comics culture

   By 1996 there were as many as 250 comics stores in the UK, compared with about 10 in 1977. Though this would seem to indicate a marked increase in the comic-buying public, it merely reflects a shift away from the traditional mainstream newsstand to the specialist shop. Actual comic sales have declined. Comics, traditionally thought of as children’s literature, have gained a sort of adult respectability through the advent of graphic novels (long comics) and the 1980s boom in comic buying as financial speculation. Rare comics could be worth outrageous sums of money. Celebrity comic collectors included Jonathan Ross and Lenny Henry (who collaborated on Neverwhere, a television fantasy series with comic book creator Neil Gaiman). There are regular comic marts and conventions held in most major cities in the UK, the biggest being UKAC, which is held in London. The type of comics included in this phenomenon still tend to follow stereotypical science fiction or costumed superhero lines, although there are many exceptions.
   Comics culture in the UK is dominated by US products, imported or reprinted under licence from American companies such as DC and Marvel.
   There have been several attempts to launch home grown comics in the UK, notably 2000AD, Warrior, Deadline, Blast, Toxic and Revolver. Of these, only 2000AD, launched in 1977, still exists and although it has been Britain’s most successful science fiction/ superhero related title Judge Dredd was recently made into a Hollywood movie) its popularity is dwindling. Most of Britain’s more talented writers and artists have gone to work for American companies where the financial rewards are greater. Ironically, despite the higher profile of the adult comic-buying public, the UK market is still too small to support a home-grown comics industry. The comics fan, as opposed to the casual reader, buys his/her comics from specialist shops such as The Forbidden Planet rather than the traditional newsstand or newsagent. The Forbidden Planet chain of comic stores, owned by Nick Landau (also owner of Titan Books, Britain’s biggest comic publisher) now have fifteen stores throughout the UK, having started off in 1977 with one shop in London’s Denmark Street. Their newer London store is the biggest of its kind in the world. They stock science fiction and fantasy books, videos, film and television-related material, and trading cards; in fact, anything to do with ‘trash culture’.
   See also: comics
   DAVE JACKSON

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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