British comics are dead. Discuss.

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Lew Stringer
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Re: British comics are dead. Discuss.

Post by Lew Stringer »

George Shiers wrote:Maybe a comic about what kids today are doing - video games. I know that the most popular video games are war games, so maybe a war comic is what is needed? Maybe something like Action or Battle, which I think went out of publication in the 80's?
Action wasn't a war comic but I think a gutsy comic like that (preferably with an anti-war tone, like Charley's War) would build an audience. Unfortunately the retail trade (particularly supermarkets) would be too soft to stock it. (For example, has anyone seen CLiNT in Tesco or Asda?)

Let's hope that the newsstand launch of Strip in September will do well.
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George Shiers
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Re: British comics are dead. Discuss.

Post by George Shiers »

Lew Stringer wrote:Action wasn't a war comic but I think a gutsy comic like that (preferably with an anti-war tone, like Charley's War) would build an audience. Unfortunately the retail trade (particularly supermarkets) would be too soft to stock it. (For example, has anyone seen CLiNT in Tesco or Asda?)
Good point.. too much violence!

One way to possibly increase kids reading comics is to have more of them! After all - ther more there are on the shelves, the more space they take up and the more they are likely to be seen!

But of course, entering the comics buisness is very risky!
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Lew Stringer
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Re: British comics are dead. Discuss.

Post by Lew Stringer »

George Shiers wrote: One way to possibly increase kids reading comics is to have more of them! After all - ther more there are on the shelves, the more space they take up and the more they are likely to be seen!

But of course, entering the comics buisness is very risky!

Sadly the solution of get the cheque book out and publish more comics isn't feasible for a number of reasons we've covered in the past. Fifty or sixty years ago, when a publisher was confident he could at least break even, and when retail giants didn't charge thousands just to display comics, it wasn't so much of a risk.

It's easy for articles like that Spectator feature to advocate throwing money at the problem when it's not their money they're risking.
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ISPYSHHHGUY
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Re: British comics are dead. Discuss.

Post by ISPYSHHHGUY »

Lew Stringer wrote:One way to possibly increase kids reading comics is to have more of them



wow---for I sec there I thought you meant 'to have more kids' was the solution to selling more comics, George!


Not as daft as it sounds----a D C T Editor once remarked to me that 'birth control' [ie smaller families] had a lot to do with falling comics sales......


excuse my fumbled first attempt at 'tailored' quotation, the quote is George's, not Lew's.

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Re: British comics are dead. Discuss.

Post by Phoenix »

Lew Stringer wrote:Let's hope that the newsstand launch of Strip in September will do well.
WH Smith's will probably display it with their girlie mags.

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Digifiend
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Re: British comics are dead. Discuss.

Post by Digifiend »

George Shiers wrote:Maybe a comic about what kids today are doing - video games.
Video games? You pretty much just described Sonic the Comic. And considering that that's no longer published...

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Tin Can Tommy
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Re: British comics are dead. Discuss.

Post by Tin Can Tommy »

Digifiend wrote:
George Shiers wrote:Maybe a comic about what kids today are doing - video games.
Video games? You pretty much just described Sonic the Comic. And considering that that's no longer published...
I wouldn't write off the idea of a video game based comic based on the demise of Sonic the comic. It isn't published any more mainly because Sonic stopped being popular. Other things kid's like such as The Simpsons are still popular and their comics still sell quite well and have run for quite a while.

matrix
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Re: British comics are dead. Discuss.

Post by matrix »

Tin Can Tommy wrote:
Digifiend wrote:
George Shiers wrote:Maybe a comic about what kids today are doing - video games.
Video games? You pretty much just described Sonic the Comic. And considering that that's no longer published...
I wouldn't write off the idea of a video game based comic based on the demise of Sonic the comic. It isn't published any more mainly because Sonic stopped being popular. Other things kid's like such as The Simpsons are still popular and their comics still sell quite well and have run for quite a while.
Totally agree with that my son read Simpsons comics, I also showed him the link to ZZgirls transforming comic "Being Bold" he said he would read that.

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philcom55
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Re: British comics are dead. Discuss.

Post by philcom55 »

Speaking of the Simpsons I just noticed that the latest issue features a really nice spoof of Watchmen!

