The UK comics laureate and London Book Fair CrossMedia creator Charlie Adlard has called for "equal billing" for comics artists with their writing counterparts, while arguing the UK comics industry needs to shed its "hang-ups about age" if it is to move the medium forward.
Adlard, best known as the penciller for The Walking Dead series, told The Bookseller Daily that "comics is a completely novel form of reading, as it has a 50/50 balance between words and sequential art. Art is perhaps even more important than in some children’s illustrated books, because you can’t have a story without the artist. If we’re talking about pure comics—leaving aside TV, games, film and other cross-media stuff, as the rights get trickier—the artist has to be on an equal footing."
Adlard noted that writers getting more credit is "a cyclical thing... Back in the 1990s, the artist sold the comics, not the writer. It’s probably gone the other way now, as the writer can be more a part of the cross-media property... an artist might be able to do conceptual art, but the author can write a screenplay, and be in the writers’ room."
As laureate, Adlard has been pushing for comics to be recognised as a tool to be used more widely to improve literacy and facilitate learning. He said that smashing UK (and US) perceptions about the age groups comics are geared towards would help build a culture that reveres the medium as much as any literature—as is the case in France or Japan.
He said: "For a long time there was this perception that comics were just for kids. Then there was the whole ‘comics are growing up’ phase and it strangely went the other way. Now you have genres—like superhero—that exclude kids. Even the term ‘graphic novel’, which I hate, is part of this; it was made up in the '80s to make comics seem more respectable. We should smash these preconceptions and just think about subject matter... comics should be for anyone, from five to 95."