Welcome back to SBC’s The Panel, a chance for you to put your burning questions – comics-related or otherwise – to a group of comics professionals. Sorry it’s been a while, but we are back now!

The Panel lives or dies by your contributions; please email them to panel@silverbulletcomicbooks.com and we’ll add them to the list…

This week’s question comes from Joseph Beller and is as follows:-

If someone provided the bankroll and the possibilities to carry it out. What would you do to strengthen the entire comic book field? Insuring not only growth (whether it’s by number of companies, titles, type of exposure) and creativity. The final result being a solid, growing field of endeavour that benefits all parties involved.

Kev F Sutherland :

First and foremost I would reach people who do not already read comics.
So I would target kids with new, popular comic strip ideas that grab them by the scruff of the eyeballs and make them want to read more.

My top secret idea, which I may as well share now as I’m way too busy
ever make it happen myself, is StreetComic. Essentially it’s The Big
Issue, but a comic. I always thought The Big Issue would sell a lot more if it was something you actually wanted to read, rather than a worthy bore-sheet.
And I always thought kids would buy it if a) it was a comic and b) the person selling it wasn’t a scary weirdo (no offence).

So we have a team of on-street sellers, we bypass the restrictive cartel of WH Smith and, er that’s it, and we raise money for homeless charities on the process.

Oh, and we single-handedly revitalise the UK comics publishing business.

Remember where you heard it first.

Second thing I’d do is search for brand new ideas in comic strips, not rehash old ones. Could the reason comics sell less than they did once be that the deas aren’t new any more? Spider-Man is 45, Batman’s pushing 70. They were million sellers when they were new, they’re not now. Let’s have some imagination and novelty, not the zillionth repackaging of an old superteam. It’s a joke that grown adults think the idea of a revamped Defenders comic makes any commercial sense. And the X-Men were starting to get stale 15 years ago, what do you think they look like now?

And Albion? Don’t make me laugh. A comic designed to attract the 8 people over the age of 40 who remember Janus bloody Stark? Pathetic.

New new new, creative creative creative, available available available.

That should crack it.

Writer and artist on most genres of comic from (currently) The Bash St Kids in The Beano, thru Tarquin Hoylet He Has To Go To The Toilet in Viz, to Star Trek and Dr Strange for Marvel, plus Dr Who, Red Dwarf, Gladiators, Goosebumps and heaps more.

Frazer Irving:

What I would do regardless of the effect it would have on the business, is hire my mates and publish the books that we want to make but aren’t allowed to by the various marketing philosophies in force these days. I have many buddies in t he field who have homeless projects and it’d be nice to go and get self indulgent. Whether this would ensure growth or anything u described above is in the lap of the gods. I don’t think about that crap, it’s not my job.

Frazer Irving: Essex boy, artist, philanderer. Did the small press
for 5 years, then 2000AD for another five, moved onto the glorious silky pages of DC recently. Not one for pigeonholing, he rejects the penciller-inker-colourist team-up and has merged 3 clones of himself into 1 so that he does all jobs. Possibly known for work on 2000AD’s Necronauts, Judge Death and The Simping Detective, currently doodling Klarion the Witch-Boy for DC.

James E. Lyle (a.k.a. Doodle):

Wow, this is an incredibly well thought out question, and I’m a little afraid to answer it with what may appear to be a flippant reply. But in all honesty I think that everyone involved in comics is in one way or another trying to do all he or she can to strengthen the field.

Using the Fantastic Four as an example: Stan Lee and Jack Kirby are noted for the fine work that they did on this title back in the 60s. A great book, every month they were out there improving the level of story and art in the industry…or were they? Let’s see, The Impossible Man, Paste Pot Pete, Willy Lumpkin…not exactly Doc Doom were they? You see trying to create memorable characters isn’t as cut and dried as all that, neither is strengthening the field.

