Yesterday, the Michael Sporn Animation “Splog” featured scans of a multi-page interview with Alex Toth that was conducted by Bill Spicer for his own Graphic Story Magazine and published in 1969, when Toth was about 40 years old. The interview includes this famous exchange:
[TOTH:] Whither the comic book; where’s it going, except to hell?
[SPICER:] Someday graphic novels will take up where comic books are leaving off, but what about the artist who has to sit down and draw them? If some one came to you with a 200-page pictorial novel to illustrate, and if the money was okay, do you think you’d be interested?
[TOTH:] I’d probably blow my brains out. It could be done, and there are plenty of guys around who could and would do it. But I’d rather have twenty 10-page stories than one 200-page story. I found this to be the case when I was freelancing; I could be tired as hell, having just come off a job, when a new script would arrive in the mail and I’d be perked up by it. Despite being tired, and wanting a few days off before starting the next assignment, a new script would get me enthused. Change itself is refreshing; a new subject to tackle is stimulating. It juices you up to get into it right away. To sustain yourself for 100 or 200 pages would be rough. Even those 34-pagers used to drive me up the wall. It would have to be a damn good script to keep me going.
This graphic novel concept frightens me. Although, I have to wonder where comics are going. Where the medium is really going. If comic books are going down the drain, and if newspaper strips are being killed off by ads crowding ever deeper into the pages — and by the lack of any real contributing function of their editors — then I think the strip may be finished. If they would reach out into new subject areas, maybe graphic novels will happen as dollar or two-dollar soft covers in black & white or color. The medium deserves a better shake than it’s gotten from its practitioners who’re making it go on the way it’s been going down. I don’t know who’s really doing the experimentation and planning for new off-shoots of the strip. I’d like to get into it, though, when it happens.