Tuesday 26 January 2016


Characters copyright their respective owners

Here's a question for you to ponder, but first let me set the scene.  Imagine that, by the end of 2020, no published comic periodicals exist.  No BEANO, no 2000 A.D., no PHOENIX; in fact, no other current paper comic or magazine available to purchase in any newsagents or supermarket.

Instead, there are only collected editions in book form, or 'graphic novels', or specially commissioned 'comic albums' (like ASTERIX The GAUL for example) released at various times over the year (or years).  Got that?  Would there still be a comic 'industry' in your view, if comic strip material was only available in book form or on the internet?

The word 'comic' can be applied in various ways, but in this context, I'm using it in the traditional sense of weekly, fortnightly or monthly paper periodicals that, in the minds of the public, defines what a comic is (in short, a physical publication).  What's your considered view on the matter?

(Anonymous 'snipers' won't be published, so don't bother wasting anyone's time.)


Unknown said...

Oh I can see this one being fun!!! Ok of me I don’t think a “ comic industry “ needs to be defined by only selling comics in the traditional weekly / monthly format. I think it can be called an industry if it only sells graphic novels / specialist albums / internet providing it sells enough books and that there is work for new artists / writers.
Personally I don’t get bogged down with the labels of what is and what is not a “comic” (call it “graphic novel industry”) for example would a series of 20 regular monthly graphic novels with all new material count as a comic industry , I think so - however it would not be a “traditional comic industry” by your description .

Kid said...

At one time, 'comics industry' was a term used exclusively in relation to the sale of published paper periodicals containing comic strips; it didn't cover newspaper strips, comic albums, etc. So I've always been clear that it's that definition I have in mind when discussing the decline of the comics industry. My handful of vocal detractors are aware of this of course, because I'm usually referring to the disappearance of comics like The Dandy, Sparky, Victor, Hotspur, Warlord, Beezer, Topper, Valiant, Lion, Wham!, Smash!, Pow!, Fantastic, Terrific, Eagle, Tiger, Buster, Whizzer & Chips, etc., etc. Now that was an industry.

However, in order to put a more positive spin on things, some people use 'comics industry' to include any form of comic strip material in whatever format it's available. One could argue that, if such is the case, the nature of the industry has become an entirely different entity. I'm not entirely comfortable with the elastic nature of the term and the resulting widening of the goalposts, but if people want to regard that as an industry, they're perfectly entitled to. However, they should bear in mind that their interpretation of what constitutes an industry is not necessarily the definitive one, nor is it something that can be imposed on other people. It also shouldn't be used as an argument to dismiss the plain and simple recognition that the 'comics industry' as it was traditionally understood, virtually no longer exists in this country.

A comic used to be a physical thing; a paper periodical whose carton, as much as its content, defined what it was in most people's minds. The content may continue in other formats, but should the original carton disappear, with its demise, that particular industry dies with it. A comic was always more than just its content, it was the smell of the paper, the physicality of it, the joy that comes from seeing that pile of comics in the corner increasing week by week or month by month.

You're smart enough to see what I'm talking about, McS (even if you don't agree with me) - others either can't or won't because they're following their own agenda. Should published paper periodicals of comic strips ever completely disappear, it'll the end of an era. The digital option has no appeal for me. As you've seen, I've been showing pages from Whizzer & Chips #7 on the blog. As nice as it is to see them, nothing compares to holding the actual issue in one's hands and lingering over the pages.

Phil said...

I would call it a industry for sure. But I don't know if it's comics. If it's still published on paper even in a book form ala Asterix I would call it comics but in a trade paper back format. If it goes digital only it's something else entirely. The advantage of paper is its big, it keeps forever and you don't need batteries.

Kid said...

Well, it may be an industry, but as you say, not necessarily a 'comics industry' in the sense that the term was once understood. Part of the problem (as I covered elsewhere), is that the word 'comic' can be applied to either the carton or the content. I use it here to specifically refer to the carton, others use it to refer also to the content. I feel it makes sense to differentiate between the two by referring to the content as 'comic strips'. As for paper keeping forever - I'd say that depends on how one looks after it.

Unknown said...

I actually do not disagree with you that a "comics industry' WAS a term used exclusively in relation to the sale of published paper periodicals containing comic strips like the Beano , Pow etc - and without doubt your 100% correct that once the last few weekly / monthly comics go it is indeed the end of an era. But for me the key word here is "WAS" things evolve (not always for the better) and as we won't have those days (imho) back again the "industry" that once was needs to change or die ( and to do that they need new formats and those new formats could form part of a new (comic) industry or it will bite the dust. Folk that disagree that the comics industry' as it was traditionally understood, virtually no longer exists in this country are so obviously wrong that it is not worth arguing with them on that subject.

I agree a comic is more than its "carton" (nice phrase) it's the smell of the paper, the feel of the book, walking to the shop to get it, swapping them etc etc and that's part of the overall experience that will be lost if (and it may be a big "if") we lose the last physical comics - but then again do kids today care about that now in the age of computers (maybe were as much a dying breed as the weekly comic Kid).

Kid said...

