Saturday, 12 December 2015


Right, let's get straight into it. 'Often used to back up the silly rules' he witters in the screengrab above.  Well, I think I've more than ably demonstrated that these 'silly rules' (or the way that he distorts them at least) exist only in his own head (and in the heads of those who agree with his catalogue of exaggeration, disingenuity and misinterpretation.)

However, there is a case to be made (and I think I've done so) for a comic - in a precise sense - being regarded as a physical, published entity.  Something you can hold in your hands and have a tactile relationship with.  (Oo-er, steady on there, missus.)  In a very real sense, a comic is a combination of 'carton' and 'content', not just one or the other.  (Context would be the determining factor.)  If you apply the term 'comic' to any and all paper-covered periodicals in the comics-section shelves of a newsagent, recognize that the categorization is often the result of simple expediency.

Consider this.  One thing that irks many comic readers is the automatic assumption by many adults that comics are just for kids and is a format aimed at the immature or simple-minded.  Part of the problem, perhaps unique (in degree at least) to Britain, is that both 'carton' and 'content' have traditionally been seen as intended almost exclusively for children, and any periodical for kids is therefore regarded as a 'comic'.  So the word has taken on a much looser, wider, definition.  One can make a claim that this is a legitimate application;  after all, if something is perceived as belonging to a particular category, doesn't it actually become so after a while?  Let me apply my mighty brain.

In one sense 'yes', and in another sense 'no'.  After all, a tomato being perceived as a vegetable when it's actually a fruit, doesn't make it a vegetable  People might think it's a vegetable (and in large numbers too), but it remains a misconception, regardless of whether they're aware of it or not.  Yet chefs still use it as if it were a vegetable.

Now, you may at this point think that I'm confirming the accusation of my 'opponent', but I'm actually trying to give him a fair shake by acknowledging that the word 'comic' has more than one just application.  That's part of the problem, you see, because the two sides often use both senses of the word interchangeably.  The word now has a more general application, as well as a specific one.  So, even were I (and others) to subscribe to the limited definition of a comic as derided on that other blog, his negative classification of that as 'silly rules' is surely a purely subjective one, coloured by his willingness to include just about any magazine in the kids' section of newsagents all across the country.

I'd suggest that his looser definition of what constitutes a 'comic' is equally as open to the charge of being 'silly' as the one he so superciliously mocks.  That fact seems to be lost on him.  He has already decided that his definition of what makes a comic is the 'true' one, making him just as dogmatic on the subject as he accuses the other side of being.  By his own standard, his opinion has therefore no more validity than anyone else's.  Hoist by his own petard, methinks.

But, as I hope I've illustrated, it's a more complicated matter than may at first appear on casual consideration.

So, is the comic strip item shown in the first screengrab a comic or not?  Well, in one way, it is, and in other, it isn't.  It's a digital comic.  But why qualify it so?  Well, when I buy my MARVEL MASTERWORKS volumes, I'm buying a book - but one that contains comic strip material previously published in comicbook form.  So isn't the book a comic because of its content?  Nope - it remains a book, not a comic.  So the item in the above screengrab may (and will) be referred to as a 'comic' in a general sense as a matter of convenience, but it's not one in the specific sense that most people understand it.

Think about it.  If it had been first printed in a book, it would  be a book and not a comic, so obviously the form in which it appears is a relevant factor which must be taken into account when it comes to classification.  Is it silly to give things their own category in order to differentiate between them?  I'd say no.  Let's return to my record analogy for a moment.  A CD is a recording, but it's not referred to as a 'record'.  Why?  Easy.  That's because we all know that a 'record' (as commonly understood) is a black (other colours are available) round disc with a hole in the middle.  "So what?" you say.  "A CD is a silver round disc with a hole in the middle.  They both play music, so what's the difference?"

I'll let you decide that for yourselves, but we all know there is one, don't we?   Here's another little something to ponder.  If you're going out to the shops and your kids asked you to bring back a comic and you came back without one, I'll bet you can well imagine their disappointment.  Even if you were to access one on your computer for them to read, you know, in your heart of hearts, that they'd consider it second-best and not quite the real deal (as far as 'carton' goes).  It would be a bit like them asking for a teddy bear and when you forget, showing them a picture of a teddy bear.

True, that's not a perfect analogy, but it serves the purpose of illustrating that there's something about the physical aspect of some things that's essential to their very identity.  And a 'comic', to most people's way of thinking, yet remains a physical thing that can be handled.

