Monday, July 25, 2011

Tea and Totem Comix, my new remedy for the common cold

Trying to find a Totem Comix cover without a naked woman on it is almost impossible.

I get a virulent Buenos Aires cold about every three weeks. Snot, an aching body, the desire to sleep like a house cat. At the moment, I have all of these symptoms. But it doesn’t matter because I have ten issues of Totem Comix to get me through this illness. Totem Comix, a Spanish adult comic magazine from the 80’s, is filled with sex, violence, horror, and gore. Given that list of sensationalist themes, one might think that the magazine would be repetitive and unreadable, but most of the stories are creative and intriguing. One of my least favorite stories, but one that proves my point, is one about a serial killer that murders a prostitute (there are about two stories with this theme per issue). It was told from the prostitute’s point of view as a love story instead of a horror story. Although the story was disturbing, it was a new way of telling a story that so many different have written. Like I said, it was a horrible, nauseating story, but at least the way it was written didn't make me want to vomit.

“La Gran Necesidad” by Godard and Ribera, by far my favorite, is about a futuristic world in which there are only women. There are concubines, lesbian sex, police chases, and forbidden romances. The comic’s beautiful drawings and earthy pastel tones are a pleasure to look at. The magazine is also quite diverse in terms of sexual orientation and race. Quite a few protagonists are African-American females and there are many stories about gays and lesbians (although some are intentionally titillating for male audiences).

So, for the past day I’ve been sick, but, as you can see, enjoying it…

Note: This photo was taken by Santiago during my illness. Yes, I know it is super unflattering, but it is an accurate rendering of both my laziness and love of comics.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Andrés Accorsi on...The Future

This is the last in the series of posts of my interview with Andrés Accorsi. I hope it has been enjoyable to read! I have three interviews coming up in the next week, one with a journalist, another with a student from my workshop with Diego Agrimbau, and finally, an interview with a comics publisher.


CDS: Where do you see yourself in the future?

AA: I don’t feel like I still have many challenges to face in the comics industry. I would like to do some of the things I have already done and do them better. I am very self-demanding. I don’t think I have something entirely new to offer this medium.

I think the project I should really stick to and invest real time and effort in is the Comics Festival inside the children’s book fair. It has the potential to grow into a full-fledged comics festival of its own, not as a sideshow to the children’s or international book fair. It could become a major event with an international projection to gather all the comics fans all around the country. The foundation that puts together this fair is really powerful and has contacts, real drive and love for culture, commerce and entertainment. You go to the international book fair and see something well done that clearly works. This summer, during the children’s book fair, we will have our first international guest—Mark Wolfman. The comics portion of the fair has a real potential to grow. It’s like being the coach for Argentinos Juniors. If you don’t reach the championship, it’s okay. But if you reach the championship, you might get a chance to coach for Boca or some other huge team that should go for the championship. It has a real potential for growth and could grow beyond the margins of the book fair. It could be the beginning for a real comics fair produced, financed and promoted by a foundation (Fundación del Libro) that knows how to do these things well. We have talked about a comics fair since the very first time they summoned me to put together this festival. They are constantly saying the idea has potential, so if we show results that stimulate them to go farther, they will go farther.

CDS: What sort of results are they looking for?

AA: A huge turnout of people that would not normally attend a children’s book fair. That’s the real challenge, to get the comics community to attend the fair. If we can get a huge attendance of comic fans for the book fair, next year the organizers will say “let’s try four days of comics festival instead of two days” and then the next year it may increase or expand to its own international comic festival. The organizers are very conservative in terms of going slowly, analyzing the results, debating everything as a committee. If we can produce results that get their attention, they will give us space and resources to grow.

One of the things I wouldn’t want to do is become a publisher again. It’s ungrateful, hard. There are people like me constantly badmouthing publishers. It’s not glamorous or prestigious, you don’t make a lot of money, you don’t get the cute chicks. It’s not as risky as it used to be because we know more about the market and about distribution. We have taught the retailer that they should buy local editions instead of importing. It’s much better than it was 15 years ago. It is still not something I would like to do again, not even if I had the resources.

I am still discovering a whole new world with the book I published. I never planned to have that stuff come out as two books. The second one comes out in August.

Transcribed and edited by Claire Denton-Spalding

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Andrés Accorsi on Comics Today

Claire Denton-Spalding: What is the biggest challenge to the modern comic industry?

