By Matt O’Keefe
For years there’s been the complaint that comics aren’t for kids anymore. I say that comic shops aren’t (necessarily) for kids anymore. While a lot of what you find in your LCS isn’t geared towards children, there are still a number of avenues where all-ages comics can gain traction. Here are nine of them.
1. The Direct Market
Even though most kids haven’t stepped foot into a comic shop, they’re still a big way that comics get into their hands. The best comic book evangelists for children are undoubtedly their parents, the ones paying for their entertainment in the first place. Parents who are comics fans themselves have every incentive to get their children invested in the hobby, which is probably why Tiny Titans, a comic that was popular with readers of all ages, was able to last 50 issues, longer than the majority of kids comics fare.
2. The Supermarket
As much success as Archie Comics has had lately in periodicals, the bulk of its sales still come from the digests people find in the checkout line. Comichron reported that Archie sold well over 2 million digests in 2013. That’s no small number, especially in an industry where the #1 book of the month generally tops out at around 150,000 copies.
3. Toy Stores
Stores that sell toys have recently become opportunities to sell kids comics. IDW has made great strides by offering mini comics as micro-fun packs. A fan of My Little Pony at the right Toys R’ Us, Target or Walmart has an extra chance to be exposed to comics. Because of the success from that brand, IDW even expanded to offering TMNT micro-fun packs in January.
4. The Web
Webcomics are a pretty obvious way for kids to be exposed to the medium, only requiring an internet connection as opposed to a car ride to the LCS. While it’s been notoriously hard for creators to make money off of webcomics, things are starting to turn around. Patreon is gaining traction as a way for creators to receive a regular income (The Beat has one!) and kids comics have the kinds of advocators who would be likely to consider pledging. Kids are also perhaps more likely to be excited by memorabilia (such as t-shirts) that serves as supplemental income for webcomic creators.
Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites are accessible ways for creators to sell their comics to kids. Kickstarter and company have built up a large following that’s regularly browsing campaigns they might want to support. Kids probably aren’t browsing Kickstarter, but through the crowdfunder the parents who make the purchasing decisions are given an extra chance to be exposed to comics. It’s been shown that Kickstarters for comics find more success when the comics have had exposure elsewhere. To cite previous successes, Aw Yeah Comics benefited from Art Baltazar and Franco’s audience in the direct market, and Lilith Dark was previously a popular webcomic.
Major children’s book publisher Scholastic’s GRAPHIX imprint is opening the doors to all-ages comics by releasing critically-acclaimed books such as BONE, Amulet, Smile, and Missile Mouse. Imprints like GRAPHIX are near-impossible to break into, but those who do get a book published by them reap a lot of rewards.
7. Book Conventions
The American Library Association just opened up a spot for an Artist Alley in 2011, so the market is still ripe for conventions that are mostly attended by librarians and book fans. Libraries are often an afterthought in the comic book industry, but librarians are always looking for new stories that will reach kids. Chris Giarruso, the cartoonist behind G-Man and Mini Marvels, said on the Kids Comics Revolution podcast that the ALA Convention was his most important show of the year.
8. School and Library Visits
These are hit and miss, but when they hit they really hit. Raina Telgemeier, the writer/artist of Smile, reported on Gregg Schiegel’s podcast Stuff Said that she’s found a lot of success with such events. Not all visits are gearing towards selling books but, even if creators aren’t making extra revenue off sold copies, they’re steering kids towards the comics medium.
This isn’t necessarily a new outlet to sell comics, but it’s a recently emerging way to gain attention. Maybe the newest form of kids comics marketing that that’s striking a cord with both comic book readers and nonreaders is activism. Comics or graphic novels that raise awareness about certain issues have recently found some success. The Kickstarter for Metaphase, a comic about an invulnerable hero who has a son with Down syndrome, raised almost $10,000. In addition, the Indiegogo-funded The Zipper Club is offering a scholarship to attend a camp for kids with heart defects similar to the one attended by characters in the graphic novel, a particularly clever way to promote kids comics through activism. It demonstrates that there will continue to be new ways to get comics exposed to children.
If you don’t believe comics are for kids anymore, here is a counter to that, showing some of ways they’re still reaching them. This isn’t an article about how to get them into those outlets; that would be a whole series of posts. But, if you’re a creator, maybe this gives you an idea of how or where to sell your all-ages comic. Regardless, it’s nice to think about all the routes that comics still have to reach a younger audience.
Thanks to Michael Lapinski for assisting me with this article.