Keep it current for the kids

27 Oct
By Darryl Ayo

Things that don’t make sense in North American comics: 1) comics that exist after their creators have ceased to. 2) these comics’ existence continues despite minimal effort to applicable to contemporary culture. Things that make perfect sense in North American comics: people’s general lack of interest in comics.

It’s no coincidence, people. A resounding success in comic books is a hundred thousand units sold. A thunderous applause in comic strips is merely getting a new strip into the door. In rap music, bragging about either of these things would get you laughed out of the industry. The bar for success in comics needs to be set much higher and it should be enforced by those of you who operate under the pretense of bettering comics. Slowly, but surely, we will not find ourselves needing to boast about terrible sales or projects that merely get optioned.

I know that a lot of you do not believe me and have long accepted the current climate (past thirty years) of comics to be normal and expected. To that I tell you that your opinion is wrong. Comics are popular with people, but they’re held back by a self-defeating industry.

1) write better stuff: Easier said than done, right? Well, you’re a professional writer, you don’t get to complain. Stop being terrible. The people in item number three below will help you with that.

2) draw better stuff: This is a graphic medium; this is visual culture. There is no excuse for some of the stuff that comes across my field of vision these days. Stop trying to copy Peanuts, simplicity is only for real bosses.

3) edit more; edit smarter: Seriously people. Tell these cartoonists and writers when they’re off their game, when they’re messing up, when they’re doing right. I feel like a lot of comics are edited with a rubber stamp. “Welp; that sure is a comic.” :stamps “APPROVED” on the object:

4) marketing matters: Lots of people don’t think that comics are a real thing because comics aren’t marketed outside of venues in which they’re already sold. I don’t need to know if you can convince some guy who likes Green Lantern to buy a Batman comic. Heck, I don’t particularly care if you can convince a Green Lantern fan to buy a Gary Panter book. A person who buys superhero comics is a lot more likely to read another kind of comic than a person who has no exposure to the medium at all.

5) criticism matters: But critics, please try to avoid becoming the unpaid PR arm of another company. Just read comics and write down what you think of them.

6) readers have power: Vote with your dollars. Vote early and vote often. In the case of comic strips, which come as a feature of a larger product, let your voice be heard with letters addressed to editors. It’s one of the few ways in which the editors will know what it is that their audiences are specifically responding to.

 

Abrupt ending:

Do better.

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7 Responses to “Keep it current for the kids”

  1. ross October 27, 2011 at 2:29 pm #

    GODDAMMIT I’M TRYING

  2. Googam son of Goom October 28, 2011 at 2:41 am #

    People do vote with their dollars . They vote not to buy so many comics in 2011 as were purchased in 1951. When comic stories were more simplistic with more amateur art they sold in the millions.The issue of quality is moot. There has been a technological shift that allows a variety of modes of entertainment that compete for individuals attention. Your logic is bizarre. You state that comics are popular, Then you explain why they aren’t popular.What on earth does “simplicity is only for real bosses” mean? Simplicity of art, narrative, characterization? Peanuts in fact was far from simple in any of those aspects.

    • darrylayo October 28, 2011 at 7:01 am #

      “Simple” doesn’t mean “facile,” or “easy,” but rather unburdened, unencumbered, unclutterer. Peanuts undoubtedly changed the face and design of mainstream comic strips, leading to editorial preferences for pared-down, spacey, airy designs that eventually led to today’s Dilbert, Pearls Before Swine, etc: comics which could be easily reduced to cut costs, unlike the detail-rich Lil’ Abner, Cap’n Easy, Krazy Kat or Bringing Up Father which preceded Peanuts. Peanuts was an early example of how perfect economy of line could be. The problem occurs when artists say “hey I can do that!” (they can’t) or when editors say “they should all be this easy to reduce in size!” (they shouldn’t). The problem occured because after Peanuts, everybody wanted every comic to BE Peanuts.

      To your other complaint about my logic, let me rephrase: comics are inherently likable, innately enjoyable. Comics, as sold in the North American comic book industry are not popular or financially successful.

      People have always and will always enjoy pictures and stories. Always. From the Venus of Willendorf to cave paintings to Internet memes on Tumblr, people love representational art/pictures and they love stories that pictures can tell. Any failure of “comics” is strictly due to specific mismanagement, bad marketing and bad work. There is nothing wrong with the form itself. People will always love art, representational art.

      People will always love comics

  3. jdalton October 28, 2011 at 1:31 pm #

    *stands up, begins slow golf clap*

  4. boxbrown (@boxbrown) October 30, 2011 at 1:10 pm #

    I’ve thought about this a lot. it would an amazing bold move that would ultimately pay off I think, if the syndicates slashed all legacy strips from the paper. If the original guy is dead. See you later PUNK. Prince Valiant’s estate is clearly going to be fine. The latest edition from Fantagraphics was on the GN best sellers list this week. (WTF??)

    Bring in ALL ALIVE CARTOONISTS.

    Jesus Christ, is that so much to ask?

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Comics A.M. | Jerry Robinson Detective Comics #67 cover up for sale | Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources – Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment - October 27, 2011

    [...] Comics | Darryl Ayo has a small manifesto about comics that makes a lot of sense: “Things that don’t make sense in North American comics: 1) comics that exist after their creators have ceased to. 2) these comics’ existence continues despite minimal effort to applicable to contemporary culture. Things that make perfect sense in North American comics: people’s general lack of interest in comics.” He points out a number of reasons why the comics audience is small and challenges creators and publishers to “Do better.” One point he makes that is rarely mentioned: The critical importance of editors. [Comix Cube] [...]

  2. Comics A.M. | Jerry Robinson Detective Comics #67 cover up for sale | My Blog - October 27, 2011

    [...] Comics | Darryl Ayo has a small manifesto about comics that makes a lot of sense: “Things that don’t make sense in North American comics: 1) comics that exist after their creators have ceased to. 2) these comics’ existence continues despite minimal effort to applicable to contemporary culture. Things that make perfect sense in North American comics: people’s general lack of interest in comics.” He points out a number of reasons why the comics audience is small and challenges creators and publishers to “Do better.” One point he makes that is rarely mentioned: The critical importance of editors. [Comix Cube] [...]

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