"Thou hast seen nothing yet!" Quote from Don Quixote.
I've just returned from New York where we launched the Complete Don Quixote on an American readership. I was there with a SelfMadeHero posse promoting some of the first SelfMadeHero books available in the US. Along with Emma Hayley (the brains behind everything we do) and Sam Humphrey (Sales and Marathon Man), were fellow creators JAKe and Robert Sellers (with their fabulous collection of drinking stories from Oliver Reed, Richard Harris, Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole - HELLRAISERS) and Glyn Dillon (creator of instant classic Nao of Brown). Were there as guests of Abrams who sell our books in the US and who were all very cool. Below you can see us sharing a table with them at MoCCA (the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art convention run by the Society of Illustrators).
Whilst there we did a panel with the wonderful Mr Jimmy Aquino, you can hear the interview he did with me on his Comic News insider podcast here . Jimmy wanted to know what the differences were between British and American comics and, quite frankly, we struggled to answer that.* Historically there are differences and for some of us (of a certain age) that history has shaped the way we see comics. But what struck me thinking back over the reaction to our books at MoCCA was the sense there is such a broad readership of comics in the US. Many of the attitudes about comics we have in the UK today come from the fact they aren't read across the board. Readers fall into factions and look suspiciously at each other; creators either belong to faction with its own support network or crave ways of reaching the 'common people'. To some degree this affects the way we make comics. What I felt watching the reaction to my work in the US, and talking to people there, was a sense of being freed from that.
I may be wrong, but I watched a lifelong Marvel fan take nothing but SelfMadeHero books home. Marvel was for another day.
I always say that questions about comics as a genre (especially ones that presume that genre is about men in tights and capes) crush me. The crowd at MoCCA dispelled that notion, for a while at least. Why not see comics as a medium and switch over every now and then to see what's on the other side. A pleasantly surprising, open-minded attitude.
Hopefully, whilst we wait for that 'growing UK market' to get big enough to pay the rent, some of our current UK comics will find a readership in the US and those of us who aren't big fans of Superhero comics won't feel obliged to don a superhero costume for the privilege.
There's been an emptying of talent from UK comics to US comics in the past, what I hope we'll see in the future is a US discovery of UK comics. Rather than talented artists and writers dropping their tools and jumping onto franchises in the US we might see more original stories and ideas from the UK finding a readership there. I think that would be better for both parties.
Of course this may just be me tilting at windmills again.
*Hannah Means Shannon did a great job of summarising that panel here.