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futurealstudio.com > Films > AIDC > Interviews > David Alvarez

David Alvarez Interview


[ David Alvarez ]

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 your background?

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 companies.

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.

Marv 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, huh?

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 T-shirts.
3) Love to watch the Spider-Man, Elektra and X-Men movies.
Ironical, huh?

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 like Patrick 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 Apocamon 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 reasons?

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.


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