Last year I wrote a blog stating that comic books aren’t supposed to grow up with you. Some comic fans took offense to that statement.
I stand by my word. Comic books are NOT supposed to grow up with you.
32-page comic books, are designed primarily for CHILDREN.
Here’s the deal: Comic book characters are like an American Mythology. Each generation reads the tales of these legendary characters doing incredible feats.
And each generation uses these characters to make social commentary about the social ills and social injustices of their time.
And each generation passes them down to the next generation. Adding to the mythology. What works stays, and what doesn’t gets charged to the game. Comic fans grow older and pass their comics and the characters in them onto their sons and daughters.
And they go and buy their own comics which make social commentary about the social ills and social injustices of their time.
But that stopped happening around the 1990s. Instead of passing the characters on to the next generation, Generation X and some of the Baby boomers decided to hold onto these characters instead of passing them on to Generation Y and the millenials.
This narcissistic need for some members of the two previous generations to hold onto comic books and the characters in them has led to a disconnect between the current two generations. And because of this disconnect two generations never got into comic books.
And over the last 20 years the void from comic books was filled with other products featuring video game characters, pro wrestlers and literary characters like Harry Potter and the Monster High characters.
The big problem with comics today is that people want THEIR characters from the 1960’s, 1970s, 1980s and the 1990s.
But it’s 2014. Kids want their versions of the characters. And they’re more likely to see their version of comic book characters in a movie or a TV show, not in a comic book.
What is culturally important to an 8-year old in 2014 is not the same as a 35-40 year old who discovered comics in the 1980s.
This is why I say comic books are NOT supposed to grow up with you. Kids don’t see the world the way people saw it 50 years ago. Heck they don’t see the world the way they saw it 20 years ago. Living in a world where computers, social media and cell phones are a part of everyday life, They don’t relate to the stories in today’s comic books, most of which are using a 30-year-old story model from the late 1980’s.
Sure a 35-40 year old can relate to a story with a 1980s story model but an 8-year old who is used to tablet PC’s and cell phones and Facebook as the norm is not going to relate to that kind of story. Their world is different. Their world isn’t being reflected in modern comics.
And the comic book industry needs kids 8-13 to start reading comics again. That’s the only way to reverse the two going on three-decade slump the industry is in.
Comic publishers have to show kids THEIR world if they want new readers, not their fathers.
But comic editors like Dan Didio say comics are for 45-year olds. And Kids comics are silly stuff like Scooby doo.
Not understanding YA and Independent reader authors like myself produce content that is far from dumbed down. Kids can understand the same type of content in a comic. book. But someone has to make an effort to publish it and market it to tweens and teens.
The comic book industry has always relied on kids. That’s how they sold most of their comics like superheroes and teen comics, the big moneymakers for the business for close to 75 years. They had the most disposable income of any demographic.
Sure there were books for older readers who enjoyed the comic storytelling medium, but they were marketed as such.
And again, they never sold as well as comics targeted to primarily to kids because kids have several streams of disposable income. Driving kids out of the industry has driven up prices, and prevented new readers from discovering comics.
This is why a 32-page comic costs $4 today. 40,000 40-year-olds are buying comics as opposed to 250,000-500,000 8-13-year-olds. When there’s a bigger supply of customers demanding comics the price goes down.
And when younger customers demand comics, it ensures the medium can survive for another generation.
All of this contraction in the industry could turn into expansion if older people let go of 32-page comics. There’s clearly a market for comic stories featuring adult themes and more complex storytelling.
But Shoehorning superheroes and children’s characters into these kinds of roles has prevented the industry from reaching that audience of adult new readers.
I see a big market for Original graphic Novels in America just like in Japan and in Europe. But the industry has to take the risk.
And the readers have to realize they’ve outgrown 32-page comic books.
Personally I believe there’s a market for comics for everyone in America like in Japan. But 32-page comics for the most part need to go back to being for kids. They need to return to being the gateway to reading. Comic books aren’t supposed to grow up with you. But you can still enjoy the comic storytelling medium in other formats such as the graphic novel.