Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Blast from the past: part 2

Here's the second post from my ICS days, dated Oct 17th, 2009, originally posted here.

Children’s comics.

Andrew Edwards here, and I’ll be posting each and every Saturday from now on.

I want to reminisce this week. I’m in a nostalgic mood, but there is a point to make which relates to contemporary times, so bear with me.

My first exposure to comics was seeing The Dandy on the shelf of a UK newsagents. It was, and remains, a British weekly humour comic. I don’t remember the contents, but I do remember the effect that it had on my, looking at this amazing combination of words and pictures. I’m guessing that I was around 4 or 5 years old.
Every Friday soon after, my granddad used to buy me The Dandy or, when that had sold out, The Beano. They were the two titles that had dominated children’s comics for decades. Publisher DC Thompson was also responsible for a raft of boys and girls comics which have, sadly, now faded into distant memory. Titles such as ChampTopperVictor,Warlord and many more were weekly anthology comics, printed on cheap newsprint paper, devoted to strips about all sorts of subjects, such as football, war, horror. Girls comics like Mandy were also hugely popular, but have also become extinct.

Their chief competition, Fleetway / IPC, published the SF adventure title2000 AD, alongside other classics like BattleActionWhizzer and Chips,Misty and many more. Only 2000 AD survives…

Mainstream British comics have been replaced by clones of comics designed to tie inj to the latest TV programme or must-have toy, and it’s a worrying trend. The great white hope of children’s comics here in Britain, The DFC, has also ceased publication. If only it could have taken advantage of newsagent distribution, instead of internet sales, perhaps it would have fared better.

I moved on from humour comics to imports of DC and Marvel in my teens. This was the mid 1980s, and I’d never heard of comic shops. I relied solely on finding random titles which had found their way to UK newsagent shelves in what I thought to be some miraculous act of teleportation. You had no chance of collecting a specific title, but what made up for this was the random excitement of finding out a little bit more about the DC and Marvel Universes each month. It gave you the thrill of exploration and a taste of the hunt…

What is the equivalent for today’s child or teenager? How do you encourage them to take a chance on a product which can seem to be aimed at an aging core of fanboys who’ve read the same Marvel and DC stuff for decades, stuffed with convoluted continuity which can only put off the uninitiated youngster?
You create comics for kids. It’s as simple as that.

Let the fanboys read their comics and get their continuity fixes (and there’s nothing wrong with that – it’s just that it shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all of the industry). But let’s also cater more for the kids, because without fresh blood the comics industry will wither on the vine, as new creators will move to other media, and new readers will find nothing to satisfy them in the comics market.

We’ve spent that long arguing for comics as a mature medium (which is right and good) that we seem to have forgotten that kids can have comics too! I love the adult stuff, and would champion its cause forever, but I also want to see more quality pre-teen comics, and more comics being available through newsagents and the high street, or webcomics that kids can enjoy.

Let’s see if we can start to gather together good examples of comics that we can recommend for kids. They are our best and brightest hope for ensuring the continued health and vitality for the medium in the future.

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