Also, consider this fact:  Animated cartoons are nothing more than a series of sequential drawings given the illusion of movement by the application of technology, yet they're called cartoons, not comics.  Why?  Given the more flexible, encompassing definition of that other blog writer, couldn't they, shouldn't they be classed in the same group?

The point being there's a reason for the distinction between similar-but-related art forms, and the erosion of those distinctions is not necessarily a helpful development.  It certainly shouldn't give folk with no regard or respect for those traditional distinctions, licence to ridicule or contemptuously dismiss the point of view of those who do.  (Or invent and ascribe malicious and insulting motivations to them.)

Take a mo to read the caption of the above screengrab.  Now maybe someone will tell me (because I appear to have missed it), but where has it ever been said that a periodical is excluded from being a comic just because it arrives through the post?  In trying to be clever, he's only making a complete prat of himself.  (Do what you're good at is what I say.)  Note that I'm not mocking him for his opinion on comics, but for his ridiculous distortions of other people's views.
Let me digress for a moment.  Someone who emailed me recently, said that after talking to the author of the piece, he held the view that it was a 'general article' and 'not targeting anyone in particular'.  Now, see that part in the above screengrab about 'ridiculous rules' coming from those who 'collected these comics or even worked on them' - guess what?  That's me, that is.  Not named, but clearly alluded to.

Now, I'm not claiming to be the only target, but I'm obviously one of them, perhaps even the main one.  If there's anyone else who's worked in comics who's as vocal in his criticisms as I am then I've yet to learn of them, so any claim to it being a 'general opinion piece' (as described by the one who justified his cross posting of it) is patent nonsense in my view.  It was clearly far more than that.

I'd hoped to delve into the definition of 'industry' in this instalment, but I've lingered a tad too long on the above and other concerns now require my attention.  Hopefully I'll wind it all up in the fifth and final part - though that ambition is open to revision depending on circumstances.

See you next time.


Colin Jones said...

Kid, I don't really agree that kids would be disappointed by a comic on a computer - I think a physical comic only matters if you want to collect it otherwise downloading it would be okay especially to the modern tech-savvy kids. I've downloaded graphic novels to my tablet for the last couple of years and I'm fine with that but if I wanted to collect those comics it would be a different matter obviously.

Kid said...

I'd say you're missing the point, CJ. If you say to a kid "Come and take a look at this" and show them a web comic, there may well be no disappointment because the kid has no expectation. But a kid who specifically asks his parents to bring back a comic for him and then doesn't get one, is bound to feel that a web comic isn't quite the same thing. Doesn't mean he won't enjoy the web comic, just that he'd have preferred one to take into the loo with him and read in bed. And what if it was a comic with a free gift? He misses out on that too. And some kids do like to collect comics as well, CJ. A photo of a kid posing next to a computer screen is hardly the ideal way to show off his comic collection, is it, if he wants to send a photo into his favourite comic.

Colin Jones said...

Kid, I did say in my comment that a downloaded comic would be okay only if a kid wasn't collecting them - I agree that some kids might want to collect them and yes, they might want the free gifts too. I only meant that in this day and age lots of kids might not be bothered about a physical comic because they are so used to tablets etc - just like most people under 30 probably don't buy CD's anymore but just download their music. I'm not saying downloaded comics are better or even that they are real comics just that many modern children don't have a problem with reading a comic on a device rather than physically owning it.

Pete said...

Who are you talking about? I'm confused now. It's not the person I thought it was because your opponent mentions him. Is it a new attacker? I sort of understand why you don't want to name them but could you give initials or something so we don't get mixed up please? Cheers.

Kid said...

I understood that, CJ, but what I was pointing out was that if a kid asked their parents to bring a comic back from the shops for them, because they had a sense of expectation from looking forward to it, if their parents then came back and said "Oh, we forgot!", the kid would be bound to be disappointed in these circumstances. Therefore, the parents then saying, "Never mind, we can look at a digital comic on the computer", well - I put it to you, my learned colleague, that there's a helluva big chance that the kid would see it as a bit of a 'consolation prize'. Obviously (I would've thought), I wasn't referring to those kids who wouldn't have had a problem reading a web comic, because those kids wouldn't have asked their parents to bring back a comic in the first place (unless it was just for the free gift).


There's a big clue on the first post I did on the subject, Pete. Have fun working it out.

DeadSpiderEye said...

