All Ages

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Seth and Chester Brown

I just wanted to comment on an excellent presentation I saw tonight with Seth and Chester Brown. Brown, awkward as he is, still came off as charming and humble as he gave a little bit of history behind his development as a comic book creator (he was rejected by Marvel twice...you have to laugh at that considering kind of material he produces) and the process behind his latest book Louis Riel.

Seth, also not entirely comfortable on stage, gave a slide show and talk entitled 14 Stories On Cartooning where he talked about his beginnings as a comic book reader, his love of old New Yorker cartoonists and his fear of being parodied. Each vingette was separated by the ring of a bell he tapped in-between.

The place was packed, and a line of people hoping to get in formed out the door. Definitely a successful evening for these two great cartoonists.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

More on Mary Jane

Newsarama has more on the new Mary Jane series here with an interview with the book's artist, the talented Takeshi Miyazawa and some of his character designs for characters like Mary Jane, Harry Osborne, Peter Parker and Flash Thompson.

What's interesting is one of the responses below. A poster known as Blind Assassin takes it upon himself to email Teen People and YM magazines to possibly drum up some interest for Mary Jane and the entire Marvel Age line.

"The article is entitled 'Mary Jane', and is a comic told from the perspective of a young girl. But not just any young girl. You see, Mary Jane Watson, is the girl who grows up to be Spider-Man's wife (in the comics of today).

These stories are going to be told of her as a teen-ager, and her crush on Peter Parker (who we all know as Spider-Man), and her life as a young high school student.

It is a radical departure for Marvel, which normally features, what some would consider, violent male heroes."


Earlier he also mentions: "But, with the MARVEL AGE imprint, their contract with Scholastic to get their characters in schools on book covers..."

Not sure if he's referring to book clubs or not, but let's just say I'm working on it...

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Mary Jane -- Good on ya Marvel!

Sean McKeever talks a bit about his new ongoing Mary Jane series (which is really intended to be in the digest format for bookstores) here. I think it's one of the smartest ideas they've had in a long time in getting the teen/tween girls market actually reading comics. I've visited classrooms where 12 year old girls cheer loudly for Archie Comics. If Mary Jane can tap into that look and feel and if Marvel pushes this book in the right places, they could have a nice little hit on their hands. If there was one thing I noticed seeing Spider-Man in the theatres, it was that the audience wasn't solely made up of your typical comic fans, it was also young girls. Mary Jane is a great character they can identify with (sure she's a little older but in children's publishing it's all about aspiration -- 12 year old girls want to read about 16 year old girls) and Tobey McGuire is very much a non-threatening boy heartthrob.

My only concern is this quote from McKeever: "...I write comics for people. With this particular series, we want to keep it appropriate for middle-schoolers...but it’s still not like I’m sitting around, thinking, 'what would a 12-year-old girl want to read?'"

And my answer to that is, he really should be thinking just that, but then again a good editor should be steering him in the right direction. Keeping my fingers crossed. I'm sure I'll come back to this after reading the first issue myself.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Comics have something to learn from HIDDEN TALENTS

Selling books in the school market can be a bit of a pain considering the strict guidelines we have to follow. When a new book comes along someone has to read it to be aware of possible inappropriate content -- we're usually talking sexual innuendo and excessive swearing or violence. So I was handed HIDDEN TALENTS by David Lubar from Tor Books. Tor, a respectable science-fiction publishing house, has been expanding their young adult line over the past adding some great books to their list -- HIDDEN TALENTS being one of them.

HIDDEN TALENTS is about a boy who is sent to a reform school and there, he meets a strange group of friends. It turns out these friends all have psychic abilities they're completely unaware of. That's the twist that makes this book great -- here you have a telepath who cheats on every test, not because he wants to but because his powers are like an involuntary reflex his brain automatically scans for the right answer. Something a little different...

Comics have something to learn from this book -- every kid dreams of the possibility of possessing extraordinary powers (this is what attracted us all to X-MEN, right?). But here we have essentially an X-Men-type book (psychic powers - check, school setting - check, angst - check) that taps into that desire to be superhuman without the irrelevant motifs of your traditional superhero comic. This generation of kids don't have the nostalgia for brightly coloured spandex and secret identities. More than ever, I think kids want to see themselves literally as these extraordinary characters and not look up to them on a pedestal. The successful hook here wavers on having characters that deal with the same concrete issues that every kid experiences in their lives with the same emotion and sincerity.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Almost a full month after creating this blog, I'm finally taking the plunge into this wacky blogsphere thing everyone is talking about. Essentially I figured it's a good time to start documenting my thoughts my thoughts about comics, books and all the other fun things in life that amuse or piss me off. Hopefully others will come along for the ride. I'll try to be entertaining...

Here's a little bit about me: My name's Scott and I wear many hats -- I've currently been a buyer/editor/product developer for Scholastic Book Clubs (remember those flyers you got in school to buy books from? that's my job...) in Canada for just over 3 years now. I also do a little bit of freelance prose editing, mostly for friends. I also write a weekly column with Christopher Butcher over at www.previewsreview.com where we go through each week's comic releases and comment on them. I try to be positive most of the time...but you know how it goes.

With my experience in the children's book industry, my 20+ years as a comics fan and the recent debates about the lack of proper comics for kids and the constant arguments of whether or not comics should solely be for children or solely be for adults, I've been called to arms to create a blog to deal with these issues.

Have you ever looked at the word 'shoe' so many times that it just doesn't look right anymore? I've called my blog "All Ages" to hopefully do just that -- diffuse its meaning and steal that term away from everyone who uses it. Considering that every aspect of children's publishing is so extremely focused when it comes to AUDIENCE--who the book is for, there's very little use of the term 'all ages.' It's totally noncommittal. I know this issue will come up again and again but I just wanted to put it out there to get the ball rolling.

And so here we go...