As followers of my blog will know, I tend to interview professionals within the publishing industry, and gain insights and words of wisdom from those who produce and help produce fantastic literature. Rest assured, the interviews will keep on coming! But I wanted to start expanding on the scope of my blog. I already have some posts in the works regarding publishing events and news, but today I bring you a new category to Words Are My Craft: Reader Insights.
Who are the people behind the sales figures? Why do certain people read certain types of literature? What kind of writing speaks to them more than others, and what are the reasons for this? In order to start answering these questions, I’ve been interviewing a series of readers who shine a light on what kind of publications they enjoy.
Kick-starting this feature is Robert Mainprize, a good friend (and ex-boss!) of mine. He discusses his love of comic books and the reasons he loves this medium so much…
Please introduce yourself and tell me a little bit about yourself.
I’m Robert Mainprize, Assistant Manager of a That’s Entertainment Store selling DVDs, CDs and games. I studied web design at university and my main passion is professional wrestling. Also I don’t read. This may be an odd statement to make on a blog about books and authors, but I thought I should get it out of the way early!
The biggest misconception about this statement however, is that I lack the imagination to get lost in a book. I obviously can’t measure my imagination nor do I think it’s an issue if I didn’t have one, but I believe I do. Imagination is a key part of web design and wrestling, I can lose myself in a great technical wrestling match that involves an intricate story told by 2 artists mastering their craft in a ring, just as much as any one can reading a masterfully crafted novel. I feel that I have a short attention span, something that in this technological age I’m afraid many of us now have. I want to enjoy books – I own books, but I cannot sit and read them!
What kind of literature/books do you read?
Because of this I’ve found a love for graphic novels. The quick dialogue accompanied by visual artwork allows me to quickly grasp a scene without reading pages of adjectives to set the scene.
Why does this genre speak to you and appeal to you more than others? What is it you love about it?
Graphic novels and comics have always appealed to me for both the story telling element and the artistry. Much like books, different authors have different writing styles and the writers themselves can become celebrities within the comic book world. Artists also find their niche and can creatively put their own spin on characters we know and love, visually setting a mood within the scene. Put together they create an amazing medium that produces larger than life characters and stories.
I feel that I have a short attention span, something that in this technological age I’m afraid many of us now have.
Talk to me about some specific titles that are special or mean more to you and why. Is there a story behind why you value it? Did it make you feel a certain way when you read it?
I’d like to discuss two graphic novels that will always be favourites of mine.
The first is Superman: Red Son, a DC Comics mini-series written by Mark Millar. It takes a different approach to the normal Superman story and poses the question: What if Superman had crash landed in the Soviet Union rather than America?
The story spans over 50 years through Superman’s life and how different things could have gone with a relatively small change. From the moment I started reading I couldn’t stop, the idea of taking a story I knew so well and changing it completely fascinated and delighted me. I think the reason I love it is because it plays with the idea of how time can change everything, and because of it, a loved hero could become someone very different.
The second is Marvels, a 4-issue limited series written by Kurt Busiek. The reason I love this series is similar to my first choice, it’s different. Most comic series follow the protagonist. What this series does is follow the story of a photographer, an everyday man coming to terms with superhumans appearing around him. It’s an unusual spin off from the norm, which is why I find it intriguing. It’s also a great starting point for anyone just getting started with comics.
Who are your favourite authors/artists and why? Is there a good community behind this kind of work?
Although there are communities behind specific authors and artists, I’ve never been someone to stick to just one or two people. I like to explore the differences rather than stick to just a few. Although this means I have never garnered any affection to specific writers, it allows me to sample lots of different and varied work.
What do you think makes a good book in this genre?
What makes a graphic novel successful in my eyes is a good collaboration between artist and writer. The story is the key element but because the writer is simply writing dialogue, a lot of work has to be done by the artist to ensure the right mood is being set visually.
Where do you most like to buy your books?
Although most high street book stores stock graphic novels, their selection is usually small. I find small independent book stores can sometimes be best but first choice would always be a dedicated comic book store, there are a few dotted around but sometimes tend to be on side streets in big cities. A lot of comic book conventions are happening around the UK at the moment as well, these are amazing to meet like minded people and buy all manner of merchandise.
What makes a graphic novel successful in my eyes is a good collaboration between artist and writer.
How do you find out about new titles in this genre?
With the vast amount of new content released weekly it can be difficult to keep up with new titles. Usually a quick trip to any comic book store will let you know what’s new. Plus most comics will have adverts in the back advertising upcoming issues.
What are you reading at the moment/looking to read next?
I just bought a stack of single issue comics from a local comic convention. I often buy bundles of comics not knowing what they are, sometimes you find some hidden gems you didn’t know existed that way!
Are you a comic book/graphic novel fan? If so, why? And if not, which types of books do you enjoy reading? I want to hear from you!