It was a dark and stormy night a few weeks ago when I interviewed Carl Potts at the Purchase College Starbucks. In Part One of this interview, he talked about writing and selling the “Alien Legion” screenplay to Jerry Bruckheimer/Disney (the script is based on the long-running “Alien Legion” comics series Carl created for Marvel’s Epic comics imprint in the mid ’80s). In Part Two, he talked about how he got his start and how he developed his philosophy of teaching and mentoring. In Part Three, he talks about comic books and graphic novels from a historical perspective.
The term graphic novel has been used by writers such as Will Eisner to differentiate their works from serials. Comic books began as collections of the newspapers’ Sunday comic strips, which were humorous. Most modern comic books are not humorous but represent a variety of genres.
As for the market for comic books, in general, the print runs are smaller now than they were 10 or 15 years ago. However, there has never been as much genre and subject diversity in the American comics market as there is today. Many independent productions are true labors of love. The North American comics audience is also very diverse, although young adult males are still the core demographic.
In the 1930’s and 40’s there was a large adult audience that included women. Members of the armed forces were avid readers. In the 50’s there was a sort of witch hunt leading to the creation of the “comics code.” This resulted in the end of the diverse audience as the comic books became sanitized escapist, juvenile literature. Starting in the 1960’s, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and others created more sophisticated comic books that appealed to young adults, and led to Stan going on college lecture tours.
With the decline in newsstand distribution for comics, it has become difficult to introduce casual readers to comics. Today, comic books are available only in comic book specialty stores. There are only several thousand of those shops scattered across the country, and most are not located in places that would expose comics to casual consumer traffic.
Even so, comic books exert a huge influence on pop culture through their translation into movies, TV, video games and fashion.
Interview copy edited by Carl Potts.
For more about Carl Potts, check out his blog. For information about the new “Drawing for Comics and Storyboards” courses Carl Potts will be teaching at Purchase College in the Spring 2011 session, click here. Courses are closed when the enrollment limit is reached, so register early! Registration begins this week for both the adult and the precollege classes.