Sunday, 14 August 2011

Where to Now?

My comments yesterday and a few days before seem to have stirred up a few responses. Some people are telling me that there might still be a future for comics outside of 40 year old men. I even had an e-mail from a young girl who collects comics, when she can afford them. But I do stand over my comments. However, I'm going to reply to Paddy who says that his nephew loves comics but the problem is that they're too expensive. I think it's slightly more than that. I think there has been a change in the culture. I grew up in the late 40s/early 50s when comics were part text, part cartoon strip - I'm thinking here of Wizard, Victor and so forth. Comics from the States were practically unheard of in my part of the world, although when I went on holidays to Newcastle I was able to buy the Lone Ranger and an early Green Lama drawn by Mac Raboy as well as repints of Mars, God of War and Space Ranger which I think might have been in Planet Comics. I would take some of them into school and swap for comics with some of my friends who got different sorts of comics too. But there was a real interest there and we talked about comics and took an interest in the stories. I don't get the same sense now. Children may like comics but they need some sort of incentivasation to buy them. I stopped in a petrol station the other night and saw the Beano on sale and it was nothing like what I remembered - or worked for . It was slick and glossy with a free gift attached to it. It was seeling for far more than I remember. So I take Paddy's point about cost. My 15 year old son likes comics too and any time I'm in Belfast I usually buy a couple of comics or him and his sister - for Michael it's the World of Marvel or Iron Man - but I can pay over £5 for two comics. But this is what's on offer and what the children expect now. Paddy is right when he says that production costs have made the production of a comic expensive. I'm sitting here with a copy of Heavy Metal here in front of me and goodness knows how much it took to produce that. But does it sell - even by a subscription outlet. Lately I've taken to buying some of my magazines through Newsstand Online but I notice how limited certain sections - such as SF - are and how high-level some of the magazines are. But Paddy if you want to produce a worthwhile comic which children will want you have to meet the production values of your competitors - and that includes Heavy Metal - and you have to sort out distribution. You have to ask yourself "Why should somebody buy my magazine and not the new Dr. Who comic?" and are you going to cover the costs with sales, even online. As you say Paddy, some comics aren't making it. I'm also sitting here looking at somics such as Jet from 1959 which a friend of mine, Des Shaw, reprints. They're 6d which is only a couple of pence but my son wouldn't buy them because they're not flashy enough and they don't have some sort of free gift. And even if you were to print one issue would you make enough to cover another issue? The only way you're going to fund it is through maybe a grant and you're not going to get that here in Northern Ireland I would think - no way! So where to now? I'm still willing to sit down and talk about production of something. I've agreed to meet with Andy Luke sometime in October and while I would like to go to the Belfast Bar Camp I'm going to be on Rathlin Island. But maybe sometime. I'm off to watch some television. I was right about Arsenal yesterday - especially with Gervinho being sent off. My wife was furious! But get back to me on you ideas about comics. I'm always open to offers!

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