Friday, 12 August 2011

Is There Any Future?

A number of people have approached me about starting some sort of comic here in the United Kingdom - they say I'm too cynical about the comis scene and we should try to get together and bring something out in the style of, say, Heavy Metal or Eppo. I'm really worried that some of the younger creators are starting to look at me as a grand old guru of the comic world or even believe that I know what I'm talking about! Yes, I did work on my own comics in the late 60s and early 70s producing things like Tales from the Shunned House and Mincemeat Pete for Fool Moon and yes Dark Matter is coming out in Italy next month carrying one of my early strips with David Lloyd but the world has changed a lot since those heady days. As I said in my last blog, American comics are dead and I suspect they are in Britain as well. As I hinted in the last blog, the culture which allowed those publications to happen has fundamentally changed. Even in British comics. I was talking to Adrian the other day - who does Space 1949 - and we were speaking about the comics we used to buy when we were growing up. I'm old enough to remember when comics were still part text but even the British black and white comics I used to buy don't exist any more, except in nostalgia sales. Lion, Valiant, Wizard, all have gone. The only ones who are interested in them now are 60 year old men. And the comic shops are full of 40 year-olds on their lunch break - surely that can't be right? I had thought of pulling Fool Moon together again - Adrian and I had seriously talked about that - but there's no way that we could produce something like Heavy Metal. We had thought of producing something less ambitious but where would we get the money for it, how would we distribute it, how would we compete against the likes of Marvel and DC? Because that's who we'd be up against. Another option was to produce something like Lion or Valiant that I used to buy as a young man - a black and white magazine-comic in the style of the old IPC publications. It might be possible to scrape together enough advertising - because no government grant is going to fund it, we've learned that through bitter experience -to print a limited edition but then what would we do with it, how would we sell enough to produce a second issue? It's all very well to say "I did that" but another to do it as a sustainable business option. I'm not giving up my day job. A friend of mine reprints very old comics which used to sell in the 1950s for around 6d - Swift Morgan, Star Rocket, Space Heroes etc. and it might be possible to certainly print something like that, as they could be done in black and white very cheaply but again what to do with it? And who would buy it? You're up against Kindle, iPads etc. all of which Marvel and DC use and have cornered the market. A couple of years ago we talked about something like that and applied to the Creative and Innovative Industries Fund, partly run by the Northern Ireland Arts Council. It didn't take us long to realise that the Council wasn't really interested in anything even vaguely creative or innovative - certainly not a graphic format. Much of the money is handed out to statutory bodies, the rest to people like established businesses, goldsmiths and that sort of thing. We also approarched the educational department to use comics in education but they didn't even bother responding. Children aren't really interested in comics any more is their idea. So I suspect that British comics, like the American comics is dead. So is there any future? Maybe - I've still never given up. There has to be something but maybe now isn't really the right time to go looking. Of course if there's a millionaire reading this with some money to give away - it doesn't have to be all that much - I'm still up for writing a few graphic novels! We live in hope!

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