Sunday, May 07, 2006

Kids and Comics

Recently a question has been asked about FCBD and kids. Why is it that FCBD doesn't inspire kids to get into comic books? I have a few theories on this.

1. Despite getting free comics (which are mostly of decent quality) most people, especially kids with short attention spans, aren't going to get hooked off of these one-shot stories. Most of the comics are geared to current readers, not a new audience. As such one free comic isn't going to draw in a new audience.

2. Most comics today are done with an older audience in mind. There are a few exceptions, but only a few.

3. The publishers would also need to hook the parents. Without parents who are willing to drive them to the comic book store and spend $3 a pop on a monthly issue, the kids aren't going to come back. Parents would be more likely to buy a video game that will keep the kids out of their hair for hours.

Despite all this I think there is hope for gaining new readers in the comic book world. I think you'd have to sell the parents (and teachers) first though. I got into comics because my Dad read me Titans as a bed time story. Perhaps free comic book day would work better in generating customers from the younger generation if the free books were written with both the new and old fans in mind. Or maybe they should just hand out free issues of Invincible - like the one with Science Dog in it :)

Hope everyone had a great holiday!

28 Comments:

Anonymous Jeff said...

Very good comments. Let me address the problem from the point of view of the retailers that I've spoken with or had second hand info from. One guy opened his store across the street from a school, hoping for foot traffic. He said that every day at 3pm, he watches the kids walk right past his shop without ever even thinking of coming in. The rest of the retailers tell me that kids show no interest in comics anymore. They tell me to just face facts; kids don't read comics anymore and there's no way to get them back. One reason is that comics aren't written for all ages anymore. But is there more to it? I have a lot of nephews and neices and I have to tell you from experience, I can't even give them comics for free to read. They don't want them and won't read them. Some of this may be due to the excitement video games, computers, dvds and the like give them. Some may be due to the decompressed storytelling that is in comics these days. Maybe it's the fact that a current issue of Spider-man is more likely to feature 22 pages of Spidey and Gobby sitting in an alley together having a pleasant chat about the past they've shared than it is to have an action, fight scene. I also think that kids are like lemmings in ways. They do what the other kids are doing. My comic guy got all the kids in his town playing with yo-yos a couple of years ago. Can you believe it? In this day and age of high tech gizmos, a whole townfull of kids trying to walk the dog and rock the baby. In the 90's, all the kids in high school were reading comics. They were cool partly cuz they were seen as investments. I know a few guys who bought multiple copies of Jim Lee's X-men 1 thinking that they were gonna pay for their college when they sold these books in a few years. Now comics are not read by hardly anyone under the age of 17. How can we fix this? Aren't comics doomed if we don't get some new blood every few years? What's the biggest problem with comics these days that keeps kids from reading? Is it price? Content? Too much continuity? How would you explain Cyclops and his long life to a new reader? Or Wolverine's origin? I have had huge success getting 14 year olds to read comics with Invincible. To me, this book captures the magic of Stan Lee's stuff in the 60's, but with a modern twist. Why can't DC and Marvel make more books like this? I tried last year to give away copies of all ages books to kids for Halloween, along with candy of course. I had 3 takers of the 40 or so kids that rang the bell. That ain't good. When comics have become things that you can't get a kid to read and you find yourself hiding your comic collection along with your porn cuz you don't want your child to read the adult material contained within, it's time to really think about who it is superhero comics should be for and how we get them back to the path that they should be on.

Sunday, May 07, 2006  
Anonymous Jeff said...

One other thing, I have an 11 year old nephew who is dying from leukemia. Imagine my frustration that I can't find any comics that are suitable for a kid his age. Any recommendations Cshiana? Invincible is out due to the bloody fight scenes it sometimes has. What do you suggest?

Sunday, May 07, 2006  
Anonymous Jim said...

The other issue with bringing kids into comics is getting the companies to put their strength behind it. When you talk about getting kids into comics immediately they will point to some Johnny DC or other such book. This is talking down to the kids assuming they only want cartoon art and simple stories.

When I got into comics they were drawn by Kirby, Ditko, Swan, Infantino, etc. These were well drawn books with realistic type anatomy. The stories were clean and simple - which should not be the way we go today.

Today kids are exposed to a lot more at a younger age, so the books should be faster paced and one and done issues, but still contain sub-plots and not talk down to the possible audience.

Sunday, May 07, 2006  
Anonymous Jim said...

I would suggest Mouse Guard.

PS - I hyped your show via the Cosmic Comix Conversation show of May 7, would should be posted by May 10.

Sunday, May 07, 2006  
Blogger Brainiac6 said...