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swirlythingy
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Re: British comics are dead. Discuss.

Post by swirlythingy »

Lew Stringer wrote:As myself and others have mentioned before, it's the public's increasing indifference to comics that's the big obstacle. It worsens as time goes on as the percentage of kids who read comics seems to decrease with each generation. [...]

Sadly the solution of get the cheque book out and publish more comics isn't feasible for a number of reasons we've covered in the past. Fifty or sixty years ago, when a publisher was confident he could at least break even, and when retail giants didn't charge thousands just to display comics, it wasn't so much of a risk.
What we have here is a classic Catch-22.

Kids don't read comics because, at least in part, comics are invisible and difficult to get hold of (only available on subscription, only available in comic shops, only available in Waitrose three miles away on alternate weeks, etc.).

Comics are difficult to get hold of because a lot of major and prominent retailers (such as WHSmith) are unfriendly towards them, and see them as poorly-selling wastes of shelf space.

Because of this, comics become more difficult to get hold of, etc. etc. etc.

The situation is exacerbated by this vicious circle eventually wearing down even the hardiest of comics and forcing them to close, diminishing the sector greatly since the 60s and 70s. As it's no longer physically possible to fill up a comic rack any more, that makes comics even less attractive to retailers. They've become perceived as a fringe interest because so few of them exist, which of course hurts sales even more and forces even more comics to close, so reinforcing the perception, etc. etc. etc.

And the ability of new players to enter the market (Phoenix, Strip and so on) is severely restricted by these pre-existing prejudices against comics as a fringe interest, hampering their distribution/promotion and leading to eventual commercial failure, which makes purse-string-holders even less willing to take a risk on something with such a pathetic market record, which leads to fewer new comics launching, etc. etc. etc. (In this case, there are still a few players in it for the love, rather than the money, but that can't go on forever. Meanwhile the small press sector is booming because there are far more comic artists in the UK than there are mainstream commercial outlets for them.)

This has been going on for decades. It's by no means a new phenomenon - the number of people reading comics, and the number of places where you can buy comics, and the number of comics being published, and the number of new comics being launched have all been declining steadily for half a century.

What's really needed is for someone with both money and influence to take disruptive action to break the cycle and win over hearts, minds and wallets, like...
Lew Stringer wrote:It's easy for articles like that Spectator feature to advocate throwing money at the problem when it's not their money they're risking.
This is the problem. At present, the only businesses which spend money on comics - and there are some which still spend quite a lot of money on comics - are those who specialise in comics, or are at least (like DC Thomson) indelibly associated with them. There is a clear line between respectable publishers with the lion's share of magazine racks and stacks of their books in bookshop windows, and publishers with interests in comics.

Blank Slate and all their friends are doing a sterling job, but they simply don't have any mainstream credibility, and this keeps them firmly shut out of all the places where they might reach an audience outside the tiny segment of the UK population which doesn't think comics are all about superheroes and/or something you grow out of.

What's needed is the equivalent of one of the gang of cool kids spontaneously breaking ranks and standing up for the school nerd. Bookshops and newsagents are dominated by a fairly large group of publishers who all have one thing in common - they don't sell comics. At least part of the reason they don't sell comics is that they don't consider comics to be a respectable medium, anything with the potential to be a commercial success, or indeed anything which could appeal outside a very narrow (and probably juvenile) demographic which they don't want to be seen associating with.

The irony is that all three of these downsides are basically direct consequences of their decision not to be involved in comics. If a publisher whose products are respected (encouraging other publishers to jump on the bandwagon), with a record of commercial success (and hence bargaining power with the retailers), who sells books and/or magazines to the public at large (removing the impression that comics are a fringe interest), and - most importantly - with a lot of money to burn should announce (and widely promote) a new line of graphic novels and/or periodical comics, imagine how the commercial and reputational landscape could change in comics' favour.

The problem is getting such a publisher to do that. Random House have already had a half-hearted attempt with the DFC, but suffered the consequences of the aforementioned new-player paradox badly, probably mostly due to under-promotion and difficulty in jumping through the necessary hoops to get a copy. Now the DFC's successor has launched, dependent on third-party life-support, and suffering most of the same problems. It must be possible to do better, surely? Maybe Messrs. Barclay & Barclay would like to have a go?
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PaulTwist
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Re: British comics are dead. Discuss.

