Thursday, January 10, 2008

Follow the Children, Find the Money

If you have lived on this planet at all in the last six months and were not in a coma until about 5 seconds ago you know how crazy people have been over concert tickets for Hannah Montana. There was the girl who claimed, with the OK of her mom, that her dad died in the Iraq war so that she could get tickets. Parents will seemingly sell their very souls and hand out fistfuls of cash just so that their little daughters can hear Miley Cyrus sing. Parents seem to be OK spending big bucks to make their young children happy. They might not spend money on themselves, but mom and dad will go into foreclosure so that little Ashley gets a front-row seat to Hannah Montana.

Well, maybe it's not quite that bad, but you get the idea. Follow the children and you'll find money.

Why do I bring this up? Well, to talk about the comic book industry, of course.

Back in the early days of DC and then Marvel comics, comic books were marketed largely to kids. Yes, there were more mature comics available too, but many of the characters that are popular today got their start as magazines made for young people. As these people grew up the comics seemed to grow with them. Take Spider-Man for example, as time went on he grew up and matured a bit, even getting married (oh wait, Marvel's telling me that didn't happen...). Most of the modern era comics are now more for grown-ups than for kids. Rather than looking to grow the market by marketing comics to children, most publishers just continued to existing fans who had grown up but still enjoyed graphic storytelling.

In recent years we have started to see a bit more attention paid to marketing to children again. Marvel had a couple of "all age" comics when we first opened the store. Now they have several. Same thing with DC, who has added the MINX line for "tween" girls as well as increasing the titles they carry that appeal to children. We have had Archie and Donald Duck for a while, but now it looks like the market is starting to broaden.

Now more and more publishers are starting to realize that children can bring in revenue too. Not only that, but if the comic book industry doesn't start getting a new generation interested in comic books then we'll see the industry slowly fade away as those that grew up on comics start to give up the habit.

I just read that IDW publishing, a company that typically does horror comics and other things that are racked on the top shelf at my store, is now going to start a line of all-age appropriate comics too. Manga imprint Seven Seas also announced today that they are going to do 10 all-age manga titles this year. I think I even saw an all-ages book listed in Avatar Press' solicitations a Previews or two ago. Maybe it wasn't Avatar, I can't remember exactly who it was now, but it was another one of those publishers who are known for their mature themed comics.

Now I'm not saying that all comics should become all-age appropriate. I enjoy quite a few mature themed comics myself. But I do think that it is a good idea for there to be more variety in all-age comic book offerings. I also urge comic book stores to stock all-age comics. I hear quite often from people that they never see all-age comics anywhere except our store. Now granted, there aren't a heck of a lot of comic stores in the area, but still, it tells me that parents want to buy all-age appropriate comics for their children - they want to spend that money on comics - but just can't find any that they think are appropriate. Keep the main stream titles, the mature titles, all of them should still be sold - they are the bread and butter of comic book stores. But, all-age stuff can be a great additional revenue stream too. When people can come in and buy comics for themselves and their kids - that's a good scenario for a comic book store.

Clearly parents want to make their children happy and will spend money on things their children want. If the comic book industry can get their finger into that pie it's a good thing! The trick is, of course, making comics that are not only safe for children, but ones that they want. Comics they beg their mom or dad to buy for them. Look at Tokyopop, they've got a Hannah Montana Cinemanga series (vol 2 pictured at top)- now that's thinking!

A great site for info on all-age comics can be found here.

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