What about the Legion of Superheroes? It's usually fairly tame. Elfquest maybe... JLA Classified, Fables, The Thing (not the best book, but its fairly tame). Actually what I'd really suggest is picking up Bone, Mage: The Hero Discovered, any Meridian book, and some of the old New Teen Titans books. Obviously not current stuff, but all good reads and I believe fairly kid appropriate. You also may want to check out the Nightcrawler series. I've enjoyed it so far and if I remember right it should be okay for an 11 year old.

As far as kids refusing to read comic books... well, in today's world of the internet and video games I wonder how many kids read at all. "Picture books" probably seem like little kid stuff. Maybe you should ask you nieces and nephews why kids don't read comic books. Personally I read every comic I could get my hands on as a kid - but I was a big reader regardless. I'd be interested to hear from a kid on the subject and my friend Arielle's son is too young to ask :)

Sunday, May 07, 2006  
Blogger Brainiac6 said...

Mouse Guard is a grea suggestion :)

I still think kids would get into comics if they were more into reading period. I have to wonder how many parents take the time to read to their kids these days.

And thanks for the advertising! I appreciate it :)

Also, I just flipped through some of the early Nightcrawler issues and I think I'd have enjoyed them as an 11 year old - if you want Jeff I can send you the issues I have so you can check them out and see if your nephew would like them.

Sunday, May 07, 2006  
Anonymous Jeff said...

Legion of Superheroes often comes off as too cornball with kids today. The names themselves, with Girl, Lad, Boy and the like, at the end turns off kids. Fables I can't give an 11 year old as it's a Vertigo book. I sent him Bone and he really liked it. He asked me for more of the same, and I had to tell him that there is no more like it. Mage is a good book, but a little too introspective for an 11 year old. I sent my nephew the Neal Adams X-men reprints that Jim sent me. He loved the art, but decided that between these books and the movies he really doesn't like the X-men. He has really liked the old Hulk and FF and Spidey Essentials that I've sent him. So how come all the comic work up til about 1995 is appropriate to give an 11 year old, but so few books on the racks today are?

Sunday, May 07, 2006  
Blogger Brainiac6 said...

See, when I was a kid I was reading pretty much everything off the shelf. As a matter of fact I know I was reading Vertigo books at age 11, so maybe I'm not the one to ask for suggestions :) I'll keep a lookout for books to suggest. I really do think the current JLA classified story-arch is good for kids though. In all fairness I think before the 90s the publishers were gearing work toward kids. Now days everyone tries to imitate Allan Moore and Frank Miller, and as such everything's gotten darker.

Sunday, May 07, 2006  
Anonymous Jim said...

Well I sold my store and the industry went to hell.

It must have been at that time the companies got the marketing data that told them the average reader was older and they went to marketing more directly to that reader.

Chsiana - Mouse Guard #2 is heading you way this week and it was my book of the last two weeks on the show.

We had this discussion on the show once and Ultimate Spider-Man was considered the best all age comic out there or old books. A shame when the art form has so much potential and the companies producing the books do not seem interested in bringing the next generation back into comics.

I reject the idea that kids don't want to read, we just need the right comic product. It needs to be one and done issues, engaging sub-plots, realistic charcters and have fun and action.

The old silver age books had all of that and just need to have a similar line to that that is updated and modernized. Don't talk down to kids. All ages does not have to be all sugar and niceness - ideas, concepts and action all all ages.

Sunday, May 07, 2006  
Blogger Brainiac6 said...

Also Jeff - don't discount the Legion of Superheroes because of the funny names. All superheors have funny names... Superman, Blue Beetle, Wonder Woman, Wonder Girl, Speedy, She-Hulk... I could go on. If a kid isn't willing to give a book enough of a chance to get past the names of the characters they probably weren't all that interested in the first place. Now that I think about it Fone Bone is pretty corny too. As for Mage, if introspective isn't appropriate for and 11 year old what are you looking for? Because all the books I liked as a kid were depth reads - even my pictureless books, like Watership Down and even A Wrinkle In Time. Either way I'll try and come up with more suggestions.

Jim, I wasn't saying kids don't like to read, I was saying that they aren't as exposed to it. My point was that I love comics as much as I do because I was exposed to them at a young age. Actually most of my earlier memories are of having stories (comics included) read to me. That's why I say it's important to sell the parents.

And I eagerly await Mouseguard and my free t-shirt!

Sunday, May 07, 2006  
Anonymous Jeff said...

