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Igniting Imagination

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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…

What does "All-Ages" mean? Book buyers and merchandisers struggle with the term, preferring to shove everything into neat little compartments called "demographics." But, all-ages isn't just 8-12 year olds or 18-35 year olds, in fact, it's both and more. All-ages is not synonymous with "kiddie books" but it does encompass them. In a nutshell, all-ages is self-explanatory, it simply means something suitable for… yep, you guessed it, all age groups.

While many people don't discover or really get into comics until they're in their late teens or early 20s, I think most people I know got into them as kids. Their stories are all unique, but seem to carry a common handful of elements.

"My [insert adult family member or friend] took me to the store where I got a copy of [insert comic book name] and I read it till it started to fall apart. I knew then I was hooked for life."

Or

"My [insert family member or friend] had a collection of comics that they let me read. Once I came across [insert comic book name] I was hooked for life."

Note that the two key elements here are the intercession of a trusted friend or family member and a comic book that hooked the reader, turning them from curious bystander into sold out comic fan.

These days, with the dwindling availability of comic books in most retail outlets and the more 'collectible' nature the books have to many who own them, it seems those golden moments of comic book fandom initiation are becoming fewer and further between.

Complicating the 'fan for life' equation is the growing disparity between the total number of comics published and total number of those that are suitable for all-ages: it's easy to do the math and determine there are less comic fans than ever before.

Obviously, this isn't news to most of you, but I'm not jockeying to get another journalism gig here. What I am striving for, however, is to put everyone reading this column in touch with the ignition process that turned their curiosity into an inferno of imagination that hungered for more comic book adventures. We all have those memories buried down inside. The feel of the paper in our hands, the widening of our irises as we felt our adrenal gland kick into high gear, the exhilaration of new passion that came the day we were initiated into loving comic books.

I'd like you to take a moment and dig down deep. Close your eyes and recall that point in your life. Relish the memory, ’cause it's a good one. We have enough stress and negativity in life that memories like that should be held onto with both hands.

Now, let's take that concept and advance it to the here and now. The table has turned and you're no longer the boy or girl being initiated. Now, you have the opportunity to be the one on the other end of that emotionally charged moment.

Sure, mom, dad, uncle Chuck or whoever it was that gave you your first dose of comic awesomeness probably doesn't remember it. But you do. And now, you have a chance to see it from their side, be part of the whole new world for your son, daughter, niece, nephew or random neighborhood kid. You can proudly proclaim that you answer to "insert adult family member or friend" as you help ignite the imagination of someone, or many someones in the next generation by putting an all-ages comic in their hands.

"But, Mike, I don't read all-ages comics. I'm an adult and I like adult themes and big words in my comic diet."

Okay, well, if you don't have any all-ages comics in your collection to share, guess what? The local comic shop or friendly neighborhood online retailer does. And, since they’re "all-ages" – not "kiddie books" – chances are, you'll get a kick out of reading them too. Then, when that warm and fuzzy feeling you had as a kid billows up in your heart, you can feed it with a new discovery: great all-ages comics.

It’s a win-win. Who doesn't like a win-win? The Grinch! That's who! And, I know you well enough to say with the utmost certainly you're not a fuzzy, green grouch created by Dr. Seuss. No sir, you're a person who loves to smile, loves to enjoy life and most of all, loves comic books.

So, now's your chance. Take that feeling, feed it so it grows, then share it with the younger people in your life. Uncle Chuck may not realize what a wonderful thing he did for you when he handed over a copy of "the comic that changed your life," but you do. Now's your chance.

Go one up Chuck.

PS: If you're at a loss as to what all-ages books to check out first, here's a short list of my faves, and ones people tell me are their faves penned by me.

Abadazad
Bone
Owly
Amelia Rules
Lions, Tigers and Bears
Usagi Yojimbo
G-Man
Dreamland Chronicles
Oddly Normal

Plus the Marvel Adventures line and Johnny DC comics starring all your favorite Marvel & DC heroes.

###

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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