In my view, his point about what defines a comic is a reasonably one, it's just that he's using to it support a conclusion that is untenable, that would be the assertion the industry is thriving here. Unlike yourself, I do have an issue over the means of distribution. Not because publications distributed through the post are not real comics, rather they serve to indicate one of the reasons behind the paucity in the UK comic trade. That reason would be the difficulties in distribution and point of sale space. Lew Stringer is a fine illustrator with a proven body of work behind him, so he should be one of the guys driving around with with the pet shelties belonging to one of his mistress's, in the back of a Merc, while he's tootling around Monte Carlo, because he's so thriving. I dunno but in reality, I'm willing to bet, Monte Carlo is not on his itinerary for the new year.

Okay so I'm being a bit facetious, I hope they don't make that illegal, like wolf whistling, because I'll be in real trouble. Despite my reservations about citing ventures like Brickman as indicative of a healthy industry, I think that it's possible that such examples bear the potential for a revival of interest.

The point about electronic media is tricky one. I think it's true that most publishing professionals believe that print, as a distribution medium, is on borrowed time and that the difficulties in copy protection are the only reason it's lingering on. Personally, I'm not so sure that assumption is true but the lack of faith that accompanies the notion, mitigates against the prospects for marginal ventures and comics fall under that description.

Kid said...

Okay, DSE, 'fess up - how many comics did he send you to say that? (I jest of course.) Competent cartoonist are the words I'd have used, but I'm comparing him against the greats, and few people measure up to that comparison, I suppose.

One thing I know for sure - I prefer to have something I can pick up and read, and the idea of reading comics online is completely unappealing to me. I love books and to surround myself with books, I like a tangible, physical proof of their existence, and the digital equivalent seems like a second-best alternative.

Nobody would be any happier than me if there was a revival of interest in British comics, and we could once again have periodicals like Lion, Valiant, Eagle, Buster, Wham!, Smash!, Pow!, Fantastic, Terrific, Whizzer & Chips, Wow!, Whoopee, Tiger, Knockout, Victor, Hotspur, Warlord, Dandy, Sparky, Beezer, Topper, Buzz, TV Comic, TV21, etc. Now that's what I'd call an Industry - and that's not even counting girls' comics.

Kid said...

Meant to say that if his definition of a comic is absolutely every kids' periodical sitting in the 'comics' section of WHS, then he's over-egging the pudding. Some are puzzle & activity mags, popularly and conveniently referred to as comics for the sake of convenience when allocating shelf space. Sure, there may (or may not) be a general public perception of them as comics, but as I've tried to show in my posts, thinking doesn't necessarily make them so - in the REAL sense - although it might as far as they're perceived. However, thinking a tomato is a vegetable when it's a fruit, doesn't make it a vegetable - even if a lot of people think of it as one.

However, it's more his definition of what other people regard as comics that I take issue with. (Did you see what I did there?)

DeadSpiderEye said...

It's reasonable to claim a medium is thriving when it engages a depth of talent, when it encompasses diverse genre and appeals to a broad market. Those are the yardsticks I use to judge the state of the medium. Now I'm not claiming a particularly profound insight but I don't think the UK comic industry satisfies any of those criteria. Sure, there's room for discretion over when individuals, might claim a certain level of activity can be defined as successful. Perhaps that where the contention lies here. If that's true and it's just matter of divergent metres being applied to success, then I would say that those talking up the industry, are not applying valid benchmarks to gauge their opinions. Which why I've stated a broader perspective should be applied. I believe there is market potential or at least there could be, if a number of factors in the context of the UK periodical market could be addressed.

One problem I think comic creators face, is that there a tendency for publishers to view the periodical market as diminishing within its current limits. The prospect for expansion is not regarded seriously, with such an attitude there's no impetus to venture in different directions, because it's seen as a case as robbing Peter for Paul's benefit. The consequence that follows, is that publishers continue with their current formulas. A way through that obstacle is for an independent scene to take hold, sure any success coming from such a movement would be welcome. Thing is though, do you see such a scene arising at the moment, I would describe any such current activity as nascent at the best. Worse, I think there are particular cultural issues, intrinsic to the UK at this time, that mitigate against the prospect of any such scene garnering significant success.

Kid said...

Interesting points as usual, DSE. It's interesting that some people claim that self-published comics are a sign of 'industry' and talk them up so much. I dunno, maybe it's just me, but the idea of someone sitting in his house, writing and drawing his own comics, and then publishing them, hardly indicates a burgeoning industry. Mighty publishing empires (even 'though they employ freelance contributors who sit in their houses, etc.,) - now, to me, that's REAL industry, not the pale imitation we have today.

You put your points so frightfully well, I think it speaks volumes that no one else responds to them, which suggests to me they'd have difficulty putting up a serious argument. I can see by the number of hits these posts are getting that they're not being ignored, so draw your own conclusions from the relative silence.

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