Category Archives: Dig Comics

Dig Comics: Why Comics Matter

Columnist Miguel Cima, director/host of the award-winning documentary Dig Comics, looks at what makes comics so great, and what’s holding them back.

digcomicsIf you already read comics, I warn you, you are probably about to learn nothing new.

Don’t read comics? Well, take a quick gander.

There are reasons you want to read comics. A lot of reasons. Some of them will be deeply personal to you. Others will take into consideration the wellbeing of loved ones. Curiosity seekers will find a different sort of fulfillment. And your brain, oh your brain – that will be the happiest organ of all. Please, attend.

  1. You love MOVIES: Everybody loves stories. Human beings thrive on the telling and retelling of stories. For us modern apes, we get most of our non-community storytelling from movies and TV. And you know what I keep hearing over and over? Most people think most movies suck. The plots are stupid, the acting is bad, the writing is annoying. Oh, yeah, sure there are exceptions. But most of the time when you go out to spend $15 on a movie ticket (not to mention snacks & drinks), you come home disappointed. That’s because movies cost a LOT of money to make. So studios don’t take risks. They don’t trust artistry, and follow the same formulas over and over. Because they have millions of dollars to recoup. And they’d rather take a chance feeding you the same old crap instead of truly surprising you. Not so with comics creators. You see, for about $50, they can get all the paper and pencils necessary to do the deed – it’s just talent they need at that point. And then perhaps a few thousand to publish (yeah, it’s money, but not MILLIONS!). They can afford to be experimental, to offer unique visions, to tell those fresh stories you crave. IN FACT! – guess what? The stories are so cool, Hollywood is busy gobbling them up to make movies of them! Except that in most cases, the original comic is way better! So why wait? That same $15 for two hours is about the price of a trade collection which you can read again and again, usually about 200 pages of comics. And just as with movies – you can read about ANYTHING – so don’t feel like you have to be stuck with superheroes. Oh no, our world is far more than that.
  2. You love TV: You like long-form serial forms of entertainment. You know what I’m talking about. Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Lost, 24, Weeds, Spartacus, Downton Abbey, and on and on and on. You love that soap opera. You love extensive story, meticulous character study, cliffhanger after cliffhanger, week after week, month after month. Ooh can comics ever deliver on that front. Just as you anticipate each new episode of your show to see what happens next, so too can you look forward week to week to the next installment of your favorite series (well, month to month, mostly, but when you read enough, you can count on new stuff every week). Take The Walking Dead for example. They’re up to almost 115 issues! That’ll keep you busy for a while! And the writing is far better than it is on the show…
  3. You love your CHILDREN: Or you love some child in your life. Or just want to be surrounded by smarter kids. As was explained to us in our 2nd short film by Anastasia Betts, founder of Curriculum Essentials, a progressive educational consulting firm, the human brain processes images 20,000 times faster than it does text. The educational potential of comic books, especially on young, developing minds, is without limits. As Anastasia explains, “Thirty percent of our brain is devoted to visual processing.” Take that into account in the context of today’s world. She goes on, “We live in a world where visual literacy is and will continue to be critical to the survival and success of future generations.” In other words, as we have to deal with more smart phones, tablets, streaming and internet, learning critical thinking will require fluency in visual communication. This is brain food, people!
  4. You love your BRAIN: You don’t have to be a kid to expand your mind. As you grow older, in order to keep your mind spry, neurologists are telling us to do a bunch of different things. One of course is to keep reading. Puzzles and games have come into the picture, actually creating alternate neural pathways that allow additional conductivity to process information. And learning languages has been shown to increase cognitive abilities, even if you don’t get started until late in life. Well guess what? Comics offer all three of these things and more. The way they work is a different language than text, your brain putting together what happens between the panels is a puzzle, and you are reading, right? Even when a comic has no words, you are reading. Love your brain, people.
  5. Life sucks and is boring and you need COOLNESS: Look, why do we go to the movies, listen to music, read books, go running, eat dinner with the family, share drinks with friends, go snorkeling, play poker, knit, take long drives, walk the dogs, eat ice cream, go bird-watching, debate politics, watch football, skip rope, pick up the kids at school, go to Vegas, volunteer at a soup kitchen, skateboard, go shopping or make out with hotties? Because life sucks and is boring and you need coolness. You see, the only way that life doesn’t suck is when you are doing cool stuff. That’s the whole reason we do cool stuff. Because what else is life about? Just surviving? When you are just surviving, life sucks. God bless you if you have time to do something besides just surviving. Now, take advantage of that, and add comics to that list above. Comics are one of those things that stop life from sucking. Give ‘em a spin and try them out!

You comics readers still here? If so, then it’s YOUR job to help guide your non-reader circle towards stuff they like. Because if you recommend the wrong comics to the wrong people, then life sucks again. Need help recommending comics to a non-reader? Maybe you are only into superheroes and you need to offer up something else. Then try the Cool Comics page at the Dig Comics website. It’s small, but we will be adding more soon. Now go, go and help us change the world for the better…

Argentinean-born New Yorker and NYU film school graduate Miguel Cima is a veteran of film, television and music. He has worked for such companies as Warner Bros., Dreamworks and MTV. An avid comic book collector since he could read, Miguel began writing stories in 4th grade and has not slowed down since. He is a world traveler, accomplished writer, filmmaker, and comics creator. He is the writer, director and host of the award-winning documentary Dig Comics. Follow Dig Comics on Facebook. Read more of Miguel’s comic book recommendations.

Dig Comics: Exceeding Expectations

Columnist Miguel Cima, director/host of the award-winning documentary Dig Comics, looks at what makes comics so great, and what’s holding them back.

digcomicsI’ve been interviewing comics professionals for years now. That means creators, publishers, retailers, distributors, etc. And of course, I talk to comic book fans all the time. There’s always the same debate, running around the same old question: just how bad of a state is the comics industry in? The answer bounces all over the place. For many fans, the dedicated hobbyists who loyally show up every Wednesday, it’s not a thought they consider. The books they want keep showing up. They live inside their own consumer bubble, and so long as the fountain issues forth sequential refreshment, they show up and go about their business.

Amongst the professional class, the debate gets a bit more…iffy. I could say, on the whole, pros are weary of sluggish sales, not seeing the needle move too much. Most retailers especially feel the pinch. And why not? Something like 50% of comic stores have closed up shop in the last decade or so. Friends of mine who run stores often complain of their struggles. One owner I know has even taken a second job to make ends meet. An owner! As for creators, only the very top dogs in the game seem to be feeling fine. In 2007, Jeph Loeb contested outright my suggestion that comic readership is on a decline. And recent data, showing modest growth in recent months, has had comics journalists decrying any of the doomsayers predicting industry decline.

