A blog about British comics from KRSinc

SCANTASTIC! ‘Zap! Pow! The astonishing growth of Graphic Novels’ – yet another “comics aren’t just for kids” article from ‘BOOKS’ magazine (June 1990)

In the mid 1980s, right through to the early 1990s, thanks to the whole speculation shitstorm which gave the illusion of healthy financial investment in comics, you could barely open a newspaper or magazine without some barely-evidenced article announcing that ‘comics aren’t just for kids!’

There were a few culprits: Art Spiegelman’s Maus – a holocaust survivor’s tale told in anthropomorphic pictures – was one of the prime suspects, with its classy perfect-bound gatefold paperback edition published by Penguin to great fanfare. Then there was Frank Miller’s canon-stretching Batman series The Dark Knight Returns, collected by Titan into a nice trade paperback. Grant Morrison and Dave McKean gave us the provocative Arkham Asylum.

These books and others seemed to take the form – as understood in the Anglo world – further away from the juvenile roots of comics, expounding upon existential themes, adult ideas, often with meticulously painted instead of the industrial assembly line plot-pencil-ink-colour-letter process of the American business.

But whilst some of these books clearly were conceived for a contained long-form, the big comic publishers sensed an opportunity, and before long every two-bit superhero, every slightly angsty übergoth outsider character, was in on the act, with Marvel and DC leading the effort to wage war on guiltless trees the world over. Otherwise pedestrian arcs of regular joe comics were packaged together, given a shiny new cover, and marketed as ‘graphic novels’. Comics for grown ups. Because comics have grown up. Groan…

And obviously having gone down the path of parcelling up product for second sale, the publishers also put in a lot of resources to market these naked-emperor books; and the mainstream book publishing companies, smelling the sweet scent of easy money, were wholly complicit. Hey, everybody wanted their own Maus.

So that’s why you would see all these crappy articles.

This one is from bookshop trade mag ‘BOOKS’, which was a freebie distributed through the Booksellers Association of Great Britain and Northern Ireland ‘Charter’ network. To be honest, it’s not the worst of its kind.

» BOOKS magazine article (June 1990) (PDF)


5 responses

  1. Jukesie

    To be fair the whole ‘comics aren’t for kids’ allowed me to write about Alan Moore for my A level English course work so not all bad 🙂

    September 25, 2012 at 11:15 am

    • Ha! Well I still have some of the notes I made for my own GCSE English extended essay!

      “Characterization in Graphic Novels is made difficult by the art form and more difficult by the fantastic nature of the characters themselves.” Do you agree? How effectively are the main characters portrayed?

      Cheers for that, Mr Pritchard.

      I may scan the notes in later for the yoks…

      September 25, 2012 at 11:28 am

      • Jukesie

        Mine was something about ‘narrative structures’ in Watchmen and V for Vendetta – total nonsense clearly but fun 🙂

        September 25, 2012 at 11:41 am

      • The key texts I used were – predictably – The Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, V For Vendetta and Miracleman Book One (née Marvelman)…

        I had recently discovered Dez Skinn’s Warrior in the bargain bins at Comic Showcase on Neal Street and the New Oxford Street Forbidden Planet whilst hunting for something completely different – I had it in my head that Don Lawrence and Ron Embleton had contributed colour artwork to a Ranger-style weekly of the same name as the Quality title. So a happy accident!

        September 25, 2012 at 12:11 pm

  2. Pingback: SCANTASTIC! Dan Dare’s 1990 makeover covered by The Independent « Oh lawks, it's…

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