Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Interview with Andrés Accorsi

Andrés Accorsi at the Comiqueando stand at Crack Bang Boom

I first met Andrés Accorsi when presented 365 Comics por Año (365 Comics per Year), his recently released blog-turned-book, in Lobos. We met again at conferences and book presentations, where he would always give me advice about comics. Andrés has been involved in the comics scene for the past three decades and has experienced the changes and developments in the field. He has managed to make a living off comics, a testament to his resourcefulness and creativity. The following interview tracks his experiences from the 1980’s to the early 2000’s.

Claire Denton-Spalding: What activities related to comics have you been doing in the past 20 years?

Andrés Accorsi: I started publishing a fanzine, a small photocopied magazine, before computers and Photoshop. It was called Comiqueando and started in 1986. I was only eighteen at the time, with no notions about anything except for a few comics I had read. Most of the fanzines used to come out quarterly, but Comiqueando managed to get out monthly. It ran for eleven issues, which was quite a lot for a non-professional publication. We had a very small staff composed of brother Diego, Rafael de Iglesia, and myself.

Once we got the fanzine running, we started to make a name for ourselves in the small fan market that existed back then. Comics had a large market, but it didn’t have a large fandom. People read comics, but they didn’t gather around comics, didn’t talk about comics, and didn’t express their love for comics. Fandom was still underground. Comiqueando was part of that small fandom and gathered respect and attention. That opened the doors for me to begin contributing to Skorpio, a comics magazine published since 1974. In 1987 it was a magazine in decline. Fierro came out in 1984 and had sent Skorpio to the background. It wasn’t the glorious magazine of the early years. I contributed at first to the letters page. There were no letters because they hadn’t published any for the past seven years, so I had to come up with fake letters for the first few issues that I answered myself. Then the fans started sending real fan mail and I started answering real questions. I started adding up more pages to the text section. I wrote short articles, news about comics around the world, and interviews. By the time I left Skorpio in 1991, the text section was kind of important within the magazine.

CDS: How did you make the text section so important and relevant?

AA: I tried to tune in with the audience and give them fresh, interesting and thought provoking information. It was the late 80’s, revolutions were happening in the comics world, and the Argentineans were outside of that. There wasn’t a lot of information, the Internet didn’t exist. It wasn’t as frequent as it is now to talk about comics being written or drawn in other continents. The information I wrote about opened up new worlds to the readers of Skorpio.

CDS: Were the readers able to access these comics you were writing about?

AA: Some of the comics were being published in Spain, but very few importers brought these comics to Argentina at expensive prices. Some of the stuff I commented on was impossible to get.

The text section in Skorpio grew, and when I left in 1991, it was one of the most important parts of the magazine. If the editor decided to cut down on the text in favor of a comic, the readers would demand more text. The same happened when I was working for Perfil, the publishing company that purchased the rights to publish DC comics back in 1990. In 1991, they launched a DC comics line consisting of Batman, Superman, Justice League, and the Flash. I was the translator for the four titles. The series ran for five years and were very popular. That’s where I became well known inside the comics fandom, because many people bought the DC comics I translated.

I tried to give the characters an Argentinean voice. I figured the creators gave the characters a New York voice when writing dialogue. When people from elsewhere in Latin America complained because of the use of words that only people from Buenos Aires used, I replied that the original creators used words that many people in New Zealand, Scotland, or Ireland would never get because they were the slang from New York. It was around that time I got in contact with the real creators of the books when I travelled to the San Diego Comics Convention for the first time. They gave me their phone numbers and said, “Whenever you are stuck in a translation or when we mention things you don’t know, just call us and ask.” It was very helpful because I could provide the readers with a reference. It was the pre-internet era, you couldn’t Google up whomever they mentioned. It was appreciated by most of the fans. Some of them wanted a neutral translation that they were used to on the cartoons on TV with no localisms or slang.

We were constantly pushing the editor for more text sections, interviews with artists I met while travelling to the States, and news. As we came up with new text sections, the readers responded very positively. In 1994, we came up with the idea of creating an only text magazine about comics and cartoons. Perfil rejected our proposal, so we decided to publish it ourselves. My brother and I invested our hard earned savings, got a loan from our parents, and started publishing Comiqueando as a magazine. It was sold at newsstands and the very incipient market of comics stores. At that time, there weren’t many comics stores.

CDS: Why were there so few comics stores at that time?

AA: The comics market was in the early stages of development. Also, there wasn’t an important fan movement. Fans bought comics at newsstands and didn’t get in contact with other fans. There were no conventions. It was a very early stage of fandom. After Comiqueando came out, comics stores became a growing phenomenon, especially between 1997 and 1999. Those were three years of a very rapid expansion that left us in 2000 with 175 comics stores all around the country. Of course, in 2002 we only had 45 comics stores because of the crisis and the devaluation of the peso. It was a market that was dependent on importation and ignored what was being produced in the country. They put Argentine comics on the back shelves. When the 2001 crisis hit, the comics market turned out to be a bubble. The comics imported from abroad were excessively cheap. When they weren’t excessively cheap, the comics stores couldn’t afford them and collapsed. We ended up with only 45 stores in business.

CDS: How did those 45 comics stores stay in business?

AA: There were a few customers that didn’t care how much comics cost. Many artists worked for international companies and made dollars. During the 90’s, as the Argentine publishing industry was in decline, many artists began getting work from French, Italian, and American publishers. They were spending pesos, but making Euros or dollars. They were some of the consumers that bought comics in the comics shops. The stores also began selling toys, collectable cards, t-shirts that also kept them in business. Other stores opened up more space for Argentine comics.

CDS: What were you doing during the 2001 Crisis?

AA: When the devaluation came, I had to close my publishing company Comiqueando Press that published Comiqueando and a few select comic projects. I was out of work and out of money for a couple of months. Then I started renting comics. I compiled a database of my comics and those of eight friends and borrowed a small space in my father’s factory. It wasn’t a success, but it kept me stable. I began this at a time when buying comics was a luxury, because they weren’t affordable anymore. Prices had gone up four times because of the devaluation of the peso. People wanted to read the new comics, but couldn’t afford to buy them.

I did this until I got a job as an editorial coordinator from Thalos, a new publishing company, in late 2003. I oversaw several projects, negotiated rights with foreign companies, and planned projects with local artists. The company had two or three years of a good output. I stayed there 18 months and quit in March 2005.

CDS: What projects did you work on after quitting Thalos?

AA: After I quit Thalos, I got a proposal from Domus to re-launch Comiqueando as a magazine. A couple of years later, Domus decided to focus on books and not magazines, so we found a new publisher—Freakshow. Freakshow publishes Comiqueando and its sister magazine Komikku. Freakshow widened up the scope of the old Comiqueando staff. When we opened Komikku, we had to get a new bunch of contributors, younger guys that were into anime and manga. I learned a lot from editing their articles.

Transcribed and edited by Claire Denton-Spalding

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