Saturday, 12 December 2015


Are you a fan of 'straw man' arguments and spurious 'logic'?
Then you'll love the above screengrab from a blog extolling the
'virtues' of today's U.K. comics scene, as it has them in abundance.
First of all, I've never read or heard of anyone insisting that 'a comic
must be a weekly humour title aimed at kids, with cover-to-cover
comic strips and must be purchased from a newsagent', so he's
foisting his own skewed viewpoint onto those he seeks to discredit.
Comics can be fortnightly or monthly, and can be purchased
mail order or by subscription.  Or given away free, even.

I've expressed a preference for the way things used to be
when I was growing up, but I've never sought to suggest that
the comics 'industry' has to be constricted by that;  nor do I know
of anyone who has.  Part of the problem, I believe, is the fact that
the word 'comic' can be applied to more than just one thing, and
this leads to confusion on both sides of the discussion when it
comes to understanding just what is being discussed.

For example, the simplest definition of the word 'comic'
I've seen online is this:  "A periodical containing comic strips,
intended chiefly for children." That's probably still the popular
idea of what a comic is among the general public.  However, that's
using the word in the specific sense as it's most commonly under-
stood, whereas it also has a looser, broader sense, and this can
sometimes lead to people talking at cross-purposes when
discussing the seemingly simple subject.

It's like the 'music' industry.  Music is accessible in a vari-
ety of ways.  Once upon a time, the vinyl record format was
how most folk listened to music, or by attending live concerts.
In modern times, it's mainly by CD, or downloading, and all sorts
of other ways that I've probably never even heard of or imagined.
(That's because I'm a doddery ol' fart, but that shouldn't be held
against me.  After all, I'm a doddery ol' fart who still has his
own teeth and hair and that should surely count for some-
thing, you impudent young whippersnappers!)

Once there was a record industry.  A 'record' in the way
that most people understood it, was a vinyl disc with a hole in
the middle - not to be confused with a Polo Fruit or a dough-
nut.  When someone said that they were going to buy a 'record',
we knew exactly what they meant, and, at one time, didn't  include
a CD or cassette.  That's because, in the sense I've just described, the
word 'record' referred to what I would call the 'carton', and not the
'content'.  Although, confusingly, 'record' was also a 'shorthand' way
 of referring to the original recording.  That's why the word gradu-
ally took on a looser and wider application:  Someone would hear
a song on the radio and say "I must buy that record" and then go
out and purchase a CD or a cassette tape (or 8-track).  That's
because, in that particular context, their use of the word
referred to the 'content' and not the 'carton'.

The word 'record', as I said, was short for 'recording'
so, technically, whatever the 'carton' was - vinyl disc, CD,
music cassette , 8-track, or whatever - fell within the category,
but, for the most part, it was generally understood that a 'record''
was a particular thing in itself - a round, usually black, plastic disc.
However, when referring to their 'record collection', a person's
usually talking about their vinyl collection, not their CDs or
music cassettes - even 'though these are 'recordings'.
Different 'carton' you see. 

Confused?  You will be!  First, 'though, let's deal with
the facetious captions on the screengrabs below.  Got to
be thorough.  If a job's worth doing, etc...

Well, the fact that I recently referred to LITTLE STAR
(which is in the same format)  in some fairly recent posts as
a 'nursery comic',  puts paid to that little piece of misrepre-
sentation.  Would anyone deny that this was a comic?  Has any-
one ever denied that this format doesn't fit the category?  If so,
I must've missed it.  The absurd examples he mocks are
nothing more than fantasies of his own creation.

Again, another gross misrepresentation of the other side's
point of view.  I used to work on the above title and the first one
below, and I, for one, never once challenged or denied its catego-
rization.  Nor have I ever read of anyone else doing so.  Another
'straw man' argument with no evidence to prove otherwise. 

Do I really need to labour the point?  Remember also
that these comics are around 20 to 25 years old.  I thought
we were talking about the state of today's 'industry'?  Talk
about misdirection?  And, amazingly, there are some folk
who fall for all his tedious twaddle.  Strewth!

On a simple point of logic, it's perhaps worth noting
('though I'm not applying it here) that just because a periodical
may describe itself as a 'comic', it doesn't necessarily mean that it
fits the description.  (After all, The SUNDAY SPORT described
itself as a newspaper.)  Once again, these 'silly rules' he likes to
ascribe to others seem to be ones he's invented himself.  What a
neat way to try and win a debate - argue against what we say
the other side said, instead of what they actually did say.

