Comic, from the pencil to the magic mountain of Montjuïc

APRIL 2011

07-04-01Well-known comic characters will be leaving their traditional surroundings for a few days to visit the Montjuïc area of Fira de Barcelona between the 14 and 17 April, where they have a date at the now legendary Barcelona International Comic Fair.

07-04-02Yes … it’s as legendary as Captain Trueno and Tintin… Back in 1981, a group of professionals and comic lovers decided to create “their own” festival to highlight the strength of a genre that was experiencing an authentic “boom”. The cultural explosion in the wake of the transition to democracy brought modern attitudes to country which was changing its attitudes after decades of stagnation. Among those changes was that comics were no longer considered things for children.

Magazines like ‘El Jueves’ and ‘El Víbora’ carved out a niche in Spanish culture and highlighted the importance of Spanish comics. At around the same time, the Catalonian Professional Association of Illustrators (APIC), was established, showing the genre’s rude health. It was the first association of comic strip professionals and the fact that this pioneering initiative emerged in Catalonia is no surprise.

07-04-03It was in Catalonia where what some experts consider to be the first Spanish comic saw the light of day. The magazine ‘En Patufet’ appeared in 1904.However, many date the birth of Spanish comics to 1917 with the launch, also in Barcelona, of the magazine TBO, which was named after the genre that was initially known as tebeo in Spanish.

07-04-04The so-called ‘ninth art’ is currently also feeling the impact of new technologies. The same thing happened years ago with the emergence of cinema (‘the seventh art’) which led to many comic characters making the move to the big screen, although a lot of film characters have also made the trip in the other direction. The same happened when television became an entertainment medium, with the success of cartoon series and their comics and websites.

The website shows how the sector is meeting the digital challenge, which is what is currently attracting the interest of all professionals, who will once again be checking up on the state of Spanish comics at Fira de Barcelona.

The comic in figures

07-04-05Since it was established, the International Comic Fair has been the driving force behind a literary genre which is the cornerstone of an economic sector that remains robust, despite current circumstances. According to the Report on the ‘Spanish Book Trade 2009’, produced by the Spanish Federation of Publishing Guilds, in that year a total of 1,514 titles and 20.27 million copies were published in Spain, with an average print run of 13,391. These numbers led to a turnover of 79.30 million euros, or 2.6% of the total sales of all publications in Spain.

According to another study, by the State Office for Books, Archives and Libraries of the Ministry of Culture (pdf), there are 7,586 titles in print in the Spanish comic catalogue, of which 6,289 are published in Catalonia, a region with a long-standing tradition in the production and publishing of comics in Spain.

According to the report, the average price for a comic in Spain is 9.45 euros for an issue and the ratio between the number of copies published and the number sold is 41.1%, with newsstands the main sales outlet (47%). Spanish comics also cross frontiers to reach the European market (Germany is the main destination) and North America. However, the figures are modest. Exports only amounted to 801,504 euros, of which 63% were to Europe.