I’m not a Communist. I’m not a Marxist, unless you count Groucho. And I’m certainly not a Maoist. However, I’ve always enjoyed quoting this passage from Mao’s Little Red Book: “Let a hundred flowers bloom; let a hundred schools of thought contend.”
I’ve always heard that as a call for diversity, not only of opinion but of style, of subject matter, of voice and rhythm and flavor. It’s what I want not only in the market of public opinion, but even more in my popular culture.
Especially in comics.
For many years American comics came in only a few flavors. You had your superhero comics, and your underground comics. If you wanted something that wasn’t “Biff, Bam, Pow” or political satire, you had to look to Europe or Japan, and hope one of your friends could translate for you.
Luckily, that hasn’t been true for years. Yes, Marvel and DC continue to dominate the direct market, but there are many more outlets that sell graphic novels, including bookstores and the Internet. More publishers putting out more kinds of books meant there were more potential readers. The marketplace grew, and, as a result, not only are there massive, crowded events like last weekend’s New York Comic-Con, but best seller lists of graphic novels in the newspaper of record.
In the past couple of years, the market has opened even wider because of crowd-funding. People who are passionate about an idea for a book can raise the money themselves to put it together, and then either try to find a publisher or do it themselves. It’s the same spirit, but light years advanced technologically, from the zines I loved searching for in the 1970s and 1980s.
My pal, Bo Hampton, one of the finest artists working in comics, has a western super-natural horror story up on Kickstarter. It looks amazing, and it’s exactly the kind of book that neither DC nor Marvel would publish today. And even with so many mainstream publishers in the graphic novel business, there aren’t a lot of places that will do 80 pages of full color.
Sometimes, crowd funding demonstrates the pent up demand by the audience. That was the case with the Veronica Mars movie on Kickstarter, and it also seems to be the case with ComicMix Pro Services’ first campaign.
Dwayne McDuffie once said that the Internet is like a junior high school cafeteria but on a global scale. Even though there are billions of us here, we still find our own little cliques and nerd groupings.
And garden plots, where we plant a million flowers.
SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman
SUNDAY: John Ostrander