First posted on Facebook on 18 May 2012
Delighted to learn that Charley’s War French edition is selling very well – better in fact than many successful French fantasy albums and also other British fantasy comic series reprinted in France. This is particularly impressive given that the French comic market has been going through some tough times and CW is a series never originally designed for the French market; thus it’s in black & white with a storytelling style designed for three page episodes rather than a graphic novel. I guess there must be many factors involved in this success – the excellent art, the historical significance for France (even though it’s about a British soldier); its fairly unique anti-war stance; the approaching 100 year anniversary of the start of the Great War and not least the publisher’s great efforts to publicise the book, which have met with an enthusiastic response from the French media and French museums. By comparison, Charley has been published in the UK and it’s only very recently that there’s been similar interest with the series featured at an Imperial War Museum event.
I like to think the real reason for Charley’s current success is that it appeals to the ordinary reader in the street who may hardly have read a comic before, but finds the story accessible, informative and about real people whom he cares about. All too often this audience has been neglected in the UK – where no one is interested in reprinting girls comics of similar ilk, despite documentary evidence that there is a gap in the market – and I rather suspect the same is true in France. I think our industry has paid a high price for catering almost exclusively to older male, adult fantasy fans and neglecting the original core readership on which comics used to be based.
Congratulations to Laurent Lerner (360 Media Perspective) in partnership with Editions Ca et La for making this happen. Let’s hope we can build on this success in France and in the UK and that publishers in the UK will recognise there is an audience they are missing out on. However, I’m not holding my breath: they do know and they’re not interested. I fear they’re rather like a publicist I once met when I worked at IPC Magazines. I talked about attracting teenage bikers to buy comics, and his response was, “We don’t want to attract those kind of readers.” The same I fear is true today for girls comics and boys comics. No-one actually wants to attract “those kind of readers”, even though we were all “those kind of readers” once. No, stick to the chattering classes and mature fandom – much better for everyone’s elitist egos.
I hope CW will continue to grow in France and perhaps herald not a new era, but a revival of a great and populist era. Those “ordinary readers” are the ones I’d very much like to attract back into comics.