While we may aim at such a high goal, few of us attain it. Or to put it another way, while we all may strive to improve life, we are all flawed as human beings and as likely to cause pain as to cause joy unless we are very cautious in what direction we are headed (and even then we have to be careful).

So, speaking for myself, I’d try to create comics that are appropriate to ALL ages of readers. I’d try to humbly address social concerns, with honesty and a genuinely moral perspective (that is, not simply saying “anything goes”), while still attempting to address the concerns of those who might not agree with me. I’d try to have fun with what I was doing, and try to give the readers their money’s worth. Instead of pandering, overpricing, and self-exhalting. I think that would be a good way to start; but then I’ve always tried to do things that way.

James E. Lyle is a cartoonist and illustrator, including co-creating titles Escape to the Stars, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. and DoorMan, plus work on Fright Night, Cynicalman Sells Out, and the accurately-spelt Wiindows. More recently Lyle worked on Turok, the “missing” Paul Gulacy T.h.u.n.d.e.r. Agents, and DRASTIK #1.

Bart Thompson:

First, we’d donate lots of money to the CBLDF, ACTOR, and the ICAA. All three are really worthy causes that I really believe in and stand behind… they do a lot of good work for our industry and they’d really have the foresight and vision to put the money to better use than I could think of.

Next I’d finally put a lot of things in motion I wasn’t able to do before due to lack of money. But with this magical investor with his endless supply of funds, we’re going to put the comic industry where it should be. To do that we have to make comics “cool” and known to a general public that have forgotten we exist or that comics are just for kids or the not so smart. Perception is a big thing… we really have to work on the industry’s look to the general public.

Since money is no object, we’re going to start a media blitz. We’re putting commercials on TV and ads in popular entertainment magazines. Then we’re going to put all the comics in collected editions and start donating them to libraries, schools (elementary, middle, high, and college), and hospitals around the country.

I’ve always wanted a comic book channel. Anything and everything comic related we’re going to broadcast on this channel 24/7. The Incredible Hulk show, Spider-Man cartoons (all of the versions throughout the years), the Superfriends, the Coreman Fantastic Four movie, the Flash TV show… so on and so forth. We’ll even have small news bite updates 10 minutes ’til every hour like MTV and full 30 minute to hour long news shows in the morning around 7am and one around 9pm.

These are the main things that come to mind and would keep us occupied for years.

Bart Thompson is the founder of Approbation Comics, creator of Vampires Unlimited, the Metamutoids, ChiSai, and Chaos Campus: Sorority Girls vs. Zombies while the writer of Lethal Instinct from Alias Enterprises and publisher of Myriad from Approbation- in stores now!!

Gary Spencer Millidge:

Easy. Give all the money to Stephen L. Holland and Mark Simpson to open up Page 45 shops in every high street in the English-speaking world. Clone Stephen and Mark to staff the stores.

Next week my solution for world peace.

Gary has been self-publishing his award-winning Strangehaven comic book series for ten years and his third trade paperback collection Strangehaven: Conspiracies will be published later this summer http://www.millidge.com

Alan Grant:

I’d create a University of Story and hire Moore, Wagner, Morrison, Mills, Ezquerra, Arthur Ranson and a couple dozen others as lecturers.
Attendance would be required of all publishers and editors, so they could learn not only what a story is, but how important story is to the survival of the human race. Cool images are great, but without a story they quickly become little more than wallpaper. Death and destruction are great, too, but out of proper context they become something very sinister.

I’d also destructure all media companies–hell, why stop there? all companies!–making it illegal for them to have employees. Everyone working for them, from the President down, would have to be self-employed, albeit with a direct stake in the success or failure of their particular publications. No more big bonuses for sitting on your ass and producing loss-making rubbish.

Finally, I’d make it illegal for TV show characters to appear in children’s comics. The comic characters of my youth were anti-parent, anti-authority, anti-obedience, anti-comformity. The kids’ comic characters of today are bland, smug merchandising tools…of the many kids’ comics I see regularly, few of their editors seem to know what a story is.

