Interview by Jessica Dunn
The owner of San Diego Comics is like that barista who has memorized your favorite drink, only better. You could probably just tell Frank Juliano your favorite color and he’d be able to recommend the perfect comic book or graphic novel. No seriously, he’s that good. Juliano and the rest of the staff are avid readers who keep up with the latest releases and have great taste in storytelling. Cataclysm tapped into Juliano’s expansive knowledge and understanding of the comic world, which resulted in some very thought-provoking answers:
We at Cataclysm have found that dystopia is difficult to define. Want to take a stab at it from a comic book perspective?
Dystopias abound in comic book and graphic novel storytelling, probably because they provide heroic protagonists with an endless supply of obstacles to overcome. They also serve as a useful mirror with which to view today’s societal and governmental shortcomings, often helping to raise awareness. Titles such as Y: The Last Man, V For Vendetta, Battle Royale, The Incal, Lazarus, The Massive, and even Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, all offer dystopian views of their respective worlds.
If pressed for a definition, I lean towards any society that has undergone a collapse of some sort, whether political, environmental, societal, or a combination of all three.
Have you seen many shift in trends or storytelling in the past five years?
Not so much with storytelling over the last five years. The major companies still structure their stories for the eventual collected editions, while smaller entities deliver more compressed, done-in-one stories.
As far as trends, a company like IDW has enjoyed some success with licensed properties such as My Little Pony, The Powerpuff Girls, and Godzilla, to name a few, and it could be interesting to see if other publishers try to follow suit in appealing to built-in audiences.
Do you ever speculate how the current generation of books will be remembered in the future?
I think the current era in comics and graphic novel publishing will be remembered as an era of tremendous diversity in both original material as well as archival reprints. Comics readers today are presented with an avalanche of choices on a weekly basis across a broad range of genres. Additionally, there’s never been a time when more classic material was being re-presented, often in enhanced, pricier volumes.
Aside from Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Alan Moore’s Watchmen, comic books do not have much of a presence in academia. Do you think scholars are missing out on anything by ignoring the stories found in comics?
I think the last ten years or so have seen a gradual increase in academia’s willingness to engage comics as literature. I would add Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis and Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid On Earth as recent additions to academic scrutiny, each markedly diverse in their subject matter and technique.
As for those being overlooked, I think there will always be some lingering resistance in academic circles to “words with pictures,” but, as I stated previously, I’ve been encouraged by the number of titles I’ve seen added to academic curriculums.
For those unfamiliar with the world of comics, how would you describe the appeal? (Comics are about more than superheroes, right?)
To me, the appeal of comics exists on several levels. Text and illustrations form a potent combination in triggering readers’ imaginations, while allowing them to engage the material at a pace of their own choosing. Today’s comics feature great diversity in subject matter, with biography, romance, historical non-fiction, crime, science fiction, and journalism all taking their place alongside the more well-known superhero genre.
Additionally, comics storytelling remains the closest possible equivalent to experiencing the creator’s intent in an undiluted form. Both the medium and the relatively minimal production requirements deliver immediacy when compared to other storytelling modes.
How about some shameless self-promotion and tell us about your store!
San Diego Comics features a broad selection of the newest comics and graphic novel releases, as well as the deepest selection of comic back issues in San Diego County. We have a friendly, knowledgeable staff that makes customer satisfaction priority one, and we’re always happy to special order that hard-to-find book you may be seeking. Comics are our passion and we love to share the excitement, so stop in and check us out sometime!