I can dig it. Any change in a positive direction is good. But what are we settling for? Let’s take a quick look at the numbers. Here’s 10 years of the comic book industry at a glance, in total annual sales for North America, according to John Jackson Miller’s The Comics Chronicles:

2003 $311 million
2004 $328 million
2005 $352 million
2006 $396 million
2007 $430 million
2008 $437 million
2009 $428 million
2010 $419 million
2011 $414 million
2012 $475 million

Adjusted for inflation, 2003 looks more like $385 million. Which isn’t that bad, I guess, a 23% jump in sales over a decade. Except that in that same time, the US population has jumped more than 10%. Is that a good figure for robust growth? Allow me to compare with the last 10 years of box office sales, according to Box Office Mojo, for the UNITED STATES – and not all of North America, as in the figures above:

2003 $9.2 billion
2004 $9.4 billion
2005 $8.9 billion
2006 $9.2 billion
2007 $9.7 billion
2008 $9.6 billion
2009 $10.6 billion
2010 $10.6 billion
2011 $10.1 billion
2012 $10.8 billion

Well, that’s only a 17% rise. But we didn’t count DVD’s, downloads, broadcast rights…and again, this was just US numbers, not all of North America. Not a fair comparison? Movies have so many more ways to make money, right? And they are so far better marketed. Besides, nobody reads these days anyway, right? I mean, what about books? They must sell worse than movies, right?

Well, while getting exact numbers from the book publishing business is not too simple, The New York Times reported that US book sales in 2012 were somewhere over $15 billion, increasing from around $14 billion in 2011. Yes, you read that right. Books do better than box office, people. So let’s get over this “people don’t read” nonsense. They do. And besides, comics are NOT strictly reading. They are much more than that, a visual medium first.

OK, so what’s my point here? First, comic books are outclassed in US sales by 20-40 times by their cousins, literature and cinema. Second, in light of the fact that comics fall squarely between these two medias, there’s no reason to believe we can’t find similar audiences for them. So when pundits get all high and mighty about a blip here, a good month there – forgive me if I don’t get too excited.

Comics were once ubiquitous in America, just like movies and books. They are just as worthy of public attention, in many cases, far cooler than what Hollywood dishes out. Expectations within the comics industry are always for slow growth. There seems to be little appetite for a serious push to explode the numbers into the billions.

Partially, this is a function of 70% of the market being controlled by two multi-media conglomerates, seemingly content to merely convert their comic trademarks into film, TV, video game, apparel and toy products. My dream is to stand before board meetings at Disney (who owns Marvel) and Time Warner (who owns DC) and ask a really stupid question: Would you guys rather see your comics publishing division sit around $500 million, or would you rather it hit the multiple billions?

Stupid question indeed. But the comics industry itself doesn’t seem to want to bring that up. Dig Comics does. Dig Comics seeks to exceed expectations and more. And we know that this change has to come from outside. People don’t read comics you say? Fine. Let’s bring them our world via film and TV – that’s where the eyeballs currently sit. Help us show America what they are missing. It’ll be good for education, for cultural enrichment, for intellectual growth – and even for the comics industry itself.

Let’s do this together.

Argentinean-born New Yorker and NYU film school graduate Miguel Cima is a veteran of film, television and music. He has worked for such companies as Warner Bros., Dreamworks and MTV. An avid comic book collector since he could read, Miguel began writing stories in 4th grade and has not slowed down since. He is a world traveler, accomplished writer, filmmaker, and comics creator. He is the writer, director and host of the award-winning documentary Dig Comics. Follow Dig Comics on Facebook. Read more of Miguel’s comic book recommendations.

Dig Comics: The $250,000 Question

Columnist Miguel Cima, director/host of the award-winning documentary Dig Comics, looks at what makes comics so great, and what’s holding them back.

digcomicsA lot of people have been asking why Dig Comics’ goal on Kickstarter is $250,000, mostly because they think that’s too much to ask for a comics documentary.

Well, here goes…

First of all, it’s not just our budget which is lofty, it is our mission: to get America reading comic books again. This is our sincere quest. This is what we have been fighting for for years. And we are up against a lot. Most of you know the parade of factors which killed the comics audience. The political demonization of comics which occurred in the 1950’s, marring their reputation in the public view to this day. The utter disappearance of comics from the marketplace, due to everything from distribution debacles to the speculation bubble. The unfortunate business decisions, one after another, over a period of decades, including self-censorship, the disposal of virtually every genre save one, and the nurturing of a fetishistic insular culture which discouraged “outsiders” from taking a look at comics.

All that and more add up to a VERY big mountain to overcome. And despite the best efforts from within the comics industry, one still to be conquered. So the only way this will get done is work from outside the world of comics.

Think about it for a second.

Ecotourism didn’t become a huge global business because scientists and activists published papers and gave seminars and appeared on talk shows to preach the virtues of environmental protection. It happened because passionate filmmakers made really cool nature shows and documentaries, in a really fun way, that offered a window to unexplored worlds. Snorkeling and scuba is so common now, every single tropical cruise ship has outings – a very lucrative business. And they can all thank Jacques Cousteau and his pioneering undersea films for that. African safaris got big after shows like Wild Kingdom exposed us to the Serengeti. Over the years, all that bloomed to entire networks like Discovery, National Geographic and Animal Planet. And then people go interested in actually checking these places out. This industry of exploration to unseen worlds have bloomed into everything from Amazon rain forest trekking to ice climbing in the Arctic. Truly, a transformative effort to say the least.

NONE of this came from tight little circles of like-minded interests. ALL of it came from well-produced, passionate, engaging, infectious audio-video pieces properly distributed on popular platforms. And they all cost a LOT of money to make.

There has been no shortage of comics documentaries. Many of them are very good. Most of them are done on shoestring budgets – and it shows. Yes, they can be very interesting – to me – but I already love comics. To folks who could care less, what are they seeing most of the time? Talking head interviews, some inserts, it can be pretty cool to those of us in the know. But how to reach beyond the converted? How will we get the casual non-comics-fan viewer to stop flipping channels and check out our work? Where will the buzz come from? What will get kids, guys, gals, moms, dads, bored construction workers, tired executives to offer us their eyeballs and their minds? It has to be more than JUST our passion.

