Monday, September 06, 2004

Peter's principle: Ninth Art talks with Peter Hogan about comics' "stew of ideas," and why the medium "sticks" with superheroes:

"Because they're safe - they're known territory, and commercially proven. Of course, comics have tried other genres as well, and still do - there's Vertigo, the small press and so on. But if you look at the richness of subject matter in newspaper comics back in the 1930s, or of pre-code comicbooks in the 1950s, it does seem like the industry took an enormous step backwards that we're only just now beginning to recover from. But superheroes probably seemed a better bet financially back then, and evidently they still do.

"By definition, that shunts a lot of other things into the independent arena, and there the odds are stacked in favour of the writer-artist, who can just go ahead and do their comic if they believe in it enough, even if they starve in the process. And we've had great stuff as a result: EIGHTBALL and LOVE & ROCKETS, to name but two. But for an artist or a writer to do it is a lot harder - you have to persuade someone else to collaborate with you, and possibly starve along with you. Which isn't that appealing! So, that all kind of compounds the problem.

"As to why superheroes are so popular ... 'power fantasy' is the phrase that usually gets trotted out when people try to analyse it, but I don't think that really does it. I don't think everybody likes to fantasise about being Superman so much as they like to fantasise that someone like Superman might actually exist. They want to believe in the possibility of magic, and I think that's at the heart of the appeal of fantasy and science fiction as well ... and with all those genres, you can say things about the 'real' world that you can't with straight fiction."