FOR TOMMY - HEIDI MACDONALD
By Richard Johnston
How does the comics industry differ to other industries you've
Everyone always says comics are small and gossipy, but to
be honest, every industry is that way - I've never seen such
a gossipy, catty business as professional wrestling, for instance.
And people in music and publishing love dishing the dirt as
much as anyone. I guess what sets aside comics from any other
industry I've ever been remotely involved in is that in comics,
no one gives a shit about being a successful business. Everyone
in comics is really, deep down, focused on keeping whatever
is their view of this happy, sparkly world viable and happy.
It's a business run on nostalgia more than anything. People
in comics have a very deep seated need to keep themselves
in an environment where their nerdy needs aren't mocked and
they can talk about Green Lantern and the Avengers in a safe,
comfortable environment. Comics are an escapist medium, and
the industry itself seems to be a kind of escapism for many
to zillions of trade show in all kinds of environments, and
people there don't have this obsessive need to be around their
own kind the way comics folks do. And as always, I don't exempt
myself from that. I like the "gathering of the tribes" as
much as anyone.
just be nice if once in a while someone could come in with
a business plan that actually involves business and planning.
CrossGen was a real attempt at that, but you could pick a
lot of holes in the plan, to put it mildly. They certainly
sank enough money into it, from the figures I've heard bandied
around. On the other hand, you have TokyoPop just kind of
sneaking in the side door and building a whole new business.
You notice people who work at TokyoPop (with a few exceptions)
aren't always hanging around at conventions schmoozing it
up. They're in a different world.
Should we join theirs or should they join ours?
Well, which company is hiring people left and right and expanding
all over the place? Which company is bringing in new readers?
TokyoPop could very well be expanding TOO fast, of course.
Artistic expression and building an audience are the two biggest
goals of any creative industry. The mainstream comics industry
is really just chipping away at the latter.
Y: The Last Man. the thrill of a baby growing up, or the bitterness
of one from its mother's womb untimely ripped?
Thrill, no question! I love Brian and Pia and Jose, and they
deserve all the success in the world. Plus, I always knew
that book would be a success, even if no one else at DC did
(I don't think they even did a poster for the first issue.)
It's always nice to see projects you believed in like Y or
Orbiter be a success. Plus, Y:TLM was created by Brian as
a specific response to a challenge I gave him as to what I
thought a comics series should be - a universal situation
that anyone can relate to in the real world. Every once in
a while I come across a review of Y and people always say
"I gave this book to my mother-in-law and she loved it." I
wish there were more comics like that.
throw in here that that is always my specific beef against
the way comics have developed in America. There is such a
brilliant tradition of comics that reflected the real world,
from Little Orphan Annie and Dick Tracy to the undergrounds
to all the great political cartoonists. Not to mention Maus.
I think even Stan Lee certainly had his finger on the pulse
of what the readers were experiencing, and that's part of
what made Marvel take off in the '60s. And there is a horrible
dearth of that now. Mainstream comics are really strangled
in their own continuity, and indy cartoonists are focused
on comics more as an art form. The real communication of art
is in making you see your own world in a different way. I
think that is what makes Y a success, ultimately.
to reassure my indy pals, great beauty in art also makes you
see the world in a different way, and is a very worthwhile
goal. I just wish there were more people who explored the
other path. Maybe that goes with the escapism theory I mentioned
a little while back.
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