Look, I’m not a comics professional. I can’t draw and haven’t broken in as a writer. But I am a filmmaker. And I know how to get people’s attention. Part of it has to be a compelling host, which people tell me, I can be. But again, think about it. If Anthony Bourdain did a cooking show where he just sat and talked to chefs in a room, occasionally showing us a plate of food, you think people would watch his show? Sounds BORING, right? But Bourdain never stands still. He takes his cameras to other cultures, introduces us to remarkable people in their restaurants, in their kitchens, in their cities and nations. And how about Michael Moore? You think a quick shot of him sending an angry letter to a corporate executive would have nearly the effect on a viewer that storming the headquarters of major multinational with a guy dressed as a chicken did? These guys travel places, with a professional crew in tow, with top notch filming equipment. Don’t take it for granted – the stuff looks good. Viewers stay put and pay attention because these filmmakers take their crews to awesome places, put resources into professional editing, pay hefty licensing fees to share relevant footage and images, and polish up the work in post production so it’s easy to absorb, pleasing to the eyes and ears.

And people – all that takes MONEY.

Look, if you want just another comics documentary that comics fans will get all giddy about and never reach outside our crowd, do me a big favor – don’t donate to us. We ain’t what you’re looking for.

But!

If you share our dream of seeing the American comics audience grow 2, 3 – 10 times bigger – then please, join us and give as much as you can. Dig Comics will be dynamic, offering wonderful visions from places like Japan and France where the comics scenes are as big as rock concerts. We have to go to New York and visit all those awesome people and places that helped comics come to life. We need to go to “America,” that place between New York and Los Angeles where comics are so invisible and see what happens when we engage the everyman with the world they are missing. Attractive elements like strong graphics, animated sequences and quality licensed footage and images will all help keep people’s attention. That is how films and TV find audiences. It’s just how it’s done. And I want to find new audiences for comics.

Last thought – the $250K we seek will be more like $190K after we lose Kickstarter’s cut and fund the rewards. The current budget offers reduced crew salaries and ZERO pay for myself. The budget is dedicated not to making us rich, but to creating something which will FINALLY make a difference in the sad state of affairs which is comics’ far-too-low position in popular culture. I hope you will help us make a difference.

Argentinean-born New Yorker and NYU film school graduate Miguel Cima is a veteran of film, television and music. He has worked for such companies as Warner Bros., Dreamworks and MTV. An avid comic book collector since he could read, Miguel began writing stories in 4th grade and has not slowed down since. He is a world traveler, accomplished writer, filmmaker, and comics creator. He is the writer, director and host of the award-winning documentary Dig Comics. Follow Dig Comics on Facebook. Read more of Miguel’s comic book recommendations.

Kim Thompson and Why I Dig Comics

Columnist Miguel Cima, director/host of the award-winning documentary Dig Comics, looks at what makes comics so great, and what’s holding them back.

digcomicsKim Thompson died yesterday.

I never met the man and outside of the comics community – even for most comic book fans – his name is largely unknown. Thompson was the co-publisher of a comic book company called Fantagraphics, and quite frankly, were it not for the work of him and his business partner Gary Groth, I may not have stayed a comics lover past my childhood. And consequently, there might not be Dig Comics – my film/TV project dedicated to getting America to read comic books.

I was an avid comics collector from the time I could read until the age of 16. Around that time, I started paying more attention to girls and “partying,” and “serious” film and literature. Those distractions came easy because up until then, comics meant nothing but Marvel superheroes to me. And I was getting bored. How many years could I sit through the same fights, the same characters who never grew old? There was no real danger. Characters never really changed. Even death was impermanent.

Naturally, maintaining the quality level of writing and art became less possible, as the brand managers could not allow most creators to stray from the “winning formula” of good and evil archetypes and standardized graphic design. Yes, of course, there have been writers and artists who distinguished themselves. But as time passed, those were less frequent. The unchanging nature of the superhero formula makes it tougher and tougher the longer it persists. So, by age 18, I had pretty much given up on comics.

But then, something unexpected happened. A friend began to introduce me to “alternative comics.” Of course, I resisted at first. Comics were superheroes, nothing more. And if the art didn’t look like Jim Starlin or John Byrne or Frank Miller, then why bother? But my friend kept pushing me. And quickly, I realized I had a whole new world before me. I was being offered stories about people I could relate to. Street kids looking for the next thrill; adults struggling with their love lives; “racy” humor that tested the borders of good taste; “serious” animal characters with real human philosophical questions; depressed and lonely people navigating a world they feel lost in. Many of these books had nothing fantastical about them. Some were way more far out than anything Marvel had ever produced.

And the art! What a range! Titles like Los Bros. Hernandez’s Love & Rockets would mostly stick to an almost Archie­­like deceptive simplicity, telling a character’s story with just a few lines of expression on a face. But then the mind-blowing Frank by Jim Woodring delved into images so surreal, my brain had to learn how to take it in – slowly. The whimsical curvy lines of Peter Bagge’s Hate had me laughing before I read a word of dialogue. And the pissed-off scrawl of Roberta Gregory’s Naughty Bits seethed its hilarious anger at me. And imagine – all this stuff was in black & white! Boy, I was growing up, I tell ya…

KimThompson-byLynnEmmert

Kim Thompson, with two Eisner Awards (photo by Lynn Emmert)

Kim Thompson helped bring all of these works to us and many, many more. For over 30 years he made sure that singular artists, creating their own vision in their own way, had a venue to strut their stuff. Characters grew old and died. Or only appeared once. Or whatever. Fantagraphics has always championed comics as an art form, rather than an intellectual property to be endlessly licensed and exploited. And in such an environment, readers have possibilities, new adventures, the chance to stretch the consciousness. I was no longer bored with comics. Kim Thompson had offered me a new way to see them.

But Thompson did much more than that. Having grown up in Europe, he translated, edited and published several works from places like France, Italy, and Scandinavia. Yes – another whole new world of comics, literally, came to my brain. Crime noir tales like Jacques Tardi’s West Coast Blues, Jason’s weird off-center anthropological Sshhh! And so many others, even manga from Japan. I’ll say it again – literally a world of comics, tirelessly nurtured and imported to my benefit and to the benefit of so many others.

And the funny thing is, Kim Thompson also started as a Marvel comics fan. In fact, his fan letters appeared in several letters columns as far back as the early 1970’s. He edited superhero fanzines. He wasn’t closed off to superheroes at all. In fact, it’s because of works published by Fantagraphics and so many other smaller publishers who expanded my comics horizon, that I can still enjoy the occasional superhero comic. Without them, I probably would never have stepped into a comic store again and there would be no reason for me to even consider making a film like Dig Comics. After all, Dig Comics is NOT about an insulated niche culture of hero fetishists. It’s about a great big world which EVERYONE can enjoy.

