All Ages

Friday, August 20, 2004


Over at the Pulse, Jen Contino interviews Andy Runton, creator of a new kids comic called Owly. Top Shelf guys, Chris Staros and Brett Warnock, both spoke highly of the book and seeing some of the designs and pages in this interview, it looks pretty cute. Hey about a review copy?

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

From Marvel's November solicits...

Marvel has solicited the second book in their Marvel Prose line and this one's thankfully for the kids:

Written by Louise Ann Gikow
Cover by Mark Bagley
Penciled by Francisco Herrera
An author, editor, television writer, and composer—there is little that Louise Ann Gikow has not done in children’s entertainment. She’s even spent time on the New York Times best-seller list for her novelization of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Now, she has teamed up with Marvel Press to create a must-read chapter book series starring Spider-Man! Life’s hard—welcome to Peter Parker’s world! He not only has to do tons of homework and help his Aunt May make ends meet, but also has to battle super-villains and save the world. When Doc Ock rolls into town, it spells danger for everyone, especially Peter’s best friends, Mary Jane and Harry. And Peter soon learns that the life of a super hero isn’t always so super.
224 PGS. / AGES: 8-12/ Trim Size: 5 3/8" x 8"/…$8.99
Cover: 4C, matte laminated with Spot UV
Interior Illustrations: Halftone illustrations throughout
UPC: 5960611587-000111
ISBN: 0-7851-1587-0

A few things to note:
- The solicit copy is amusing here, especially in its hyper-conscious efforts to make the author's name a huge selling point for this book. I'm sure Gikow is a good writer but it's just a little bit of overkill.
- 224 pages is quite long for a chapter book for kids 9 to 12, especially one with a licensed character. Chapter books for this age generally run 120 to 144 pages. That is unless there's going to be a LOT of illustrations in the book but even still...
- $8.99 is a pretty steep cover price for this kind of book. Spider-Man chapter books don't need spot UV on the cover -- they just don't. Licensed characters in prose form need to be cheap and cheerful and inline with the pricing of like books on the shelf. This book is just going to look expensive alongside SpongeBob Squarepants, Shrek and even the Justice League chapter books.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Mary Jane - from the mouths of babes...

Just a follow-up from my post a few days ago about about my little experiment with the first issue of Mary Jane. I gave issue #1 to a co-worker of mine to give to her 9-year old daughter to read. She flipped through it, recognized right away that Mary Jane was "Spider-Man's girlfriend", read three pages and decided she didn't want to read it anymore. Now, I didn't have my co-worker ask her why but three pages isn't the best record in keeping the attention of a 9-year old. I'm wondering what exactly turned her off...artwork? were the panel layouts too confusing? was the story just not engaging? Something to think about....

Friday, August 13, 2004

My Library 11

Continuing with the theme of this blog, I thought I'd focus my attention on the best graphic novels for kids. I've listed mostly more recent and contemporary works but this doesn't mean that I don't acknowledge the contributions that cartoonists like Walt Kelly, Charles Schultz, Herge, Osama Tezuka and many more have made to the medium. I've also focused on books I've actually read (except for one) and tried to pick diverse genres, various reading levels and varied demographic appeal.

1. The Complete Bone - the cornerstone of modern kids comics

2. Herobear and the Kid - taps into a lot of core childhood experiences -- the love of an imaginary friend and the excitement of being a hero

3. One Piece - the best boy's manga being published right now -- great off-the-wall humor and pirates!

4. Amelia Rules - I've stood behind this book for a long time -- it's fun and deals with issues like divorce in a non-heavy-handed manner

5. Adventures of Super Diaper Baby - I had to include one Scholastic book in here -- a super powered diaper-wearing baby save the world from a piece of poop -- what kid wouldn't crack up reading this...

