Marc Alan Fishman: All Ages Be Damned!
According to Robot 6 and a few other comic blogs Paul Pope pitched an all ages Kamandi series to DC. Upon hearing it, supposedly, DC responded “You think this is gonna be for kids? Stop, stop. We don’t publish comics for kids. We publish comics for 45-year olds. If you want to do comics for kids, you can do Scooby-Doo. Well, I don’t know how true that is, but it certainly brings a few thoughts to mind.
Let’s say that the statement was in fact true. We don’t actually know the context in which it was said. I’ll assume Pope can tell sarcasm apart from snark. So, if DC actually had the balls to be so rude to such a great talent, they’ll deserve the continued flack they seem to be gunning for on what feels like a daily basis. There’s so many things wrong with what they said… so much so I don’t even know where to begin. How about the beginning.
“We don’t publish comics for kids.” You don’t say. I recall a while back DC had a whole line of comics for kids. I assume though, that it wasn’t profitable, even with the acclaimed Art Baltazar and Franco’s Tiny Titans, and Mike Kunkel’s Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam. Oddly enough though, when I type “DC Comics for Kids” into Google, I seem to be directed to dcnationcomics.kidswb.com! How odd that a company that doesn’t publish comics for kids seems to do just that. Of course my only real options for DC kids comics these days are Scooby-Doo, Looney Toon, Lil’ Gotham, and Adventures of Superman, I might tend to agree that they indeed don’t. Not to knock Superman or Lil’ Bats, but comics for kids amongst the big two always seem to be cordoned off, and rarely beloved. To be even more fair? The only time I’ve personally ever cared to peruse an all-ages book by either Marvel or DC has been Tiny Titans. Then again, I’m not the target audience of less-than-mature comic books.
I’m also not 45, but I get the potential point they are hypothetically making. That point though, is a terrible one. No company in their right mind should be aiming to please 45 year olds. While I plan on being a comic book reader until I’m unable, I freely admit that a comic (and let’s be bland and say traditional super hero comics) should be targeting a younger market. Go back and read something from the silver age. Stan Lee and his ilk wrote simplistic stories with solid doses of emotional depth. It was only when the industry went goth––and started getting mean, and angry – did the product by-and-large seem to start aging with its audience. The point though is this: yes… teens, tweens, and toddlers alike seem to not be embracing the super heroes as much as the Yuhi-Ohs or whatever. What a load of bull-pucks.
This is where I’m perhaps the angriest. There seems to be the insane undercurrent within our niche industry that somehow, someway we need to reach the kids. How the future of our livelihood depends solely on our ability to make ankle-biters know we’re here with funny books. Guess what? We won, years ago, and no one noticed!
Go to Target, Wal-Mart, and the like. Do you see Avengers T-Shirts? Do you see Batman underoos? Do you see an entire aisle of toys that are comic related? Because I do. Go to the electronic sections of the same stores. Do you see the literal wall of DVDs that are comic book related? If you don’t, you’re blind. Facts are facts: Super-Heroes of Marvel and DC are in the zeitgeist. And while comic sales are seemingly no better (as in, kids aren’t rushing in droves to their local comic shops like we all seem to hope…), the fact that the movies, TV shows, and merchandise is out there. For those kids who want more than a movie, show, or toy to play with, there will always be comics. Hell, that’s exactly how I myself came into the industry!
If I were to play devil’s advocate for only a second, I can see between the poor choice of words spoken to Mr. Pope. He pitched a character that by and large is unknown. And while his name brings with it an audience, a Paul Pope Kamandi book doesn’t necessarily come close to the potential profits of a Paul Paul Batman book. At the end of the day, as much as we may love those tertiary characters deep within the catalogues of DC and Marvel… those two companies don’t stay in the black because of them. Marvel makes its money on Spider-Man, the X-Men, and the Avengers. DC does with Batman, Superman, and to a lesser extent Wonder Woman / Green Lantern / Flash. Show me the bottom-line earnings of a Kamandi or a Ka-Zar book, and I’ll show you why DC offered Paul Scooby-Doo.
That being said, I’d personally love to see his pitch and take on the character. He’s incredibly talented. And just as I would have wanted to see the Static Shock John Rozum originally pitched for the New52. To me what this pull quote really makes me think is this: There needs to be a way for Marvel and DC to allow amazing creators to drive their own ship, and still make money. Reduce their pre-production / up front pay in lieu of per-piece pay. Release the book digitally only, and then collect it into a printed trade if the sales permit it. Open up the catalogue and let creativity be the driving force of what you put out. Certainly we know that the pulp and paper market will only live so much longer. And beyond that? When a creator wants to deliver an all-ages title? Embrace it! A comic that can be read and enjoyed by more than one demographic only increases the possibilities of readership.
You think you can step on creators as much as you want? Why don’t you just go back to publishing Scooby-Doo.
SUNDAY: John Ostrander
MONDAY: Mindy Newell