Comics at the present time

By Barry Kavanagh, 17 October 2000

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    I kind of think that there’s not enough stuff being produced in
    comics, because it’s quite easy to have read loads of the quality
    stuff and still be left wanting.

    Depends how hard you’re looking really.

    Depends what they stock, I suppose.

    It depends what you’re thinking about, having read all the
    quality stuff –

    Well, I don’t mean all but –

    You know, all the turn of the century newspaper stuff? Even some of
    the more obscure currently produced indie stuff? I mean, it’s a big

    Yeah, the older stuff is very hard to get and costs a lot of money.

    Well, you know, it depends.

    In terms of new titles coming out and so on…?

    I think there’s far too many new titles coming out… I think most of
    them, the creative teams, if you were to take them out and line them
    up against a wall and shoot them it wouldn’t really make much of a
    ripple in the world of general culture and there’d probably be a lot
    of trees that would thank you for it. I mean, most of the major
    companies, ninety-nine per cent of what they put out is unreadable
    rubbish, not even children like it, it’s not even aimed at children
    any more. The average comic fan I think these days is probably a guy
    about thirty? Which means that an awful lot of them are guys in their
    forties. And yet these are still guys who presumably are obsessed with
    the same characters in spandex. Nah, I’d like to see a lot less
    comics coming out but a lot more thought put into them. I think that
    one of the problems is that the industry is geared towards – it’s
    better to put out fifty comics that don’t really sell than five that
    – this seems to be the philosophy in the industry.

    That’s kind of insane, that.

    Yeah but it’s what happens. I mean, you ought to distinguish. You
    ought to separate the medium and the industry. The comic medium’s
    wonderful. It still produces remarkable work, more than we’ve got any
    right to expect. I think that at the moment there’s probably, well,
    there’s as much remarkable work out there that there’s ever been.
    You’ve only got to look at, say, the Chris Ware material in the
    Acme Comics Novelty Library. Some of the best, most
    breathtaking comic books that have appeared in the last decade,
    easily. But unfortunately the comic industry is still on a downward
    spiral largely because of the incompetence – I don’t think there’s
    really anything else you can describe it as – of the main players.

    Well, certainly in shops, walking around, it seems to be the same
    stuff. There doesn’t seem to be the amount of variety and –

    Well, there is variety there but probably most of the shops don’t
    stock it. The thing is that everybody wants to stock, you know, like,
    somebody does a halfway decent, from what I’ve heard, X-Men
    film, I’m not going to bother to see it because I’m sure that “halfway
    decent” by a lot of people’s standards is probably nowhere close in
    terms of mine – and I’m too much of a snob anyway – but the thing is,
    it’s like with Batman films, you get a load of Batcrap –
    Batcrap, X-crap –

    – Wall-to-wall –

    – and the thing is that because comics is not doing that great at the
    moment, the retailers, if they’ve a choice between ordering a hundred
    copies of some X-Men film tie-in that they know are
    going to sell, or, say, three copies of some little title from
    Fantagraphics or Topshelf or Drawn & Quartoy or one of the reputable
    publishers, that is a bit difficult, a bit intellectual, perhaps a bit
    expensive, then they’re going to buy the X-Men stuff every
    time, so I think that if a shop in Dublin is anything like the shops
    over here, then I should imagine that comics is at very best a
    sideline, I should imagine it makes most of its money from action
    figures? Trading cards?

    Yeah, there’s a whole floor of that in Forbidden Planet.

    Yeah. So almost anything but comics, really. This is the way that it
    is. It could have been different. If things had gone a bit
    differently fifteen, twenty years ago. And if you’d got the sort of
    people with vision in control then who actually thought “Well, you
    know, this could open up comics to a whole new market,” rather than
    leave us condemned to the same dwindling market that we’ve had for the
    last fifty years. But no, there was nobody there, there was no
    back-up. There was a few creators who were taking chances and who were
    actually for the first time making comics into something that adults
    could be interested in but there was no back-up. The companies
    concerned saw this as a short term profit, they didn’t see it as
    anything they could build on. Like I say, these are not people who are
    over-endowed with imagination.

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