So thank you, Kim Thompson, for your part in my own growth and evolution. Jack Kirby and Stan Lee may have gotten me started on the path, but you really went a long way to making sure I continued the journey. May the next page you are now turning to be equally as rewarding. I look forward to humbly honoring your legacy.

Argentinean-born New Yorker and NYU film school graduate Miguel Cima is a veteran of film, television and music. He has worked for such companies as Warner Bros., Dreamworks and MTV. An avid comic book collector since he could read, Miguel began writing stories in 4th grade and has not slowed down since. He is a world traveler, accomplished writer, filmmaker, and comics creator. He is the writer, director and host of the award-winning documentary Dig Comics. Follow Dig Comics on Facebook. Read more of Miguel’s comic book recommendations.

Dig Comics launches Kickstarter campaign to promote comic books through documentary

DigComics-banner

Dig Comics Press Release PDF download

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 5th, 2013
Press Contact: Corey Blake
corey@digcomics.com
WWW.DIGCOMICS.COM

FROM AWARD-WINNING DIRECTOR MIGUEL CIMA

DIG COMICS

A DIG COMICS, INC. PRODUCTION

WINNER BEST DOCUMENTARY
SAN DIEGO COMIC CON
INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL

Kickstarter campaign to fund Feature Film version of award-winning short to launch June 5th, 2013, seeking goal by July 10th, 2013.

MOVIE CHRONICLES QUEST TO GET AMERICA READING COMIC BOOKS

An ambitious Kickstarter campaign launches today, June 5th, 2013, at
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1880292100/dig-comics to raise at least $250,000 for a feature length documentary that will promote comic books to mainstream America. After years of meetings trying to convince Hollywood networks, studios and production companies that comics deserve the spotlight, filmmaker/raconteur Miguel Cima is turning to the people for help in financing. Embracing the underdog appeal of comics, Cima calls on the converted comic fans and professionals to come together in making real a project that hopes to benefit the comics industry.

Comic books, an American original like jazz and baseball, were once as widespread, respected and loved as cinema, music and literature. But over the last several decades, comics have lost over 90% of U.S. readers. How did that happen? And how do we turn that around?

In the planned feature film, Cima chases the trail of comics’ struggle through history, and reaches for new ways to get America to once again DIG COMICS.

Employing a lighthearted, fun-loving documentary style, Miguel exposes a new audience to the rich artwork, fascinating people and moving tale of comic books in America. Part Anthony Bourdain, part Michael Moore, Miguel shares his infectious passion with his viewers, while challenging people on screen and off with experiments, diatribe and stark images which will make people laugh as they cheer on for the cause of comic books!

BACKGROUND

Before a series of very public congressional hearings in the 1950’s, comic books were as ubiquitous and popular as movies and music. Demonized by politics and propaganda, the industry saw a steep decline in readership, compounded by a subsequent series of poor business practices which fractured distribution systems and erased market awareness for comics.

But during all those years, there have not only been unsung Picassos and Van Goughs working tirelessly in the field – a New Golden Age of comics is happening RIGHT NOW under America’s very nose. DIG COMICS will get these people recognized and turn on generations new and old to just what they are missing.

To get to the heart of the matter, DIG COMICS will start by traveling to New York – the very spot where the comic book industry came to life. It is largely a story of the children of Jewish immigrants during the turn of the last century, forging an art form literally with their own hands, impacting the world with some of the most iconic characters of all time. Still the home of the biggest comics publishers in America, DIG COMICS will speak to the people working in the epicenter of the comic universe to shed more light on where comics have been – and where they are going.

The story continues overseas in France and Japan, where comics culture is big business, and comics artists are treated like rock stars. Comic cons in those places dwarf the size and attendance of our own famous San Diego Comic Con. All this despite populations half the size of the U.S. and even smaller. What’s different about the comics culture in these places? How has history been kinder to them so far from their birthplace? DIG COMICS will take their cameras there and find out.

DIG COMICS – the feature film – is only the first salvo in a larger comic book revolution. Starting with the award-winning short, this ongoing project has captured the attention of many producers and luminaries including The Uslan Company, Edward James Olmos and Dark Horse Entertainment. Having pitched the project to dozens of producers, networks and studios, DIG COMICS has chosen Kickstarter to finance the next stage of the project, while building an audience towards boosting the next round of development.

Miguel Cima could not be more sincere in his quest and love for comics. As far as he’s concerned, DIG COMICS will only be successful if it helps turn around the audience decline and elevate comic books THEMSELVES – not just the movies, TV shows, toys and video games – to a place in our culture closer to movies, music, and books. The revolution has begun!!!

FEATURING:

Sergio Aragones
Peter Bagge
Stephen Christy
Dame Darcy
Anthony Del Col
Rick Geary
Gary Groth
James Kochalka
Erik Larsen
Paul Levitz
Jeph Loeb
Conor McCreery
Terry Nantier
Mike Richardson
Trina Robbins
Stan Sakai
Scott Shaw!
Jeff Smith
James Sturm
Carol Tyler
Michael Uslan
…and many more to come…

BIOGRAPHY
MIGUEL CIMA (Director/Writer/Host): Argentinean-born New Yorker, living in Los Angeles, Miguel is a graduate of New York University’s Film School. A seasoned world traveler, prolific writer and filmmaker, his original short version of DIG COMICS won Best Documentary at the San Diego Comic Con Independent Film Festival and was an official selection at 15 more: Cannes, Vancouver, LA New Filmmakers, and more. Miguel is a veteran of the entertainment industry having worked at Warner Bros., Dreamworks, MTV and on several films. His work has received positive press in The Los Angeles Times, NPR, Ain’t It Cool News, Comics Alliance, and many others. He has been reading and collecting comics since he was 3 years old.

