by Roger Ash
If there’s one lament I’ve heard the most over the years I’ve worked in comics, it’s “There aren’t enough comics for kids. Publishers need to provide more for kids to read.” I’m not going to argue about if there are enough comics for kids or not. What I am going to take issue with is the sentiment behind this statement. Nearly everyone I know who’s made this statement seem to believe that if more comics for kids were available, kids would start reading more comics, thus saving the industry. Baloney. (I’d use a stronger word, but that would lose us our PG13 rating.) This isn’t Field of Dreams. Just because we print them, doesn’t mean they’ll come.
When I was growing up and getting into comics, they were everywhere. I could walk into nearly any convenience store, grocery store, or department store and find a comics rack. No one else in my family read comics, but I always found the spinner racks a great place to hang out while mom did her shopping. Eventually, some of the comics jumped out enough that I spent my hard-earned allowance on them, with Howard the Duck and Spider-Man being two early favorites. I eventually learned that some of my friends collected comics, and we’d talk about them and loan them out to each other. This was my early entrance into fandom. But things aren’t like that now.
With the loss of the newsstand market for comics and the growth of the Direct Market, comic’s visibility to the general public has greatly decreased. Sure, you can still find Archie comics in grocery store and some bookstore chains have a small comics section, but comics aren’t everywhere like they used to be, so most kids won’t stumble across them the way I, and many other people I know, did.
And there are a number of comics out there that are kid friendly. In addition to the previously mentioned Archie, off the top of my head there’s Owly, Amelia Rules, Bone, DC’s Johnny DC line, the Boom!Kids line, Spider-Man, Super Hero Squad, and lots more. So the trick is, how do we get comics into kids hands if they aren’t going to stumble across them?
I think one of the best ways is to share our love of comics with the kids in our lives, whether they’re our own, grandkids, nieces & nephews, or what have you. My nephew and niece who live in town have often accompanied me to Free Comic Book Day. My niece is a huge Owly fan and has read all the books between what I’ve given her as gifts and what she’s checked out from the local library. I visited my sister and her family this weekend and took comics to two of them who had birthdays recently; an Incredibles collection for one and a Muppet Show collection for the other. And they loved them! Yes, they’re into video games and DVDs and all the things we’ve been told for years will kill comics, but they love comics too. In fact, one of my nephews gets upset when “Nucle Rog” forgets to bring a comic for him.
While things have changed, there are still ways to get comics into kid’s hands? Got any thoughts on this? Share ‘em below! But I can’t help but think a grassroots campaign of sharing comics with the kids in our lives is one of the most effective ways there is.
Now, go read a comic!