6. Leave it to Chance - it may have some occult undertones but so does Harry Potter -- a well crafted story about a girl, her dragon and their mystical adventures

7. Clan Apis - OK, here's the one I haven't read but I know bees and insect behavior is curriculum for the younger grades -- nonfiction comics are definitely an untapped market

8. Jetcat Clubhouse - another creator I wholeheartedly stand behind -- Jay just gets it and his comics have a comedic timing that will leave kids in stitches

9. Ultimate Spider-Man - I had to include one superhero book and with the success of the movie, kids may want to further their Spider-Man experience through reading -- this book takes Spidey's origin story and makes it relevant and fun for a young audience

10. Pinky and Stinky - I love James Kochalka but someone has to tell him that a crow with a gun is just not nice -- this book, about two space exploring pigs, however, is fun and has a great message without the pigs pulling guns out on each other

11. Summer of Love - since Young Adult fiction is becoming more and more of a dominant genre in the bookstore market, I felt I had to have one representative from the graphic novel medium -- a sweet, heartwarming graphic novel about a girl dealing with the various issues of becoming a teenager

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Spider-Man 2: "I'm surprised it took you this long to see it..."

Indeed. A good month and a half later and I finally saw Spider-Man 2 and really enjoyed it, much more than the first one. If you don't want SPOILERS, stop reading. Here, we're not bogged down with an origin story, character introductions, plot setup -- everything is familiar now, which means the audience can really get into the movie right away. Everything about the sequel for me was better -- the story was tighter and elements of the first movie were nicely integrated with the new material, the dialogue had more nuances and details and the action sequences were less in-you-face CGI and more seamless. It was just total fun. The slapsticky Sam Raimi-isms were more apparent in this film and Alfred Molina, who I think is a totally underrated actor (loved him from the first time I saw him in The Imposters) made Doctor Octopus believable and downright scary without being totally cheesy. And thank god whoever made the decision to have Mary Jane find out that Peter is Spider-Man at the end of this film. One more movie of "I don't love you/I love you" would've driven me mad. I get the distinct impression that the 3rd movie, which I believe is being written as a trilogy, will end with Peter and MJ's wedding. Place your bets...

Monday, August 09, 2004

Oh yeah, Disney's doing comics too

Recently, I noticed while standing in line at my local grocery store that DISNEY ADVENTURES magazine was shifting its focus to feature more comics. Some of these are based on animated movies like Lilo and Stitch, some are completely original material and others are new cartoon-ified versions of live action movies like Freaky Friday and Pirates of the Caribbean.

The response to this shift must have been positive because in San Diego I came across a promo pamphlet and preview issue of the new titles coming up from DISNEY's new line of comics. These include:
W.I.T.C.H. (5 girls deal with being teenagers and having elemental powers)
KYLION (a sci-fi adventure series about a group of teens who emerge from cryogenic sleep before their time)
MONSTER ALLERGY (a boy with special powers must deal with monsters and ghosts in his everyday life)

All three of these titles are currently being published in Italy and will be translated for the North American market.

There isn't much information regarding formats or distribution but I know for a fact W.I.T.C.H. WON'T be full color graphic novels -- Disney's releasing them as digest sized prose novels with color comic inserts, which makes me think that someone out there isn't entirely confident in the graphic novel format. I mean, if you're going to go for comics...then publish comics.

The preview issue has a few color pages from W.I.T.C.H. and KYLION, enough to give the reader a good idea what these are about. The art in both is quite appealing but I'm not sure how strong either of these are storywise. W.I.T.C.H. will probably find its audience since it follows some of the typical motifs of 'magical-girl' manga. KYLION has a few things working against it -- the story seems pretty hardcore sci-fi, which doesn't have a broad appeal right now in the greater market and the characters seem a bit generic. Not sure why but it feels a bit too Treasure Planet to me. Sadly, there were no preview pages of MONSTER ALLERGY, which I think looks like the strongest of the three, in terms of art, character design and concept.

