The Sunday Rant:WHY Are We Losing So Much Real Creative Comic Talent?

Your response may be: “Are we?”  My response would be: “Yes, we are.”

I’ve seen comic wannabes taking their portfolio to publishers since the 1980s. The big companies, like Marvel and DC have it all down pat. Feign interest, tell the artist his art needs “a bit more developing” and to keep “checking out our comics where you’ll see the styles we’re looking for.” Now I think of it, does Marvel or DC even hold artists portfolio viewings in the UK these days?

UK comics ‘companies’ holding portfolio viewings also tend to be companies that do not pay so they tend to be looking for various standards of artists…who don’t baulk at the “we don’t pay” words.  There are also those who see a project by an artist and say they will publish the book so long as the artist comes up with the money.

I have seen some incredible artwork fobbed off with “yeah, you need to really polish up on (your choice) but you are getting there” and this is a little soul destroying to any artist trying to get into the business.  When I have stepped in to make a comment I get a “looks could kill” from the ‘editor’/’publisher’ (hey, THEY are wearing the sun-glasses!) and the artist in question ignores anything said:yes, the artist would sooner be put down by someone who I’m surprised can even spell “Editor” because he says he is an editor.

The worst experience I ever had left me with a writing/drawing block for three weeks! Back in the late 1980s, I got a call from Marvel UK that there was an editorial job going -was I interested?  Eating cold baked beans or being paid a wage? Hard decision but I feigned enthusiasm.

I arrived at the time and date agreed upon with the senior editor the previous day and after twenty minutes I realised something was wrong. Receptionist 1:”He’s supposed to be here about the editor’s job?”  Receptionist 2:”Oh, —- gave that to his friend -you know, the one with BO?” (BO=body odour). Realising that I was seated some three feet away, Receptionist 1, a lovely Australian temp (they ALL were back then!), told me to wait while she “sorted something out” since I’d travelled over 200 miles for nothing. My temper in those days was..”bellicose” and if I’d seen the idiot who had phoned me and told me to travel to London he may not have lived long.

Eventually, I was fobbed off on some editor (I’ve repeated this story to a few who work in comics so they know WHO I’m talking about) who took me to his office which was full of ‘reference’ toys such as Action Force vehicles and figures. Considering my work up to that point I was surprised to be told that “young guys” like me (I WAS older than this tea-bag) needed to learn the basics.

He rambled on about how artists needed to realise that under clothing was skin, muscle and bone. I pointed out that a lot of us “young uns” had studied Leonardo when it came to anatomy. He looked blankly. “Leonardo Da Vinci?” I added. “Oh, him. He’d never get through my door as an artist. He’s not that good.”

***********************!!!!!!

I realised this was not going to end well.

The moron opened a draw crammed with full page artwork and he pointed to it and said:”This is the type of stuff I get sent!” I looked through it -I even recognised a couple of the artists- I was almost drooling, fantastic ink lines, superb blending of negatives, incredible anatomy. “What I could do with these artists working for me” was running through my mind. “What are you going to use these artists on?” I asked. Moron from the depths kicked the drawer shut:”Nothing of course. Those are the rejects!”

I could feel my guts twisting with rage, anger, frustration! He then showed me what work he was using. Blood was draining from me.

I kept looking at the clock on his wall and telling him I had to go but he kept on coming.  “You need to use squares for comics” he told me. “Squares”?? Hey, I was as hip as anyone!  He took out a photocopied page from How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way showing differing panel formats. Penny dropped. “We call them “panels” in the business” I said.  To which he responded: “Well, I’ll tell you, the number of artists who draw the page to the script layout that I get to redraw those pages because I think a different layout will work—”

I had this terrible throbbing in my head and gastric reflux. I could feel my eye twitching (you know the eye -it bulges and throbs). I needed to do something. “Hmm. I’d have to ask you, as you are the experienced editor…” (smug look on that beardy face of his) “..how much space between the edge of the panel and the edge of the paper?” He rubbed his chin. “Good question!” he said. REALLY???

