every Valerian album has been translated into Finnish - a language spoken by about 5 million people.
Yet close to a _BILLION_ people on the planet speak English.
Does that possibly not say more about the Finnish comic scene than the English-speaking one? Could it not just indicate that there is a hole in the market for comics which can only be filled by foreign product, whereas the English market is mature and prolific enough to make it less essential to fill it with other material? Why are we not saying, “Why did they pick Valerian
, and not Zip Nolan
, or Adam Eterno
, or Billy the Cat and Katie
or The Spellbinder
or Roy of the Rovers
, or any of the hundreds of British characters available, not even looking at American comics or wherever?
I wonder about this a lot: it is easy to assume that, given the common area of interest on these boards, that Tintin
is in some way superior because
it is foreign, and therefore by association that foreign comics are superior. We like to think that the continental origin means that domestic fare is not as good, is lacking the certain je ne sais quoi
. We then back this up because they are sold as books, and that must mean they are better.
is only superior because it is a good
comic, just as Dan Dare
is a good comic. The fact that it is available as a book (we sort of blur over the fact that that it was a strip in a paper or magazine or whatever) is just us validating it as something you could get in a bookshop has to be better than something you got in a newsagents.
Similarly we like to throw in the fact that comics are read on the continent by adults
, who take them seriously
. Well, I’m an adult, and I read comics, but so did my mum’s dad, who wouldn’t have dreamed of Sunday without reading the antics of Oor Wullie
in The Sunday Post
- comparable to reading a full page of Tintin
, every week of the year over decades, in a run far more prolific than Hergé’s work on Tintin, and all written and drawn by one man. But no one here is asking why Oor Wullie
isn’t available in Finnish, or French (“Notre Guillaume”??). Oh, and he’d have read The Broons
too, so that is another
page every week, not to mention two shorter comics such as Nero and Zero
(these ran to about the same format as the Peanuts
Sunday strip did) which appeared in the same section. That’s quite a lot of comics…
As for taking comics seriously, well, I don’t know. I have an inbuilt distrust of literary criticism in any language, so while I think that they have their own merits in terms of the quality of the writing and the art, I’m not sure that academic disection of them actually makes any difference, so I wouldn’t use that as validation, personally.
Going back to an earlier point: foreignness. The continental BD is foreign, to be sure, because we can see they originate in a foreign language; but they are still European, and I consider myself European. But American comics are just
as foreign for me too, although they are written in my language. I have far more in common culturally with Tintin, wandering around Brussels, than I have with Ant Man and Beast tearing up the streets of New York in a Marvel comic, or Black Lightning and Superman on the beat in Metropolis.
Are comics and manga really popular in general in the English speaking world? Surely sales are massively down on the peak years of the 50s-70s
Well manga sales in the 50s-70s would have been nil in the U.K., so the fact that they have arrived and flourished in the last twenty-five or so years shows that there is an appetite again for foreign comics, just not European ones. I’d also be surprised if the period really was the peak for comics, as you’d have been unlikely to find a comic shop, or anyone who would have thought that it was possible to have a shop that sold such things. Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed
paved the way in London, but I doubt that it wasn’t thought that virtually every major city and large town would have somewhere on (or just off) their high streets selling comics and associated merchandise.
Then we also have to consider what comics have to compete with. If, as you say, comic sales are down from some peak at some time in the past, they now have to compete with video-games, magazines (of which there are far more aimed at the same core market as the comic reader I would think), and DVD/ video. There’s no need for TV Comic
, or TV Action
for example, if you can buy the DVD of the show.
I’d suspect that the market on the continent is waning too: the DVD section in Fnac in Brussels is much larger than the BD section, which isn’t much larger than their horror novel section. I don’t know how the BD market is faring on the continent, but I’d guess that they are fighting to retain share of the money people have to spend on leisure there too…
Most book shops I go in to have almost no comic-related material at all
But that again sounds like a search for validation: what does being sold in a bookshop actually convey? Most Waterstones have a comics section, and the ones that I go into stock all sorts: the Commando
/ War Picture Library
reprints have been very successful, I believe, and there are Robert Crumb volumes, Judge Dredd and Cº, the James Bond and Modesty Blaise books, modern graphic novels like Blankets
, as well as Watchmen
I also put it to you that the number of specialist bookshops selling comics outweighs the number of shops dedicated to cookery books, or self-help manuals. Can we take consolation from that? Might it explain why it isn’t an area that has really been taken on by bookshops which are having to deal with the erosion of their sales overall to on-line retailers?
if one reads any American site that focuses on the output of Marvel+DC you'll soon come to realise that crossing over in to Hollywood seems as important as the source material. There's a desperate need for validation.
Or money? I dare say the profits from the Spider-Man movies have allowed Marvel to finance projects such as translating and publishing BD? And it’s not like BD don’t make it to the screen either: the Belvision cartoons stoked my love of Tintin in my childhood (although as a wee boy I was
disappointed by the adaptation of Asterix the Gaul
), followed by The Aeronauts
. And of course there is the forthcoming Tintin
I’m sorry that this has rambled a bit, and it probably hasn’t come to any great conclusion. It certainly isn’t meant to criticise anybody’s love of BD or comics in general; it is only an attempt to bring forward a few of the questions I ask myself about comics and books in general, and to which I have no real answers.