Why you should never judge a comic book by its cover

Childish, too niche, corrupting our youth – the criticism against comic books has taken on many forms. But despite this, comic books are one of the few literary genres which have seen a rise in sales figures following the recession. At BookMachine’s latest event, Tim Pilcher walked us through the vindication of comic books, and why publishers need to join in on the fun.

On Tuesday evening, Phoenix Artist Club was packed to the brim with publishing professionals eager to hear what Humanoid’s comic book guru Tim Pilcher had to say about the rise and redemption of comic books.

Often looked down upon within literary rooms, publishers no longer can afford to ignore the power the combination of images and words can have. As Tim pointed out, the written word alone can be very elitist, as it excludes those who are illiterate or who speak a different language. You have to learn how to read, but looking is something you just know how to do. And with the internet creating a generation which is highly visually literate, publishers should be using comics to capture this audience.

It’s been a rocky road for comic books to have their voice heard in English-speaking countries, much thanks to the US condemning comics in the 1950 due to a fear they were corrupting youth (fun fact, you can still be fined £1000 in the UK if you sell a horror comic to someone under 18). In Japan on the other hand, there has never been any bans, with the godfather of comics Osamu Tezuka leading the way in expanding the various comic sub genres. The biggest gasp of the evening comes when Tim mentions that there are individual comic volumes which have sold more in Japan alone than 50 Shades of Grey has done worldwide.

There are many unique qualities about comic books, one of them being their ability to cover just about every topic available, except for perhaps cooking. And the fact that comic books are growing in sales post-recession, could be seen as a sign that people are looking for more time-efficient ways of reading, which cater to their visual literacy. UK publisher are somewhat late to the comic book party, but many are trying to play catch up. This is of course a good thing, as long as they realise the importance of having an editorial team on board who truly understand the nature of comics.

It’s taken a long time to wash away the snobbism comic books has faced over the last 20 or so years, and there’s still some way to go. But thanks to comic book creators relentlessly pushing the boundaries when creating intelligent, visually stunning work, it’s safe to say comic books can offer a lot more than just men in spandex fighting each other.

Elin Butler is a freelance writer and editor who has previously worked in International Sales at DK (@writeoneaday / www.elinbutler.com)

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  1. Gah! “few literary genres” Did I teach you nothing, Elin? Comics are a MEDIUM not a genre! You can have romance comics, SF comics, contemporary fiction comics, etc! *sigh* 🙂 Thanks for the great nice up.

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