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
do – 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.