BORJA CRESPO (Part I): "Comics will need to find their place in the digital world"

By Cristina Álvarez Cañas | Borja Crespo. June 13, 2013


Borja Crespo  is a natural-born cultural agitator capable of turning every project he has ahead into a visual concept. He draw, directs videoclips, makes short films, organizes the Getxo Comic Fair, writes in newspapers and, furthermore, he is coauthor of a retrospective about cartoon strips in Spain launched by Astiberri: Los Hijos De Pulgarcito. De Bruguera A La Historieta Actual: Conexiones. His relation with cinema goes even further thanks to Arsénico Producciones, the major production house along with Borja Cobeaga, Nacho Vigalondo, Koldo Serra y Nahikari Ipiña. Right after signing books at The Madrid Book Fair, he came to our office to chat with us about comics, trends and the digital future.

Let’s begin with a basic distinction. How do you think comics differ from graphic novels? They often share similarities.

As far as I see it, graphic novels are comics. However, the term “graphic novel” has proven a useful definition in capturing the attention of a group of the public who had distanced itself from comics. These are people who had perhaps stopped reading them but have now discovered that there is a kind of comic for adults. With their own publishing style akin to a book – in hard cover and very meticulously produced – these kinds of independent comics now have a name to go by. It has gained them acceptance by other kinds of bookstores and, consequently, granted them access onto bestseller lists. You might say that the graphic novel is a genre within comics, in the same manner that you have independent film, and the themes tend to be linked to social, auto-biographical and historical topics – as in the comic Arrugas or Watchmen, although it might be very obvious. As a result, the mass media that never used to pay any attention to comics having identified them as something for children only, has made room for them.

How do you think comic readers in Spain have evolved over the last 40 years?

Well, we’ve gone from children’s comic strips, like the magazine Tebeo, or the Bruguera school - and it’s a shame that that has been diminishing, although we continue to have excellent cartoonists today too - which were read because they formed part of the mass media. There were no video games and we only had one TV channel. Then we made a great leap after the death of Franco because a lot of prohibited material was published all at once. A lot of people switched from reading Mortadelo y Filemón to reading Moebius or Richard Corben and didn’t know how to assimilate it properly. In addition, magazines such as El Víbora, which embodied counterculture with its symbol of modernity, and other similar ones were published that were based on a “to be continued” ending. Right now, we’re in the age of immediacy, people can’t wait a month, and comics haven’t yet found their place in the digital world but it’s something they will need to do.

What kinds of comics are the youngest readers into?

Manga most of all. However, in my experience, I haven’t seen young people in general reading titles like those I mentioned previously, at different comic conventions. In fact, what is happening at the moment is that the industry is regaining a type of reader who is in their thirties or older, and had stopped reading because we had had a bellyful of amazing titles in the 80’s that hadn’t reached Spain until then. You can even find people within that age bracket queuing up to have their superhero comics signed. Young people are buying graphic novels, to some extent because it is fashionable, but they don’t make up the majority.

And from the perspective of the youngest authors, what kinds of trends do you think they’re following?

There are quite a lot of authors who are approaching comics but linking them to the world of art: to illustration, design and so on. That is precisely part of the idea behind the Graph fair, which we organise - the independent comic. And there is scope within it to accommodate many people who are publishing their own work. A very high number of hard copy zines are being published in very small – or miniscule – print runs, but each of them is meticulously created, manually touched up, with serigraphs, customised and so on, as if it were a small artistic object and that is interesting. Paper is being re-evaluated as an object of art.

What kinds of recommendations do you give to authors when they ask you how to raise awareness of their work?

I think this is a good time in terms of making your work known, but financially it is a bad time for getting people to buy your work. Anyone can find out about you over the internet, the problem is that there is a lot on offer and people have less money to spend. For me, the work in itself is important because if it’s not worth anything, the comic world can tell that very quickly. That’s why I also think that everything encompassing it is decisive, and the way in which you want your work to reach people. Sometimes we’re left short. Even if you spend a lot of time on the internet, it’s very important to go to fairs, socialise and get to know people; personal contact should form part of your personal promotion strategy.

*Next week we'll publish the second part of the interview with Borja Crespo.

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