What's the solution?
ADI: I think the move towards a Graphic Novel economy
is the most tangible solution, since these would be more substandard,
permanent editions of works that really should be kept in
print. We're still missing huge chunks of works from before
the 1990s, which leaves a massive gap in the education of
anyone who wants to become a comics creator, whether artist
or writer. An artform is built on what had come before, and
for new creators to not be aware of the innovations of their
predecessors is a real tragedy.
Comics that much more creatively impoverished.
What do you feel are the most urgent omissions at the moment?
What history are we losing?
ADI: God... where do I start? There's a whole wealth
of strip art by the likes of Milt Canniff from the 30s that's
just breathtaking in not just the illustration but the storytelling
ability, that younger creators don't give a toss about because
"it's old stuff". There's loads of stuff from the 50s that's
missing. There are Underground comics from the 60s to the
80s that's still largely overlooked. Hell, there's even loads
of DC and Marvel stuff from the 70s that blow a lot of "hot,
current talent" out of the water in terms of sheer talent,
craft and ability. And don't get me started on the Missing
History of creators who started out doing very good work for
We're not talking about Bryan Hitch on Death's Head, are we?
I must admit, I have a soft spot for Steve Moore/Steve Dillon
Ablsom Daak - Dalek Killer that I'd like to have scratched
ADI: Yeah, that stuff, Alan Moore's Dr. Who Stuff and
prose stories that featured Nightraven or Batman. Steve Parkhouse
writing Dr. Who stories. All that stuff. Not to mention the
lost art on "mainstream" weeklies like girls comics, some
of which had some surprisingly dark and hard-edged stories
in them with fantastic art and scripting.
Well, they often had the likes of Judge Dredd's Alan Grant
and John Wagner writing them... now there's a crossover to
see. Bunty Versus Mean Machine. Do you reckon there's a modern
market for this kind of material?
ADI: There's always a market for good stories, I think.
The bottom line, alas, is marketing. If you let the readers
know it's out there, they'll buy it. Look at the current insane
success of Manga in mainstream bookshops. Or the fact that
the new Bilal graphic novel just came out in France and has
sold 430,000 copies in France alone. Readers want stories
that surprise them and blow their heads open. That's the least
storytellers of any medium should be doing.
Is that a cultural thing? Do you believe there could be that
market for anglophone comics again? And is a 'He Reads Comics'
style campaign helpful - or hurtful?
ADI: I don't think the campaign could hurt, as long
as there isn't a whiff of desperation or special pleading
about it. I think the market for anglophone comics is out
there, you just have to get the people with the money to actually
make people know these things are out there, and then improve
the distribution so they can be bought anywhere, not just
in comics shops.
This is fairly Comics 101 stuff, people have been talking
about this for a decade. There doesn't really seem to be many
steps taken towards that goal. Is the money or the will really
there in comics anymore?
ADI: The money and the will are in *Manga*, since it's
a new market that's opened up. The money and the will aren't
quite there in mainstream comics, because the publishers feel
a certain comfort in the niche they carved out for themselves
when they created the Direct Market in the 80s, and to drag
the Industry out into the Mainstream of Culture rather than
just the Comics World must feel frightening, since Change
is always scary. I know Marvel and DC would like to change,
but they are large bureaucratic machines that take ages to
implement new policies or decisions. It remains to be seen
whether they'll finally put their money where their mouths
are, since it's not just a Change in modes of marketing and
distribution, but in content as well.
Are you exploring manga at all?
ADI: I've explored manga all my life. Growing up in
Asia, I was exposed to pretty much every type of comics. I'd
love to do Manga, but I suspect the infrastructure of the
Manga industry might make things a bit tricky, since it's
very much geared towards Japan and Japanese creators.
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