Thursday, December 07, 2006

Kids Do Read Comics:
There's a little discussion going on right now (and by right now I mean perpetually, but it's flared up lately from Larry Young and Jason McNamara) about whether or not kids read comics. And if not, why not. The accepted wisdom is that kids don't read comics. That comics passed them by, that they don't read them anymore, that only 20 and 30-year-olds are still reading comics. And to some extent, it's true, in that kid readership of comics is not as widespread as it used to be.

But the scenario Larry posits in his column is, quite honestly, just bullshit. I'm kinda surprised to see it coming from someone who has worked on the front lines of retail. Because I do work on the front lines of retail, every day, and kids *are* buying comics. Kids are *excited* about comics. They'd be more excited if there were always comics for them when a movie gets them excited about a character (There was no Daredevil for kids when the movie came out, and generally there isn't one for X-Men either). But I sell a pretty decent number of the Marvel Adventures digests, the Tokyopop Cinemangas, the Bone Scholastic editions, etc.

Here's the thing, and nobody wants to hear it: Kids don't want black and white, and they don't want new characters. They want characters that they recognize. They want Spider-Man and Batman and the X-Men and Sonic. Good lord, do they want Sonic. I didn't even know the character was still around until I started working retail, but every month we sell tons of Sonic comics, and thankfully Archie Comics has *finally* gotten around to doing some Sonic digests, which also are selling gangbusters.

So that's the sad truth. It's not that Colonia or Continuity aren't fine comics, but they don't have the shiny to attract the kids. Likewise, I love Clan Apis, but I have a devil of a time selling it to kids or their parents, even though it'd be perfect for some of them. And as for why Jason hasn't heard of a graphic novel by "KURT [expletive deleted because we’re still on the main blog page] BUSIEK?" and whether "comics journalism hit the Plado Ceiling?" Well, The Wizard's Tale is about 10 years old, and much as I loved it (I reviewed it and gave it a 10/10 when it first came out), it's long out of print (although available used at Amazon, and recommended) and, more to the point, it's not really what the kids are looking for either. Now, if someone were to get the Harry Potter license and do it right, that book would sell gangbusters. But the truth of the matter is, today's kids, from my observation, want characters that are familiar, they want full color and they (and especially their parents) want it cheap, or at least cheaper.

I won't deny that DC and Marvel especially could do with a wider selection of all-ages material, but this whole notion of "There's all this great kids' material and nobody knows about it" and "Kids want fancy new stuff nobody is providing them" are both pretty much dead wrong. The industry did fuck up in deciding to skew older and leave all-ages behind, but that decision was made probably 20-some years ago at the dawn of the direct market. These days, the reason kids aren't reading comics has more to do with the kids than with the comics.

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