Well, we have been swirling around a lot of ideas generated by this week’s stimulating conversation on Where Comics Are Now, and we don’t quite have time today to write another thoughtful essay, but here’s some more grist for the mill:
The point became especially clear as I sat down to read Civil War #1-7 yesterday. Having read as periodicals a number of the tie-in titles and miniseries, I was surprised to find that many of the subtle moments I liked were pretty much completely absent from the “main” series. The details of Peter Parker’s decision to unmask, the inner workings of the Tony Stark and Reed Richards alliance and their Negative Zone prison, Ben Grimm’s decision to ride out the controversy as an American expatriate in Paris, and Speedball’s interrogation and transformation were all told in peripheral titles. The main title, which is what most people will read when it comes out in hardcover and later softcover, was spare and unsatisfying on its own.
My first exposure to kids comics were, hands down, the Garfield and Calvin & Hobbs strips. I was a child in the 80’s when Calvin & Hobbes was in its heyday, and I still remember reading through my brother’s complete collected editions or flipping through the Sunday funnies for the latest installment, brought to me in full, brilliant color. It was easy to get swept away in the adventures of Spaceman Spiff off on Mars or to laugh at Calvin’s turbulent relationship with his pet tiger, Hobbes. To me, Hobbes was, and always will be a real tiger. Garfield, on the other hand, appealed in a more basic fashion with an easier, more laid back sense of humor. I was an avid watcher of the television cartoons as well as collecting the strip in the bound format, picking up copies at my school’s scholastic book fairs whenever I had saved up enough dimes leftover from purchasing my school lunches. I loved lasagna and hated Mondays, and well . . . I finally did get that orange striped cat–though that wasn’t until AFTER living on my own and out of range of my father’s “allergy” to cats.
This does back up our own field research in the 90s when kids who said they read comics usually meant Garfield and Peanuts.
§ This comment on our previous post by The Dane mentions some popular kids comics of his day:
Power Pack, X-Men, Micronauts, and GI Joe
We’d just like to note that those comics were created by folks like Louise Simonson, June Brigman, Michael Golden, Larry Hama, Herb Trimpe. (Don’t even mention X-men.) These weren’t second stringers…they were top crasftmen and women who turned out solid fare. In other words, there’s a REASON the kids came back every month. Today, kid lines at both Marvel and DC are mainly considered stepping stone titles to break in new talent — not that some very talented people aren’t working on them, but kids comics have never really been considered a glamour assignment.
§ Dirk wrote this yesterday:
Heidi MacDonald and Brian Hibbs swear that there are twentysomething readers still patronizing comics shops. I don’t doubt it. The question is, where are the younger teenage comics-shop patrons?
Which strikes me as very much beside the point. They are in bookstores buying manga, Dirk, and that should make you feel all tingly. The manga mammals are already overtaking the direct sales dinosaurs. But that I suppose needs to be another think piece one of these days.