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Report – The Fall and Rise of British Comics

Posted on: Thursday 06 July 2017 10:56am by Catherine Trewavas

Comics have played an important part in the childhoods of many British kids and classic characters continue to endure, whilst new stories emerge and engage readers. However, despite continued interest in comics, newsagents seem to be in short supply. How are methods of distribution changing and how are fanbases being sustained?

Takeaway:

  • Comics are a strong example of how to build a fanbase around characters that audiences really connect with
  • Using online platforms to reach fans in a new way has been important for Beano but hard copies of comics are still popular
  • Commissioning editors should attend conventions to meet with creators and discover content and ideas

Detail:

The enduring appeal of comics was emphasised by Joe Brady, Deputy Editor of The Phoenix, as he said “they are loved due to being full of adventure stories, interactive elements and puzzles”. Being a subscriber and receiving an envelope in the post just for you is accompanied with a particular buzz of excitement even in the digital age and this builds a community of people who like similar stories. There is a collaborative element to publications, particularly when fan art and letters are received. The demand for imported comics has also been noted by Haroon Mushtaq, an Artist and Creative who spent a decade working in comics retail.

Freelance Cartoonist Laura Howell described the flourishing creativity of comic artists which is particularly highlighted at the Thought Bubble convention in Leeds, as well as other similar events. She talked about her career working with Hunt Emerson on the Beano and being offered a strip called Johnny Bean from Happy Bunny Green.

Future plans for Beano were laid out by Chris Rose, the Director of Development and Production at Beano Studios. He explained that much-loved characters will soon be brought to life in a new format within the 3D animated series, ‘Dennis and Gnasher Unleashed’. This show will celebrate the rich heritage of the characters and move them on in many different directions. Chris described the core of the Beano brand as “everyday rebellion – challenging authority and pushing boundaries”.

Looking to the future, the panel were asked how comics might be developed to feature in multi-platform projects. Chris Rose said that “Beano’s digital presence is on the increase as the audience is on every platform”. The website and app include listicles, quizzes and short-form animation. This provides the opportunity to try out new IP and can help inform long form development and eventual production.

The panel agreed that creators should continue to nurture the idea of the comic, whilst creating and developing great characters and trusting experts to develop ideas in other forms of media. It was suggested that commissioning editors on the lookout for the next great project should attend conventions and look for untapped ideas!

Catherine Trewavas

About the author

Catherine Trewavas

BBC Children's Acquisitions & Independent Animation, Production Management Assistant

Catherine is the Production Management Assistant for BBC Children's Acquisitions and Independent Animation – the team responsible for programmes including ‘Hey Duggee’, ‘Clangers’ and ‘Scream Street’. In addition to her day job, Catherine has a keen interest in journalism and writes articles for BBC newspaper Ariel. Catherine has previously worked… Read more

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