Friday, 29 July 2011
The Death of Comics
American comics as we know them are dead! Writers and artists with anything creative do write or draw had better start looking elsewhere. That's the message that I'm getting from a lot of my friends in America especially those who have attended the recent San Diego Convention. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. Alarm bells really started ringing for me when Marvel and Disney got together, although by then the rot had already set in. Several of my friends in the US have simply confirmed what I already suspected. Comics as we knew them have gone and the big companies are now moe interested in films, merchandising and franchises more than they are in producing innovative and experimental comics which mightn't sell but which were worth doing anyway, Marvel seems to have thrown all its interests into producing films of which comics are but an afterthought and a way to make more money. And DC likewise. I wouldn't care all that much - well I would if I'm honest - if the films were any good. I looked foward for months to the new Green Lantern movie - I used to read the comic - and was vastly disappointed with it when I went to see it. The best thing I could say about Thor was that it wasn't as bad as I expected it to be. X-Men First Class was one of the better ones but only because Michael Fassbender gave an excellent performance as Magneto. And as for Iron Man 2 - well most of it was roughly the same as Iron Man I. Where was the Mandarin? One thing about all of them was that the CGI was great - but terrific imagery does not a terrific film make. Many of the plots have been rather lame and predictable and to my mind anyway have lacked any real creativity. And films really place the power in the hands of the corporation. My son has desperately been waiting for Fantastic Four 3 featuring the Sub-Mariner that was promised but that's not going to happen. And I keep waiting for the Dr. Strange moie which was talked about but I doubt if that will happen either. Because everything is now being channelled into movies the cost is prohibitive and the choice is limited. Back in the 1970s and part of the 80s, Marvel and others tried a lot of new and interesting characters just to see how they did. Some failed but others were terrific. The 60s themselves produced a lot of creative stuff - I know, I worked on some of them - much of it one-shots but some of it went on. I like to think there is still something of that era in me but it's getting tougher and tougher to bring out. There was a feeling that we could achieve anything - that feeling was probably knocked out of us by the Reagan era in America and certainly by the Thatcher era in Britain. And it has culminated now. My friends in San Diego went there to look for what the "next big thing" might be and found nothing worth talking about. There are certainly some of the smaller companies looking for new stuff but their budgets are severely restircted by the recession. The Marvel/Disney axis has more or less killed any creative stuff off; the Manga which swept the world a few years ago also tied comics into the gaming merchandise market through things like Pokemon. At one time my children could tell me more about Japanese culture than they could about Irish. But the link was formed between game merchandising and comics. So where's the future for the ordinary comic? Some of my friends seem to suggest that it might lie in Europe. However Europe is such a closed shop and there are language problems - each country does it's comics in its own language which makes sales in other countries difficult. But there are interesting strips happening in the Netherlands, Italy, France and even Poland which is producing some very good stuff. It'll not happen in either Britain or Ireland I wouldn't think. Another area might be South America - there are some stirrings in Brazil which always produced some intersting artists along with Argentina. But all in all the future looks grim unless you want to storyboard for films. I've stopped buying comics - they're bland and without any real creative spark. There's nothing that you'd really want to sit down and read, nothing which would challange you. Where's that "Wow" moment when you need it? That's what 1949, Darke, Doc Lazarus and Hal McLean are all about but the process is slow and there's little outlet for it. So where's the future of comics? You ask me?