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Wednesday, 1 February 2012
SHOUTING AT CLOUDS...'COS MY SHOES ARE TOO SMALL...
The Sunday Times, September 11th, 2011
Human nature constantly amazes me. Certain members of the U.K.
comics' so-called 'creative community', always the first to bleat on about
freedom of speech or expression and their opposition to any form of censor-
ship (when it comes to their own personal projects), are also always among
the first to try and bully into silence and submission any dissenting voices
to their own self-serving view of things.
Comics are in a bad way.
Sales are declining all across
the board (with the possible
exception of Manga) and the
future doesn't look particularly
good. There are many reasons
for such a situation, but we all
know what they are so there's
no point in repeating them
here. Suffice to say that a
significant number of those
who used to buy comics no
longer do so, and the reasons
they give for abandoning their
weekly or monthly fix are that
comics are now too expensive
and, basically, rubbish.
One clueless chump claims
that those people have simply
outgrown comics, although this
fails to take into account why they
continue to seek out publications
from an earlier age that they haven't
yet read, as well as re-acquire those
they once owned, either in the form
of original issues or sturdy reprint
volumes. For myself, I love comics
- when they're done right. When I
pick up a comic from years ago
('60s, '70s or '80s), even if it's one
I've never read before, I can
usually find something I like
and which entertains me.
Whether it be the artwork, the story, or the mood - or some other,
indefinable, quality, there's something that makes the exercise of reading
it worthwhile. I'm hard-pressed to repeat the experience when perusing a
modern comic, whether it be a British or American one. Which is not to
say that there are no good comics out there, only that they're increas-
ingly harder to find.
Some of my recent
posts have come in
for criticism in some
quarters (mainly those
with a vested interest),
suggesting that if I (or
anyone else) don't
like something, then
I should just ignore it
and move on. (A bit
like witnessing a con-
flagration and not
shouting "Fire!") It's
therefore fairly safe to assume that they don't like what I've written, which makes their reluctance
to follow their own advice in such matters all the more curious.
Instead of practising what they preach, they devote themselves to
sarcastic, supercilious, banal comments on their Twitter accounts (thus
convincing me that such forums are aptly named, apparently catering
to more than a fair share of twits), and creating false identities for the
purpose of leaving feeble attempts at insults on my posts. (Most of
which I don't bother publishing because they lack the courage to
affix their real names to them.)
I have read and
collected comics for well
over 47 years, 15 of which I
worked as a full-time freelance
comics contributor. Ignoring
my professional involvement
for the moment, my 'civilian'
interest in (and devotion to)
the medium surely qualifies
my opinion as informed and
considered at the very
least, yet a few of those who
disagree with me constantly
seek to dismiss my 'expertise'
in the subject as ignorant
As we all know, The Dandy is currently dying on its @rse. D.C.
Thomson won't let it, of course, because they take pride in being the
publishers of the world's longest-running weekly comic. However, what
could possibly be the cause of its poor sales? Consider the facts. They
relaunched it amid much fanfare and within a few months it had lost half
its readership. All the old tried and tested reasons for declining sales were
trotted out to explain (away) the situation, despite it being obvious that
they couldn't account for such a dramatic loss of sales in such a short
space of time. That's clear to anyone with a brain.
Could the fact that the comic
now featured some artwork
which wasn't quite as polished
and professional as in previous
years be responsible in some
way? Artwork which was basic,
flat, crammed, repetitive, unclear
and, in some cases, distinctly
amateurish? Stories that were ju-
venile, uninventive and, worst of
all, unfunny? Lettering fonts that
were inconsistent, indecipherable
and, let's face it, incompetent?
Could it be because the comic
bore little resemblance to what
it had once been at its best,
instead looking like some kind
of 'underground' comic magazine with a poorly-rendered Dandy
masthead pasted on?
No to all of the above, according to the editor and some of the new
artists who were behind the drastically altered look of what had once
been - along with its companion paper The Beano - one of the Nation's
top-selling humour periodicals. New look -halfthe readers. No such
thing as cause and effect then, eh? Must just be a coincidence.
