Ian Rankin, Denise Mina, Alan Grant
Edinburgh Book Festival. Friday 17th August 2007.
‘Graphic Novels, literature or pulp fiction.
Both Denise Mina and Ian Rankin are of course well known and highly successful novelists writing in the crime genre. Recently both have been tempted to take on a writing gig with DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint. Mina has already had a 13 issue run on ‘John Constantine – Hellblazer’ and Rankin is to start writing the title. Both also have creator owned projects due to come out. Ian Rankin is certainly not scared to stray into unfamiliar cultural areas, his comics project comes after a recent stab at writing lyrics in the Ballad of the Book project. Veteran comics writer and editor Alan Grant who has written for everything from the Courier to 2000 AD joined them for this book panel. He was writer on Batman when it was selling a million copies an issue although it was his tales of writing the horoscopes for the Courier that probably took the audience prize for best anecdote. Grant is from Midlothian, making it an all-Scottish panel.
In contrast to Grant’s forty years in the business, Ian Rankin’s experience in comics amounts to a recent appearance in Oor Wullie. Although he has been a life-long reader and managed to slip a reference to Watchmen into early stories. He admitted that writing comics is a different discipline. Crime fiction is taken relatively seriously in the UK at least, but comics are not. There is nothing in Britain yet to approach France’s Angouleme festival or the massive sales of the Japanese market.
So why are comic publishers looking to writers like Rankin and Mina? Alan Grant reckoned it was down to plummeting sales in the comics market. He referenced the boom of the early 90’s when sales were in the millions. That boom was unsustainable, being based on speculation that would never pay off.
Among the differences noted between comics and novel-writing were the way writers were treated in the comics world. Comics publishers keep the copyright on all their writers creations, something unheard of in the world of the novel and Alan Grant had a few tales of his attempts to challenge this through the NUJ.
So, literature or pulp fiction? Well, both. Dickens was a pulp writer after all.
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