Strangely enough, there's no website on the promo pamphlet but if you do a bit of googling on each of the titles you can check out some of the artwork yourself.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Email is working now

For any of you who have been trying to email me and having it bounce back, yeah, I've fixed my link to my proper address, which is

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Mary Jane revisited

So according to this week's column of Lying in the Gutters, Rich reports that MARY JANE is on hiatus after 4 issues. Marvel foray into romance comics for girls lasted -- four issues. Hmm. So I finally pulled out the first issue that I had promised to review months ago (or it seems like months ago) and read it. It's not bad, but compared to SABRINA, which had great art and fun stories, MARY JANE just fell a bit flat for me. The art is totally appealing, but there's really not a lot going on in this issue to really capture the attention of a young girl -- Mary Jane faces the dilemma that she has no date for the Homecoming dance. She considers Harry Osborn but after being thrust in a tagged on battle between Spider-Man and Electro on the last 5 pages of the issue she decides she wants to take Spider-Man to the prom.

Will he wear a tux over his costume or just the mask?

My friend, Chris Butcher wrote on Previews Review that none of the female customers at his store enjoyed the book. I'm not sure how old these customers are but it would be intersting to hear the opinon of an actual 8 to 12 year old girl. In fact, I'll be bringing this comic tomorrow to a co-worker to give her daughter. Review part 2 to come...

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Michael Chabon & kids comics

For an industry generally not concerned with making books for younger audiences, people certainly have a lot to say about it.

Michael Chabon's keynote speech at the Eisners was basically a call-to-arms for the industry to bring kids back to comics. He explains how we finally have the recognition of graphic novels as a serious artform and a canon of great titles for adults. However, a medium where the primary audience initially was kids, it's disappointing that there isn't the same thing with graphic novels for a children's audience. Sitting at the Cartoon Books table with Jeff Smith and his crew, along with David Saylor, creative director from Scholastic, I could almost visualize a big neon sign over our heads stating: "It begins here..." It was uncannily synchonistic considering this was the year we launched Graphix in San Diego.

A week later, various comics news sites like Newsarama and the Pulse have excerpts from Chabon's speech and then all hell breaks loose. Cameron Stewart posted a link to Chabon's speech on the Millarworld boards, which spawned an 8-page thread where creators and fans came out to comment on the state of kids comics. Mark Millar thinks comics for younger audiences is wishful thinking and goes on to explain how Batman and Superman Adventures sold like shit. Bendis feels there's no marketing and found Chabon's address elitist. Bryan Hitch thinks that the primary audience for comics is a 12-year old boy older because comics are adolescent male power fantasies.

What blows my mind about this thread is the default thinking that kids want to read Marvel and DC, want to read about superheroes and will buy comics in their traditional pamphlet form from comic book stores. This just isn't the case and misses the point of Chabon's speech completely. Kids comics need to reflect the booming children's book business of late -- good, relevant stories that tap into key events and emotions that every child experiences, a wide range of content from high adventure to quirky romance, venues where parents, teachers and kids will buy these books and equivalent & expected pricing to other 'like' books.

I've always wondered in regards to Marvel and DC's licenses if there's just too much of a cultural gap when it comes to their major icons and today's kids. It's sort of equivalent to the kind of gap with characters like James Bond and Tarzan for my generation. I'd probably go see a Tarzan movie or play a Tarzan video game, but as a casual fan, the chance of me seeking out original Tarzan material is slim. Kids know who Spider-Man, Superman and Batman are, but do they really feel the need to go after that original material? Just a thought.

In any case, the continuing conversation spilled over at the
Fanboy Rampage blog
where I've commented on the Scholastic line a bit. Heidi MacDonald has some really interesting things to say, as does Chris Butcher. Definitely worth wading through...

It'll be curious to see how this plays out in the next year or so, especially after that initial $150,000 marketing launch for BONE.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

A conversation between myself and Jose Villarubia

Just a tidbit from San Diego with a honest-to-goodness report to come. Last week was spent fighting jetlag and a serious bout of allergies.

Me: Jose, what would happen if you and Sergio Aragones got in a fight?

Jose, in his wonderful Spanish accent: Why would I get in fight with Sergio? He is a beautiful man.

Me: Just humour me, who would win?

Jose: Well, Sergio. He is much bigger than me.