The May 2012 issue of Q magazine debuts a new comics review column, written by none other than Colin Smith, Sequart friend and mainstay. And although Colin’s keen to emphasize that he’s hardly taken over the magazine, and his column is just one of many in Q’s review section, tucked in between pages 118 and 120, it’s a prestigious gig. It’s also a possibility for a serious thinker about comics to take the medium seriously in front of a mainstream audience.
Colin’s written eloquently on what the column means to him over at his blog TooBusyThinkingAboutMyComics, but I thought Sequart readers, many of whom are big fans of Colin’s, would appreciate hearing about this development, about Q, and about what this means for the serious appreciation of comics straight from Colin himself.
JULIAN DARIUS: Could you describe what Q means as a magazine, for those who might not be familiar with it?
COLIN SMITH: The simple answer is that Q is one of the UK’s best-selling music/pop culture magazines. It’s been going since 1986, and it’s become, over its 25 years-and-more of publication, an immediately recognisable and genuinely respected brand. It’s a magazine which you see in supermarkets and petrol stations as well as in newsagents and book shops all across the UK. Q’s always been determined not to take itself seriously while taking music and film and books very seriously indeed. At its best, and I think the new issue captures this, it’s smart and informative, good-humoured and irreverent, unsnotty and unpretentious too.
DARIUS: How did this gig come about?
SMITH: I received a message on Twitter one Thursday night from Andrew Harrison, who I knew through the press had just moved from editing The Word to doing the same for Q. I had no idea why he wanted to speak to me. I quite seriously thought nothing of it beyond a touch of confusion and the pleasure that comes from the chance to swap a few words with somebody whose work I’ve admired. It turns out that he’d come across something that I written on my blog about the best comics of 2011. By the next Wednesday, the first column had been discussed and OK’ed, written and edited and re-written, and I’d learned an absolute mass of things in a very short period of time indeed.
Was I shocked by it all? I still am. There are very expensive and extensive courses for wanna-be scribblers that don’t pass on anything like as much as I was shown in those few days.
DARIUS: You’ve been blogging intensely about comics, taking them seriously as an art form with messages that matter, for a while now. How great does it feel that Q took notice?
SMITH: Great question. If you’re asking “Are you pleased to land the gig?”, I can only say that it’s a fantastic opportunity, and it makes all those hours blogging feel like a far less quixotic business. It is in no way a bad feeling! I’m just pleased that my writing seemed to be compatible with what Andrew Harrison always intended to do. He reads and enjoys a range of different kinds of comics, he knew what he wanted, and it all sounded fascinating. As Marvel and 2000AD writer Rob Williams said on Twitter this week: “How you know Q Magazine is now comic-friendly? Editor emails me to say he’s in his ‘Judge Cal phase’” [a tyrannical, Caligula-like villain from 2000AD's Judge Dredd strip].
DARIUS: How do you think Q sees your comics review column as fitting with its overall message? Is it a good fit?
SMITH: Q’s concerned with pop culture as a whole and not just music. Books, film and comics all sit very well together in its pages. Comics really are such a part of the mainstream now, even if that isn’t always true of the superhero pamphlet. So I think it’s an excellent fit, and of everyone I’ve come across or heard about who’s seen the column, no-one thinks it’s anything other than a perfectly legitimate part of Q.
Of course, if Q says comics belong in its pages, then that in itself lends comics a degree of well-deserved credibility. Comics can still get a terrible press and Q’s doing far more than just counter-acting that. It really is a good thing that Q’s doing here for the medium.
DARIUS: What does the future hold, both for you and for your work in Q?
SMITH: There’s the next Q column to discuss in a few weeks time, and Shameless?, my book about Mark Millar’s superhero books for Sequart, to be working on. Then there’s the pieces which you folks kindly put up every Tuesday, and the essays’n’bits which I put up regularly on my blog TooBusyThinkingAboutMyComics too.
DARIUS: I hope every Sequart reader picks up a copy of Q.
SMITH: I don’t think that there’s ever been a better time to be talking about comics to a broader audience. There’s so much great material out there. And the brief for the Q column means that I get to write about everything from Daredevil and 2000AD to It’s a Good Life if You Don’t Weaken and 20th Century Boys. I’m very optimistic about the future for comics.