[an error occurred while processing this directive] Celebrating Five Years of Pushing Comix Forward [an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive]
Now, don't get me wrong. I like idiocy, pop-gossip and snarky comments as much as the next chap. In fact, I probably enjoy it a little more than most, and spend a huge amount of time online when I should be working and/or attending to family responsibilities taking part in important debates like the size of Linday Lohan's dirty pillows, or whether Batman's cape is better in black or a traditional Jerry Serpe blue. But it can't always be like this. It just can't.
As a precocious young teen in the mid-nineteen-eighties, one of the things that first attracted me to the paedophile honey-trap we liked to call the Scottish comic-book scene was that the people I met there tended to be smarter than the people I met elsewhere. These guys had read books I'd never heard of, loaned me tapes of movies I'd never seen before and could tell me all about the straight line in art-styles traced back through John Byrne and Neal Adams to the halcyon days of Hal Foster and the photo-realists of the 1930s newspaper strips. They KNEW shit and I was impressed. Comic-collections tended to go hand in hand with doing pretty well at school and studying for an infra-red astronomy degree at Glasgow University. It was all tied up with Hitchhikers, Jerry Cornelius, sci-fi conventions in old, Victorian railway hotels and new guys emerging on the scene, many of whom had beards, to tell us that comics weren't just for kids anymore. I hesitate to use the word highbrow when so many of these conversations involved names like "Swamp Thing" and "Stilt-Man", but I'm sure you get the idea.
We had Dark Knight, Watchmen, Luther Arkwright, American Flagg, Love and Rockets, Mister X and new ground broken every month as European, South American and Asian influences were hitting every book from Daredevil to Giffen's Legion of Superheroes. Even huge, mainstream, number one books like Elektra: Assassin (the first issue sold almost 200,000 copies in a year when the market was roughly comparable to this one) were relentlessly ambitious, every page a work of art and every line a mind-fuck. And the fanzines responded in kind. Huge, ten page round-table discussions analyzing every line in the latest Alan Moore book and everyone trying their best to sound smarter than the next. It's only old men who look back on fonder times (and I believe we're living in a far more exciting creative climate right now thanks to the creator-owned market in particular), but there was something just so innately cool about the nerdiness and seriousness of that passion. We were like guys on the front lines, loaning our graphic novels (and the word tasted so new on our tongues back then) to anyone who seemed even half-interested, evangelical about spreading the word of what comics could aspire to.
Fanzines were funny things back in those days. They cost a lot of money to put together and debates took forever to even get a few points across (thanks to the monthly or bi-monthly publishing plans), but there was just something great about lying in the bath for two hours and seeing people taking our crazy shit so seriously and discussing things with such weighty concern. It's the one thing I miss and this isn't a slight, like I say, to all the message-boards and the Wizard magazines because -- Christ knows -- you only have to look at the Journal to see how easily you can disappear up your own colon. We need the fun too. We need the laughs. These are, after all, the funny papers bound together into very expensive and glossy packages. But we need a little brains in there as well as balls and funny-bones. We need smarts as much as quips and serious reporting, reviews and comment.
We need Alan Doane and Chris Allen, essentially.
Welcome to the New Comic Book Galaxy.
25th May 2005
Mark Millar is the writer of THE ULTIMATES, SUPERMAN: RED SON, CHOSEN, and other very good comics and graphic novels.
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