Is that all there is? Let’s talk up Other Comics
Recently, it’s seemed that every conversation I have with people ‘outside‘ of comics comes down to a well-intentioned attempt to treat me with the sort of ‘respect’ that assumes I make graphic novels ~ or maybe I draw a regular periodical they’ve heard of?
But despite spending most of my life making comics, working around comics or reading comics, or I do neither. Except for a couple of brief interludes I have hardly ever wanted to.
I like graphic novels well enough. I enjoy a number of regular weekly and monthly Industrial Comics. I can see the level of craft used to tell stories in comics is at a rare high watermark (albeit thanks to technological advances more than aesthetic developments). But that’s not the sort of comics I choose to make, and you can’t make me.
We’ve come a way since comics were thought of as throwaway entertainment for illiterates…
but maybe not a long way. In 2023, comics are thought of as source material for special effects-heavy romcoms or as books about depressing lives and niche interests.
Is that unfair? We know Comics (the Form) is a much broader field than comics (the Industry), of course… it’s just the other people who don’t grok it: parents at school; family members; strangers at parties. Also prospective employers; funding bodies; artists in other forms…
Comics is still constrained by the public perception of comics. We need to embrace other uses of the form ~ if only so my heart doesn’t sink at the prospect of explaining “not like that” when a new acquaintance says: “so, you make comics?”
Let’s talk up Utilitarian Comics (like airplane safety cards or Ikea manuals).
Remind folk that Gag Strips are comics.
Show that Graphic Medicine can play a therapeutic and educational role (as well as plucking at our heartstrings with deeply personal stories).
And, closest to my own interests, let us proclaim Art Comics as an exciting use of the same language the public saw in Watchmen, but without being yoked to a story or a joke (Allan Haverholm’s Uncomics manifesto is a good place to start and Poetry in comics form is an ever-growing field).
Comics can manifest in any form. Comics is a process.
Shall we show off the comics we know exist as physical spaces and journalism?
Let’s see where comics are created as music and translations.
Can we get advertising and propaganda to turn to us again?
If Comics can be used to build legal documents (there are experiments going on), shouldn’t we stop letting them be defined as narrative entertainment?
Asking for an Art Form.
Also asking for the mature comicker. And the time-poor, cash-poor, physically, mentally and emotionally disadvantaged.
Not everyone could take on a full time job drawing work-for-hire.
Only a small minority of creative people have the luxuries of time, resources and opportunity to devote a year or more to making a single graphic novel…
one piece of work in 18 months? Another 6 months to reach an audience? Plus the Aftertime we rarely speak about ~ if the author doesn’t spend an extended period promoting their work through interviews/signings//social media, won’t it just disappear without financial reward or critical/popular appraisal?
Three years is a large proportion of an artist’s productive lifespan to devote to a single story that readers (all 2000 of them if sales don’t reach Dog Man levels) will probably consume over lunch.
If we hope to open up the art form to a wider demographic; if we want to make significant works of art that enjoy more time with their audience than their creator; if we want to make and finish and learn and develop our craft without sacrificing all comforts of time, family and money… maybe we need to promote formats that don’t consume years of one’s life with little to no tangible reward.
We can start to open the word ‘comic’ to include all the ones that exist without Story at their centre.
It’s not a quick fix, it took decades to get as far as Comics = Avengers movies, and we don’t have Disney’s influence.
The MCU bubble will burst and comics will drop out of the conversation again. If those of us on the ‘inside’ of comics don’t start to talk about Where Next, who will?