Comic Publishers

August 20, 2010

Death Of Kids’ Comics Equals Death Of Entire Industry?

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Written by: Drew
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The kids are alright.

The kids are alright?

After Hollywood’s love affair with comic books that has been helping to keep the comic book industry afloat dies down, which many feel will be after Avengers and Batman 3 are released in 2012, there is going to be nothing drawing new blood into readership if we don’t have successful kids’ lines to get the youth hooked. The state of kids’ comics will become the state of comics itself, if something doesn’t change.

With the exception of Archie Comics (’cause Archie has had an untouchable system that has proven to work), children-aimed comics are considered by a majority in the current industry as money-losers. Primarily still published to satisfy the guilty-pleasures of some, and hopefully as a gateway to a handful of young readers to get them hooked onto reading comic books. Otherwise, many are passed off as failures. Why and when though did child-aimed comics fail?

I blame the publishers at hand for the failure of successful child-aimed comics, not children themselves.

You can target video games. You can target TV or the internet. Really though, isn’t the failure of those comics on the publishers? Marvel and DC, I’m talking to you guys. Yes, DC and Marvel have made a change over the past few years it seems. DC appeared to up its game starting three years back, pushing Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam!, Tiny Titans, and the new Superfriends comic (although the blocky look to match up with the toys looks silly to some). Marvel has gone its own route with Pet Avengers comics, and of course Superhero Squad on TV and comics.

However publishers, I dare to ask: Where can I get your children’s comics?

When I was young I could go to a grocery store or a gas station or a corner news stand and buy your comics. I cannot do that anymore, Marvel or DC. The way you release your comics, I have to buy off-line or go into one of a handful of surviving comic shops, AND I HAVE TO BE LUCKY for the comic shop to carry it.

This is bad for kids: Kids ten and under usually don’t have access to credit cards to search and buy your comics online. With the dungeon-esque “Men’s Club Only” feel of a majority of modern comic book shops, there is nothing inviting children to come in off the street and look around.

Marvel and DC: your youth-aimed lines will fail because YOU LET THEM fail. If you just changed your tactics, you could do something really great, you could have a Renaissance in kids’ books!

There are winners though still in kids’ comics, and they are of course Archie Comics and new comer BOOM! Studios.

Archie does their own thing and it works. I can still go into a supermarket and buy Archie comics. I can go into most bookstores that are not comic-specialty shops and buy Archie comics. Archie has been able to survive by doing what they do best and just making bubble gum adventures of the Riverdale gang, with an occasional twist here or there, whether it be a realistic art look or an added gay character, but they have a formula that works, and the most important thing is YOU CAN ACTUALLY FIND THEM! BOOM!’s kids’ line is fantastic, and includes The Incredibles, Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and The Muppets plus a ton of Disney properties like Darkwing Duck and Mickey Mouse, and although not as easy to find as Archie, I can still go to a ton of non-comic specialty book stores, and occasionally a few Target stores, and find them. BOOM! and Archie realize for these comics to pay off, they have to go outside of comic shops…and they do and guess what: it works.

I know this is starting to sound like a rant to some, but as the guy who writes the column here aimed at youth comics, it’s really something we need to address, because as crazy as it may sound, it could lead to the extinction of the American comic book as we know it. There is no solution except to figure out new ways to market comics outside of direct sales and comic shops like it used to be. The future looks imperfect from my view.

(Drew McCabe writes our bi-weekly From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays column, which you can read here every other week!)

Drew McCabe
drew@comicattack.net

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6 Comments



  1. Interesting piece you have here Drew, and a topic worth considering that is, unfortunately, lost in the shuffle or just flat-out ignored by most.

