Sunday, March 04, 2007

Comics aren’t for kids anymore!

Well what are we going to do about it?

It’s certainly true here in the UK the influx of new kids to the “cheap” paper entertainment of old, called comics, is slowly eroding away.

Back in the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, and even 80’s kids still avidly read comics. It seems sadly though nowadays they don’t. I frequently give talks and tutoring sessions within schools and when I ask how many regularly read comics the answer is a resounding NO!

I remember a few ago now, in the 1980’s and 90’s that it became cool for the industry to adopt a “mature attitude” with the public’s perception of the medium, saying that, “Comics had come of age!” Adults reading comics was the theory put forward. Now whilst this is true, these adults, in the main, are the selfsame folks that read them as kids.

The trouble, long term with this is that as the readership gets older, the more juvenile type titles have no new kids coming onboard and as a result the comics fold.

I feel there is a strong link between kids not reading comics at an early age and the trouble we are seeing with slipping literacy amongst kids, that follows them into adulthood. I have said as much in an earlier Blog.

There are many other reasons for the kids not reading comics and everyone in the industry knows what they are, but for those not working in comics here are some of the main ones again, in no particular order:

1.) Direct Sales Comic Shops – Little or no Newsstand presence.
This creates a lack of easily accessible outlets to retail comics to kids.

2.) High prices are now charged for the high gloss art stock quality of new comics. The cost of the average comic book is beyond most kid’s pocket money, at least to buy a number of them, as could be done in the past.

3.) Stories, other than for existing junior American Superhero comics, or licensed characters are created for an older audience, usually around the 13- 16 years old upwards.

4.) Low page count for comic content. Most UK content is padded out with articles and the like and relies on free gifts to sell the comics/magazine. The free gifts cost has already been added to the price of the comic in the first place.

5.) Other than the licensed comics or the American Superhero reprint and UK originated US Superhero comics there are no boys or girls adventure comics on the market. 2000AD is not a kid’s comic anymore.

6.) The strangle hold the distributors and supermarket chains have on publishers, with their high costs to sit a comic on the shelves and the way that on a whim a title can be dismissed by the chain higher-ups because it may not be what the board like or indeed it may not fit neatly into a category, before it gets passed the dummy stage.

7.) Parental views regarding comics, high priced, not value for money, unacceptable content in some comics.

There are others that could be added to the list, but these are the most obvious.

I have omitted the ones regarding competition from video games and DVD’s etc and for a good reason. The cost of comics, even in today’s vastly over-priced market are still far cheaper than buying new video games or DVD’s.

So what are we left with here in the UK?

Well thank goodness we still have the humour comics, “Dandy” and “Beano”.

There are plenty of pre-school comics, although they aren’t comics in the true sense, with only a small amount of comic strip work, if any at all, inside their pages.

Then there are Panini comics’ “Spectacular Spider-Man”, “Toxic” and “Rampage”, and Action Man – ATOM.

Then there is BBC Worldwide Publishing’s “W.I.T.C.H.”

All of these, however, are using existing licensed characters, not homespun creations.

Aside from these few titles, however, the only homespun, adventure comics left are Rebellion’s 2000AD and The Megazine, both of which aren’t kids comics anymore.

The trouble as you can see is there are no non-licensed, originated comics anymore.

As far as comics worldwide are concerned, I don’t personally feel there are any more or less readers in the marketplace than ever there has been - just that the ages of the readers has risen.

With the advent of the Graphic Novel and now the Trade Paper Back reprinting, as it does, from the pages of a comic book story arc, where the story appeared originally, we now see that readers are more and more inclined to await the coming of the TPB rather then buy the comic version.

As this happens the obvious thing for publishers to do is either, originate most stories as Graphic Novels in the first place, but this costs quite a bit, as money is tied up whilst books are finished, or do this and also cut back on titles to only the core titles and tryouts, as they used to be and print these more cheaply, making the distinction between comics and graphic novels easier to quantify.

This could also be adopted in the UK with cheaper adventure comics coming into play here for the kids, as long as other means of distribution are adopted. Subscriptions may be a way to go here.

So what can we do to stop this trend and get kids interested again?

Well I know a few comics creators, like me, often go around schools promoting them and showing kids that they exist, but it still isn’t enough.

What I would like to see is everyone in the business, writers, artists, editors, and publishers, adopting this train of thought and introducing kids and indeed the man in the street to comics.

And any readers and fans of comics doing the same. There are enough of us around to do this. If there is no new blood coming onboard reading them then eventually logic dictates comics will die!

There are enough stories of all kinds for all ages to go around and with all the different formats, and all the wonderful technology at our disposal, lets apply them to getting the kids back interested again.

I am sure that if we make sure that comics become “street-cred” again then the kids will come back in droves. Look at Nike, Adidas, PlayStation, Nintendo, etc, to see how, with the right infrastructure in place, kids can be marketed to just like us adults…

The Comic Industry is a wonderful place full of Fantastic characters, stories, and creative folks, and we need to go out into the world and shout from the highest places how great it is and ignore the Naysayers! It’s up to us now…

Until next time have fun!

Tim Perkins…

March 4th 2007

No comments: