If you have a little downtime over the holidays, you could do much worse than by reading The Comics Reporter’s yearend series of interviews:
Fantagraphics co-publisher Kim Thompson
Scholar and critic Jeet Heer
A looooong interview on mainstream comics with Tucker Stone
Indie comics with Sean T. Collins
PictureBox’s Dan Nadel
and the always interesting Eddie Campbell.
There are some newsy bits scattered here and there — PictureBox will be putting out retrospectives of John Kricfalusi and Syd Mead in their non-comics publishing arm. Also, Campbell, who it would seem to be impossible to interview poorly, has quite a bit to say about the recent reorganization at Macmillan which put his publisher, First Second, into the Macmillan’s Children’s Group:
I’m not surprised, because the book world, by which I mean the mainstream book publishers as well as the libraries and the Library Association, has been viewing “the graphic novel” as a young reader’s genre for quite some time. In part I think it’s because the part of a publishing house that is likely to be interested in bright illustrated narratives is the children’s books department, and in part also because those publishers, and America’s libraries, see the “graphic novel” as a way of grabbing a part of the literate populace that has hitherto proved elusive. Now, I have no objection to young folks having their own literature specially designed for them, though when I was a young ‘un myself I would have been highly suspicious of anything that the adult world thought I should read because it was supposed to be good for me. Let’s not forget that this is one of the things that drew us to comics in the first place, the very fact that they were not approved by our adults; they were our visual rock’n'roll, the things we knew that they didn’t. However, let’s not get bogged down on that point. The problem with this development is that comics were supposed to have grown up and become the “graphic novel,” but now we are apt to find articles telling us that the “graphic novel has grown up.” In other words we’re back where we started.
While Campbell has every right in the world to fret about his publisher, Tom Spurgeon also had made a bit note of First Second’s move. Nothing can be taken for granted in the publishing world, but this isn’t quite a shocker — First Second was ALWAYS part of Holt’s children’s division, as the initial press release from 2005 made clear:
Long rumored in the publishing press, children’s publisher Roaring Brook Press today announced it’s new Graphic Novel imprint, First Second, with an impressive line up of established creators like Jessica Abel, Warren Pleece, Eddie Campbell and others. The line will be guided by Editorial Director Mark Siegel and the first books will see publication in early 2006. The full press release of their announcement follows.
Tom mentions that First Second EIC Mark Siegel has his own response that will probably be even more forceful, but it’s worth pointing out.
Which doesn’t mean that Campbell’s general point doesn’t stand. While we’ll have more on this (hopefully) when we sit down (in March!) to do our own Year in Review, the fact is that juvenile graphic novels did much, much better in 2008 than literary comics from major (i.e. book) publishers did. Indeed, several of TCR’s interviewees ponder the effects of traditional publishers’ forays into graphic novels, and those effects do bear continued scrutiny.