Dig Comics: Feature-Length Challenges

Columnist Miguel Cima, director/host of the award-winning documentary Dig Comics, looks at what makes comics so great, and what’s holding them back.

digcomicsAs we prepare for the next stage of Dig Comics, we’ve been asked to describe how we will overcome the challenges of filming the feature. I had a tough time answering that because all filming presents the same challenges. Nothing seemed special in my first few responses. But then I realized, this isn’t about filming at all. It’s about the mission. It always has been. Surely, this is no get-rich-quick scenario. My whole premise is that comics has far too low of an audience. As you can imagine, that’s left a gaping hole in my pitches. After all, who wants to finance a project with a dwindling core audience? So it occurred to me that the real issue isn’t about film at all. It’s really about comics, my life-long commitment to them, and my unstoppable desire to give something back to this wonderful, under-appreciated art form. And here’s what I came up with:

DigComics-shoot

Miguel Cima on-camera

For the last seven years, our crew has been working passionately to bring DIG COMICS to a wider audience, most of us working regular office day jobs outside of the entertainment industry, spending our evenings, weekends and holidays laboring to make our goal a reality. We’ve had to juggle everything from film permits, to logistics, to scheduling, and of course – the unexpected. It’s always a matter of preparing as best you can, combined with quick thinking, holding a seasoned crew close at hand to draw from their own hard-earned lessons. So far, we’ve only filmed in Los Angeles and San Diego, pretty much our back yard. The future holds the same sort of challenges with a new twist: extensive travel to places none of us have worked in before.

There will be cultural differences, language barriers, the hazards of working in highly urbanized areas, different expectations and the knowledge that there will be no chance for reshoots down the road. Unlike Los Angeles, we can’t simply come back and film another day. Our budget is skin tight, affording none of us the luxury of quitting the day job.

So there will be no second chances – it all has to work on the first go-around. That’s where a little magic has to come in, magic supported by wide open senses and a deep faith in the core truth of what we are chasing down. Some of our best moments have already come on our most disastrous days, at times from elements added at the last moment, or by a whim of fate.

DigComicscrew

The Dig Comics film crew (left to right): Chris Brandt, Stanley Gonzales, and Justin Talley

Our love of comics and our determination to fulfill our mission attracts great happenstance. This is said with all sincerity – the love for what we do produces opportunities. Our willingness to accept an unforeseen change of plan will leave room for providence to materialize. We have learned to be organized and confident enough to let it all go at a moment’s notice and flow with the stream. So far this approach has taken us very far, but we now realize to continue this journey, we need YOU to come along with us.

We look forward to our most difficult days with great anticipation, as they will produce our very best work. DIG COMICS has a life of its own: we are not its creators, but its partners. We work in that spirit, combining our discipline and diligence with reverence for the powers beyond our sight which accompany us in everything we do.

Argentinean-born New Yorker and NYU film school graduate Miguel Cima is a veteran of film, television and music. He has worked for such companies as Warner Bros., Dreamworks and MTV. An avid comic book collector since he could read, Miguel began writing stories in 4th grade and has not slowed down since. He is a world traveler, accomplished writer, filmmaker, and comics creator. He is the writer, director and host of the award-winning documentary Dig Comics. Follow Dig Comics on Facebook. Read more of Miguel’s comic book recommendations.

Dig Comics: Why We Fight

Columnist Miguel Cima, director/host of the award-winning documentary Dig Comics, looks at what makes comics so great, and what’s holding them back.

digcomicsFor the last several years, I’ve been working on my documentary film and TV project, Dig Comics. The idea is simple: I’m pissed off that comic books, that wonderful art form deserving of the same stature and praise received by film, music, literature and television is virtually ignored by the American public. And that just has to change. It is the mission of Dig Comics to reintroduce the US to this vital, unique medium to the greater part of the country who aren’t even aware of the national treasure they are sitting on. And we also need to energize the core fan base for comic books to join us in a call to action, to become the emissaries and taste-makers for a whole new generation of readers. It’s time we all came into the sun and share our knowledge, our passion, and help nourish a dying industry along with the great many who could benefit from the awesome experience that comic books offer. Dig Comics has a plan for how to get this done – and a damned good reason why it MUST be done.

We live in a time of incredible work being created out there – truly a second golden age for comic books – and yet we are letting our Van Goughs fade away into obscurity, toiling away for tiny audiences, all the while producing art worthy of the greats. Of course, not every comic book is great, but neither is every song great. Would you not still want to introduce your friends and family to MUSIC? Imagine they never heard music! Would you not feel like you were robbing them if you didn’t push some into their ears? So it should be with comics! While comics has many fanatical adherents (like me), there are few (if any) casual readers. You go ask your neighbors when the last time they saw a movie was. Some might say they see five movies a week. Other might watch one or two movies a month, or even just a year – but they ALL watch movies. And listen to music, even read books despite all the premature reports of the death of literacy. But comics? Those same neighbors are more likely to have not read a single comic book in years, decades or maybe never. And an industry can’t really thrive with a handful of adherents. And too many are blind to the wonderful things comics offer. So what are we going to do about it?

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Dig Comics animation spot by Scott Shaw!

Well, first we need to understand why this happened. It wasn’t always this way. Comics once had a huge audience in America. But a string of bad luck and poor decisions contributed to a steady decline. Many of these are well known. The publication of Seduction of the Innocent by psychologist Fredric Wertham, a book directly tying juvenile delinquency with the reading of comic books, delivered at the height of the paranoid McCarthy era. The subsequent Senate hearings where comics were very publically demonized in a very serious setting on the national stage. These were followed closely by comic book burnings, and public outcry. On the defensive, comic book publishers self-imposed its own censorship mechanism, further creating the image of a dangerous product in need of regulation. The people running the business side of things didn’t help much either. Bad choices on everything from pricing to distribution models and the nurturing of an insular fetish culture by top professionals made comics become less available and accessible as the decades wore on. There are a lot of stories like these and more which help explain why America turned its back on its own creation. We must tell them, and always seek the details to more fully see the picture.

But we also have to understand those other places in the world, those places where comic books DO enjoy a wide popular audience. We have to understand countries like France and Belgium, where comic artists are treated like rock stars, their names as famous as Kanye West, Steven Spielberg or J.K. Rowling. You can go to stores in Paris and find palettes of graphic novels, selling by the dozens at $50 each, being picked up by businessmen, old ladies and elementary school kids. There are public subways commissioned by the government to be designed by their artist, large museums and a comic convention twice the size of San Diego. On the other side of the planet, Japan does 5-10 times the sales of comics as the US, a multi-billion dollar business, yet with only half the population. Their creators are honored by statues of their creations in public parks, and one of the most popular reality shows in the country, starring one of the biggest artists they ever produced.

And perhaps most important – we have to show people what we have going on right here at home. We need to expose the great American works being produced by the great artists of our times. And superheroes are just the beginning. There are comics for everyone. Let us share our masters of horror. Let us tell tales of the great autobiographical graphic novels, rendered by some of the greatest storytellers of our times, sharing their experiences of ordinary life. Bring your teachers along to delve in the heady works of history, journalism, politics and even science drawn with loving hands, transmitting knowledge in a unique way. Help your friends escape into countless worlds of fantasy, science fiction, suspense and more. It’s all here in the comics, kids. All you need is someone to show you where to fish for it. And Dig Comics will do this for you – along with all the comics fans out there who share our cause and do their part in spreading the word.

