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WAITING FOR TOMMY - COMICS ACTIVISM
By Richard Johnston

And he's been criticised for tackling the wrong part of the problem. Rather, sort out the distribution, the retail outlets, and the product, then you're allowed to advertise. I reckon that the advertising should come first, and let entrepreneurial zeal rise up to meet what demand it generates. This thing called capitalism, the Americans seem so fond of. And Nick is just the kind of guy ready to capitalise on such a situation. A statue for every occasion! And if you advertise something that people just can't find to buy, you may just well create exponential demand until they finally can buy it.

Did Free Comics Book day actually work? Maybe it actually devalued comics in the potential buyer's eye. After all, if it's free, how good can it be?

The movies have proved that there's a market for superheroes. Maybe there's just not a market for superhero comics. Does that mean, shock horror, there's not a market for comics in the same numbers???

For anglophone comics, newstand is not happening. And, you know, Bill Jemas really gave it a good shot. Getting back in there involves some serious investment, a product with a high enough price point without putting off readers, and enough people willing to advertise in it. The only way I can see right now is to try and spin off from a mag like Maxim, or reviving the whole music-and-comics thing that made Deadline such a cool mag to see on the shelf.

Today I got a copy of a free newspaper called 'arthur' through my door. 40,000 circulation, free, featuring fine comic book creators and comics, pop culture, politics, media, art, and Alan Moore talking about magic and war. Haven't seen Newsarama or Pulse mention it yet, but it's not a bad model if it had a decent budget and publisher behind it.

Bookshops are still my favourite product point - clean, professionally run, a lack of elitism, with knowledgeable staff - okay, ideal world, but many do make an effort. But apparently there's not enough of them in America either, not even one a town.

Sorry, that depresses me, Just need to take a pause.

Better.

So what now? Well I like the whole comics activism thing. Even if it doesn't bring one person to comics, it's fun to be involved. It really is. And it's not as if getting loads of comic fans riled up about something is impossible - look at the recent Mark Waid fiasco. My little Marvel friend Felicia has a few things to say about mass comics movements on Monday. But activism is great, as long as you believe in it. You get to make leaflets and everything. And certainly word-of-mouth advertising is a lot cheaper than persuading Madonna to be in a national poster campaign for The Filth. So what's out there that's worth plugging.

There's a book called 3 Days In Europe. Written by Antony Johnston, drawn by Mike Hawthorne and published by Oni, it's a romantic comedy thriller set across countries, involving a heist and a rock band touring. It's the closest thing we've got to a Sleepless In Seattle, You've Got Mail or When Harry Met Sally. It also happens to be quite good, certainly better than the aforementioned films.

There's a big market there for twisty-turny romantic fiction. Comics isn't meeting it. Maybe it should, maybe it shouldn't. Trouble is attempting to crack that market as well, but initial media reviews in Entertainment Weekly haven't been good. Still, who said romantic fiction had to be any good? And at least it's pretty.

New X-Men from Marvel is still my favourite outreach book. Especially the Grant Morrison issues drawn by Frank Quitely. It's a sci-fi action adventure soap opera with a lot of cool people standing around saying cool things, then jumping through their air in unusual ways blasting each other. Everything you remembered about Byrne and Claremont's X-Men that was somehow missing when you revisited it as an adult. New X-Men is the Matrix, Blade, James Bond, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and those seem to do awfully well. New X-Men is clever, enticing, addictive and trash. Plus there's lots of it in trade paperback form, but not enough for it to be off putting.

There's Tale Of One Bad Rat by Bryan Talbot from Dark Horse. Animals and comics are a classic mix. And while Maus might have this sub-indie vive thing going, and a downbeat holocaust riff, tale of One Bad rat is a modern day Beatrix Potter story about a girl, her rat and a downbeat child abuse riff. Um, okay, but I bet Tale Of One Bad Rat is the kind of comic that Oprah would go loopy for.

Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Boy On Earth is an art book. And a stunning narrative. And an example of deep, clever, bittersweet comedy of pathos. Very iconic, but that simplicity made complex by providing thousands of examples on each page. Bewildering and enchanting. For the poseur in your life.  

Pages: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 Continued Here...

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