The Maturation of Spanish Comics Creators via the Graphic Novel Phenomenon
Although to those less observant it might look like a spontaneous and unpredictable phenomenon, the graphic novel is just the embodiment of the “auteur comic” project developed from alternative comics since the 1980s. For this to happen, several phenomena had to occur, both technological and economic: the lowering of production costs; the proliferation of international contacts through internet and multiple comics conventions; and the interest shown by general bookstores for a new product which might counterbalance the losses that digital music and movie downloads left in their sections of CDs and DvDs. other phenomena have been generational: a batch of authors have matured in the last twenty years, and so have the readers used to alternative comics when they were kids—and wanted to keep doing it once they became adults. [...] It is they who made graphic novels available to non-fan readers in the only place where they could have been discovered: general bookstores, therefore creating the critical mass necessary to maintain a new industry: an industry of auteur comics. (Garcia 2013, 13-14)
This above quote raises three significant issues that I will address in this chapter: the maturity of the agents that make up the complex system that is the comics industry (readers, authors, publishers, and retailers), the recent expansion of comics availability from specialist bookshops to generalist superstores, and the critical mass necessary to bring about these changes in production and readership in Spain.
2007 should be highlighted as a milestone for the graphic novel in Spain,6 as that was the year the government established the National Comic Award, a public gesture toward comics’ cultural (and economic) value to Spanish society. The very fact that this prize was created implies that comics have become mainstream, even institutionalized, and that national comics in particular have gone from a niche interest to a valuable asset, owned and branded, by the Spanish cultural industries. In the same year, Paco Roca’s graphic novel Arrugas [Wrinkles] was a major success, attracting not only comic enthusiasts but also a broader readership that had never read a comic book before. Arrugas won the National Comic Award in 2008 and was subsequently adapted to a feature-length animated film of high acclaim.