Every week in a new installment of “Leading Questions”, the young, lantern jawed Publisher of Comics Bulletin Mark Stack will ask Co-Managing Editor Chase Magnett a question he must answer. However, Mark doesn’t plan on taking it easy on Chase. He’ll be setting him up with questions that are anything but fair and balanced to see how this once overconfident comics critic can make a cogent case for what another one obviously wants to hear.
So without any further ado…
What gives you hope for the industry?
I know we tend to engage in a lot of innuendo and talking over the issues at the start of these columns, or I do that. But I read this question and there’s no part of me that wants to respond to it in a pithy or caustic manner. When you ask me about hope, it hits a nerve and all I’m left with is sincerity.
I guess I’ll give that a try.
Here’s the thing about hope. It’s easy when you don’t need it and most difficult when you do. Hope is the single matchstick in a dark cave. If we want to keep it comics related, it’s the candle held out by Alfred Pennyworth when his young ward has fallen down a deep dark hole. It flickers and threatens to go out extinguishing any glimpse of retrieval, but it keeps burning.
That’s romantic, probably too romantic for a column that’s just about the comics industry, but we can’t talk about hope right now and contain it to a single niche artform or anything else. Like all of the most important things we feel, things like love and faith, it has a tendency to sprawl across our lives. The hope we feel about our families or friends will begin to influence how we see our careers or passions. Or vice versa. Hope isn’t a singular thing, it’s an outlook, and one that can help us in all aspects of our lives, or fail us across the board.
So when you ask me about what gives me hope for the comics industry, I hear “What gives you hope for any industry?”
It’s people. People give me hope.
Let’s stick to comics because there are a lot of people much better qualified than me talking about bigger things right now. But we all know what those bigger things are, and the answer is the same there as it is here. It’s the people that keep you involved, that keep you inspired, and that allow you to have hope.
We look to the institutions of the comics industry: the direct market, the Big Two, and all of the other powers that are problems. We look to these sections and it’s easy to despair because they are broken. If we look at these publishers and this system as the only way for artists to succeed or for comics to be discovered, it looks like a big ol’ pit of nothing. It’s an endless spiral towards oblivion.
But that’s a lie because comics aren’t defined by a couple of publishers or a single distribution system. That’s not just true outside of the United States either, it’s true right here at home. Because while we watch Marvel flood the market with books that anyone in their right mind knows won’t succeed, we’re discovering books and artists that matter to us. For every chump pumping out hackneyed superhero books, there’s guys self-publishing incredible love letters on Etsy or Comixology Submit that rise above everything else in the genre.
If you care about comics, then you already know the artists and people you’re passionate about. You have friends who inspire you to seek out new work or to push your own work further than ever before. Simply caring about the subject leads you to meet people who care about it too, and who are doing the very work that will give you hope. To care and to love is to discover hope.
So when I’m feeling down on comics or other parts of life that matter to me, I look to the people in my life. I look to you and your work right now. I look to Joe and the work we do together on Reboot Comic Book Club. I look to Megan Purdy, Christian Hoffer, and Steve Morris’ collaborating on The MNT. I look to all of these people and so many others and see a world creating and celebrating comics in so many ways. I see all of this and cannot help but feel endless reservoirs of hope within myself.
It’s people that give me hope and I will always direct others to look towards the people in their lives when they need to rediscover hope for themselves. My fondest hope is that there is something I do that gives people hope, whether it’s in comics or somewhere else in my life. I’m indebted to so many people, yourself included, for my own hope that I must pray I am capable of passing it forward.
I want to cap this one with a quote from someone much smarter than me. It’s something I’ve been doing recently where I focus on the wisdom from those who blazed this path before and found hope and resolve in even darker times. This is a quote from City Supervisor Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California. You can listen to a section of it here, and it’s worthwhile. But if you only have a second more, just read this one snippet.
“The only thing they have to look forward to is hope. And you have to give them hope. Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home are too great. Hope that all will be all right.”