Alan Grant, writer of Dredd, Batman, and the slightly mad Doomlord, can be seen currently with Arthur Ranson on Judge Anderson in the Judge Dredd Megazine, and the superb Com.X trade collection of The Last American.

Donna Barr:

Major marketing in the mainstream book market. Classes for all retailers about the art form. Loads of books sent to mainstream reviewers.

All the toys and movies kept at San Diego — and the books go to the Los Angeles Book Expo.

It’s gonna happen.

Donna Barr has books and original art at www.stinz.com, webcomics at www.moderntales.com, www.girlamatic.com, and has POD at www.booksurge.com Nothing she won’t try, at least once…including writing a column for SBC at this link!

Kwanza Osajyefo:

I would love to tell you my first and second ideas, but then someone else would just take it, half-ass the deployment and generally screw it up. Besides I am working on the first two myself, we’ll see what comes from that.

So idea Number 3 is easy and pretty much foolproof – anthologies.

And piss on anyone that says they don’t work. If money-bleeding companies like Marvel or DC stopped publishing 32s (floppies, periodicals, insert trendy derogatoriness here) and squashed all their titles into weekly anthologies, people would buy them because they simply have no choice and must feed the collection monkey.

Anthologies are of course cheaper to produce as there would not be separate print costs of multiple titles to fund. Color or black-and-white printing are left to the ingenuity of Marvel or DC, though I suggest the latter.
The purpose of the anthology is to test new material and build new audiences around characters that already generate sales. People may buy the anthology for their classic favorites, Spider-Man or Batman, so riding on that success, The Big Two could begin testing out Arana and She-Hulk stories. They can do this without worrying about sales because the anthology is carried by their staple characters and since these titles are “so good” they’d find an audience in people that normally wouldn’t buy them.

As new audiences are formed Marvel or DC can then splinter the material from the anthologies off into trades, B&N would prefer to carry the anthologies instead on the pamphlets, artist could get more royalties, etc. Mo’ money.

The rest of the industry would follow suit or if nothing else find more room for fledgling writers to spread their wings in 32-page booklets

Kwanza Osajyefo is an emerging writer working on the forthcoming comic-related experiment, He’s Jimmy Hotledz.

Vito Delsante:

First, I’d hire guys that know how to answer that question. Guys and gals that know the industry from both sides of the counter.

What I would really like to do is encourage people to self publish more. I find that a lot of kids, teens, and young creators are too hung up on the idea that they have to do something with one of the Big Two to get to a point where they can do their own stuff. I think this industry is on the verge of a heart attack unless we get more young blood in here.

Vito Delsante’s creator owned mini-series, “The Mercury Chronicles”, with artist Jim Muniz, is now in development with Image Comics and will hit stands late this year. “Batman Adventures Vol 2: Shadows and Masks” (DC Comics) is out now! His work can also be seen in Reflux Comics #3 and in X-Men Unlimited #5.

Wow, some strong ideas here! And some interesting opinions!

What do you think?

What would you do?

I would definitely try to push and market comics to a more mainstream audience. Push graphic novel promotion, make the mainstream press take notice. Help new publishers, new writers and artists to get their work published. I really think the whole industry needs to join together for comics to survive in the next 100 years. People like the guys behind Malcom Magic, Brodie’s Law, the team at Engine Comics, Rapid Fire, Arcana, Approbation, heck even Portent Comics should be given help in getting their work distributed. Diamond as great as they are really do take too much money from these small publishers – there should be a set up where new starters are given a chance…

To give us your opinion please check out the SBC forums – follow the link below!!

Remember The Panel lives and dies by your questions so please send to me at the link at the top of the page!

“The views and opinions expressed on the panel are solely those of the panellist who has written them. They do not reflect the views or opinions of silver bullet comic books or myself. Freedom of speech is great isn’t it – James”

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