Thursday, March 05, 2009
One of the initiatives I have taken on as late has been all-ages comic books. I just found myself quietly drifting in that direction. Is it because I am getting older? Is it because, with a very young nephew and my own thoughts about eventually having a child of my own, this topic has suddenly become a lot more relevant to me?
I have made it my business to familiarize myself with the children's comics that are being offered every month. I'm particularly concerned with comic books for ages up to 13. While there is some good product out there, there is, in my opinion, not enough. The new releases for children -- only floppies, mind you -- at one large comic book store I go to fills a single shelf. A single shelf. That's not enough new material.
Then you have another shelf or two of trade-paperbacks and assorted hardcovers. And, course, there is always manga -- but, when you take out the titles meant for children 13 years or older, there is not tons and tons of stuff available (and if you take out the adaptations of card games, there is even less).
I'll admit I'm most concerned about the floppies, or digests with relatively low prices. These should be the things most accessible to kids, things they can easily buy with their allowance. Accessiblity. Accessibilty is really a local candy store, or a local mega-supermarket. Can you get Johnny DC titles at supermarkets?
Archies are racked up at some of the drug stores chains. Impulse buys. Low price-point. For under $3 or $4 you can get a digest packed to the gills with Archie stories for your child. Compare that to a digest priced at $7.99, or $9.99. Does a seven-year-old need fancy card-stock covers?
When I was a very small child (3-7 years old), my parents pulled copies of comics from Archie, Harvey, and Gold Key like they were grapes from the stands and spinner racks. If it had an Archie, Harvey, or Gold Key logo, they bought it. They also bought me Captain Carrot. Howard the Duck was a mistake, however.
Gold Key in particular offered me a great deal of variety. Bugs Bunny, Donald Duck, Woody Woodpecker, Fat Albert...everything I was watching on TV at the time. Some of these stories, unbeknownst to me, had been reprinted and repackaged from decades before. My love for these comics translated to the next step up -- superhero comic books. And so I was hooked.
Gold Key was the "gateway drug" for my hobby. Their offerings were vast, cheap, colorful, and plentiful. We could get them at the supermarket or the comic book store. And, most of all, they had a clear "all-ages" branding that made it easy for my over-worked and harried parents to identify and buy them for me.
My recommendations for all-ages material are:
1) Low price-point
2) Cheaper paper
3) Affordable mass-market digests
4) Larger supermarket, drug store, and candy store distribution
5) Push subscriptions as an option
6) More titles
7) Clearly mark or brand comics as "all-ages"
I'm sure I'm not the first person to recommend these things, but this is just some stuff off the top of my head.