Confessions of a Comic Book Guy is a weekly column by retailer Steve Bennett of Mary Alice Wilson's Dark Star Comics in Yellow Springs, Ohio.  This week, Bennett discusses the dearth of comics for kids.   


One of the biggest misconceptions people have about comic books is that kids today aren't interested in them; nothing could be further from the truth.  Just about every day a troupe of young kids come into Dark Star and pause, mesmerized as they pass rack upon rack of recent comics.


Clearly the bulk of the comics aren't intended for them, still they seem to instantly connect with the striking imagery on the colorful covers; their eyes go wide, hands reach out and repeatedly I hear 'Who's that mommy?' as they point to one character after another, until their parents gently steer them towards the back of the store where we keep the used children's books.


As I've said before, having no money makes kids lousy customers.  You have to sell parents on comics; and if I do say so myself, our staff does a pretty good job of doing just that.  We keep a spinner full of Sonic, Archie, Scooby Doo and Marvel Adventure comics next to the recent Marvel and DCs, plus we've found those 10,000 quarter books we've had out since Free Comic Book Day are just the right price point to overcome most parents' sales resistance.


There's a pretty good selection of kids comics these days but as that list indicates, DC could definitely be doing better.  Time-Warner does an outstanding job of selling their other publishing 'brands' to younger readers; there's Sports Illustrated for Kids and MAD for Kids, but I think it speaks volumes about the conglomerate's commitment to their line of comics that there's no Action Comics for Kids.


The other day a seven-year-old boy came into the store and played a variation of the 'Who's that?' game I also hear a lot; 'Are they bad?'  He went from comic to comic, studying the figures on the covers trying to figure out who were good guys and who were the bad until he got to Supergirl #18.  On it the 'classic' Supergirl is confronting the new version and without any coaching he announced the one with proper grooming was 'good' and the midriff-baring one 'bad.'


It's a striking cover, deceptively simple and quite effective at showing an iconic character in action, and I've seen lots of girls, both little and not so little, slow down enough to take a good look at it or even pick it up.  So I really, truly believe there is a market for Supergirl comics that could actually be enjoyed by girls -- but it's definitely not the one being published today.


A seven-year-old figured it out, so it's a shame DC couldn't.  In that issue's story, 'Little Miss Perfect,' a decently dressed, nice Supergirl (presumably the one that's been hanging around with The Legion of Super-Heroes in the future) shows up to fight the damaged one with the smart mouth to determine who the 'real' Supergirl is.  For a while it actually looks like the classic version is going to beat the new formula, but of course it all turns out to have been a trick to mess with our heads. 


With all her drama and trauma I'm sure the modern version with the studded belt (all the better to contain her wafer thin badassitude -- I see plenty of wannabe teenage tough girls wearing them in the store) is a lot more interesting to write, seeing as how she can screw up in ways her cousin can't (not without threatening his merchandising deals).  And some artists seem to be having entirely too much 'fun' drawing her.


But that doesn't necessarily translate into sales.  In the August issue of Mother Jones there's an interesting article called 'Supergirls Gone Wild' by Charlie Anders about how badly DC has been treating its female characters -- and according to Anders, sales of Supergirl have 'dropped nearly 50% in the past year.'  It also mentions how new editor Matt Idelson was bringing a new approach to the character with him, confirmed in a quote on the Internet from new writer Tony Bedard:


'I'm just sticking to the basics; Kara is from Krypton, she's insanely powerful, but she wants to be good.  I also happen to think she needs to eat a sandwich and cover up a bit, but then I'm a father.'


Concept art by new Supergirl
artist Renato Guedes

The way so many superhero comics are selling (rather, how they're not selling) it probably would be wise if DC stopped publishing comics that effectively repelled a whole gender of potential readers.  Another solution might be to create Supergirl comics intended exclusively for the growing girls' graphic novel market.  I mean, if you took Supergirl and The Legion of Superheroes and reduced the level of fighting and villains by about two-thirds, you'd have a science fiction soap opera perfect for the manga crowd.


My cheap joke of the week:  if Forerunner, the blue elfin warrior woman from Countdown is any indication, one of the 52 worlds in DC's new multiverse is World of Warcraft.


Customer of the Week

And finally, the customer of the week award this week goes to an older gentleman who came into the store and told us a new comic had been released on the 15th and wondered if we had any copies.  The 15th of June, of course, is a Friday so it couldn't have been released on that date, plus he had no idea what the title was, what it was about or who published it.


The opinions expressed in this column is solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of