This interview with
comic book artist David
Alvarez was conducted by Director Sebastien
Dumesnil via email during the editing of Adventures
Into Digital Comics. This interview is a part of
the second set of interviews, which means that David
Alvarez was asked to answer questions accordingly
to the final cut of the movie.
Can you tell us about
I've been a comic book
illustrator for almost ten years. I've drawn the Looney
Tunes comics as well as some WB storyboards. Also,
I've done some character design for Disney and other
In the film, we discuss
the nature of comic books. Can you tell us what, for
you, a comic book is? What are the strengths and ideas
you like or intend to explore?
Every artist has a personal
intention for their comics. Personally I've been intending
to bring an animated look to my comics. Maybe because
of my love for animation. I like to translate the expressive
and wackiness in animation storytelling to my comics.
Wolfman told us that ten years ago, there was not
even one comic book store in Wyoming. What do you think
of the distribution channel in the US? Do you think
that comic book stores are good ambassadors of the medium?
If it wasn't for them
I don't think anyone would've thought of comic books
as a 'serious' publication medium. I live in Puerto
Rico and there are a lot of cities here who still don't
have a comic book store and hence they are not 'educated'
in that aspect. Which means that they think of comics
as 'kiddie stuff'. Cities and towns with Comic book
shops help people to see comics as art.
There is a debate
about the nature of the growth of comic book sales in
the early 90s and the subsequent recession. Would you
qualify these events as a boom followed by a crash,
or an aberration followed by a "back to normal" situation?
Why? In the case of a boom followed by a crash, do you
feel that the small press was hurt during the same period?
We owe it all to the
Superman's death comic. By the time that happened EVERYONE
from the comic collector to the school janitor wanted
to own a copy of it. I compare this event with the movie
Who framed Roger Rabbit. Everyone thought the
worst things about animation and cartoons until RR show
everyone how priceless the classic cartoons are.
Superman's death helped
the industry in many ways. People wanted to know more
and more about this so called comic books. Eventually,
when Superman comes back to life, readers were kind
of disappointed about the commercial books and started
to look for small press and independent books. That's
when phenomenons like Jeff Smith's Bone or Cerebus
started to open roads and hope for more small publishers.
The recession? The sudden astronomical rise of paper
and printing prices destroyed the printing cycle of
some independent publishers and eventually they couldn't
fulfill the demands of readers who wanted to see their
favorite comics in the shelves every two months.
The gimmicks, such
as variant covers: Retrospectively, many people in the
industry and readers blame them, but on the other hand,
they have become a norm for many publishing entities
such as TV Guide. What do you think of them?
I think they help publishers
to sell most of the entire stock of their comics. For
example, let's say you publish 5,000 copies of your
comic. As a ballpark figure you might sell 1,500 on
the first shot, BUT if you split those 5,000 copies
into two different covers, (this will cost you only
$100 for an extra printing plaque), your odds of selling
from 1,500 to 2,000 or 2,500 are higher because collectors
love to own the two covers. This will happen of course
if the comic is good and has a lot of followers. Easy,
In the film, Scott
McCloud says there are more golfers in this country
than comic book readers. By right, we should be able
to sell comics about golf, but it's not happening. Do
you feel there is an issue of diversity going on?
Hmmm… not all comic
readers like golf and not all golfers like comics. I
don't like golf and I wouldn't buy a golf comic either.
However, I like beach volleyball but I wouldn't buy
a comic of that either! LOL!
Nowadays, would you
say that printed comics are for kids, for grown-ups
or for everyone? Is there a stigma attached to the pamphlet?
By default every non-comic
reader thinks of comics and cartoons as kids stuff.
But on the other hand, they are not our target so that
doesn't worry me. Now these are the kind of people who:
1) Visit Disney World every year.
2) Like to wear Tazmanian Devil, Batman and Mickey Mouse
3) Love to watch the Spider-Man, Elektra
and X-Men movies.
Do you think that
it is now easier for kids to find printed comics or
to find webcomics on the Internet? For you, what is
a webcomic? Why would people read them?
Internet has made everything
accessible. Now kids don't have to go to the library
to find the history of the US Constitution in 12 different
books when everything is one 'Yahoo click away'. I cry
myself guilty of this too since every time I, my wife
or my kid feel sick I search for the symptoms definition
online and THEN call the doctor or simply go to the
pharmacy to get whatever over the counter medication
is suggested in the webpage to treat that illness.
Webcomics are more accessible
than ever as well. Now kids and grownups can read Garfield
from their computers without having to go to the gas
station to buy the paper. This new phenomenon made the
largest syndication companies such as Universal Press
or United media to create online content for their readers.
In the film, artists
Farley and Cat
Garza say they make webcomics because publishers
would not touch their work, because it's too offensive,
different, etc. As an example, Patrick talks about his
webcomic, a Manga style rewriting of the Book of Revelations.
Do you think that the Internet could be the next logical
step of the comic book for artistic or business-related
Yes, it's true. You
have entire control of what you do or say in your comics
unless you are syndicated online by one of the companies
that I mentioned before. But that's another story.
For me the business
of online or 'webcomics' started already and it's working
fine. People live in a rush world in which we webcomics
publishers bring them that fantasy moment that they
need to ease their minds. Today almost everyone owns
a computer and even before they have their breakfast,
they are checking their e-mails.
I get e-mails from people
who read my Yenny strip every morning in their offices
and thank me for making them laugh before their boss
arrives to turn the office 'upside down'.
Finally, do you think
that the tactile experience of holding a book in your
hands is necessary to the comic book reading experience?
At the end, yes. Nothing
will beat the satisfaction of owning a printed copy
of your favorite comic even if you read it online everyday.
Readers ask for printed collections of my strips simply
because they can carry them everywhere they go and read
it whenever they feel like to. Webcomics have their
readers as well as Printed comics do. Neither of the
two will eliminate each other.