I was rather sad when I looked at DC’s solicitations for October. Not one, but two of the comics in the Johnny DC line will see their final issue that month, “Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam” and “Batman: the Brave and the Bold.” This is not too long after the cancelation of the “Super Friends” comic in the same line. The only surviving kid’s title with DC characters is the amazing “Tiny Titans” (which was mysteriously absent from the October solicits for some reason). We’re left with “Looney Tunes,” “Cartoon Network Action Pack” and “Scooby Doo, where are you?” This is really sad to me.
This does absolutely nothing to detract from the idea that comics aren’t for kids anymore. And really, if the industry wants to keep going in the future, they need to tap into that market. They need to make comics that kids enjoy. I refuse to believe that these characters are simply not marketable to that demographic. Kids love superheroes. They watch them on TV; they dress up as them for Halloween; they buy their action figures. So why do the kid’s comics sell so badly?
Not every kid has a parent who reads comics. And as it stands right now, the only place to find comics, kid’s or otherwise, is in a comic book store. There are online options too, but they seem less feasible to the 7-12 demographic I assume we’re aiming for. They may all have cell phones these days, but I still think credit cards are beyond most of their means. The problem isn’t that kids don’t read comics, it’s that they often don’t have the opportunity to buy them or even have them bought for them.
Most comics are never going to make it back onto the magazine racks at grocery stores. But I think it could benefit sales if some of the all ages books could. I mean, who could see a cover of ANY issue of “Tiny Titans” and not think, wow, my kids would love this! I’m sure many parents are scared of comics and think they are all full of sex and violence. And that’s part of the problem too. Parents need to be able to see these kid friendly comics and know at a glance that this is something intended for their kids. We talk about judging a book by its cover, but most parents are going to do just that. They are going to glance at the cover and make a snap judgment about if the book would be okay for their little angels. I’m not saying that all of these books need to watered down or sport adorable crayon like covers like “Tiny Titans” but something needs to be done to really scream to parents “I’m okay for your kids to read!” And a small logo may not do the trick.
Comic companies always seem to throw out the line about really caring about their kid’s books, but the reality often seems to suggest differently. Kid’s comics cannot be handled the same way as mainstream comic books if they want to be successful. Marketing and distribution needs to be suited to the unique challenges faced at targeting kids.
But none of that gives us a solution, and I don’t like complaining about things without suggesting something that could be done to help if possible. So I propose this. Next time you are out shopping for comics, take a look at the kid’s comics. Pick up a few that you think should continue and give them to kids that you know. Tell their parents where you got them, so if the kids enjoy them they know where they can find more. Perhaps offer to go with them and show them the kinds of books to be looking for or even offer to pick up a few during your normal comic book runs. Talk to teachers you know or local librarians. If your shop doesn’t have kid’s comics ask why. Try to stir up a market for these comics and increase the sales, if only by a few units.
Why do I want to support kid’s comics so much? I don’t have kids of my own, but to me the matter is simple. Kid’s comics are fun to read. I read “Tiny Titans” every month and it puts a smile on my face. I have a couple of Marvel Adventures titles over here to use as prizes for my students. I read them when I’m having a bad day. A few have even had to move from the prize pile into my keep pile because I enjoyed them so much. I like drama and action and maturity in my comics too. But not all my comics. Some days you just want to read something that is fun. And that is what well written kid’s comics offer. Don’t get me wrong, not every kid targeted comic is going to be a good comic. Not all are going to make you laugh and some are just going to be stupid. But when there are good ones out there we need to support them or they will go away. And the more support we give to them the more we can hope that the companies will invest in them talent wise. And more good comics is good news for everyone. Don’t be scared off by an all ages label.