Alright Cshiana!! You hit the nail right on the head! You love comics now cuz you were introduced to them as a kid. Same with me and Jim and countless other fans. So now that no kids are reading comics, how are they gonna fall in love with them prior to adulthood? Why didn't most adults move onto to other books, like Vertigo and Indies, and leave superheroes behind for the kids to read instead of dragging the heroes into a dark, violent, mature world where all the villains are murderers, rapists and worse and the heroes are mindwipers, head-ripper-offers and almost as bad as the villains? Remember when Punisher used to be the mentally unstable anti-hero. He looks like a cub scout compared to what a lot of these "heroes" have done recently. I knew things were getting bad when I had to stop getting Flash for my 13 year old nephew as it was just too adult.
As far as your suggestions go, they are much appreciated. One thing, remember that as a female, you matured much faster than a male would have. An 11 year old female is more like a 14 year old male. She could handle the more adult themes and introspection a lot better than her 11 year old male counterpart who will still giggle every time he hears the word vagina, at least til age 15.
I don't know if we can go back and make superhero comics suitable for all ages again. How do you erase all the nastiness that's happened? The publishers are really in a catch 22. No kids are reading comics right now and comics aren't really for kids as they are being written right now. The publishers would love to reach kids again and get back in the Walmarts and supermarkets across the country, but how do they change the content of their comics to make them more family friendly in order to reach these outlets without driving away today's fans who want dark, violent stories with a lot of sex and overt adult themes? You make your comics more like they used to be, you lose today's fans who don't like those old books. You keep going the adult direction and you lose the old school fans who don't like all the darkness and glumness. Very complex problem.
Two more points: 1)It sounds corny as hell, but I learned my morales from reading Amazing Spider-Man as a kid. That book made me the person that I am today and helped found my moral core in a major way. I always believed that comics did serve to teach kids life lessons and help steer them in the right direction. Now, I've talked with lots of guys who grew up reading the comics of the 90's. They tell me that I'm crazy, that comics aren't about teaching morales. To them, comics are and have always been pure revenge fantasy. Talk about two totally different experiences for two different generations.
2)Many people, including several retailers I've spoken with, believe that downloadable web comics are the only path to getting the kids back. Imagine if they could download the latest issue to their iPod or cell phone for a buck or two. You could even have different material being produced for the kids than what hits the stands at the comic shop. It would still be Spidey or Bats of WW, but it would be more kid friendly than what's on the racks. Would that work? Would the continuity geeks just try and take that over too??

Monday, May 08, 2006  
Anonymous Jim said...

The web comics is a great idea.If they could make the price point $1 - ala an Itune it would be great. Pluse they maybe able to just take some of the comics already produced and reformat and/or redialogue some of them to save the production expense.

I was glad in Infinite Crisis to see Wonder Woman get rid of the sword and Superman be inspirational again.

I think that the relaunhed Superman has appeared to be a good all age book.

Monday, May 08, 2006  
Anonymous AMike said...

I was one of the kids whose parents wouldn't let buy comic books, so I can't really speak to that issue as a whole (though I've read a little of the Marvel Runaways series, and that looks like a decent one for kids so far). I was brought in to comics via a two-pronged attack from my fiancee and Cshiana.

First comic book I ever read was the Sandman series. At age 22. Best damn thing I ever read. I also got more than a few of my friends hooked into graphic novels with that series. So although I will hardly argue that bringing out more kid-friendly books isn't important - I think it might be worth noting that there is also new blood coming into comics who didn't pick them up as kids. Especially with some of the great comic-based movies that have been out lately. Whether overtly dark (Sin City) or lighter fare (Spiderman), I've found adults are at least reasonably likely to be drawn into the genre lately. (Grain of Salt - I'm very new to comics, so take any of my observations lightly please)

And though I don't want to start what I'm guessing may be a denser topic, the long-running series like X-men or Spiderman are inaccessible to me. There's so much back history critical to every issue that it's a tremendous barrier to picking up the story. I really enjoy the Ultimate XXXXXXX series' for that reason though, and it opened up a lot more of the comic universe to me.

Monday, May 08, 2006  
Blogger Brainiac6 said...

The idea of webcomics is a good one, however publishers are going to have to work hard to break into that world. If you check out some of the links to the right you'll see there are a few links to actual webcomics. They already have a strong hold on the market... FREE comics. They make their money on t-shirts and graphic novels. Maybe that's why FCBD doesn't work. DC and Marvel give one freebie - the web gives them all for free and the good comics inspire their readers to buy the books anyway.

