There a thing I wanted to leave as its own entry from the kids. That is comic books. Without a doubt these children do read comics, but not super hero comics. It’s all about Donald Duck and Scrooge McDuck, both which have the superior local and European content. They know these Disney characters very closely and understand that every story is its own thing and that the long stories are divided into multiple parts. I love this concept so much. By having multiple shorter stories before a longer story that can take few weeks to finish is an excellent way to have any occasional reader enjoying the content while offering subscribers to enjoy these longer stories whenever the magazine arrive. When I was a wee lad myself, we had Donal Duck coming for multiple years under a subscription, and you could very well see at what point the quality of the stories went down. They were still fun, but coming from people who read Carl Barks in their childhood, and then Don Rosa later on, some of the modern stories feel a bit hollow.
That’s of course a personal opinion, and as much I absolutely love Rosa’s detailing and keeping up with Carl Barks, there are those who dislike them for the exact same reason. Romano Scarpa should be a name any comic book enthusiast knows and I personally consider my childhood’s de facto Disney illustrator. Manuel Gonzales was chosen to be Floyd Gottfredson’s follower in Mickey Mouse comics, but I have to say I was never into the Mouse all that much. Honourable mention goes to Daan Jippes, who is an excellent stylistic imitator, who still has a strong stories. Daniel Branca is a name that I tend to forget a lot when it comes to Duck comics, but dammit if the man’s work isn’t great. There are numerous other names, and the local Donald Duck has listed all the names most recognised names from the 50 plus years the magazine has been published in Finland.
Oh yeah, super hero comics. Children don’t read them.
During the last fifteen years, and more actually, when I discuss Marvel or DC characters with children, they do not recognize their current comics to any extension. This may sound weird, but the majority of them are known by their TV and movie appearances. Whenever I ask about e.g. Batman, I end up discussing about the Tim Burton Batman movie. Later the discussion has seen some hues of Nolan’s Batman, but it is the Burton Batman that is still up there in the public mind. You also have Batman: The Animated Series there, which older teenagers and older remember fondly to the extent to regard it as their favourite Batman incarnation. Can’t fault them for that.
Marvel comics see much more publicity here, mainly because X-Men and Spider-Man magazines have been running here for somewhat long time. Nevertheless, most people have never bought or touched them and much like with DC, know these characters from the screen. 20 something know the movies somewhat well and I have noticed that the Marvel movies are the first contact with some of the characters.
But nowadays you barely have DC or Marvel cartoons on TV. You have Arrow and the Flash representing the higher calibre of live-action production from the DC side, but the few good animation series seem to get cancelled after a season or two. Batman the Animated series ran for 85 episodes. The Batman and Batman: The Brave and the Bold saw 65 episodes. Beware the Batman has 26. Often it felt that we were getting a new Batman show right after the next ended for no apparent reason. Green Lantern had a pretty damn good animation series with only 26 episodes.
Can you fault anyone knowing comic book characters from these, when the comics themselves go unread?
Josh Hadley once said that Warner Brothers treats their comic production as an idea company. They are letting DC to do whatever they want with them to a large extent, but keep the creators in a tight leash with contracts. The work these authors do, the characters and stories they write and illustrate, often than not belong to the company they work for. This is how it should be, but the editors and other people in charge just don’t seem to handle the characters properly. Sure, there has been occasional contracts that screw the original authors completely sideways, but in general you have to remember the core rule; you work for the company, they own your work. If you want to own them for yourself, you work for yourself.
Anyway, do you know where these children know Hulk, Iron Man, Batman and other characters? From LEGO sets and games. Same goes for Star Wars to a large extend, now that we’re talking about LEGO. It’s no wonder such sources are now the first touch with the children, seeing the how the comics are anything but child friendly. They’re filled with gross violence and death with characters that don’t even resemble their iconic versions anymore. Then you have the constant crossing storylines, going everywhere with everything with everybody. A friend of mine wanted to read some Marvel Ultimate comics, dropped after seeing how messed up the storylines began to go just after few issues.
It raises a question on brand recognition, when the comics themselves are the secondary products nowadays. DC’s New52 didn’t help to make any significant impact and Marvel’s upcoming reboot is already convoluted as all hell. Depending on what sort of type comic the reboot will be, Marvel has now a chance to reorganise themselves back to being a company that produces comics for the whole company and not just for the 40 years old comic readers. That is not, and has never been, very lucrative market, but somehow both DC and Marvel have been able to stay afloat with their limited target market. Then again, Disney has been raking in some seriously big money with the Marvel movies, so perhaps the comic companies are doomed to stay as idea factories. Companies producing these niche comics have to realise that the comics used to be something that as enjoyed at a very large scale, but nowadays that seems to apply only to the movies based on these comics.
I am genuinely worried where the super hero comics are going. If they are becoming more and more convoluted and pushing the general public away from- no, they already have been pushed away with comics mostly sold in comic book stores in US and UK. Both DC and Marvel need to reclaim their larger comic audience and begin to produce comics that parents could allow their children to read. There is room for comics of all kinds, for every sort of reader. However, it would take money to realize larger scale production and publication, money that the current comic trends don’t bring.