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