I wrote this in response to someone on The Beat and thought I'd share it here. Comics are in a hole now, and it is not the artist's nor the consumer's fault. Allow me to share:
...for an artist to be successful they absolutely must draw from a wealth of the world’s knowledge and it is vital to look past the (very young) world of comics.
The problem with doing so is not the artist’s burden but the publisher’s. They do not know how to market anything outside of the nerd multiverse. This is why, say, Sarah Glidden’s How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less is criminally unrecognized (not even nominated for an Eisner?!, even with the tons of press it has been getting. It should be getting press outside of the world of comics.
My next big project is a comic done in charcoal and meant to be read as a play, inspired by the work of Jean Genet. I have no illusion that anyone will want to read it in the comics sphere. There is no publisher in comics that I can think of that would touch it (part of why I self-publish) but I can think of some literary publishers that I am going to pitch it to.
We can do better, but are discouraged from doing so. No publishers are willing to risk promoting great books (which is why traditional literature publishers like Pantheon put out books like Persepolis. Would Oni Press? Or Dark Horse? D&Q? It became a deserved success because it was not marketed to the comics world and didn’t pander to the comics world. It is simply a great comic, doing something that no other artform can do. If it only sat in LCBS (local comic book stores) across the country it would be unknown and forgotten right now.
Now that digital distribution is easy and inexpensive, publishers have the opportunity to reach audiences all over the world and actually take risks on books that aren’t about zombies or movie tie-ins or fill-in-the-blank trends.
But I doubt there is anyone willing to risk it when there is a quick buck to be made off comics. Even Fantagraphics has taken to simply reprinting popular, lost greats (or translations) as their bread and butter. This probably allows them to do things like MOME without going broke.