Image courtesy of Pixomar at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I buy comics for my boys (although the term commercial magazines would be more accurate) because I believe a variety of reading material maintains their interest. However of late I have found an increasing tendency for them to purely go for the one which has (in their eyes) the biggest and best free toy attached to it! Well I can tell you it is not free, I am definitely paying for it in the £4-5 price tag and often the content barely gets a look in! My point being where have the days gone when kids want the comic because they like the characters and are full of anticipation as to what is going to happen in the next episode of world saving adventures? Sadly I have since resorted to buying my boys these comics purely at times when I feel the need to keep them quiet for 15 minutes, on a long journey, during that rare family pub lunch or waiting for hours in the dentist or doctor’s waiting room. In times like these I see it as an absolute necessity for my sanity but it also highlights the fact I am no longer buying the comics for them but for me!
I’m not saying bring back “The Dandy” or bring back “Jackie”, I’m saying surely there is a market for a comic with new contemporary characters and inspiring adventures to captivate our little ones’ imaginations? Sadly it would seem not. Go into any supermarket, post office or newsagent and the mere lack of traditional comics on their shelves speaks volumes. This is certainly evident in the UK but why is this? Are the publishers no longer interested because it is such a costly and lengthy process to make a traditional comic with less profit at the end of it compared to that of commercial magazines? Or are the publishers no longer interested because our children today are no longer interested? There needs to be a demand to meet the supply but if there’s no supply how can there be a demand? Well it doesn’t take much web trawling to find there’s actually a thriving community of comic lovers and enormous conventions going on in the world of comics round the UK. For a start the London Super Comic Convention and the Birmingham Comics Festival are both set for 2015 and only recently the renowned graphics novelist Dave Gibbons was announced as the UK’s first comics laureate. So who is reading these comics and where do they get them from? “The Beano” is definitely still being published commercially so next time you go to your local supermarket or newsagent take a look. You might have to take all the other magazines off the shelves first but it will be buried in there somewhere despite the related toys generally being more visible than the comic itself. My guess is that The Beano or publications like this tend to be subscribed to by mail order now; which generally means you need to know of their existence in the first place and that they are probably largely read by adults not children, the adults that enjoyed them as young children. So maybe now it’s developed into more of a niche market for the loyal hard core comic fans. I see nothing wrong with that per se but what about the comic’s longevity? How are the next generation ever going find out if they are interested in them? How are our children ever going to have access to a true variety of reading literature if the only things thrust in front of their eyes are mainstream TV characters and merchandise? It’s true, what kid would buy a comic full of unknown characters over a spinning top honouring their coolest TV hero?
Much to my delight I found a brilliant website (link below) called Moose Kid Comics. It is packed full of totally original characters with new adventures, professional illustrations and an understanding of children’s humour today. Interestingly it was set up, not by a publisher but a comic artist called Jamie Smart who recognised the plight of the comic in the UK. His mission statement is well worth a read. His message is loud and clear, don’t re-hash, re-create for the modern market. Although they have plans to distribute printed copies in schools, hospitals and charities, at the moment it is in the form of a free (yes FREE!) digital download because as Jamie Smart puts it “attempting to release it onto the shelves against the existing competition would be too big a task for us”. Unfortunately to me, reading from a computer is never going to give the same feeling that leafing through a printed comic does where the characters jump out from the pages. Maybe it’s because it takes very little physical effort to scroll through the screen opposed to holding and turning a printed page but somehow with a digital version I feel more of an onlooker than a participant and less involved in the stories. The experience just doesn’t do the comic justice. Of course I could always print it out myself but my colour printer drinks ink cartridges at the best of times so with 36 colour pages to print, I’d rather not! So here’s hoping it’s just a temporary stop gap to make people aware of its existence but how do the creators of such original content get the attention of children today? Maybe Moose Kid Comics will find a way? I’d like to think so. What are your thoughts on comics today? I’ve downloaded the first issue of Moose Kid Comics for my 7 year old boy and he loves the content and illustrations. For him it even proved quite a novelty to have to read it from the computer screen. Some stories are better than others apparently but the ones he likes have got him talking and laughing about them with me – and that’s what reading is all about!