Phil Boyce runs the Oink! blog, dedicated to the original, cheeky, innovative comic that once featured the best of British talent, as well as extra posts on every aspect of the world’s greatest comic, creator info, behind-the-scenes shenanigans and more. He recently posted this article on the British comics industry and some of those deriding its current state and has kindly given us permission to re-publish it on downthetubes…
So what’s this all about? Last year, I published a post about Save the Children‘s Read On Get On campaign, which focussed on how important it is for parents to ensure their children are getting at least the minimal amount of reading time every day.
The event was a huge success, I’m very glad to say, and when speaking with my parents about it they confirmed how much comics had helped me develop my own reading skills further as a young boy alongside my books. In addition comics inspired me creatively throughout school and beyond, even if it did then take until I was in my mid-30s to take it seriously!
A quick look through any supermarket or the one sole newsagent we have here in Belfast and I see a treasure trove of titles for today’s kids to pick up in the same way as I did, definitely an improvement over just a few years ago. Add in the vibrant and exciting small press scene we have these days, as well as digital comics, and the potential is there for children to be enjoying comics as I did many, many years ago and to benefit from them in the same way.
And all that is without even mentioning the dedicated comics shops and all the imported titles!
Yes – we’re focussing on UK comics here.
The thing is, the British comics industry has come under attack in recent years from people whose main goal seems to be to bring it crashing to its knees and put everyone in it out of work for their own selfish reasons. They’ll never achieve their ludicrous goal, obviously, but they’re the ones who shout the loudest, as trolls usually do. You may have come across websites, forum posters or blog writers who proclaim the UK comics industry is dead, that it simply doesn’t exist and believe-it-or-not they’re able to word these things in such a way that some readers who think these people are some authority on the subject believe them. And woe betide anyone who disagrees!
At the end of the day not only are they trying to put adults off buying UK comics but they’re happy to try to take this brilliant way of developing reading skills away from the children.
When they do decide to “review” the latest comics they don’t buy them, they steal them by using illegal scans (god forbid they’d spend any money of them) and completely miss the point, complaining about how they don’t appeal to them in the same way as the comics of their childhood did. They kind of answer their own complaint there, don’t they? These people are in their 50s and 60s and these comics are aimed at today’s children. Not that they recognise this, of course, that’d stop them from complaining.
They’ll also try to discredit anyone who points out their falsehoods by claiming the only people who say the UK comics industry even exists are only doing so because they’ve a vested interest. They’ll say it doesn’t exist and its supporters are only saying these positive things because they’re getting paid by that industry for work. Do you see the gaping hole in their theory there too? Because it seems lost on them.
Nevertheless, I’ve no vested interest and here I am writing this post. I’m not getting paid by anyone to write this blog and I can’t even place adverts up (Oink! doesn’t belong to me after all and so rightfully I can’t make money off someone else’s product). It’s the trolls who have the vested interests.
Why are they doing this then? Surely there’s a reason? Well yes. I’m not saying this is the case with them all but there’s certainly some, the ones who seem to complain the most, who were either never able to crack their way into the comics industry for themselves or who did have a career but through their own mistakes, or unwillingness to adapt to the modern ways of working in the field, no longer do. They blame the industry for what did or didn’t happen, even attacking anyone successful in it nowadays too, and claim the only reason they can’t get work is because there is none as the industry here in the UK is “dead”.
I think even Mary Lighthouse would struggle with their reasoning and their tactics above when the shops look like this:
See what I mean about trying to pigeon-hole what a ‘comic’ is meant to be or indeed what counts as working in the industry? Ridiculous, isn’t it? If we took their arguments as gospel then my own childhood was all a lie!
My blog was created as a dedicated Oink! one, a humour comic packed from cover-to-cover with strips and I don’t think even it being a fortnightly would makes it fall foul of their rules. But I’ve also covered some other titles, both in my Beyond Oink! series of posts about the other comics I collected at the time and in the posts about new content from Oink!‘s creative team. Taking a look back at just the titles covered in my blog and taking into account these apparent rules, it’s clear I’ve been wrong and I’ll need to go back and edit them all!
(Oh and as an aside, The Beano, The Dandy and Buster are usually held aloft as the finest examples of top-quality British comics, and so they should be, often used to back up the silly rules. But in their early days they featured text stories, and adventure ones at that too! So obviously these leaders in the British industry only became comics later on then?)
Yes, one of the events above is a film and comic convention but it doesn’t matter, despite the desperate claims to the contrary in some dark corners of the internet, who I’m assuming would even dismiss the San Diego Comic Con because the movie and TV industries now attend too? Or they say things like it’s only those fans of retro comics who attend because there’s nothing for UK fans to see otherwise.
Are you getting tired of these terrible excuses to get out of admitting they’re wrong? So am I, so that’s it.
When you hear someone say “support the UK comics industry” don’t be thinking they’re saying it because it’s on its knees or anything! Go back five years and the shelves were adorned with plastic toys with a slim, badly-produced magazine attached but that’s no longer the case. These still exist, but they’re in the minority. Many may be bagged and have gifts but what’s inside is great content for your kids; comics strips, text stories, picture-panel tales, activities… basically, fun while reading!
Isn’t that the most important thing? There’s loads out there for adult collectors like always (did we disregard Watchmen back in the 1980s by the way?) but for your young ‘uns there’s a wealth of great stuff out there.
The music industry evolved and changed beyond all previous recognition with the advent of Apple’s iTunes but maybe all those music sales don’t count either because they’re digital? No, of course that’s not the case, but it’s the equivalent of saying that when these people state digital comics don’t count. Digital comics have allowed us to enjoy a huge array of completely original titles which publishers simply wouldn’t have taken a chance on and have allowed small independent creators to release their titles globally!
Similarly the small-press comics industry, which has always existed and been celebrated, has expanded massively thanks to modern technology and it’s easier than ever to get a comic title published this way. Don’t get me wrong it’s still a lot of hard work, we want quality after all, but while the print runs are smaller (hence “small press”) the large variety of original titles out there should be celebrated instead of being brushed aside!
There are loads of sites to read up on, my personal favourites being right here – Down the Tubes, Lew‘s Blimey! blog and the aforementioned Other Worlds Than These from my friend Stevie Robinson. Lew and John have written multiple times about the true state of affairs in the UK comics industry and the vast array of goodies on offer, so save them and keep yourselves up-to-date, pig pals.
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.