Amike - if/when you have kids, would you introduce them to comic books? Now that you've grown to love them yourself that is. If you say yes I am sending your firstborn Mouseguard ;)

There is another interesting point I'd like to bring up. I have a friend who is soon to be the mother of two (she already has one and is expecting again). She has mentioned in the past that she wouldn't even let her kids read Harry Potter until the hit 14ish. Now, my friend is fairly laid back and she feels this way. HP is geared toward kids, and there are many parents who feel that it's somewhat adult in content, and that it teaches kids that they should get rewarded for being disobedient. If even books geared toward kids are too adult I'm not sure how comic books can manage the happy medium. Although I have noticed all the one year later stuff from DC has toned things down from pre-ICrisis. And Jim is right, the new Superman stuff has been kid-friendly.

I believe that comic books teaching morals will be my post for the day - so stay tuned!!!

Monday, May 08, 2006  
Anonymous Jim said...

Everything I needed to know I learned from comics (and my parents). Comics were huge for me in teaching principles and constantly reinforced the ideal that you should do the right thing regardless of the personal cost.

Amike - Glad to here we still get new blood, just wish the way I got into comics was still prevelant.

Monday, May 08, 2006  
Blogger Brainiac6 said...

Jim - the way you got into comics? If I remember correctly it involved you cutting up said comics and arranging said cutouts into epic battles inyour scrapbook.

Monday, May 08, 2006  
Anonymous Jim said...

That is not the way I got into comics. I went to the newstand with my Dad every Saturday night to get the Sunday Newspapers and I would be given a $1 to buy some comics (at 12 cents a book a buck went a long way). My love for the books caused me to cut out characters and put them into a scape book as a way to have inter-company cross-overs before it was ever considered (yes I'm a visonary).

Monday, May 08, 2006  
Anonymous Jeff said...

Amike may be representative of the new breed of comic fan. I have a 22 year old nephew and he has lots of friends his age who got into comics the same way Amike did. They got into them through trade paperbacks and really enjoy reading that way. The sad thing is that they steer away from all superheroes. They got in the game late, as adults, so they read Vertigo and Indies(especially Paul Pope's stuff). They agree with Amike that books like X-men and Spider-man are too continuity heavy to try and get into as a new reader. So it makes sense that if the new breed of reader is coming into the hobby as an adult, they would want to read material aimed at adults. Still, I think trying to make superheroes, something that I think should always be all ages entertainment, an adults only playground is wrong and will hurt the industry long term.
Cshiana, once you have kids or take care of kids(feed them, change their diapers, get up for that 2am feeding) your views tend to change on what is suitable for a child to be exposed to. Still, Harry Potter is okay for kids in my book. The weird part is that I've seen many cases where the kid, once hitting age 11 or so, gets bored with Potter but the parent stays fixated with the series. I got tore a new one by a cashier at the grocery store for saying that I thought Harry Potter was kid's stuff and that I had no interest in seeing the movies. Man, did she(age 20) ever lay into me. Ah well, to each his own. So, if the new comic book fans are coming into the hobby as adults in their 20's via trade paperbacks of the Vertigo type stuff, does that send a signal to DC and Marvel that they should be making their superhero books more adult to cater to this new audience and forget about the kids who aren't reading anyway??

Monday, May 08, 2006  
Blogger Brainiac6 said...

I think they make superhero comics more adult because of the pre-established fan base more than anything. As far as superhero books being continuity heavy - now would be a good time for new readers to chance getting into the stories in the wake of Crisis and MDay (yes, even MDay served a purpose, it was just very poorly executed).

Jeff... I hope to continue to live vicariously through my friends who have kids rather than have to change their diapers myself. But if I did have kids I would rather them read JLU or Legion of SH than have them watch Pokemon or YuGiOh. In fact I would make a point to read to my kids every night before bedtime as was done for me. One of my earliest memories is of A Princess of Mars and I think a lot of my morals and beliefs are tied up in that book - of course it also explains why I didn't have a long term relationship until 20... John Carter made me picky *sigh*

And I think AMike would give superheroes another chance if given some books to read... it's just that Sandman and Mage and such were to books his fiancee and I bombarded him with :)

I think superhero books should be for all ages. If they were written right they would inspire. Comic books are the mythology of America - regardless of whether or not kids read the actual books I see plenty of them wearing Superman shirts.

Monday, May 08, 2006  
Anonymous Jim said...

Let amike (if that amike is local to me) know that he has a library of material he can borrow.

Personally I just saw a cover for a new Marvel book called Claws, that not only I wanted give it to young children, I would not give it to my parents or have it sitting out in my living room. Something is inherently wrong with a super-hero book that makes you feel like a pervert.

No KIDS! Ultimately they are more then worth the headaches - have a couple and see.

Monday, May 08, 2006  
Anonymous Jeff said...