ComicBookyplugsinHow will Dig Comics do this? By providing fun, entertaining & informative content to comics fans and non-fans alike. We’ve already started. Our short film won Best Documentary at the San Diego Comic Con (watch it here at DigComics.com). And we’ve done more filming since. We’ve been trying to get the short developed into a TV show – the perfect platform for our mission. So far, we haven’t been able to get there, so we’re switching gears and taking matters into our own hands. I’m announcing here that Dig Comics will be made as a feature film. How will we do this? Well, that’s another announcement – one we will make in a few short weeks. And when the time comes, we will ask for your help in the effort. But once the film is made and we prove that we can bring an audience to the project – then we’ll get a show going, and much more as well. Dig Comics envisions multiple interactive platforms to help organize fans and pass the torch to the people. It’s a new century, people, and comics are on deck for a serious comeback. Let us work together so that names like Kirby, Hernandez, Eisner and Clowes are just as well-known as John, Paul, George and Ringo. I promise, we will make it fun for all. Come with us America, come with us and DIG COMICS!

Argentinean-born New Yorker and NYU film school graduate Miguel Cima is a veteran of film, television and music. He has worked for such companies as Warner Bros., Dreamworks and MTV. An avid comic book collector since he could read, Miguel began writing stories in 4th grade and has not slowed down since. He is a world traveler, accomplished writer, filmmaker, and comics creator. He is the writer, director and host of the award-winning documentary Dig Comics. Follow Dig Comics on Facebook. Read more of Miguel’s comic book recommendations.

Dig Comics: Graphic Conflict in the Middle East

Columnist Miguel Cima, director/host of the award-winning documentary Dig Comics, looks at what makes comics so great, and what’s holding them back.

digcomicsThis week’s insane almost-banning of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis by some dingbat school principal in Chicago once again put into spotlight the banal efforts of the prudish class of officials who have threatened the arts. And rightly so. The short-sighted, narrow-minded policy against exposure to the arts is not only stupid, it’s counter-productive. Now every kid will want to read Persepolis if only to read Marji’s tirade of naughty words hurled against the rotten people of her life. This is a good vehicle to raise the profile of comics in America and brings to mind a wave of works we have seen over the last decade which cover the seemingly endless conflicts in the Islamic world. While this notion almost always conjures up visions of “East vs. West” or religious war, the more honest truth is a look at nations and peoples struggling internally against one another to define what they want their part of the world to be. And fortunately, comics are providing some of the greatest windows into these lives.

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The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

The aforementioned Persepolis is a great place to start. The uber-popular autobiographical work follows Satrapi’s life from a decent middle class lifestyle as a big city gal living in Tehran, sharing how her family and friends nervously watched their international metropolis degrade into the seat of a theocratic power. Watching otherwise normal modern cosmopolitan urban dwellers having to morph into purveyors of secret liquor parties and veiled second class citizens was disheartening enough, but following Marji’s journey as an expat in Europe, where her parents send her as a teenager to escape oppression in the land they love is simply devastating. Satrapi’s style is simple and expressive, falling easily into a traditional cartooning style, yet always delivers explosive moments which border between scary and absurd. Far from fitting the almost uniform stereotype of the jihad-crazy suicide bomber, Persepolis offers a window into the far more unsettling reality: most people in Iran feel as trapped by madness as anyone fearing a terrorist attack might be.

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Zahra’s Paradise by Amir & Khalil

More recently, the less known Zahra’s Paradise, originally a webcomic, offered a fictional account via real-life composite of the recent 2009 “Green Revolution” uprising in Iran, where a true grass roots popular democratic movement rose and fell with a stunning and brutal crash. Co-creators Amir & Khalil tell the harrowing stories of a cross-section of Iranians trying to find friends and family caught up in the arrests, jailing, tortures and disappearance of a multitude of activists during that time. Harrowing and sometimes incredibly harsh, the story is a no-holds-barred look at a despotic oppressive regime whose very bureaucracies seem engineered to chew the population up (one stunning image of the Ayatollah literally being fed Iranians directly into his mouth via conveyor belt totally captures it). Evoking elements of Carol Lay, Nate Powell and even Art Spiegleman, the line between realism and artistic license is balanced in such a way to make for a grueling and rewarding read.

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A Game for Swallows: To Die, To Leave, To Return by Zeina Abirached

Meanwhile, over in Lebanon, things aren’t going much better for the characters in Zeina Abirached’s A Game for Swallows: To Die, To Leave, To Return. This lovingly-told tale of how life in the 15-year civil war dominating Beirut somehow became “normal” for the young author becomes a testament to the human spirit. Caught in the carnage of bombs, snipers and demilitarized zones – defined literally block by block in this former “Paris of the Middle East” – the cohesion of the family and neighbors evoke the deepest sense of humanity as they struggle to survive the most uncertain of futures. Abirached’s heavily inked whimsical images push the mind into giving the characters a degree of animation which seems to pull the reader closer in. Then there are the powerful early panels where a schematic of the neighborhood is laid out like a perverse board game, showing the different places you have to run, jump, hide and duck in order to make it down a few blocks without being shot, bombed, or otherwise killed or wounded. But even the idea of a whole apartment building combining resources to keep a single refrigerator running becomes an epic triumph of the spirit. It’s really quite eye-opening.

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The Photographer: Into War-torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders by Emmanuel Guibert and Didier Lefevre

Finally, there’s The Photographer: Into War-torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders, the posthumous fumetti/graphic novel by the late photographer Didier Lefevre and artist Emmanuel Guibert. Working in the 1980’s in post-war Afghanistan, Lefevre had joined Doctors Without Borders to chronicle their efforts to bring medical aid to the poor rural victims of war deep in the heart of that nation. His personal written account, combined with his photos of the events as they happened, are cleverly paired as panels alongside Guibert’s original art to help graphically fill in the gaps of the photographer’s story which he was unable to capture on film.  The final work provides a gripping chronicle of conflict made all the harder to feel detached from because you actually see the faces of the injured, the sick, the dying. The juxtaposition of the artist’s drawings telling an emotional tale against the stark images of impossible moments in time create a uniquely haunting picture of what it means to live ever under the threat of violence and death.

