Confessions of a Comic Book Guy--Who Would Have Thought It?
Column by Steve Bennett
Published: 08/07/2013 02:02am
Two Wednesdays ago I was at Super-Fly Comics & Games for new comic book day. I know that this is nothing special for most of you, but these days for me it's an actual treat. And I was pleased to find that along with all of our regular usual suspect pull list clientele, for some reason both women and children were well represented on this, the geekiest day of the week. I know that this is awfully convenient given what I’m writing about this week but this actually happened, honest. I have witnesses.
But of course the presence of families led to a situation I've repeatedly seen over decades of retailing; child wants comic, parent thinks it costs too much; I actually got to overhear a father say "$2.50 is a lot of money for that." And I didn't argue otherwise. $2.50 might very well be "too much" given a family's financial circumstances. And even if it wasn't, it would be hard to disagree that it would be only the latest in what must certainly seem to parents to be an endless series of absolutely unnecessary expenses connected to kids.
Having been both a parent (or at least parental) and a kid I know the drill: kids get the gimmes. We tend to blame this on our hyper-commercialized consumer culture but that’s not really fair, not entirely anyway. As I've said plenty of times nothing can stop people from wanting things and children are after all just people, and until they reach a certain age they rarely have money of their own. As annoying as it is to listen to their only means of acquiring everything that isn't automatically provided them is through begging, pleading and wheedling.
There's a lot of talk about how to "get kids to read comics" and I know that my only evidence is anecdotal, but from my experience kids appear to be preloaded to like comics. Time after time I've seen them inextricably drawn to their colorful covers and larger than life characters, so what we're really talking about is giving them access to comics until they have money of their own. And unfortunately I really don't have any new ideas of how to do that; just old ones.
Free comics? Sure… we already give them out on FCBD and Halloween, but why stop there? Why not a selection of free comics for both Christmas and Easter? It's been pretty definitely proven that making comics cheaper doesn't necessarily move more comics, but it can't hurt. So since both Image and Dark Horse have introductory $1 lines of comics, so why don’t publishers come out with a line of 25 cent kid-friendly comics. And of course publishers could focus more on not just putting their comics online but producing online weeklies intended specifically for an all-ages audience, like The Phoenix and Weekly Shonen Jump. And of course there's magazines...
There was one new comic released that day which got the fullness of my attention: Minnie and Daisy BFF Magazine. Intended for readers ages 5-9 it’s in the same format as the rest of the Disney magazines (Phineas and Ferb Magazine, Marvel Super Heroes Magazine, etc.) which means it has puzzles, games, do-it-yourself activities and yes, comics. In fact this is the first time since the final issue of BOOM! Studios' Darkwing Duck in 2011 that any of the classic Disney characters have appeared in American print comics.
If Minnie and Daisy look different from the last time you saw them it's because they've been given a makeover and are now a couple of middle schoolers who explore "the amazing power of friendship." Which sounds an awful lot like a herd of miniature horses I know, but I suppose there's no copyright on acquaintanceship. While I'm not the droids they're looking for I found the comics to be attractively drawn as well as good, lively fun that provides a good showcase for Minnie and Daisy's personalities, and that’s the good news, here Minnie and Disney actually have personalities.
They say that every character is somebody's favorite, but I really can't believe that that's true about Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck. Oh, I'm sure that lots of people collect their merchandise but it's hard to imagine anyone does it because they're such funny, fleshed out characters. Let's face it, for the last seventy or so odd years they've been fairly toxic female stereotypes of Olive Oyl proportions: bow wearing, squeaky voiced, clingy, emotionally demanding killjoys who seem to have been exclusively engineered to let boys know from an early age that girls are weird and no fun. And to see them being turned into actual characters that girls might actually like, well, I never thought I'd live to see that day.
Minnie and Daisy BFF Magazine also led me to still further evidence that kids like comics. The Disney Comic Creator app I found on the Disney website that allows kids to create, print or download their own comics featuring well known cartoon characters. Naturally there's Minnie and Daisy BFF as well as The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, Manga, Phineas & Ferb: Best Day Ever as well as such European iterations of classic Disney characters as DoubleDuck, Wizards of Mickey and Ultraheroes. It's like the Colorforms I dreamt of having when I was a kid.
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.
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