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Saturday, November 06, 2004
Kids And Comics, Revisited
I've maintained before that there are plenty of comics for kids, and plenty of kids who read comics. And that the statement "there are no comics for kids" is generally used to mean "kids should be reading corporate super-hero comics" which is, I think, proof of the narcissism of the aging super-hero fanbase. "Kids should want to read the kinds of comics I read when I was a kid" is not exactly a compelling argument, and that's what most of the kids and comics hand-wringing boils down to.
Kids don't want super-heroes. And the kids who do want super-heroes are perfectly happy with Spider-Man, Batman, Teen Titans and Superman (and maybe Hulk--boy, is that Marvel Age version too little too late). They don't want a "kid appropriate" version of a super-hero. Kids don't like being talked down to, and they will always know when they are. They don't want the Marvel Age books. Adult collectors who buy every Spider-Man, Fantastic Four or Hulk comic there is buy them, but kids don't. Occasionally I'm able to talk a parent into buying one for a younger kid, but by and large kids do not want a "kiddy" version of a super-hero comic. DC seems to get this, and I've noticed that both Plastic Man and Action Comics are carrying the same ads as the Johnny DC books, and for the most part they've proven to be low-continuity, action/humor heavy books that kids actually like and are buying.
But, apart from all that, there is a segment of the kids comic buying populace that actually is interested in super-hero comics and isn't having their needs met. And that is little girls (and parents of little girls). I'm always being asked by little girls (and their parents) for general audience comics featuring Batgirl or Supergirl or Catwoman or Wonder Woman. Spider-Girl fills this need, somewhat, but no little girl thinks to ask for a comic about a female version of Spider-Man. Currently, both Batgirl and Catwoman are a little too continuity-heavy and dark in tone for little girls, and Wonder Woman is fine, but it's a little talky. Kids like a lot of action in their super-hero books. And I'm a little frustrated by the costume decision they made for Supergirl, because the belly-shirt and mini-skirt look is going to make a lot of parents uncomfortable, and they're the ones who are going to be buying any comics with her in it, after all.
So, what we really need in super-hero comics is more books like Spider-Girl and Plastic Man. They're general audience friendly, there isn't a lot of back-story needed to understand the comic, and they're written with kids in mind but not written as a kids comic. If DC went in this direction with some of their girl-friendly characters, both I as a retailer and DC as a publisher would be able to make a good deal of money selling those comics to little girls, who only want to see a comic about a girl kicking ass and taking names.