WHY KIDS DON'T READ
"Comics, in their drive to attain respect and artistic accomplishment, abandoned children." So said Michael Chabon, the author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, at a presentation at the recent Eisner Awards. As with all great thinkers, he was able to put into words and transmit something that had disturbed me for some time.
Comics are no longer for kids.
I, naturally, had been complaining about the situation from the elephant's tail end of the problem: The comic companies were doing very little to draw people into the medium. Yes, they now have giant-sized movies about their characters (cheers to Marvel, and thanks for quintupling our still-too-late investment; had we bought when I first began to think about Marvel, we'd have octupled it), and you can buy nicely gathered collections at the Barnes & Noble at the mall near you, but the comic companies are doing nothing to make people walk out of movie theaters and go to their nearby comic shop. Or even go from the upstairs of the Barnes & Noble to the downstairs of the Barnes & Noble.
But Chabon got it. There are no more comics for kids. When I first read comics, they were titles like Timmy The Timid Ghost, Casper The Friendly Ghost, Richie Rich, Archie, Dot and the like. Later, when I was reading Justice League of America and Batman, there were still comics for kids.
Today, there's not enough of that.
I stopped reading comics after my two-year stint at DC Comics. There, in its marketing department, I felt I needed to read everything DC published, as well as everything its competitors published. My brain turned into banana pudding and oozed out through my ears.
But I also began to dislike comics. Buying one comic did not buy you a single story, but bits of a story arc. Miss one or two issues and you might as well stop buying the comic. Comics also got violent. I contributed to that; when we promoted Frank Miller's Rõnin, the first in-store poster was a big ol' blood splatter. It was a very effective blood splatter, but we weren't really promoting the world of the rõnin, were we? It's gotten much worse, since.
If I can have my Jerry Seinfeld moment, it's not that there's anything wrong with that. But there need to be comics that will make kids like comics, just like there are books that will make kids like books.
Of course, the other part of the problem is the 90% of the American market that sees pictures or cartoons and assumes they're for kids. They don't see the problem at all. And they're buying them violent video and computer games to play, anyway.
I'm not sure there's anybody left who can write entertainingly for kids and kids alone. My only hope is that someone who appreciated Finding Neverland is developing the knack.
Michael Chabon's website.