The Dandyis part of our Nation's
heritage. It's been around longer
than Superman (in published
form at least) and is held in fond
affection by those who have long-
since ceased to purchase it for
themselves, but continue to do so
for their children. (Although even
that custom is now on the wane.)
It's as British as the Bulldog and the
Spitfire, and we are all concerned
with its current ailing state and in-
vested in the hope that a cure can
be found to restore it to its former
glory. Small wonder then, that
passions run high and that news-
papers devote so much space to
reporting on the suspected cause of its infection.
Unfortunately, said infection seems to be of the 'superbug' variety and is
resistant to treatment, or even shame at being responsible for the malady
which afflicts one of the Nation's best loved comic icons. In the absence
of any effective antidote to the condition, the only hope is to resort to the
ultimate solution, drastic as it may be: amputation. Cut off the source
of the infection and consign it to the furnace.
We fervently pray that D.C. Thomson decide to operate sooner rather
than later, while something still remains of the patient to save.
certain person has
commented on his
own blog about some
of my recent posts,
describing them as
repetitive. He then
trots out the same
all' excuses that he's
resorted to so many
times before (com-
pletely unaware of the
irony) in an attempt
to explain away in
general terms the specific circumstances of The Dandy's current situ-
ation, ignoring and distorting the pertinent aspects in the process.
Oh, and he's indulging in his usual habit of ascribing motivations of
his own invention to those of a different opinion to himself, in an attempt
to 'explain' and dismiss their point of view as irrelevant. All delivered in
his usual smug, patronising style. Just how would we all manage with-
out him telling us what we think and why we think it?
Here are specific reasons why the examples
he cites do not satisfactorily account for things.
I amnot someone picking up a comic after
20 or 30 years and being appalled by the
fact that it's no longer anything like it was in 'my'day. I have never notbought comics.
I gave up on The Dandy when they first
revamped it into a 'yoof-style' magazine
(because it was rubbish), and I gave up on
The Beano only because of their insistence
on attaching a pile of tacky poo from time to
time and wanting to charge me anything up to
£2 or £3 more for the dubious privilege.
I don't dislike some modern comics because
they are 'modern' - I dislike some of them
because they are not very good. If I don't care
for a strip, my assessment is based on whether it is pleasant to look at or not,
whether one can tell at a glance what's happening on the page without hurting
one's eyes, and whether it has been drawn to an admirable standard of crafts-
manship. Oh, yes - and whether it's funny. Not because it doesn't look like
the comics I bought as a 7-year old. When I decided that I didn't like The
Dandy, I was comparing it to what it had looked like only the week before, not how it had been way back in 1937.
That's why, even 'though there is an element of truth (as there always is
in the best 'misrepresentations') to what he says in a general sense, it falls far
short of explaining the specifics. Not all those who decry the current incarnation
of The Dandy are folk who stopped buying it years ago in their youth; a sizable
number are people who want to purchase it, but don't - simply because they
don't consider it to be very good. (And that accounts for at least half of the
comic's former readership in 2010.)
I haven't always liked
every strip in even my favourite
comics; some I liked more than
others, some I didn't like at all.
However, even if I liked only two
or three strips per issue, I was
still getting value for money
because comics used to be the
least expensive way available of
passing an enjoyable half hour.
That's no longer the case and
publishers would do well to
Anyway, there's no point
bothering with someone who
refuses to recognize the facts,
and who - despite however much he protests to the contrary - has a vested
financial interest in 'talking-up' the comic and keeping on the good side of
those who supply part of his livelihood.
He also seems to forget that I have witnessed first-hand the expediencies
that some comic editors are prepared or compelled to indulge in. I used to
visit the offices of IPC every week (sometimes twice) for almost two years
(working in the building from about half-six in the morning to nine at night),
and know full-well that certain people were sometimes utilized only
because the preferred choice was unavailable
Thankfully, I'mnot in thrall to the same financial or 'insider' social
considerations that he seems to be, and am therefore free to think
and speak as I want to.
If you like nice art, why not give Thomas Haller Buchanan's
delightful blog a visit? Loads of lovely pictures and fascinating thoughts.
Click on http://mydelineatedlife.blogspot.com/ for your passport into
a veritable Wonderland.