    On the retail side, at least in my store here in LA, we lose money on kids’ books; so I could see how a smaller retail store wouldn’t even stock them. That being said, we DO stock them and have a killer kids’ section- one that rivals many other stores out here IMO. It’s two full sized/double sided racks. On the sides facing the entrance of the store we stock Marvel kids stuff on the right, and DC on the left. This includes comics, graphic novels, full sets, plush toys, and whatever else fits the bill. On the other side we have one shelf totally dedicated to BOOM! kids’ books, and next to that we carry everything else under the sun that’s kids related (girl comics, educational comics, toddler books, the classics like “Bone” and “Archie”, the Simpsons comics, etc., etc.- where are the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics? *sad face*). Even with a great display, and its own section though- they still don’t really sell. The only people who buy them are the occasional kid, or the nostalgic adult.

    That being said though, the few kids who do come into my store looking for comics often times don’t want anything to do with the kids section. They want to read the big boy comics sitting on the other shelves. And who can blame them? These are kids who are growing up with first person shooter video games and GTA, not to mention movies like The Dark Knight and Iron Man- they don’t want the bubble gum cartoony looking books, they want the dark, cool looking stuff the adults read. It makes sense. Obviously this isn’t the case ALL the time, but it is quite common.

    Now as for your point in not finding kids’ comics in grocery stores or spin racks anymore, as a retailer, I have to ‘ok’ this move. We’re already competing enough as it is with online sales and now digital comics (which are still a good thing, however- see below!), so to spread the market out even more isn’t good for your ol’LCS and the direct market. That point aside- most comics are $3-$4 now, and what kind of kid has that money to spend? Can a 12 year old kid afford a $4 Muppets comic? Probably not, and even if they could, they’d probably rather spend it on a video game. So this is something to consider too- the cost of a kids’ comic.

    You make a very valid point though about the “Men’s Club” mentality of many retail stores, and as I’ve mentioned before in columns about digital comics, this mentality MUST change for the betterment of our industry in the long-term. Parents don’t want to take their kids to the old, musty comic shop run by The Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons, and quite frankly, I doubt kids want to go to those stores either. And again, who can blame them? So retailers need to seriously up their game and clean up their act in order to be more inviting to the next generation of readers. They need adequate lighting, clean fixtures, and better presentation to make their stores more comfortable for kids, and the common passerby customer. I think Drew, after visiting my store a few months ago, you can see how we differ in applying these simple changes, and how it provides for a much more comfortable atmosphere for the customer.

    Something you could have touched on here though, that may help revitalize kids’ books, is digital comics. Digi comics are $1 or a little more per download. Every kid owns an iphone these days and now has access to thousands of comic books at their finger tips. This is a good thing. Kids have $1 to spend, especially when their parents are paying the phone bills. Digi comics opens the doors to a new generation of readers as they are now available to millions of people who may never have set foot in a comic book store otherwise. They spend $1 to download a comic, read it, and if they enjoy it, they can seek out their local comic book store and buy more there. It’s a great thing for everybody, but again, the retailers need to up their game in order for it to be effective.

    So great job bringing this issue to light Drew. I’m with you- I hope the industry wakes up and realizes that when the readers of today are all old and decrepit, the readers of tomorrow need to actually exist.


  2. Billy

    I do agree with you guys about trying to get kids into comics for sure but today’s comic book companies are still making their money off of print not digital, so I don’t think going crazy with those is the answer either. One thing having kids I do know is that the companies need to look down different avenues as far as content. My son REALLY loves dinosaurs, so I get him pretty much evreything age appropriate that has dinosaurs in it. I buyu my daughter Archie and I think I’m going to buy Bone for her too.



  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Comic Attack, Comic Attack. Comic Attack said: What's in store for the future of #kids #comics? http://comicattack.net/2010/08/ffgtgrtheend/ […]



  4. I’ve heard people just complain about the price tag of the kid comics like the Disney and Muppets series. I’ll pick one up for my little one every now and again but they are kind of steep and let’s be real, If you’re getting a comic to read to a little kid or have them reading it themselves the one thing you DO know is that it will be torn and ripped soon enough and not too many parents are about to drop $4 to $5 to see that just two days later.

    I don’t think those titles need to be printed on the high end paper with the glossy interior either. Just drop the price and do the stories on the regular recycled paper and make it accessable.



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