Paul Levitz, publisher of DC Comics, has a perspective remarkably similar to mine:
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Paul Levitz: If we’re lucky, we’re going to be dealing with the issue of this tremendous open page of creative opportunity. What is the graphic novel? What is the graphic novel capable of, and how do we connect people to that in a world where you can get as unlikely a project as The 9-11 Commission Report in graphic novel form on the bestseller list? I think the biggest challenge facing the industry is that – what can we do in comics next?
We have a medium where a lot of the creative talent for many years was looking to figure out what their next assignment was. Then we finally evolved out of that to what the next project was – along with the sense of wanting to bring more of yourself to it.
But now, we’re almost at the situation where the question has turned into “what is the next opportunity out there?” You have this tremendous freedom of moment for creative people from other media to ours. You have people showing a willingness to sample comics about subject matter that would have been laughed out of the room a few years before. There’s an ability to promote and publicize those projects in ways that were unimaginable a couple of years ago, and giving you a chance to reach your audience. But still, I feel that the largest challenge is the challenge to the creative community – what do you do with this opportunity? What can you create? Is there the American humor strip that can have the power of an Asterix and simultaneously reflect the nature of popular culture, politics, and yet do it in a way that appeals to both adults and children and sells millions and millions of copies with each edition?
Or is there an equivalent that captures the wonderful, fun silliness of the manga humor work that works in Japan and is on volume 82 of, say, three guys running around chasing each other in a Keystone Cops situation? And then, how do you deliver all of these through the new and emerging technologies so that they reach different sets of people?
There’s so much enormous opportunity. That, I think, is the overwhelming challenge. As a creative individual, as a publisher – and God knows we won’t confuse those two things – or even as a consumer who enjoys this material – you find yourself moving toward this buffet that is set with far more opportunities than any one person can choose from intelligently, and what do you do with that?
NEWSARAMA: So the biggest challenge to the future is, to quote Lawrence, is that nothing is written?
PL: It’s always that nothing has been written about the future, but for most of the time that I have been active in comics, there was either a pervasive fear that there wouldn’t be a future, or most of your energy, if you wanted to do something different than what had been done before had to be put into convincing people to allow you to do something that had never been done before. Now, there’s an enormous range of people willing to do what has not been done before. Now, we’re at the point where no one’s sure which thing that hasn’t been done before they should do. It’s a much, much better problem to have.