Should Canada Have a Comic Book Industry Policy?

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Sat Oct 11 17:40:53 UTC 2008

      From The

Should Canada Have a Comic Book Industry Policy?
*By Hervé St-Louis
Oct 11, 2008 - 12:02:27 AM

   Art and text by Al+Flag Cover: Story Board … . Montréal-Nord: Michel,
1985. 48 pages Source: Story board Al+Flag. -- Montréal-Nord : Éditions
Michel, 1985. -- 48 p. : en majeure ptie ill. ; 29 cm. -- ISBN 2980048100.
-- Oeuvre complète (c) Al+Flag.

The question may seem ludicrous to many, but to this author, the question is
a serious as asking if Canada should have a film industry policy, a video
game industry policy, or a cartoon animation policy. When it comes to its
film, video game and cartoon animation industry, Canada has a define policy
about how it seeks to promote these industries in Canada and abroad through
various means and to various ends. If one takes comic book production
seriously, then the same question is no longer an oxymoron or wishful

When it comes to cinema and television, the Canadian Government and most
provinces have a clear plan of action to promote Canadian culture through
film and broadcast airwaves. The second purpose of its policy is to aid in
the job creation in the field of cultural industries. Job creation is the
main goal of the policies aimed at the video game and the animation
industries in Canada. Hence, various tax credit measures and arts funding
programs have been created mainly by the Heritage Department of the Canadian
Government to promote film, video games and the cartoon animation
industries. It can be argued that the strategies used to achieve the policy
of promoting Canadian culture and job creation are not always fine-tuned or
effective, but there is a defined will by the Canadian Government and its
provincial counterpart to do something. The same cannot be said about the
comic book industry.

Currently, what passes for a comic book industry in Canada, through the eyes
of policy makers and bureaucrats, is but a part of the book and magazine
publishing industries. There is no specific policy addressed specifically to
the comic book industry in Canada.

Do comic books warrant a special attention from governments in Canada? Of
course they do. Comic books are the forerunner of what is considered
multimedia arts. Comic books combine many disciplines and can achieve many
cultural promotion purpose at cheaper cost to the creators and the Canadian
taxpayer than other art forms. If a Government seeks to promote its culture
abroad in a universal language based on visual information, easily
replicable and reproducible, and accessible to a mass market, there is
nothing better than a comic book.

   Cover of Binkly and Doinkel, (1981). Art by Owen McCarron Source: The
adventures of Blinkly and Doinkel [Ottawa] : Consumer and corporate affairs,
1981. -- 14 p. -- ISBN 0662118219. -- Cover (c) Industry Canada

Comic books, better known to English-language scholars as sequential art, is
a visual medium where a sequence of images assembled spatially convey a
narrative message through the sequence of visual captions. To these images,
texts and story meaning can be added. Although they are older than the
written language, comic books have been used mostly since the 20th century
to inform and entertain the public at a minimal cost, effectively.

A policy supporting comic books cannot, for example, be enacted as a job
creation attempt, as in the film, video game, and animation industries that
hire hundreds, if not thousands of crews for a single project. Comic books
are more like books in that a relatively small team of creators and support
staff at a publisher can produce a title that can be exported and read
throughout the world for a fraction of the time and money a film or a video
game, can, but with as much potential reach, thanks to its visual strength
and language.

The question remains, what does the Canadian Government has to promote about
Canada, that it must rely on comic books rather than other media? This, I
believe is the real policy question while comic book publishing is but the
strategy to send a message out there. I have argued that culture is a way
for a country to score points on the international scene and generate a
positive image about itself abroad. For example, comic books created by
Disney, in past decades, it was argued promoted American capitalism
throughout Latin America. Of course, Government should let artists create at
arm's length and just generate a critical mass of comic books that lend
themselves to be distributed and read by readers all over the world.

>>From a pure art standpoint, comic books are popular with many people and do
not age as fast as other form of art. Today's readers can easily immerse
themselves in the body of work of past generation of comic books that
entertained older generations. Only animation has a similar staying power.

Canada is a bilingual country, French and English with a modern society
welcoming people from the world and integrating deeply into the Canadian
world. Canadians respect the rule of law and a free market society. Canada
is one of the only countries of the world with a multicultural makeup and
two official languages. Yet, Canadian society can teach a lot to the world
about how a modern and dynamic country can exist and provide multiple
opportunities to its citizens.

Cover of For Future Generations: The National Parks of Canada, (1965). Art
by Ganes Studios Source: For future generations, the National Parks of
Canada Ottawa : Roger Duhamel, Queen's Printer, 1965. -- 16 p. : ill. --
Entire work (c) Parks Canada.

If we agree that Canada should have a distinctive policy for its comic book
industry, then the next question is what strategy to must use to enact its
policy? Should the Canadian Government and provinces be actively supporting
the comic book industry through grants, loans, tax credits, or help for
representation abroad? Should for example, a special push be made to create
comic books for special groups like children and aboriginal Canadians? In
the book world, most type of literature is supported, but material such as
cookbooks and travel material are not supported to the same extent as
fiction. In the film and broadcast world, the government does not support
pornography, reality television, and game shows. In animation, because most
of the contents are geared towards children, there are stricter guidelines
and requests for clear overt Canadian contents in the works. In video games,
there doesn't seem to be any oversight over the contents of the products,
probably because the job creation aspect is the ultimate objective of the
government as opposed to the promotion of Canadian culture.

There are many genres of comic books touching very different target markets,
not sound support strategy can be generated without first understanding what
it is one seeks to promote. In hindsight, perhaps Canadian comic book
readers should take their local industry more seriously and start asking
themselves what kind of comic books they would like their fellow Canadians
to create.

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