Andrés Accorsi: The greatest challenge is convincing the people that buy comics occasionally that you can buy comics regularly. And that comics aren’t something weird, something that appears in book fairs once a year, but they are something that every book store should carry. They are books with real content, nice artwork, and good scripts. They appeal to any reader that enjoys fiction. Comics should be integrated into the mainstream book publishing industry. This is a very healthy industry in Argentina. They have good sales figures and lots of advertising. It could be the same with comics. Publishers don’t understand that they could get the message out to the real world.

Publishers do not invest in advertising or promotion. You don’t hear advertising for a new comic on the TV, radio or newspapers. You only see advertising in magazines like Fierro and Comiqueando, blogs, or on Facebook. That’s sort of like preaching to the choir. They should go out and show what they are publishing to attract new consumers. Get consumers that consume other types of fiction to consume this type of fiction. Many of the well-established publishers in the comics industry don’t communicate well between each other. Why aren’t they getting out the message? There’s a publishing company that produces The Eternauta, Loco Chavez, Alvar Mayor, Pepe Sanchez, but they didn’t put ads out anywhere. On the other hand, you have Ediciones de la Flor, the company that goes the extra mile in terms of advertising and promoting their books. They advertise and show what they are doing with their limited resources. Mafalda, Gaturro, and Liniers are huge successes, so Ediciones de la Flor has the leeway to print and advertise other stuff like Sonoman. They have been giving a lot of push to Gustavo Sala and Niño Rodriguez. At least they are taking a risk by publishing other sorts of comics and heavily publicizing them.

Many of the publishers don’t think they need to promote their books. Fans only find out about published books when they see them in the stores. To attract new readers and get books distributed to major bookstores, you need to invest money in advertising. People that go into bookstores need to know that they have this new option. How do you get the news out there? Some magazines like Pagina 12 publish reviews of comics and recommendations of new comics that are coming out. But most time these readers don’t know where to find the books.

CDS: Do you work distributing comics?

AA: I only sell comics at a booth during conventions or concerts. Regularly, on an every day basis, I usually sell to stores. I sell to about 90 stores all around the country. I buy from the publishers and sell to the retailers. I am the middleman. I only sell to the public at specific events when I am offered a booth. The publishers are so lazy that they don’t go to these events. It’s better to have one guy that gathers the merchandise from these unmotivated publishers and sells it than to go with all of their merchandise and sell at a single booth. For them it’s free and they get new readers. They don’t have to work and invest.

Publishers should work hard to re-print as soon as they run out of the initial print run. If you do a small print run because you can’t do a large one and it disappears in 5 months, you should re-print the book immediately. You shouldn’t punish the successful artist with a book that is out of catalogue and out of print. The first Bife Angosto was missing from bookstores for 15 months. That was Gustavo Sala’s reward for selling out the print run. Publishers should reward the artist by re-printing immediately and paying the artist for a second printing. It’s obvious, but it doesn’t always work like that. When a comic sells out, it proves that it has the potential to reach a large audience and that is what we are trying to do.

CDS: How can the comic become a large cultural phenomenon in Argentina? What support does it need?

AA: I think the opportunity has passed us by. It will be a small phenomenon outside of the comics ghetto. It will never be huge in the mainstream in the near future or in the far future. Our grandchildren won’t see a country in which comics are a part of mainstream culture and widely accepted and massively sold everywhere.

To keep on growing, comics need the support of the government, as we have already discussed. We need to change the minds of the publishers, by encouraging new publishers to publish comics. Publishers that are working on books for children should take the next step and try their hand at printing comics. I think they would make a lot of money.

Transcribed and edited by Claire Denton-Spalding

Monday, July 18, 2011

Andrés Accorsi on Government Support for Comics

Claire Denton-Spalding:In your opinion, how necessary is government support to develop cultural activities?

Andrés Accorsi: The government should create a comics museum to preserve our cultural patrimony. Someone should have the duty to keep the original artwork and preserve the old collections of magazines before they disappear. Decades worth of artwork and publication should be kept somewhere and available to the public.

Secondly, the government should support comics conventions. In ever city there should be government sponsored comics festivals and activities around comics with art shows and guests from all around the country and abroad.

The government already does some things, like buying comics for the public libraries and giving support for artists that want to go study abroad. Now they are discussing a law (The Ley Heller) that if it passes will give a pension to the old writers and creators that can’t keep on working because of their old age. This law would be a solution for older creators because they can’t keep on drawing.

Maybe the government could give a national prize for artwork, like in Spain. In Spain the government gives a national prize to comics creators, like they do with literature or fine arts.