Post by PaulTwist »

Digifiend wrote:
George Shiers wrote:Maybe a comic about what kids today are doing - video games.
Video games? You pretty much just described Sonic the Comic. And considering that that's no longer published...
Dark Horse UK tried this in 1994, with Max Overload. It didn't last long. (Nor did Dark Horse UK, for that matter.)

More recently, Megaton magazine was a child-aimed mix of video games mag and comic. It didn't last long either.

My 13-year-old goddaughter IS reading comics... manga. That's what ver kids want, as the heaving shelves and spinners in bookshops show.

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starscape
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Re: British comics are dead. Discuss.

Post by starscape »

I found kids were attracted to golden age comics when I used to sell. Bright and simple - not that they could afford them, mind you! That said, there's tons of kids comics out there. Loads of late teen on too. The middle? Well, that's what Strip is aiming at and that seems to be something that has died. I can only really think of Dr Who Adventures and even that is a bit more junior than, say, Action or Warlord.

What could help is an organised small press. A title with an editor/publisher (same thing in the small press) who has the contacts to only use good (if not well-known) artists and writers. So much of the small press can be good in pieces as the demand isn't quite so high. A good writer with an amateur artist, or one good story in three, for example.

One flagship title though could create something of interest. With the right planning, it could be price comparison with 2000AD and of a similar quality...although not the same genre. Strip have got it right by bringing in not only sci-fi. Finding a niche is all-important. Get it Diamond distributed and that might be the start of something.

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Tin Can Tommy
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Re: British comics are dead. Discuss.

Post by Tin Can Tommy »

PaulTwist wrote: My 13-year-old goddaughter IS reading comics... manga. That's what ver kids want, as the heaving shelves and spinners in bookshops show.
Do kids really want manga? I always thought of it as quite a small niche. But then what do i know.

I personally never really liked manga as it is too difficult to tell different artists apart. It's too samey. Not that the same cant be said of western comics at times eg all those Leo Baxendale ghost artists back in the 60s/70s and the art style in adventure strips is always quite similiar looking to me at least.

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Jonny Whizz
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Re: British comics are dead. Discuss.

Post by Jonny Whizz »

Yeah, I've never been much of a manga fan either. It has just never really appealed to me, for whatever reason - I don't particularly like the artwork style but I don't think the ideas or characters held much interest for me in any case.

Personally I think there's a bit of a gap in the middle ground of British comics - most of what's available now is either aimed at children (The Beano, Dandy and so on) or for a certain type of adult audience (Viz can only really be enjoyed if you have a certain sense of humour, war comics aren't to everyone's taste, nostalgia comics tend to mainly appeal to those who remembered the comics in question first time around, etc.)
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Lew Stringer
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Re: British comics are dead. Discuss.

Post by Lew Stringer »

swirlythingy wrote: This has been going on for decades. It's by no means a new phenomenon - the number of people reading comics, and the number of places where you can buy comics, and the number of comics being published, and the number of new comics being launched have all been declining steadily for half a century.
Yes, it's the British attitude towards comics that's the main problem. The great British public see them as simplistic children's nonsense that one outgrows because for the most part that's what they've been marketed as. (Yes, we as enthusiasts/creators know the construction of comics is more sophisticated than they appear on the surface, but the public doesn't, not does it care.)

In the UK, comics are seen as inferior to books, movies, TV, even video games. None of my non-comics friends read comics, nor do their children. That's what we're up against, and it'd take two generations I think to change it. Attitudes are changing, slightly, (graphic novels reviewed in newspapers etc) but counter to that are the problems with distribution, promotion etc that you describe.

On the several times I've visited Norway I've been very impressed at the difference in attitude considering it's just a short flight away from here. Comics are given clear displays in many shops. Some even have window displays of them. Lise Myhre, creator of Nemi, is a national celebrity. The King of Norway is a fan of Carl Barks. It's another world.

Perhaps we need Kate Middleton to admit she reads The Dandy, then stand back and watch sales soar through the roof. Let's start the rumour now. :lol:
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