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Tuesday, 30 May 2017

"...the people at the top lacked any real commitment to comics..."

"No one is that interested in comics these days"  is a complete and utter bull shit statement.

In the 1940s the thinking was that the Second World War would see an end to comics. They continued.

Then there was "Cinema is going to kill off comics" but they continued.

Then TV was going to kill off comics.  They continued.

Video games were going to kill off comics.  They continued.

Computer games were going to kill off comics.  They continue.

But do you know what did the damage?  The people in comics.  In the United States it seems that the, uh, 'experts' have looked at all the historical stuff and concluded that when the professional comic writers, editors and artists (particularly at Marvel) were replaced by comic fan boys the industry took a nose-dive. Jim Shooter started getting things back in order but...well that is a long story but after he went the company nose-dived into quicksand.

The US comics industry was more ingrained in pop culture, something the UK industry had tried to jump into but in a smaller way.  Without the backbone to "Do a Stan Lee" it was bound to fail. The problem was that many in the UK industry were still too embarrassed to admit to working in comics. But, again, the fan boys got into the industry and things began to unravel.  They may well want to see themselves promoted as the "revolutionary creators" but they sped up the death of UK comics.

And the people at the top lacked any real commitment to comics.  A D. C. Thomson executive stating on TV in the early 1980s that "comics will be dead in ten years" more or less summed up the industry thinking.  Do something to attract new readers and keep the old ones?  No. Start producing  lesser quality material and let the dying horse drag itself to the quicksand.

The meetings I had with comic management in the 1980s/1990s showed the problem.  "We get hundreds of letters a month asking for this character or that comic to be brought back" I was told "but these people have no idea there is no interest in these comics or characters now!"  Uh, "hundreds" of letters a month is sign of interest.  Then, several times, "a new comic launch costs around £65,000!" I was told.  I pointed out I knew printers that were good and never ever that expensive.  But, no, this was for the "launch" -the kind of launch that got the return of Roy of the Rovers about an inch (2.5cms) of space in national papers -IF they bothered.

Where was the £65,000 going to?  Best not to ask questions.  The UK comics industry was just as corrupt as its US counterpart but without the organised crime element!

Looking back, it is sad to say that the only person who realised that comics could be a major industry in the UK was Robert Maxwell (and his rival, Rupert Murdoch was waiting to jump in if Maxwell did).  And do you know who put the spike in at both camps?  The people working in the comics themselves -they were cutting the very lifeline they were grasping.

Today...let's not go there.  The fake comic pioneers can continue taking credit for everything while passing the blame on to others and re-write comics history how they want it.

Here is the thing, though: there is no reason why comics in the UK should not succeed.  Video and computer gamers also collect/read comics.  So do movie goers.  Kids still love to read old comics and many have never seen a real comic before.  You have the product then you have an audience. Weekly comics seem almost ruled out these days but the monthly advertising product magazines that replaced comics are still going. "News agents won't stock the comics any more due to shelf space" -crap.  Go into a newsagent and look at the shelves.  If it sells they will order and those monthly ad mags are still there.

You need your product (comic) and you need to promote it -these days free advertising is everywhere and that includes radio and digital TV.

You need a distributor who know their job.

That sounds simple?  It is.  The thing is that you have to get away from the "fans producing comics" mentality.  A monthly comic would be business.  It needs to be run by someone who knows comics and what is going on outside of comics that will be of use to comics. No "my friend is a good artist so I'll get him involved" -can your friend (who is now an employee NOT friend) draw the number of pages required on time and if he/she cannot cut it can you replace him/her with someone who can?

It is business. If you are, say, Managing Editor, then your boss is putting his money into the business to get a profit back.  This is where the UK industry failed.  An idea that was "hot" was never even tried because editors couldn't be bothered and management never had the backbone to go to the bosses and say "This seems like a very good idea" and convince them.  At Fleetway it was a shock to see that management downward were simply biding time until they retired or their jobs went.

But let's not go there.  I am still surprised no Chinese or India based businessman has tried to get into UK comics.  The continued success of Cinebook The 9th Art proves there is still major interest in comics in the UK.

I'm here.  Contact me.

2 comments:

  1. Gp to any con and you'll find comics, but they are , generally, a horrible mess of quality, some are returning to black and white interiors and have pretty good art, while most are overproduced (too reliant on computers) and glossy and consequently waaaaay too pricey for what is at best a small press book.....the real issue would be reliability in terms of art, story and schedule and from I've seen (and experienced) that is virtually impossible without a guiding hand....

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