So what all ages superhero fare has been successful in the past few years? Invincible nearly makes it but a few issues are too bloody for all ages. The Incredibles got both kids and adults excited. So did Batman the Animated Series. Bruce Timm had another hit with Justice League Unlimited that got both kids and grown-ups geeking out. PowerPuff Girls reached all the way to college age females, males too. The Fantastic Four movie really made kids happy and a lot of adult fans liked it too. The Spider-man movies did the same thing. So what is it that sets these superhero works apart from what's on the racks today? Why are they so accessible and entertaining for fans of all ages where today's superhero comics are not suitable for children at all??

Monday, May 08, 2006  
Anonymous AMike said...

Just to pop back in for a tic -

Re: Superhero comics
I did get into the superhero stuff, but it took quite a while for me to get into it and I generally pass on the more "standard fare" stuff. I enjoy some of the Batman books, but generally they're more adult themed stuff (Hush, Year One, Dark Knight Returns).

I've recently picked up Ultimate X-men and Ultimate Spiderman and I'm really enjoying them. Ultimate Spiderman has just fantastic writing (and great art), and I think it captures (or at least could capture) the same audience that the movies did/do. If anything is going to pull young/new readers into the superhero genre, I would say these are the most likely, but I think it'd take more PR work to bring them into public consciousness. I see these series as pretty accessible across the board, but as a non-parent I don't really read them with that sort of eye.

Monday, May 08, 2006  
Anonymous AMike said...

Sorry to double post - I missed out on a few other comments addressed to me. . .

Cshiana (Re: Introducing comics to my kids) - Yes, I would certainly introduce them to comics. My fiancee is a HUGE fan of Stan Lee stuff (not my favorite) and as was said above, they are great fun. My personal collection would likely have to wait till they were 16+ though.

Jeff (Re: New Breed of comic fan) - Your nephew pretty well sums me up as well, and I'm inclined to agree. I did't mean to say that superheroes should be delegated to adults only, but rather point out another audience influx that seems to often go unnoticed in the readership discussions. I do expect he and I share *very* similar libraries though.

Jim (Re: Library) - Thanks *very* much for the offer. I'll hit you up through Gwen at some point for sure!

Monday, May 08, 2006  
Blogger Brainiac6 said...

I think a lot of the movies are more accesible to all ages because they use a lot of older material. As weve already discussed, the older material didn't have the same adult content issues.

I also miss comics like Young Justice and Impulse. Those were great kid books, but the heroes have all grown up. This of course is another major issue in the comic world - we lose out younger heroes to age but the older heroes seem to still be in their 30s. And, as such, the publishers fail to bring in an even younger generation to take the place of Young Justice and such. But that's a whole new can of worms so I'll save that for another days post.

The animated series are a great pull for kids - they may be the best hope of a younger generation of fans.

Monday, May 08, 2006  
Anonymous Jim said...

Why can other enertainment medium make all age stuff that is very sucessful and comics have abandoned that hope?

amike - my email is jlm1955@comcast.net - feel free to contact me direct - I only bite my wife.

Monday, May 08, 2006  
Blogger Brainiac6 said...

I think it's because other media is reusing a lot of old material and is also more easily accesible as all it requires is turning on your TV as opposed to going to a comic book store.

Comics would have to actually come up with NEW, age-appropriate material.

Monday, May 08, 2006  
Anonymous Jeff said...

Addressing Amike's comments about the Ultimate Universe, do you feel it was successful in it's original goal? The Ultimate U was created supposedly for younger readers. But if you look at the books, right out the gate Ult X-men was not suitable for kids under 13 and Ultimates was certainly a 13 and older book. Ult Spidey started out okay, but over it's course there have been several issues that are not kid friendly. In fact, I've spoken with several retailers about Ult Spidey and they all tell me that the core audience of this book is 20-40 year old men. So is it a success if you start out trying to make a comic universe for all ages and end up with a universe that by Marvel's own ratings are for teens and older? I got into comics at age 6. Jim was about the same age. I figure Cshiana was about that age too. Are we losing out by not delivering the comic book goods to the current generation of kids ages 6-12??

Monday, May 08, 2006  
Anonymous Jim said...

Absolutely. I think by ignoring that market and abandoning that market the companies have decided that comics are essentially developmental cost for cartoons, movies and other avenues for merchandising. When I was young most books would be selling in the hundreds of thousands range (250,000 was routine). Now if a book sells 50,000 it is a sucess and we have probably twice as many people in the USA today. The math is an amazing bit of a reality check.

Will DC or Marvel every really try to make comics part of everyday fabric again? Not with this marketing plan.

Monday, May 08, 2006  

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