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Comics Don't Like Kids, These Days

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The sense of awe and wonder ignited by the new, imaginative and cool stirs something in all of us. That passionate feeling is like nothing else we can experience in this life. All-Ages comic books light that passion in kids both young and old, if given half a chance…

"The Comic Book Industry is dying!"
"Attrition will bring an end to the comic book art form soon."
"Low sales and poor distribution are killing comics."
"We're the last generation that will enjoy comic books."
"Comics books aren't for kids anymore."

These are the kinds of comments seen regularly on comic sites, Facebook, Twitter, forums, blogs and as notes added at the end of online comic related news items.

The one that always gets me is "Kids don't like comics these days."

Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the reality seems to be the reverse: Comics don't like kids these days.

Sure there are many great exceptions to that rule, such as Scratch 9, Owly, Usagi Yojimbo, Gladstone's School for World Conquerors and many others, but as far as percentages go, comics aimed at kids make up a very tiny portion of the new releases every Wednesday.

And, while all-ages most certainly does not mean "kid's books" despite the erroneous assumption of many that it does, when you expand the scope to include books suitable for any reader of any age, it doesn't open up much more.

So, that brings us to the fly in the ointment. Or, to mix the metaphors, the nine hundred pound gorilla in the ointment. The big players in the comic industry show no desire to make a concerted effort to market comics to the all-ages audience. Despite the success of companies such as Pixar, or movies like Bolt and Ice Age, as well as the scads of cable and satellite TV channels aimed at that market, the big comic publishers seem to think it's a waste of effort. They're content to continue creating massive "universe shattering" events that cross-over a dozen or more mature reader books and market them to an aging demographic, believing the lie that kids don't want comics.

If that's the mission statement – marketing to an aging demo – anyone with the reasoning ability of the average eight-year-old can surmise it's only a matter of time before comic books are extinct.

Thankfully, there is a large movement of creators who refuse to go quietly into the night, despite the scorn many of us receive from a select few of our peers who look down on all-ages comics as if they're some sort of illegitimate, unwanted child.

The sad thing is, if it wasn't for the all-ages accessibility of comic books prior to the late 1980s, the majority of the current crop of comic creators, publishers, editors, retailers and buyers wouldn't ever have fallen in love with the medium.

"Dance with the date that brung ya" is an old saying that the comic industry as a whole should heed. While there's certainly room for mature comics, and I love them as much as the next geek, there's isn't room for there to be nothing but.

And, just like the average iPad owner who never gets the full potential from the device, the concept of limiting the comic art form to only showcase mature super hero titles is disappointing. The greatest thing about comics is that, like the Green Lantern ring, imagination is the only limitation to what the user can create. So, why do we limit the comic audience? To convince people comics are a serious art form? To get away from some wrong-minded sense of shame that comics are for immature illiterates? To make a fast buck in Hollywood? To… well, you see where that's going.

Instead of continually bemoaning the state of the industry or beating the dead nine hundred pound gorilla any further, we decided to launch this column in response to many who want to know what's new, what's hot and what's cool in all-ages comics.

On that note, I want to call attention to one of the best, if not THE best, all-ages press releases I've ever seen.

Image Comics, often a supporter of all-ages material, has a new series called Reed Gunther created by Shane and Chris Houghton. Apparently, the Houghtons experienced the same thing the rest of us who put out all-ages material do: a sort of prejudice against all-ages comics by some stores who relegate them to the "kiddy" rack at the back. Thankfully, there are a great many comic retailers who don't do this and instead, recognize that the buyers of all-ages comics are greatly underserved.

Along with that, here are some more recommendations for you, to slake your all-ages thirst between now and next week:

In the new properties arena:

Rust, by all-ages master Royden Lepp hit shops recently. If you're looking for an all-ages adrenaline ride, check this one out.

I'll toss out a shameless plug for my new book, Lions, Tigers and Bears Vol. III, which ironically enough, hits store shelves the same day as this first installment of this column.

From the licensed/existing characters realm:

Tiny Titans #43 - Baltazar and Franco continue their winning ways with a kid-friendly take on DC's Teen Titans.

Casper and the Spectrals 3-pack - Todd "Tellos" Dezago and several talented artists bring Casper and friends back to comic pages.

The Rocketeer Adventures, from IDW, featuring a list of great creators making some stellar contributions to the Rocketeer Universe.

I'd also like to draw the attention to those who love apps and digital comics to the latest all-ages iPad app, iKidscomics. Look for it on your iDevice to gain access to a pile of all-ages eReading.

Until next week, keep the fires of imagination burning bright!

###

Mike Bullock is an international award winning all-ages comic creator and author. His all-ages work includes LIONS, TIGERS AND BEARS, TIMOTHY AND THE TRANSGALACTIC TOWEL, SECRETS OF THE SEASONS and several others. Bullock is also the most prolific PHANTOM writer in American comic book history.

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