Monday, 18 June 2018

British Comics -What The Hell Needs To Be Done and WHAT Is Going On?

What is really sad is the current state of comic publishing in the UK. 

D. C. Thomson has a back catalogue of characters to rival anything Marvel or DC has and has the facilities and connections to do a lot with them.

In the early 1980s a senior Thomson executive appeared on BBC 2s The Money Programme (I wish I could find that clip) and stated that "In 5-10 years comics will be a thing of the past". End of story. Thomson has acted this way ever since.

IPC/Fleetway has had a similar attitude since the 1960s. First it was TV, then video games and then something else that was killing the comics industry in the UK.

What was in fact killing the industry were the fans who got into companies -not the steady professionals who knew what they were doing.

In the early 1980s (after similar situation) DC and Marvel saw the end in sight. They were balanced on the edge of a very large black hole (for those interested in astronomy let's say a Super Black Hole).

What saved them may well be glossed over today with "Star Wars comics" as the saviour. However, in magazine articles, interviews and books it is made clear that UK creatives saved the industry. That is not up for debate -it has even been stated that deciding to publish Watchmen cleared the way for The Dark knight Returns to be given the green light.

Of course creators from the UK took the Yankee dollar. A writer for Fleetway/IPC could get £35 a printed page whereas the artist was getting anywhere between £120-200 (higher pay for colour).

A few years back the top executive at IPC told me that the company had gotten out of the comic publishing business over 30 years before. They had no interest or knowledge of comics.

On three occasions I was told, by managers at Egmont UK who took over Fleetway, that "I don't think we have anyone here who knows how to edit a comic let alone put one together" (uh, "edit" and "put one together" are the same thing). It is why, apparently, every single project proposal I made never received a response over ten years (hence the phone calls).

Everything else is closed shop and reprint (as with Panini).

People in the UK are finding it hard to find the cash for US comics that, since Brexit was announced, for some strange reason, rose to a crippling cost. People who used to buy 10-15 comics a week are down to 4-9 a month.

Super hero movies, for instance, though there are zombie and other comics, are made into TV shows and multi billion dollar franchises BASED on comic books. A youngster presented with a comic really does not care if it is DC, Marvel or a British comic so long as it has what they want. And adults want something not so expensive but a good entertaining read.

Does anyone in the UK take advantage of this? (I'm not including me here). No. Germany was at one time -into the early 1990s- a comic wasteland. It now has a revitalised industry with all genres catered for. Other countries have a similar story.

The UK has a higher (alleged) reading population than some of these countries yet does not have the industry to match. We'll take whatever high priced dregs we can get -as with many other things. We cannot find the people with the money to say "screw this -let's publish British comics!"

I had a dream before I woke this morning. Ruined my waking day. Basically, I was sat in the office of a publishing editor and he spouted the same dogmatic mantra I've heard for 40 years (but comics still exist) and every time I countered his points he simply responded: "But you do not understand that no one reads comics now" and this went on.

Super hero, horror, humour, crime, thriller, adventure -the UK can do that (and there may just be a few old time comic artists left to show how it is done -though a lot I've known are now dead).

I've been in and around publishing and comics for (and I REALLY hate thinking about this) 40+ years. Want an editor? Hoy -can you see me?

Someone told me over the weekend that I was "The Don Quixote of comics". Maybe. 

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