As I’m not really sleeping much at all I thought I’d ponder the question of why I really hate producing comics in the UK.
I have excluded all the useless idiot editors and lack of any real main comic publisher. I have also excluded the “Yes” men who encourage editors to do lousy jobs. I have excluded all the “flamers” and “spammers” who seem to use the internet to create problems and stamp down on anyone trying to do good or help revive the UK comics industry.
Since the 1980s I have, every couple of years, approached banks to finance and establish a UK comic company.
I’ve now over 30 years of experience as writer, artist, agent, editor and publisher –I’ve over 60 books available online. I have written (1986-2009) British Comic Industry Reports that were so accurate in the last few years that my ‘prediction’ based on trends that a certain company would hit the skids has come true.
I get consulted by people setting up companies in other countries on all aspects of establishing themselves –I do so for people in the UK and recently for a French company looking at the UK as a possible outlet. I get asked by universities for data on British comics. I’ve assisted at least ten people get a Phd for their dissertation on UK comics.
All of this and can I get financial backing/support to go all out in publishing comics in the UK? No. Why? The response has been almost word-for-word the same since the 1980s: “Well, we don’t know anything about the comics industry and we don’t have anyone with expertise in this field” to which they all add “But if the business takes off and you start selling well get back to us and we’ll see about setting up a business account for you.”
My response to that is usually “No. I’ll put my money under the bed.”
It is simply the fact that people in the UK are ignorant of the comics medium. They see the movies and the “based on the graphic novel” but they think –if they do think about it- that “graphic novel” is a proper book. Forget the fact that it is a trade paperback of the comic book series. Hey, pretentions abound in comics –“I’m a graphic novelist” –oh, and here I thought we were writing and drawing comics.
Idiots in banks are of the same mind as many members of the public that comics, if thought about at all, consist of “Oh, Batman and Superman!” or, raising the dead: “Oh like Desperate Dan and the Beano?”
I once left a radio presenter on BBC radio totally stumped when he introduced me as “Terry Hooper a local graphic novelist” and I said “Well, I write, draw and publish comic books.” And, of course, he asked me about Dennis The Menace and the characters anniversary that week. My look must have said it all as he said “You don’t seem that impressed or…” and I added: “Dennis the Menace is of no interest to me. It has nothing to do with my work and I don’t care to promote the character.”
I’m a bastard.
Experience and knowledge in publishing and the industry means nothing in the UK. Martin Lock and his Harrier Comics should still be going today but it was a struggle for him to keep paying the printing bills because he fell foul of the same attitude.
There have been others. I’ve known them and heard of all the problems they faced as publishers. “Hey –why isn’t ‘blanky man’ #5 out yet?” asks a ‘fan’ and the publisher responds: “well, it’s being able to afford the printing as the printers are—“ and the interruption from ‘fan’ of “So how long have I got to wait –it’s been two months!” Yes, no one cares about your problems as a publisher they just want (and that little anecdote is based on a conversation I was present to hear and I really wanted to punch the idiot ‘fan’).
This is why a money-man is needed to back a comic company and that has to be a person not frightened of seeing no real profit until a company can be established in the market. At last year’s Comic Expo I drew shocked looks when I said I’d take anyone as a backer so long as they were serious and let me get on with publishing. “Oh,” said one person, “so long as its not Rupert Murdoch and News International, though!” My response: ”If he was serious I’d drop my trousers and bend over.” The shock was not in response to my being willing to suffer anal abuse for financial backing but because I said I’d do business with Rupert Murdoch!!
Incidentally, I ought to really point out, as I am rather a Marlene Dietrich like figure to some in comics, that I am not willing to bend over and take it up the chuffer for comics. I draw a line. Sorry to disappoint.
Until the UK can accept comics as an art form and a form of entertainment where creative types can let their imaginations flow, nothing will ever change. We are a nation with a proud comic industry that has been relegated to an island with a Small Press. Nothing wrong with the Small Press (see previous postings) but we do really need a mainstream industry…but do we deserve one?