Ya want comics? What kinda comics do ya want? There are Mainstream comics, Underground comics, Independent comics, Foreign comics and Small Press comics. In Mainstream comics, there are graphic novels, mini-series, maxi-series and mature audiences comics. There are code-approved and non-code-approved comics. And that doesn't include their cover gimmicks. Mainstream comics are usually considered to be the larger, long-established companies such as DC, Marvel, Archie, Harvey, etc. Some of the large Independent companies are so similar in content, style and sales that some people consider them to be Mainstream, but in most parts of the country, they're still considered Independents. Most Mainstream comics are monthly, although they might be more or less frequent than that.
In Undergrounds, comix are story-oriented, art-oriented, Art-with-a-capital A, mindless fuck-books, erotica, political and drug-oriented. Most of them have generous amounts of nudity, sex, politics and/or drugs. Most of them were published from the late 1960s to the late 1970s, when the closing down of headshops made them scarce throughout the nation. They still exist, but, like most Independent comics, they're hard to find. Comic shops throughout the U.S. and Canada have been shut down just for having them for sale, so many shop owners won't order them. Some record stores stock them, but generally they just ain't available.
Independent and Foreign comics probably have the largest variety of stories and art. But there are large Independents that look like Mainstream comics and small Indies that look like Foreign comics. There are gorey Indies, violent Indies, intelligent Indies, intellectual Indies, subtle Indies, funny Indies, silly Indies, political Indies, uncategorizable Indies, you-name-it Indies. They have their own gimmicks, like bullet holes, records or tapes included, big name artists and writers or fancy paper. The circulations may be a few thousand to millions. The frequency may be anywhere from monthly to less than yearly.
For a short while, one Indie, Image, was out-selling DC Comics. And with content so similar to Marvel Comics (where most of the artists had worked before establishing Image), many people no longer consider them independent. Usually, Independent comics are creator-owned. But even that is changing. Image, for example, has many exceptions to that rule. Indies are where the most versatility in the field is found. You'll find comics where the authors do as much research for their stories as any novelist or screen-writer and you'll find comics published by a couple of kids whose parents just gave 'em a few thousand dollars to print their own comics. Teenage Mutant Ninja turtles started out as an Indie and many people think they're gonna be the next TMNT. Y'know, like the kids who start a rock band thinking they're gonna be the next Beatles/Aerosmith/U2/Pink Floyd/Billy Joel/you-name-it.
Foreign comics have the largest variety of all. In Europe and Asia, and to a smaller extent South America (there are very few comics made in Africa or Australia , comic books don't have the low public appeal that they have here (and, like the formerly under-appreciated jazz music, comics originated in the U.S.). Since the public in most countries is willing to accept a variety of material in comics, they get that variety. Anything you might find in a novel or movie you would probably find in a European comic book. Any mood. Any subject. Any type of reader. And the top artists are as well known to the public as the top musicians and actors are in this country. And as well-paid.
European comics are not ground out, monthly like American comics are. The artists and writers (who are usually the same person) take as long as they need to do their best work. Like a novelist or musician. Steven Spielberg doesn't put out a new movie every month. Steven King doesn't write a new novel every month. Bruce Springsteen doesn't put out a new album every month. And French artist Moebius doesn't put out a new comic every month either. There is no schedule. The contents are more important than that. They also tend to be printed on better paper and usually in large size, squarebound, often hardbound. Like books. Where form so often dictates content in this country (Comic books = super-heroes), that is not so in Europe' And there are few super-heroes (though much science fiction).
Asian comics are similar in their variety, but there are a lot more comics published. Japan has phone book-sized weekly comics,for example, so for many artists, schedules ARE important, although the audience is still much wider than in the U.S. Adults read comics. Comics are just another way of telling a story. The content might be sophisticated or escapist and on nearly any topic. As with novels or movies.
Small Press comics are usually printed on "ordinary" paper, usually printed on some sort of xerox-style machine and have circulations of just a few hundred. A decade ago, they were called fanzines or stripzines, but that term seems to be falling out of use these days. The writers and artists do anything they want, distribute the comics themselves and rarely make much, if any, money on them. There is rarely an editor. Complete freedom. They're often funny. They're often self-indulgent. They're usually small and cheap ($ .50 and $1.00 are common prices). Sometimes they're used as a sort of portfolio by people wanting to break into Mainstream, Independent or Underground comics. Sometimes, they're a way for an Independent publisher to keep going despite the distribution problems Indies' so often have.
So, ya want comics? What kinda comics do ya want?
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