Sunday, February 11, 2007

A new movement in Comic Art!

Or a shifting of the creative goalposts.

For a while now there have been many both working within the comic industry and those collectors or fans looking at similar scenarios from without, bemoaning the fact that no-one is buying comics any more, kids aren’t reading comics anymore, there are no longer any of the short-lived royalties being paid because they don’t sell, page rates have fallen dramatically for most creatives and so on and so forth.

Whilst all these facts have an element of truth about them I think the opposite of this negative and quite depressing scenario is being slowly and surreptitiously side stepped by a great many creatives.

More and more of us are putting ourselves in a position not dissimilar to those encountered by the writers and artists in the start-up of the American comic industry some sixty or seventy years ago, whereby they bandied together to form workshops, providing the publishers with finished products, therefore keeping some kind of editorial and creative control on the comics they produced.

The advent nowadays of information technology and the Internet, along with massive advances in digital technologies for the artist and designer has meant that one can now (not without a lot of investment, it has to be said though) set up and become independent of the “mainstream” publishers.

The astronomical costs of doing so previously to this were such that mega-money was needed to set up in the first place. Computer equipment, vital in today’s production and for the running of websites and generating worldwide sales is much cheaper to purchase than it was ten - fifteen years ago, and the size of the machines and what they can handle is also far superior.

Print costs have reduced in recent times both digital and lithographic as printers strive to keep their presses from becoming idle. Production values are far greater than at any other time previous to nowadays and standards have risen so high that for less cost, greater competition for the big guns is quite easily achieved.

In the past a larger staff would have to be employed, whereas now a smaller group of people can handle the artwork, retail, packaging, distribution, and administration sides of the company, leaving time open for meetings, funding acquisition, and conventions and festivals, etc.

The downsized production and retail/distribution teams mean that this too keeps costs down, giving better funds to the company to pay better salaries to obtain, in return, far better productivity and pride in their work through a joint venture approach, whereby everyone’s part is equally important.

Virtual shops complementing the “real” shops help with the generation of sales. Whilst one of the single most important advances in recent years is the ability to network with a far greater immediacy than was previously possible. Email, added to faxes and traditional snail mail give the company far more effective strategies to fulfil the criteria needed to obtain information, give information and increase sales.

The days of the lone writer or artist/designer are long gone. Information travels fast nowadays and one hopes it is positive when it arrives. So if industry practise is suddenly abusive somewhere in the world, everyone in the industry knows, as does the public. Equally if someone is looking for or seeking to give employment, there are a multitude of avenues, forums and other websites to gleam the information from.

So, far from being a depressing time in the comic industry, I see it as a time of change, a side stepping of the goalposts, of taking over creative control again from the constraints enforced by the mainstream publishers in their aim to, understandably, protect their franchised, licensed, intellectual properties.

As a singer once said (Bob Dylan – to be precise) “The times they are a’changing!” Exciting times, albeit challenging ones. A time to be truly creative, remembering unlike our sister art field – the movie industry – the only limitation to our budget is one of time and not cost, although spending a month on one panel may knock that statement into a proverbial well cocked hat.

The changes coming from the creatives are happening whether the big guns either like it, know of it, or indeed care about it. The worst thing in the world for a creative person is to work alongside a wannabe creative, with the power to enforce changes to styles, content, etc and without either just or needed cause…simply because they can.

The movement in the background is just starting, but mark my words, wait and see what’s coming…Already there are signs from creatives all around the globe and the work they are producing is already far better then that inside the mainstream, and in some cases being produced by those that have yet to appear in print, at least in the mainstream.

Exciting times indeed, as Jack “King” Kirby put it…”in the world that’s coming…”

Tim Perkins...
February 10th 2007

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