I really don’t agree with the government giving grants to publishers or magazines or books published by the government. It ends up with horrible magazines filled with government supporters.

I really don’t understand why the government didn’t take these measures in the 50’s when comics were hugely popular—when they were the most popular entertainment media in the country, when millions were sold every week. How did that booming industry never get the government’s attention? Now there is almost no industry. It is small and prestigious, healthy. They are publishing beautiful books, nice comics are coming out. Many creators are doing the best work of their careers. But, why now? Why not fifty or sixty years ago when the comics industry was booming, when every newsstand was selling comics like hotcakes? Everybody bought comics and talked about comics. Comics characters were used in billboards to advertise almost everything. Comics artists and writers were paid very well. Newspaper competed with each other, trying to lure comic strip artists from one paper to another. I don’t understand why that industry didn’t get the attention of the authorities, but it does now. There’s a gap in logic somewhere.

Transcribed and edited by Claire Denton-Spalding

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Andrés Accorsi on Fantabaires and Comic Conventions

Andrés Accorsi: Another thing we started doing again that was very frequent in the 90’s were the international conventions with guest artists from different countries.

Claire Denton-Spalding: What was your role in organizing Fantabaires?

Andrés Accorsi: I worked at the first four Fantabaires from 1996 to 1999. In 1999, we had the first Fantabaires that was open for ten consecutive days. It was huge. It had eleven international guests and dozens of local artists.

CDS: How many people attended?

AA: The fourth, near 50,000 people. The first one was attended by 11,000 people. We never dreamed of gathering so many fans at the first convention in Argentina. The place we had rented (booths, halls, etc.) was not prepared to handle that many fans, so it was hot, overcrowded, dangerous at some points because of the excess of people in that very small space. It grew every year.

CDS: There’s a big contrast between the 50,000 people that attended Fantabaires and the few that come to conferences nowadays. What is the reason for that contrast?

AA: Back then, the trend was to create a very attractive mix between the cultural, commercial, and entertainment aspect. Now you have gatherings of fans that attend events exclusively for the commercial aspect, others for the entertainment, and some for the cultural aspect. Each of these events has a small fraction of the real audience. Lots of the time, fans don’t need conventions to find other fans. They find each other on the Internet in forums, in mailings, on Facebook. They participate in virtual communities where they interact every day at every time, they don’t need to travel to a special place. Not even the creators need to attend these events. They can interact with fans electronically. The allure of these huge gatherings is not the same as it used to be. There isn’t an event that brings everybody together. It’s divided into small groups, like the manga and anime group or the cultural elite that listens to lecturers or prestigious creators. We don’t have anything like the Feria del Libro for comics. Fantabaires was very wide, very open. Entertainment, culture, and commerce were all combined. It was also the first time we had held such an event and had major creators from all over the world interact with Argentininan fans. Now the only thing that is comparable to Fantabaires is Crack Bang Boom in Rosario.

This interview was transcribed and edited by Claire Denton-Spalding.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Back in Buenos Aires

Dear Readers,

We're mid-way through July and nary a post! These past two weeks I was in Chicago, visiting my family, refusing to even think of comics during this vacation. Okay, that's not true. I went to Chicago Comics and Quimby's Comics, and ended up buying 22 comics for $24 at the Great Escape in Kentucky. I spent hours shelving the comics I bought in Argentina. Now my comics take up four shelves instead of two and a half. I introduced my family to Ordinario by Gustavo Sala, and while they didn't understand the comics with specifically Argentine humor, they laughed when I explained why a specific comic was funny. I also bought Pinocchio by Winshluss, a mostly wordless comic about a robotic Pinocchio and the gory, horrific world he inhabits. After reading the book, I spent the rest of my vacation trying to get my family to read Pinocchio by thrusting it in thier face, screaming "LOOK AT THE ART!" Needless to say, they were too terrified by my reaction (and the thickness) to actually read it.

That was pretty much the comics-relevant part of my vacation. In the next few days I will post the second half of my interview with Andrés Accorsi. I've decided to post in in small chunks so it is easier to read. Also, I've changed the color scheme because apparently white on red is difficult to read. I don't usually read my posts in blog format (except to check for typos), so I didn't realize that the colors were a problem. So, let me know if this format is more readable.

Kisses and Comics,


Here are a few pictures/ videos I took in Chicago, for those not familiar with the city:

I like to bike, and went on the lakefront path a few times. I took this video one particularly windy day.

Downtown Chicago

Art Institute Park, in the middle of the city