I think, simply for the sake of clarity, we have to make a distinction between the comic strip 'medium' and the 'comics industry', McS. The comic strip medium, hopefully, will always be with us, but the industry of publishing comic periodicals or magazines is in serious, almost terminal (relatively speaking, in comparison to what it was) decline. Now, of course, if you use the term 'comics industry' to refer to the production of comic strip material - in whatever form (books, graphic novels, comic albums, digital websites, etc.) - then, in that sense I suppose, it is an industry. So we're both right. However, talking about evolution, the industry has 'evolved' (or is in the process of doing so) into something almost completely different (as far as carton goes, if not content), to such an extent that it's not entirely unreasonable to regard it as practically a different industry, even if some people refer to by its previous name. To me (and others) the carton is so inextricably bound up with the content that, in one sense, the two are synonymous. (And, paradoxically, in another sense not - although they certainly are - or were - as far as common usage goes.) It's like the music industry - there's always going to be one, but if you regard the 'record industry' as something related but different (that is, records in the form of black plastic discs), then there is a distinction between a 'music industry' and a 'record industry' in practical terms; you can have one without the other. As a 'comic' was once regarded as a specific physical item (like a record was), the 'comic industry' (carton) could disappear, while the 'comic strip medium' continued. My few detractors either cannot grasp (or ignore) the distinction I'm making, because they use the word 'comic' in a more general, generic, more encompassing (and less discriminating) way than I do.

The confusion (and consequent disagreement in some circles) comes from the word 'comic' being used in more than one specific sense by various people, but when applied to a physical published periodical in the way that I use it (and in the way it once exclusively meant) then I think the indications are that that particular 'industry' has had its day. It's like when one monarch dies and another is crowned - the cry goes up: "The king is dead - long live the king!" Different king 'though same description, but the difference has to be acknowledged.

You're right of course, in that it's not worth arguing about, but it is an interesting topic of discussion.

Phil said...

I loved playing PC games in the 80s. Those formats are now unreadable. That's why I have more Ruth on my paper comic book. It may be fragile but here it is 50-75 years later, and can be restored and reprinted. Digital comics don't exist. What readable now won't be in ten years and will dissapear. Art from the walls on ancient Egypt will be there long after Flash comics from 2012 has gone.

baab said...

One of my kids was thumbing his way through a series of images on his ipod and when I asked what they were he showed me and he said,"my football cards".

Kid said...

I suppose that's the reason why stuff on a computer is referred to as 'virtual' rather than regarded as real, Phil, eh?


Baab, I used to have a Gordon Banks football card when I was a kid. Saw a picture of it on the internet and copied it - then I bought one from eBay at the first opportunity. The 'real deal' does it for me every time.

DeadSpiderEye said...

I'm not really sure about the necessity of periodical publication to the strength of the industry, my feeling is that periodicals are probably not essential but are a good indicator of vigour within of the industry. I think the point is academic though, there is no comic industry in Britain; the word industry denotes some scale of consistent productive activity over a broad spectrum. How many sequential graphic narrative publisher are active in Britain, how many publications do they produce regularly featuring that form? Add 'em up, my feeling is that the total wouldn't be at a level that could be defined as industrial in scale. No what we have is here is a niche art form with occasional expression through one or two legacy publications and sporadic activity from independent publishers. Industries can support a broad base of artisans, skilled in the their crafts, is that what you see here? I'm thinking that's not the case, I'm thinking the few practitioners that there are here, are scrabbling to make a living or looking abroad for work.

That's my view anyway, I'm not claiming my insight is infalable, I'm sure there are aspects of my interpreation that are flawed but I think the conclusion is sound. The question begging is, is there market potential for a comic industry to thrive in Britain? Which is tricky to answer, I think there could be potential but the current position regarding overheads, storage, distribution costs and the concomitent rationalisation of sale and distribution would have to change before that potential could surface.

Britt Reid said...

If it comes out on a reasonably-regular basis, it's still a periodical.
For example, Doc Savage was originally a monthly (later quarterly) newsstand-distributed pulp magazine in the 1930s-40s.
When it was revived as a paperback reprint series available in bookstores (and newsstands with paperback racks) in the 1960s, they were coming out on a monthly basis for several years before cutting back to quarterly, then semi-annual releases.

Just because the comics material is no longer in a magazine/floppy format, as long as it's following some sort of semi-annual or more frequent release schedule, it's still a comic, even if it's a paperback or hardcover.

Kid said...

As usual, DSE, some well-considered, intelligent, and interesting thoughts from you. I'd say that I mostly agree with your conclusions, so there's not much more I can say that would add anything of worth to your contribution. Keep 'em coming, as it's always good to read an opinion which is in accord with mine. (Mainly because it doesn't happen often.)


I wasn't proposing that something which comes out on a semi-regular basis wasn't a periodical, only that comic albums or collected editions of comics in book form are exactly that, and don't necessarily represent a comics industry. (That is, an industry devoted to the publishing of what is traditionally regarded as a comic or comic mag - a paper periodical. Of course, a one-off publication in comic mag format can be a comic without being a periodical, because it appears only once, not periodically.)

And I'd still maintain that paperback or hardback book containing a collection of comic strips is a book, and not a comic. However, while the word 'comic' continues to be applied in such a flexible way to different manifestations of comic strip content, there'll always be a difference of opinion on the matter.

(Originally posted on 27 January 2016 at 18:52.)

Phil said...


(Originally posted on 27 January 2016 at 23:52.)

Kid said...

Thanks, Phil - I'm off to take a look.

(Originally posted on 28 January 2016 at 00:20.)

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