He got out a piece of artwork and with a ruler measured the edge to panel border distance on all four sides. “About 3 centimetres -that’s an inch” (moron). ‘Enthused’ I looked at the page again: “Can I ask you then, I just have no idea, what is the distance between each of the ‘squares’ on the page?”  He started measuring again and after five minutes he announce the figure (don’t get me started).

It was a muggy day so he stood by the open window and looked at me seriously. “You know, comics is a very unpredictable business you new people don’t get. I’ve edited six comics and each one has folded after a few issues. No idea why.”  I knew. If the people he was working for didn’t know then they were equal tea-bags.

As I got up to try to escape moron he started falling back from his seated position at the window. I grabbed him just as two other employees entered the room. Obviously not wanting to be a bigger idiot in front of colleagues, the moron says “Careful!”

Let’s get this right. He was falling backward out a window and I grab and pull him back in (sorry, I had no idea what I was doing) and he makes it seem like I was pushing him. Hence the infamous “Hooper held a Marvel UK editor out of the window” story, started probably by him and his two mates.

I can remember leaving after more talk about “needing to learn the basics of the comic page” and with a trial comic script in hand. Along the way to Victoria Bus station I stepped into a public toilet. Two men were using the facilities but I needed to use a cubicle. “Been stuck for days, mate!” laughed one. I do apologise to which-ever local authority it was run by but I tore the door off its hinges after an exclamation of anger -the two fellas disappeared quickly.

Trudging along, some down and out kept stepping in front of me. “Got change?” “Come on -a quid!” “You think yer ***** better than me do ya ya big ******?!” It has to be said that, after trying to be polite with my responses, I did grab this individual by the throat and told him in uncertain terms where to go. At this point two artists I knew who were working for Marvel UK had stopped to see what was going on. “Away day to London, eh, Terry?” said one jovially.

This became the infamous “Hooper tried to strangle a beggar” incident.

The coach trip home was not helped by a migraine and the campest National Express steward I ever met.  He stank of scent and spent the entire trip telling me to call him if I needed anything (there were only two other people on the coach).

Next day I tried drawing the “trial script” but I was blank. It didn’t help when Art Wetherell phoned and asked if it was true I’d hung ——- out of the window at Marvel?  Then someone else rang after hearing of my “London rampage” and that was it.

Eventually, I did get back to writing and drawing, this time for D. C. Thomson and Starblazer and the utter confused idiocy there I’ll avoid.

I did send an editor at Fleetway/Egmont the work of an artist I’d written a script for. The art itself was brilliant and a lot better than most of the strips the company was publishing. “No. He needs to sharpen up his style. If he wants to get into comics he’ll need to re-appraise his work. Not up to our standards” The guy went on to work for DC.

Sadly, today, most editors are of the untrained type.  Either they publish a Small Press or Independent comic and have decided they ARE editors or they have no real knowledge of comics, comic buyers or the market -proven by the fact that they’ll ‘mangle’ a superb artists work to make it fit a new format without any consultation.

Editors…management. Its all the same:no idea. Why does Egmont publish old UK strips and new material in Scandinavia but NOT the UK? Sheer bloody idiocy.

Oh, best description I’ve heard from someone of their job:”graphic design media consultant manager-editor”.  He edits a not very good Small Press comic!

Because of this type of editorship/management so many great comic artists are leaving behind comics to do other work, some no longer even drawing. And yet a lot of not so great artists DO get work in comics?  Go figure.

I wish I could remember the man’s name…A. B. Rose? He produced LOTS of mini zines in the 1980s all of matchstick figures. He even wrote about it in Zine Zone. He claimed matchstick figures were an artform. And, yes, this is the person I allegedly threw in the River Thames. The “Hooper Threw A.B. Rose into the Thames” incident.

The rot set in when the comic fan got into editing -you can see that even with Marvel and DC.  Don’t blame TV, the movies, video or computer games for there being no real comics industry in the UK.  Smaller, poorer countries and even better off countries have all of those and yet have vibrant and exciting comic industries.

Its sheer stupidity and laziness in the UK

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