Friday, January 09, 2004

Tweens and comics... 

Second is the article Tweenage Kicks written by Alex Dueben. I think this is a really good article, which points out some of the real missed opportunities going on.

The main gist is that tweens are a big demographic which it seems like everyone is trying to market to. Also that Harry Potter is not the only reading material out for this group, with quite a lot of young adult novels currently being released to the market. He also points out that manga does seem to be succeeding at attracting them, but that focusing on artwork misses the point:

And the phenomenon isn't restricted to book publishers. In comics it presents itself in the form of "manga-like" artwork. (Or is "manga-inspired" the right phrase? They're both meaningless, but the phrase should at least sound good.) It presents itself in the form of more collections and an emphasis on bookstore distribution. The idea that this is the key to the success of real manga is absurd, of course, as it ignores the most blatantly obvious difference between manga and American comics; Manga is not about superhero stories.

Right now there are millions of kids who are obsessed with Harry Potter and books of its kind. They're not going to be satisfied by bodybuilders in spandex beating each other up. They're a tough audience, but the truth is that if the comics industry really took a step back from the tunnel vision that dominates the business, and took a good, hard look at what kids are really interested in, then they might be able to produce something that'll fit better with what this audience is after. And I'm not talking here about just one book every few months, but a true, concerted effort to produce comics aimed at that audience.

He then points out that while there are some comics in the US industry currently that can fit the bill (cartoon adaptations, Measles, Jingle Belle, Meridian, Scion, Leave it to Chance, and various creators like Jill Thompson and Jeff Smith), but that there just isn't enough of it.

I have to agree with this article in the most part. For all that superheros can appeal to kids and have done well as movies, it all really seems a bit out of touch with the kinds of stuff they are actually reading. And when you consider that kids who read comics are a lot more likely to stick with it, I can't help thinking it is a big deal. When I think about myself as a kid, while I did enjoy reading comics, my main reading material was really fantasy novels and YA stuff in general. Things like The Dark Is Rising, Pern, Lioness Quartet, Pitdragon Trilogy, Wanderings of Wuntavor, Spellsinger, Support Your Local Wizard, Last Herald-Mage, etc. I think we could really use more comics that appeal to that same sort of sensibility out there...

For me as a kid, the comics were much more of a Pokemon "gotta catch em all" thing of looking at the various kinds of costumes and powers in a sort of collecting mentality. Perhaps part of that is due to my early reading being more of fractured runs, but still... Most of the material where I finally felt like there was a creator vision and continuing novelistic story was some of the Image stuff like Spawn and Maxx. But of course with that came also the big emphasis on cool artwork and perhaps studying panel layouts more than the story, and a lot of those also branched out into big worlds with crossovers and multiple creaive teams. I think at some point I just realized how superficial everything was compared to the books I was reading and it was part of why I dropped out of things. I can't help thinking that things would have turned out differently if I had had more variety and more stuff which was plot/character driven fantasy in unique worlds like the various novels I was into. or even some of the cartoons of the time like Robotech.

So.. I don't know. There is certainly more stuff out there than there used to be, but I know that it was easy for me to get caught up in the wrong things as a kid to lead straight into burnout. If I was that age today, I can't help thinking I'd get more out of reading Shonen Jump and visiting the bookstores than keeping up with Wizard and the stuff it promotes...

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