Mr. Jigsaw reassembles


POSTED: Sunday, June 14, 2009

Nearly three decades ago, when Charleton Comics had a brief moment of creative glory, largely due to artist Joe Staton, a backup feature appeared that comics fans dismember with fondness. Mr. Jigsaw, Man of a Thousand Parts, was a superhero who could disassemble himself and fight crime with little pieces of himself.

;  OK. But what made Mr. Jigsaw memorable was the feature's upbeat, sunny personality. Even three decades ago, superheroes were prone to brooding and melancholia. Even Superman had a “;Fortress of Solitude”; to mope in.

Written with brio by longtime pro Ron Fortier and drawn by Hawaii's best-kept artistic secret, Gary Kato, Mr. Jigsaw flared brightly for a few issues then, over the years, sporadically appeared in reprints and one-offs.

It was a good book, a book you wouldn't mind your kids reading, but the business model worked against it. The market is flooded with good comic books and even more bad comic books. To make comics cheap enough to sell in quantity, they have to be printed up in bulk, which takes warehouse space and marketing to move. It's a crap shoot. Even deserving titles often get the ax in the ruthless market.

More to the point, the title is controlled by the publisher, not by the creator. It would make more sense to print small quantities and market directly to those already interested.

How does one put these pieces together? This is a roundabout way of saying Mr. Jigsaw is back. And the old-fashioned comic has a high-tech sheen these days.

The answer is called “;print on demand”; by the book-publishing industry, and it has largely been the province, so far, of self-published novels and family memoirs. The quality has not been there for works that are mostly visual, like comic books. In the last year, however, with the technical pace set by Ka-Blam Digital Printing and marketing via Indy Planet, comic books can be produced in quantities as low as one. Yes, one. Even in four-color.

You can browse titles at IndyPlanet.com, see low-rez versions of a story, and if it appeals to you, order it. A copy is printed up on the spot, mailed to you, and the site and the creators share what profit there is.

Of course, it's far more expensive to print these things one at a time. On the other hand, trees are saved, you know exactly what you're getting and warehouses aren't full of rotting comics. More important, the creative team and the publishers are the same people. They might not sell a million comics, but they make a few cents on each one they do sell, and they know it's going to someone who actually craves their product.

It's an ideal situation for a character such as Mr. Jigsaw. Fortier and Kato have spent the first three issues dusting off reprints, and now they're moving on to new stories. Pretty good for a 30-year-old superhero, even one as goofily optimistic as Mr. Jigsaw.


See an issue here: hsblinks.com/ci