While the politics behind the events these books all touch upon are obviously part of the story, what really binds them is the humanity behind what all-too-often is treated in an abstract way by those of us living a world away from these conflicts. I can easily see how in another dimension not far removed from our own, these could easily be tales from New York, Miami, and Kansas. Reading these works, I often forgot all the religious and political issues driving the conflicts, and just thought – man! That could be my family. That could be my street. These people were not Arabs, or Persians, or folks of the rugged Asiatic steps. They were people. It is a testament to each of the artists that their books have brought to the reader the reminder that there is a universality to the human story. I hope these wonderful works help bring that sort of understanding to us all.

Argentinean-born New Yorker and NYU film school graduate Miguel Cima is a veteran of film, television and music. He has worked for such companies as Warner Bros., Dreamworks and MTV. An avid comic book collector since he could read, Miguel began writing stories in 4th grade and has not slowed down since. He is a world traveler, accomplished writer, filmmaker, and comics creator. He is the writer, director and host of the award-winning documentary Dig Comics. Follow Dig Comics on Facebook. Read more of Miguel’s comic book recommendations.

Dig Comics: Conversion Conversation

Columnist Miguel Cima, director/host of the award-winning documentary Dig Comics, looks at what makes comics so great, and what’s holding them back.

digcomicsMy girlfriend and I will mark our ninth anniversary this week. From the day I got to know her, I figured we had a shot at the long haul. Like me, she is an artist (singer, writer) and we both value many of the same aesthetics and spirituality. Of course, she never really bargained for comics. Like so many more we may know, this lovely gal was well on her way towards becoming the stereotypical comic book widow. We know what she looks like: a grown lady, trying to have a life with a slob who can’t stop amassing colorful bound paper, dodging stacks of Spider-Man here, sitting on action figures (NOT dolls!) there. The poor thing could have been facing an eternal labyrinth of Batman posters, Thanos sculpts, Hulk gloves, all laid ceremonially about dozens upon dozens of short white cardboard boxes, the product of decades of packratery. And in fact, to some degree, this has become her life. Except for one very important exception: this woman was able to come to love comics.

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The Walking Dead, Volume 1: Days Gone Bye by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore

Two things allowed her to escape this fate. The first: she was cool. She dug good music, poetry, cinema, etc. Like me, her tastes were vast and eclectic, with a touch of nerd, and always with hunger for more. Second: I might have been a comics geek, but I wasn’t JUST a fan boy. Sure, I used to be. “Make Mine Marvel” is a pretty good summation of the first 10 years or so of my serious collecting years (I was so young). But by the time we met, I had tapped deep into the well of “other” comics. It didn’t happen overnight. But slowly, she found her bearings. Being a fan of horror films and true crime stories, she began to pick up titles like The Walking Dead, Crossed, Criminal and Stitched. Loving strong human dramas, she’s now into some gekiga manga, especially the works of Tezuka like Buddha and Message to Adolf. And of course, a lot of American alternative stuff like Carol Tyler’s You’ll Never Know and Backderf’s My Friend Dahmer. Had she found nothing but guys in capes beating each other up, this probably would never have happened. But now, when I bring home the books on Wednesdays, she is more eager than me to burn through the pile, and is most often ahead of me as she reads way faster than I do.

But like I suggested earlier, this is often the exception and not the rule. Take for example, my buddy Tyler. His wife is totally a comics widow. Her house has been littered with cosmic Gauntlets, never-ending Crises, the deaths of superheroes, the inevitable resurrection of said superheroes, clones, alternate universes, snikts, bamfs, thwips, booms, bangs and pows. And the vast majority of this work is industrially produced, 70-year old legacy brands driving the impenetrable soap opera addiction, managed trademarks rarely allowed to be created with the free hand of individual vision. And besides – it’s always the same thing. Buff boys and big breasted babes fighting, betraying, switching sides, unlocking box within box of subplot…even for the dedicated, it’s a lot of energy.

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You’ll Never Know, Book One: A Good and Decent Man by C. Tyler

The thing is – Tyler’s wife is totally reachable, just like my gal. But only if we can find something that will appeal to her. I had never met Kari before – or Tyler – back when I filmed them for my second Dig Comics short film. We had been pals on Facebook, and met up at the San Diego Comic Con. My challenge was simple: find Kari a comic she would like. She was quite skeptical. So I talked to her for 15 minutes, got a vibe for her. Kari was very much a salt-of-the-earth blue collar mom. She spoke to me for her love of biographies, and her fondness of books that tug at the heart. We mosied on up to the Fantagraphics booth and in about 30 seconds, I put the aforementioned Carol Tyler’s You’ll Never Know in front of her. An autobiographic tale of one woman’s quest to keep her crumbling family together while simultaneously poking at her father, trying to get him to open up about his experiences in World War Two, it is a warm, wonderful tear-jerker, with art that’s friendly and light, at once humorous and familiar. Carol’s sincerity and courage flow off the page, exposing her flaws, fears and fights to the audience. Kari LOVED it. And she loved meeting Carol, a surprise I pulled for the cameras.

So, when facing Dig Comics’ core mission of expanding comics readership in America, we are affronted with a conundrum: at the same time we need comics enthusiasts to actively convert family and friends into comics fans, most of these comics enthusiasts have little knowledge of the types of comics which could appeal to those who frankly don’t give a rat’s ass about superheroes. I’ve had the practice for a while of making all gifts – birthdays, holidays, etc. – the gift of comics. For my mom, it’s always easy. She grew up loving certain types of works, mainly humor and drama. For her, I could turn to Dennis The Menace, Nancy, The Rabbi’s Cat, Will Eisner’s stuff. But she would never read Wolverine or Hellboy or Superman. My brother was tougher – he’s into sports – but I still found some stuff like Golem’s Mighty Swing and the Roberto Clemente biography. For my dad, P. Craig Russell’s adaptations of opera, like The Magic Flute, did the trick. It’s a fun exercise which I enjoy.

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Irredeemable by Mark Waid and Peter Krause

And I think that if we want to see more Americans reading comics, then we ALL need to preach the word. But it’ll never work if we can’t leave the superhero comfort zone. To the fanboy I say this: with great power comes great responsibility. We NEED you to do this good work and spread the love of comics around. Not only that, consider it a voyage of discovery for yourself. Your TV and movie habits aren’t 100% superheroes. You like comedy, terror, history – why not consume that stuff in comics too? You’ll be doing your friends, family and YOURSELF a favor. Give it a shot. And here’s the epilogue: slowly, but surely, my girlfriend is checking out superheroes. She’s already read the entire run of Irredeemable and I’ve put the Spider-Man Ditko omnibus in her hands. She’s asked me more than once to explain why Kirby’s art is important. Fellas, imagine your future with that super geek gal you helped mold. All it takes is a little sweat up front that will make your comics world bigger, and the world of comics audience stronger.

