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Pow Sock! No comics for kids!

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A much quoted story from the San Jose Mercury News takes the opportunity for a puff piece previewing WonderCon and turns it into a fretful look at the dearth of comics for kids:

Almost no one talks any longer about comics being a sneakily artful way of getting kids to read. There is even some fear that the current waves of adult customers represent the last generations of comics readers.

A recent article on that topic in Wizard magazine generally dismissed the idea that comics readership is headed off a cliff. But it also revived the debate about the impact and appropriateness of including a rape (albeit discussed, not shown) in a costumed heroes tale such as “Identity Crisis.”

Brad Meltzer, the novelist who wrote that miniseries, said by e-mail that “the best part of comics has always been the mix of stories.”

“Even if young kids were the biggest comics readers,” Meltzer notes, “I’d still tell the story I want to tell. That’s the only story I should tell. Sooner or later, they’ll grow into it, or make it themselves.”


Oddly, The Beat was interviewed for a very similar story in the New York Sun, which took the opportunity of previewing NYCC, and turning it into a fretful look at comics dark, inpenetrable turn:

“They were mostly an influx of lapsed readers from the 1990s,” said Mr. Buckley. “Although we did get some new readers from the mainstream press we received.” DC Comics, home of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, has also made use of current events for their comics. With names like “Infinite Crisis,” “Identity Crisis,” “Secret Wars,” “Civil Wars,” “World War Hulk,” and “World War III” their comic series have become an inaccessible haze of wars and crises only a true believer can follow.


As my quote from the latter piece show, I don’t truly believe that there are NO new readers coming into comics, but they are coming in for different reasons and in much slower waves than, say, the manga or shojo revolution. Still, as we’ve written here many times, its just plain bad business to miss out on making comics for kids — I expect thatis Marvel and DC don’t pick up the thread — and really why should they at this late date? Their readerships are set at a different age point — mainstream publishers will.

  1. Very sad. Today’s adults only read comics because they fell in love with them as kids. I don’t even take my son to comic shops or cons, because I have no idea what to expect.

    Sure, there are all-ages books out there… but many are indy and harder to come by than, say, X-Men. And like I said, how many parents are going to take their kids to the comic shop?

    Augie DeBlieck said something similar a week or so back… that mainstream publishers need to put the fun back into the superhero books.

    http://kneontransitt.blogspot.com/2007/02/augie-deblieck-should-run-marvel.html

  2. I think today’s young fans read Manga over comics. I mean teenagers over kids. We are in an era where Manga is going to have a huge affect on mainstream comics in the next decade. I think the new generation of comic artists will do manga style comics, which may mean the eventual death of a superhero comics to most fans.

  3. It seems that every time an effort is made to bring in new readers (kids or otherwise) there is a very outspoken minority that works overtime to smash it down. Take the blacklisting of Chuck Austen for example. People went so far to make threats on his life, and why? Not because he was a bad writer, but because he injected new and fresh ideas, to stale characters, giving them personalities that young people could relate to. The problem was, it didn’t fit in with what the “old school” fan boys found excitable. Cross that with the big two’s inability to go out and find new readers, and what do you have? Do some research on the fall of Rome, and if your smart, you’ll be able to draw the parallels.

  4. I for one will be putting copies of comics in my kids hands. But, if they want to read manga, why stop them. I mean I’m not into it, but I don’t think my Dad was into Spawn back when I was a kid, but he bought the book for me anyway.

    Comics aren’t dying they’re just changing

  5. “Comics aren’t dying they’re just changing”

    Agreed, Julian. I mean, why the distinction/divide between manga and comics anyway? They’re just Japanese style comics. It would be like referring to each individual genre of western comics instead of classifying them all as comics.

    I mean, do we use the French word for comic books when referring to French comics? Russian? Swedish? Get the picture? Each country has its own unique style and preferences, but we don’t segregate them like we do Japanese books.

    Why?

    Japanese comics have had a marked impact on recent western work, and this trend will continue, I’m sure. It’s unavoidable. Then again, why *would* anyone *want* to avoid it? If it gets kids reading comics, regardless of style, that’s a good thing, right?

  6. Another thing came to me after my first post. We’ve relegated “kids” comics to one little place in the stores. Maybe that’s good from a sales point of view, but it doesn’t take much to make children feel alienated. By doing this, are we telling our readers of tomorrow to go sit at the kids table? Just a little food for thought.

  7. A few quick points.

    1. It’s not dark,grim,and gritty stories that are attracting the existing older readers, but shock,controversy,and the old played out promise that “things will never be the same again”.

    2. If the creators,editors,and publishers at both Marvel and DC would actually do some research by way of reading any pre-Quesada/Jemas Code Approved Marvel superhero comics, they would know how to produce comics that are both appealing and suitable for people of ALL AGES.

    3. One of the main reasons why Marvel and DC aim MOST of their superhero comics at older teens and adults, is because they are still trying into get rid of the stigma that “comics are for kids”. Many of the creators and editors are embarased to be working on comics are aimed at or perceived to be aimed at kids only. These insecure egomaniacs want superhero comics (especially the ones they work on) to be accepted as legit adult fiction. They want older teen and adult non-comic book readers to accept them and their hobby/job.

    4. Whenever the Big 2 say they want to bring in new readers to the industry, they are MAINLY talking about new OLDER TEEN and ADULT readers.

  8. In all the comics stores I frequent, the “kids comics” are on one shelf or spinner rack. The rest of the stores are overrun with adult titles. My son doesn’t even like going to comics stores anymore because there’s nothing for him there — he’d rather get his superheroes from DVDs.

  9. Wraith said:
    “One of the main reasons why Marvel and DC aim MOST of their superhero comics at older teens and adults, is because they are still trying into get rid of the stigma that “comics are for kids”.”

    Kneon says:
    Now if they could only get rid of the stigma that “comics are for jaded middle-aged dorks,” all would be right with the world. ;)

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