A Curmudgeonly Old Fart Moaning About Comics….
Why I don't really read comics anymore. I miss them.
Now, there is no doubt I am going to come across as a curmudgeonly old fart. I can see why. I make no apologies.
I thought I would update this article , which I wrote back in April. I’ve posted the original here and at the end is my update. Enjoy!!
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My son reads a lot of Manga. I think that’s great. I also like them! I have even got my head around the different formats to read them! I’m not quite at his level of collecting ( don’t know where he got that from?) I read the various Dark Horse releases and worked in HMV Music store when the Anime thing exploded in the UK and across the world, thanks to Akira and it’s like. They are now outselling just about every comic in the world. Deservedly so, I say. They are frenetic, exciting, horrific, violent, funny, romantic and a wonderful example of how the comic book format should be.
It’s great to see my son genuinely excited about picking up the latest Manga books. It’s a feeling I remember well.
Let me say now I love comics. I think they are a wonderful medium. I think I got into comics at an amazing time. Watchmen, Dark Knight Returns , Warrior Magazine and Crisis to name a few. Creators such as Frank Miller, Alan Moore and Grant Morrison . The experimental work of Dave Mckean and Bill Sienkiewicz. Prestige limited runs of books, mini series, the death of the comics code! As I got older, the comics got more serious. However, what I didn’t see was the younger comics I had grown up with where to be abandoned by the industry.
When I do occasionally visit comic shops ( and when you can find the comics sometimes, hidden among the funko figures and marvel merchandise) I very rarely find anything to attract my attention. Gosh Comics was probably the last shop I visited and I went straight to the healthy if somewhat pricey ( not the shop’s fault) small press section. There are still some great comic creators out there, don’t get me wrong. Generally though, the stuff produced by the bigger publishers seems to be a pretty lame affair.
I used to have a pull list as long as my arm, but the cost eventually broke me. Pretty much hitting £5.00 quid for a 24 page comic!!! Manga varies between £7.99 and £12.99 for over 100 pages!! No wonder they are selling! I used to work in Waterstones, and the Marvel/DC trades were nearly £20.00! What kid can afford that? I have even discovered the Shonen Jump app is only £1.99 a month to read as much Manga as you like!!!!
And I suppose that’s the big problem. Most comic companies don’t seem to create comics for everyone. They write for people my age with disposable income. Therefore the themes become more adult orientated. Even 2000ad, which I bought religiously every weekend for years. The great Pat Mills helped create a comic that you felt when reading, your parents and teachers would disapprove, a sort of punk ethic. Now, the stories and content are written for adults. I think it’s great that we have these comics, but it appears that the Western comic industry has pretty much abandoned any kids comics. Most kids I talk to these days know who Iron Man etc are, but have never read a comic.
I have tried to introduce my son to some great comics that I think he would like, Head Lopper by Andrew Mclean , Space Mullet by Daniel Warren Johnson for example. I think these are recent wonders and heavily influenced by Manga and Anime. They just sit next to his bed, unread as he devours the latest Demon Slayer. They don’t grab his attention in any way.
You seem to be able to get Manga on anything. Cats, Assassins , Romance, Golf??? I think the rise of popularity of Manga proves how right they have got it. It’s embedded into the culture, something we have lost. There is a great interview with Helen McCarthy on the Awesome Comics Podcast that explains this far better than I ever could.
So , what am I trying to say apart from the fact I’m a old fart who moans that “things used to be better in my day”?
Honestly, I’m not sure. I don’t think things used to be that much better. Production values, a wider way of getting your work to the world and the fact that the small press is so great these days proves that. You only have to look at Ward and Parkers Merrick or Joseph Oliveira’s Afterlight Comics as great examples.
I think it’s just a bit sad that we don’t seem to have comics for everyone, these days. Bold efforts like The Phoenix have tried, but my son got bored eventually. There is nothing for the 8-14 market. A few titles for younger and bloody loads for over 18! I suspect the rise of the games platform has had no small impact. I mean, who wouldn’t prefer them to comics. It’s like being in your own movie. Also, Movies can make all the things you could only do in a drawing pretty much an on screen reality now, in spectacular ways. I’m really happy I got to see Iron Man fly and the Hulk smash Loki on a big screen! That would have seemed impossible when I was a kid!!! ( You’ve proved it now guys, just put the brakes on or it may die! Remember the Westerns!)
What comics have I picked up recently? Department of Truth with outstanding art by Martin Simmonds. Silver Coin by Micheal Walsh is probably the best horror comic I have read in years. I really enjoyed Demon Slayer and Kaiju No 8 . Even A Man and is CAt. Think Afterlife by Ricky Gervais but without the swearing and bitterness. I was recently introduced to Blacksad which I had avoided for as I really don’t like anthropomorphic comics. I was very wrong. The Outlaw comics of Patrick Sparrow and the ever awesome guys at Tribute Press are completely off the wall, don’t give a crap about anything spectacular eye candy and a refreshing change . Be prepared if you check them out, not for the faint hearted!
Anyhoo, that’s just my personal opinion and it’s worth nothing. I’ll probably change my mind tomorrow. Now , where are those pens, I’ve a comic to try to draw…..
Sooooooo, what’s changed?
Honestly , I think I’ve read even less comics this year. The only comics I actually purchased in this country where Phur from Tribute press. Wonderful. Otherwise, nothing. I visited a couple of shops and found myself even more disappointed by the generic, cash in titles from the big studios. There may be some gold out there, but I am not seeing it. I also think I can’t be bothered looking for the sake of disappointment.
The best experience I have had was a couple of weeks ago when I visited Futurama Books in Valencia! Wow , what a shop. The first thing I saw when I walked in was a Tin Tin Model from Rocket to the moon. As you walked in , the two comic shelves where full of original , independent publishers volumes, and small press stuff . Yes there was Mango further into the shop, yes there was Marvel /DD etc. However, the rest of the shop was full of glorious, wel, produced volumes of titles I knew nothing about. From westerns, detective, action , romance, fantasy and so much more. This was an epic comic shop. I even managed to speak to the owner who showed me so much stuff that blew my mind.
I felt so energised by all this wonderful stuff. There is obviously such a love for the subject matter. Oh, and I didn’t spot a Funko figure!
Futurama reminded me why I love comics. I bought 2 books I have no idea how to read , but they are magnificent!
So, the comics are out there. Comics that are for everyone. There is a lot of them. We just need to dig a bit deeper and learn a different language I think!!!!
I recommend everyone visit Europe Comics just to see what real wonders are out there. Give the superheroes a miss. They certainly don’t care about you anymore.
I can’t wait to get reading!!!