serialized stories.

  3. Johanna Says:

    It could have been me blocking some cookie that it needed but didn’t say it did or something like that, too. Glad you didn’t have problems. How much did it quote you for your 32-pager?

  4. J. Kevin Carrier Says:

    $7.90. I don’t know if that includes shipping or not…I didn’t continue through to the Lulu checkout, since I was just testing it out. :)

  5. Johanna Says:

    Oh, wow, that’s more expensive than their quote suggests. That’s what I was worried about — their estimate is way off. And I thought superhero comics were expensive at $4!

  6. Rush relaunches, Marvel manga bite the dust « MangaBlog Says:

    [...] Draper Carlson test-drives the new Bento Comics website and finds a few [...]

  7. Thad Says:

    This is a neat damn idea. I’ve been arguing for more compilation books for some time now — of course, then I pick something like Nation X #4 up and realize I’ve just paid $4 for one really neat 8-page story and 32 pages I didn’t actually want.

    Course, there’s a definite value to finding something unexpected in an anthology and falling in love with it…but I suppose you could accomplish the same thing here by just rolling a die and throwing something in at random if you really wanted to.

  8. lys Says:

    I’m a fellow Mac user, but I use Safari. I just wanted to report that I had no problem registering on the Bento Comics site.

    The compiling-pages page took a long time for me too; the first time I tried ~104 pages and then got bored after about 20 minutes and quit; later on I tried it with 65 pages, and then forgot about the window and did some other browsing until I was surprised by an email saying it was ready. The price quoted was $9.10 plus shipping (for 65pg)… not $2/book+.04/page; but it does seem like the rate goes down with more pages.

  9. Johanna Says:

    Glad to hear the glitches weren’t widespread. Thanks for sharing more data!

  10. dee Says:

    Just wanted to thank everyone who commented above about BentoComics.com. Your observations helped us refine the info we had up about book prices, hopefully it’s easier to understand now. We appreciate you taking the time to comment! Any further questions/observations are very welcome at http://www.bentocomics.com/forum/

  11. Eisners, adult comics, and a stab at legitimacy | Paperless Comics Says:

    [...] Draper Carlson kicks the tires on the Bento Comics website [...]

  12. Slash Print | Following the digital evolution | Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources – Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment Says:

    [...] Johanna Draper Carlson tries out the Bento Comics website and finds a few glitches, although a commenter has an easier [...]




Categories:

Pages:



Meta:

Most Recent Posts: