Comics publisher, artist and events organiser Shane Chebsey has launched a petition calling on the BBC to consider more regular coverage of comics as a medium. We think he has a point – the last major coverage (without 1960s Batman TV show type editorialising) was over ten years ago now, for Comics Britannia – so we asked him if we could post his arguments for a TV “comics magazine show” on downthetubes… here’s what he had to say!
The British Comic Industry, despite being more diverse and compelling than ever, is in crisis… and a lack of decent mainstream attention isn’t helping. Which is why I started my petition over on Change.org, which has prompted a lot of debate on some of the social media groups I’ve shared it to.
The BBC covers all sorts of arts on a regular basis. It covers popular culture too, with Music, Film and other mediums sometimes given prime time programming.
However Comics and Graphic Novels, which are part of British heritage and have a huge national interest, are not covered.
Interest in comics has skyrocketed in the last 15 years with multiple comic conventions now happening every week of the year, when in 2003 there were only 2 in the entire country annually.
And yet, still, the BBC does not cover the medium on TV in any regular way. This seems to defy all logic.
The general public still has this idea that comics are just for kids or that they are only about superheroes.
However, as well as hundreds of British artists and writers working for the big American companies, there is a huge swell of underground and independent comics being produced in this country telling stories in every genre imaginable. 2000AD and Beano are just at the tip of a huge comics iceberg.
The damaging perception of comics only being those on display in the newsagents, with free toys and puzzles obscuring the comics themselves, (although these comics sell well and are an essential part of the industry) threatens the very existence of the comic industry in the UK, with comic shops closing all the time, and less and less people of all ages now reading comics.
Pay for comics writers and artists continues to fall, as sales fall and print costs rise.
Publishers are going out of business and artists are falling into poverty or having to take other jobs to supplement their income.
(Remember the Dandy anyone? RIP)
Digital sales are not as high as people think and whilst films and games featuring characters and stories sourced from comics are high on the public’s awareness the source material remains obscure and largely under appreciated.
The biggest selling independent comic in the world The Walking Dead drawn by British artist Charlie Adlard sells less than 80,000 copies a month. Yet millions watch the TV Series derived from it every week, many unaware that the comic even exists.
And this comic is considered a huge success! Indeed it is, thanks to huge trade paperback sales and licensing of the property into other mediums.
The comics medium is unique. Both literature and art, telling stories in a way no other medium can. Comics are a national treasure!
The BBC is surely obligated in its remit to cover comics and I’d like to seem them programme a weekly entertainment and news show, raising awareness of the medium to a wider audience and providing the thousands of existing comic fans with a mainstream source of comics news and features.
I think that not only will this show be hugely popular, it could play a huge role in changing public perception of this incredible storytelling medium and in turning around the fortunes of the struggling industry.
It would never be short of material either. A quick peruse of the hundreds of online shows and podcasts covering comics shows that.
It could feature creator interviews, reviews, related media news, event reports and lively industry panels.
There are many comic creators and fans with professional television experience and the show would build a bridge allowing comics to once again become a mainstream entertainment medium and the respected art form it deserves to be.
• Shane’s next comics event is the Margate Comic Festival on Saturday 14th – 15th April featuring guest such as Dan Abnett, Laurence Campbell, Rufus Dayglo, Simon Furman, Kieron Gillen, Kev Hopgood, Emma Price, Si Spurrier, Kirsty Swan and Emma Vieceli. Find out more about this event here
• What do you think about Shane’s idea and opinion? Do comment below!