Argentinean-born New Yorker and NYU film school graduate Miguel Cima is a veteran of film, television and music. He has worked for such companies as Warner Bros., Dreamworks and MTV. An avid comic book collector since he could read, Miguel began writing stories in 4th grade and has not slowed down since. He is a world traveler, accomplished writer, filmmaker, and comics creator. He is the writer, director and host of the award-winning documentary Dig Comics. Follow Dig Comics on Facebook. Read more of Miguel’s comic book recommendations.

Dig Comics: Comic Book Frame Job – The Case for a Museum Movement

Columnist Miguel Cima, director/host of the award-winning documentary Dig Comics, looks at what makes comics so great, and what’s holding them back.

digcomicsA couple of weeks ago, I was filming Michael Uslan for the upcoming Dig Comics Kickstarter campaign (stay tuned). Besides being the man who brought all the Batman and Dark Knight movies to the big screen, Michael has also long endeavored to bring legitimacy to comics as a serious medium. Understanding what comics needed to flourish as an accepted mainstream art form, Michael successfully created the first accredited college course for comic books in the early ’70s at Indiana University. I asked him about that, and the subject of comics museums came up. Michael was also involved in bringing a comics exhibition to the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, another awesome achievement, but what becomes more elusive is a strong, permanent network of comics arts museums. To be sure, in larger cities, temporary exhibits have flourished. Even the Louvre in Paris had one a few years back, and Dig Comics was lucky enough to film an awesome exhibit of the work of the great Stan Sakai at the Japanese American Museum at the end of 2011 here in Los Angeles (stay tuned for some of that, too). But unlike painting, natural history and science, most big cities just don’t seem to have the space for permanent museums dedicated to sequential art. There are, of course some important exceptions. Let’s check a few out.

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Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art

Starting in New York City – the birthplace of the modern comic book – we turn to the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art. Except, we don’t. That’s because back in 2011, after a decade of service, the museum had to close its doors due to inability to raise enough donations. It’s a shame really that the city itself never thought to institute a dedicated space for the celebration of this homegrown medium, but oh well. The good news is that MoCCA’s collection was acquired by the Society of Illustrators, and can be seen, combined with the society’s own collection, under one roof on the upper east side. This is pretty cool, but there’s always been a downside to the idea of a comics museum. How do you properly display what is often such small art into a public forum with which attendees can easily engage with them? Just hanging them up on walls seems to fall flat – literally – which brings me to the next museum, one which has customized its display design to more properly fit this unique form.

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Le Musée de la Bande Dessinée

Over in Angouleme, France is Le Musée de la Bande Dessinée – which is appropriate as that same city is home to the world’s largest comic book convention (where is your comic museum, San Diego?). A cursory look at the layout of many of the permanent exhibits shows an intelligent ambiance for the study of comic art. Laid out under glass, set at draftsman’s angles, one has the chance to lean in and look at original pages more in the manner that they were created, and most often read. Unlike a painting, which was always meant to hang on a wall, comics are supposed to be just under your nose as you lean over. It’s a simple but clever device the museum has employed in order to offer attendees a chance to experience the original art in a more natural manner – save perhaps holding the pages in your own hands, but then they would get all covered up with cappuccino stains.

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The Belgian Comic Strip Center

Just one nation over in Belgium, another museum has taken things to a different level and made a really grand space and experience for comics lovers. The Belgian Comic Strip Center in Brussels occupies a fantastic Art Nouveau building – a testament to a nation that feels this art form deserves fancy digs – and has really gone all out to ensure the museum-goers are literally immersed in the world of sequential art. Employing an invigorating mixture of blown up art, props, dioramas and original art, this place really brings the drawings to life in a special way, viscerally communicating the power of the medium. It’s got a reading room for kids, and super clever displays, both in its permanent and temporary exhibits. Kids will love it and adults will be drawn into another world. A veritably intoxicating atmosphere.

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Cartoon Art Museum

Back here in the U.S., another important function of the modern museum – the mission of preservation – is found to be alive and well in Fog City. The Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco allots a great deal of its resources towards this end. They have vital programs such as sponsoring artists-in-residence, traveling exhibits and outreach. Of great import is a focus on American artists. Not limiting themselves to domestic works, its nevertheless a crucial component to the museum’s efforts, just as the French and Belgian institutions might focus a bit more on their own sequential heritage. Again – comics are American after all. Nice to have at least one place take that seriously.

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Kyoto International Manga Museum

But over in Japan, they take their comics very seriously. If you don’t believe me, just take a gander at the Kyoto International Manga Museum, in that nation’s former capital city. This place is a full-on research and preservation institution, dedicated not only to art displays, but a real education on the history of the art form. Their “What is Manga” permanent exhibit is a robust interactive pathway focusing more on the published works as artifacts than original art. And their famous “Wall of Manga” is 200 meters of Japanese comics – 50,000 of them! – all in one room covering an area bigger than two American football fields. And guess what? You can just walk in there, pull them off the wall, and read them. Now all I have to do is learn Japanese and I’ll be set. Imagine I had such an option in English.

One last offering is currently a pipe dream, but it sure is an exciting one. Over in China, the proposed Comics and Animation Museum in Hangzhou really levels up in the design department. Made to resemble word balloons, the concept art for the space is mouth-watering: walking around inside a bubble space with giant blow-ups of art literally enveloping you panoramically. It’s hard to say right now what that experience will be like – there seems to be more of a focus on screening anime – but it’s too early to tell because no one has been there. After all, it hasn’t been built yet.

And speaking of not having been there yet – full disclosure – I have not attended a single one of these museums. So thanks for letting me write this column. I’ve now done the research to enrich my own life with a whole new way of engaging in the experience of comic books. Now, off to play the lottery with the hope that I can find a way to do all this traveling…

Argentinean-born New Yorker and NYU film school graduate Miguel Cima is a veteran of film, television and music. He has worked for such companies as Warner Bros., Dreamworks and MTV. An avid comic book collector since he could read, Miguel began writing stories in 4th grade and has not slowed down since. He is a world traveler, accomplished writer, filmmaker, and comics creator. He is the writer, director and host of the award-winning documentary Dig Comics. Follow Dig Comics on Facebook. Read more of Miguel’s comic book recommendations.