SPX Panel: British Comic Publishing / by David Anderson


What the hell is Bangers and Mash? I mean the Radiohead song. What was that about again? Anyway, I got to sit in on a panel at SPX that dealt with the UK scene of graphic novel publishing. It was pretty neat. They had a few artists on the panel, including Nick Abadzis, the authors of Strumpet and The Nao of Brown, among others. The six of them discussed the nature of working in the UK and how different their publishing infrastructure was to the US.

Specifically, they highlighted the gap between the American and UK publishing sectors, and how the UK scene is influenced by the US with little to no reciprocation by the UK. This is mostly due to distance and strength- the big publishing houses in NYC are powerful enough to extend influence towards the UK, but conversely the British publishing scene is relatively small and can't really get a lot of material moving in the opposite direction. Consequently the most successful way to expose Americans to British comics is to expose visitors and expats to them, but because of the traveling costs it's not a feasible effort to expand on.

This is probably a big attribute to the pattern they discussed in the beginning regarding UK popularity- I guess British comics actually got pretty big in the 90's, but then it tapered off midway through thanks to a glut of superhero comics. Batman and Superman reprints were in, small time independent comics were out.

One of the advantages of the UK's location is its proximity to Europe, though, so they do get some dialogue between the press scenes on the Continent as well, particularly Dutch and French if I remember right. So for the Brits there's been a different kind of evolution for their publishers than in the US- a less homogenous, smaller scale evolution rather than a bunch of conglomerates consolidating power. Hence their scene is less predictable, but more interesting. They talked about some efforts to increase two-way press traffic across the Atlantic, like press expos and projects like Strumpet.

I think it was a pretty cool panel, especially since I and a few others at Spandexless have reviewed UK material before, so it's nice to know we can kind of help bridge the gap. It might be a slow change but anything at all is better than nothing, right? So here's a list of links you can check out, they're the comics that were on display during this panel:

The Nao of Brown

Nobrow #6

Hilda and the Midnight Giant


Hugo Tate

But yeah, great panel. Only problem I had was that they were pretty quiet. Once one of the panelists moved the mic closer to herself everyone kind of subtly realized the mics were too far away and they started leaning in, but it was a little hard to hear at first. No skin off my back, I still got the gist of it.

God I hope I got all of that right, my notes are atrocious. It's like I wrote what I thought was Sanskrit with my bad hand during a seizure.

(Sometimes Eric Idle is my inner monologue).