SmarterComics plans to do for business books what the Classics Illustrated comic book series did for great works of literature last century — make them easy to digest and fun to read.
Franco Arda and his six-person company in Palo Alto, Calif., have set themselves a lofty goal. Classics Illustrated sold more than 200 million comics over a 30-year run.
Arda and crew will be leading off with a strong contender when they hit the bookstores on April 16: Chris Anderson’s “The Long Tail,” a New York Times best-seller when it was first released in 2006.
“If the original was successful, by proxy the comics should be successful,” Arda told BusinessNewsDaily.
Other books in SmarterComics first wave of business-books-turned comics include Sun Tzu’s 2,000-year-old manual on mayhem, “The Art of War”; Tom Hopkins’ “How to Master the Art of Selling”; and “Shut Up, Stop Whining, and Get a Life” from Larry Winget, the self-proclaimed pit bull of personal development .
Why comic books? Because they make reading fun and are able to make concepts come alive in a compelling fashion by combining the power of words and pictures.
“We all grew up with illustrations,” Arda said, adding that comics echo the way we learned as children. “Comics are just another way to present information. People read comics.”
“It doesn’t feel like reading at all,” he said. “But these comics can make you smarter. If the text supports illustration, your brain can absorb so much more information.”
Arda is a poster child for successful career detours. Born in Switzerland, he earned his MBA in the U.K. and then worked in derivative sales for Deutsche Bank in London, Zurich and Hong Kong until 2008.
“I felt a need for change and to stop shuffling papers for money,” he said. “I wanted to write a book for my daughter.”
But he didn’t have a traditional text-based book in mind. Convinced of the ability of visuals and words to enhance each other and facilitate learning, Arda met with illustrator Anjin Anhut and Corey Blake, the president of book packager Round Table Press, to discuss his concept.
The resulting mind meld brought Arda’s book, “Fortune Favors the Bold,” to life as a comic book and marked the genesis of SmarterComics.
“We did the book and we liked it,” Arda said. “We fell in love with our own product.”
Round Table Press will serve as publisher and distributer of the first six SmarterComics books, Arda said. The books will average 60 to 70 pages, take 30 to 40 minutes to read and cost $12.95 in print. SmarterComics will release the book digitally for downloading or reading online. Some books will be free for reading online, while others and their download counterparts will cost $4.99 or $6.99, depending on format.
“For the next books, we’ll be publisher and work with a distributor,” Arda said.
SmarterComics doesn’t produce the type of fare favored by Comic Con fan boys, Arda noted.
“It’s not for a typical geeky comic reader at all,” he said.
Arda, in fact, was never much of a comics fan.
“I was never into comics,” he said. “I wish I could tell you I was a huge fan of Superman, but I’m not.”
Once a book is selected for transformation into a comic book, the text is summarized and turned into a script. The script is then turned over to an artist for graphic execution. The goal, said Arda, is to marry the style of the books’ content with the illustrator’s style.
“The text has to support illustration,” he said. “Anything that can be summarized is good for comics.”
Most of SmarterComics are done in black and white, Arda said, so that color will not distract the reader.
“But we will color comics that are more mainstream and appeal to a wider audience,” he said. “For example, we’ve got a book coming, ‘Book of Five Rings,’ that is about a legendary Samurai and explains his philosophy and its relevance to the past and present that we will color. On top of it, the Japanese scenery looks much better in color.”
All the freelance script writers, editors and artists are well-known in the traditional comics community, said Arda. Some, like writer/editor D.J. Kirkbride, have won the most recognized prizes in the industry such as the Harvey Awards and Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards that are comparable to the Oscar.
“The artists have been extremely receptive to the idea of using comics as a medium to empower people ,” Arda said. “We have to understand that in order to be an artist/illustrator, you have to be very passionate about it. Giving them the chance to work on something that might dramatically change the way people educate themselves is really appealing. As we've just signed agreements to publish our books internationally, we all have the opportunity to ‘change the world.’ Kind of ‘SmarterComics for a smarter world.’ It's very rare to have the opportunity to make history, do what you love and get paid for it.”
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Reach BusinessNewsDaily senior writer Ned Smith at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nedbsmith.