Don't Dumb It Down!
Posted by Mike Bullock on Sep 14, 2011
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…
Well, now that we've introduced the ignition of imagination that is all-ages comics, discussed how some comics don't like the all-ages audience and then defined all-ages, I guess we're pretty well set. Thanks for reading. It's been fun.
Oh wait. What's that? There's more? Seriously? Okay, I guess we'll have to keep going down this rabbit hole of wonder.
I often have people in comics ask me why I write all-ages stuff. Well, last weekend I did a signing with fellow all-ages scribe Alan J. Porter and all-ages artist of the awesome Matthew Weldon and the answer was very apparent. For the course of three hours, we were delighted and excited to watch family after family bring their kids in and ooh and ahh over our work. Alan is the main author behind Disney/Pixar's CARS comics and as you can imagine, that property is quite the hit with kids and parents. An almost equal amount of families had the same reaction to LIONS, TIGERS AND BEARS and everyone who came in was wowed by the stellar quality of Matthew's artwork from his NEW BRIGHTON ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY.
But, the oohs and aahs weren't what made the day for us. No, what really did it was the stories of families enjoying comics together; tales of kids reading and re-reading their books over and over and of the parents finding common ground with their kids through comics and graphic novels. There's a magic in there that is just electric to behold.
Alan shared a story with me of a woman who came to him at a convention and told of her son, a reluctant reader who refused to learn to read until she put a copy of Alan's first CARS trade paperback in his hands. From that point on, the kid was hooked and reading like crazy.
In return, I told him of similar tales parents had brought to my attention in the past, time and time again. Comics are powerful, despite what some might think.
You see, all-ages comics aren't just another form of entertainment, they're a magical force that pulls people together and helps strengthen their relationships, giving them a common, emotional experience that builds bonds.
Oh, and they're a lot of fun, too (wouldn't want you thinking I'm getting all mushy over here).
That then, brings me to the point of this week's column. During the set-up phase for our signing event, Randy Lander, the store owner of Rogue's Gallery Comics and Games, where the signing took place, came over and started chatting about all-ages books with Alan and I. One thing we all came to during the course of the conversation is how some people seem to think all-ages = dumbed down.
Now, if you're one of those people, the finger I'm wagging is aimed at you. But, never fear, this might be a chance for you to learn something, which has a value no magic can equal.
No one (and while this is a sweeping generalization, it's a true one) thinks being talked down to is entertaining. No one thinks being treated like they're stupid is enjoyable. No one finds condescension as a viable means of escapism. It sucks. Universally.
So, why then would someone think anyone wants to read a dumbed-down comic? It reminds me of a line from Jack Nicholson in a movie where he plays an author. He's asked how he manages to write woman characters so well and his reply is something like "It's easy, I just think of a man and then I remove all reason and accountability."
To most women, that's downright insulting.
So, if you translate that to comics and ask the question "How do you write all-ages comics so well?" followed by the answer of "It's easy, I just write for adults and remove all intelligence and wisdom." Guess what the result is? That's right, you've officially offended your entire target audience.
All-ages comics should be energizing, witty, fun, exciting, imaginative and most importantly, intelligent.
All-Ages Pick of the Week:
As you can probably guess, my recommendation for this week is Alan Porter's CARS books and Matthew Weldon's NEW BRIGHTON ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY. Of the CARS books, I particularly like the Route 66 Dash trade paperback, which Alan described as "My take on Cannonball Run with the CARS characters." It's charming, witty and reads just like you're watching a CARS movie. I can actually hear Mater's voice when reading along. Good stuff.
Matthew did a LIONS, TIGERS AND BEARS short for me, which is how I came to really appreciate his talent. But to really see it on display, you should pick up NEW BRIGHTON.
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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