Let's pretend, for the sake of argument, that every U.K.
comic on sale in shops today contained nothing but reprinted
U.S. material.  Would it still be a comic?  I'm not aware of any-
body who would dispute it, 'though there may be.  So again, this
could be yet another 'straw man' argument.  However, he's refer-
ring to two comics. Two comics do not, in my book, constitute
an 'industry'.  (Although, in fairness, these are comics from
around 20 to 25 years ago, when we arguably still had
one.  But that was then - we're talking now.)

Ah, but there are other comics out there, you say!  In-
deed, which is why, next time (among other things), we're
going to explore the idea of just what constitutes an 'industry'
in light of how the word was once understood in relation to
the comic biz.  Don't dare miss it!  You know how I hate
talking to myself.  See you in part four.


DeadSpiderEye said...

The white noise, represented on the shelves of Newsagents doesn't just confuse the issue of what a comic is, it actively depresses the potential market for comics. Kids wanting to buy comics have to negotiate this confusing array before they can satisfy their interest. Maybe if they know what their looking for it's not so bad, but recruiting new readers or promoting a new publication is pretty close to impossible. The problem is, if you approached Smiths and said that you need to put comics into a discrete shelf space, they're just gonna come back and say there aren't enough of 'em being published to do that.

Meanwhile, there's still nothing targeted for readers older than about 12 being distributed through agents, I can't even get hold of 2000AD. Some of the Titan DC stuff, is reasonably mature and you know what, by its sporadic availability, I think it might even actually sell but unfortuantly, it can only defined as a part of the British comic industry through the most tenuous association.

Kid said...

I see your point about 'tenuous association', but if it's something that makes money within the British economy and pays British wages, then I suppose it's part of the 'industry'. The Mighty World Of Marvel (the original '70s series I mean) was essentially nothing more than repackaged American material, but it was a legitimate part of the industry (no inverted commas, because it was still a 'real' industry back then). Having said that, I think the British Marvel staff at that time consisted mainly of Pippa M. Melling, with Dave Gibbons doing occasional lettering corrections that the U.S. Bullpen had missed. However, within the context of what was happening at the time...(etc., etc).

DeadSpiderEye said...

I think arbitrary distinctions over what kind of activity that can be regarded as British in relation to the comic industry, are not that useful. You are correct, if a venture is making a return for a native publisher here, putting money back into the trade, yeah it's British. I'm just pointing out, that you know, maybe the scale of such a contribution isn't really that great to the native comic industry as a whole. How many artists are they employing, how many writers, how much of wider British culture are they giving expression to? Not a great deal as far as I can see. I'm not saying I don't welcome such activity, I'd rather have wider access to the imports myself but at least it's something on the shelves.

I seem to remember a time, when activity in the British comic industry was so intense, that there weren't enough native contributors to service it. Regular input from the fine tradition of illustration in Europe where needed to keep up with demand. Such a circumstance seems so remote today, as to be hardly imaginable. God knows what perspective might deem such a state of affairs as thriving?

Kid said...

Well, I'd agree with that, and have even said it before, DSE. But American reprints, if there is a British industry, are certainly part of it, even if just a small part. As for the second half of your first paragraph, that's why I made mention of the seeming size of the original Marvel U.K. Bullpen. As for your second paragraph, I don't think it was so much a case of not having enough native contributors to service U.K. comics, it was more a case that foreign artists were prepared to work for far lower page rates, thereby keeping the cost of production down.

DeadSpiderEye said...

I have discussed the foreign contribution to British comic art with an agent who was active around the seventies. I think your point about costs is well made but my impression was, that it was the general dissatisfaction with illustration standards by British illustrators around the later half of the sixties, that prompted a larger scale utilisation of the foreign pool of talent. Not so much a problem with the prominent illustrators, more an issue with the journeymen making their way in the industry. The cost issue arises, when you can't fork out for an in demand illustrator but need someone for a few pages of a not too prestigious project. Realistic figure work was the main issue of concern I believe, that and repo issues arising from scrappy line work.

Kid said...

I was thinking more of the early and mid '60s, DSE, where there was quite a few foreign artist working in British comics. However, I didn't mean to imply that foreign artists were ONLY employed because it was cheaper to do so - obviously it was because they were more than up to the job - but if it came to a choice of using a British or foreign artist of equal capabilities, cost would probably be the deciding factor. As for the '70s, I think it might be a case of many who were good enough to be working in comics were making more money elsewhere, or being only prepared to put so much work into a page for the going rate, and that half-hearted work wasn't up to what was required.

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