All Ages

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Out damn flu!

Ended up getting a flu shot on Thursday -- stayed in bed all day Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday -- I'm trying not to be one of those people cursing the flu shot and all its evil properties. Let's hope this is it for this season then. Regular updates should resume later this week.

In the meantime, you can check out John Gallagher's column at Newsarama where he talks about how his comic, Buzzboy finally found its audience in kids.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Marvel Age expansion

Newsarama has an interview with sales guy David Gabriel and editor Mackenzie Cadenhead on the future expansion of the all-ages Marvel Age line including new titles like Power Pack (damn, someone beat me to the punch!), Spider-Man Tales, Fantastic Four Tales and Spider-Man Team Up.

One promising quote in this interview:
"Erica David and Kitty Fross will be writing Marvel Age Spider-Man Tales. Both are children’s book writers who have worked with Scholastic and Nickelodeon. Their sensibilities fit naturally in the comic book medium and we are learning an invaluable amount about the children’s book market from them."

If Marvel can keep pushing these in mass market venues, there will only be more awareness of the format and, in turn, more acceptance from parents. And while this line isn't necessarily a move towards building that core list of acclaimed children's graphic novels but at least Marvel is committed to continuing the line and pushing this kind of material.


Saturday, October 16, 2004

Comics4Kids.org

Just found this site cruising through some of the follow-up posts from LIONS, TIGERS AND BEARS on The Pulse.

Comics4Kids.org is "...a not-for-profit company that gives comic books to children. This at once instills a sense of appreciation for literacy, as well as providing vicarious adventure for these children, maybe even comforting them."

There's a listing of press articles about the organization (but no links or excerpts), merchandise like t-shirts and mugs that you can buy, a few links to comic book dealers, but no specific documentation of what the organization has actually done. Call me a little bit puzzled.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Lions, Tigers and Bears preview

Newsrama has a press release of a new all-ages book recently picked up by Image called LIONS, TIGERS AND BEARS by Mike Bullock and Jack Lawrence of Runemaster Studios.

Described as Monsters Inc. meets The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the story revolves around "Joey Price as he discovers that the noises he hears at night aren't just figments of his imagination. Those noises come from the monstrous Beasties, who spend every night trying to "get" little children. Luckily for Joey, his stuffed animals are more than he ever thought they were, as they come to life to defend him from the Beastie perils."

The premise seems strong, and children will easily relate the love of a stuffed animals and imaginary friends. The artwork is reminscient of a Disney style which will make it appealing to a mass audience. The lion character on the cover looks like it was pulled right from the Lion King and in fact the artist, Lawrence did work for Disney on the Lion King at some point.

What worries me about this is the fact that Image publisher, Erik Larsen has decided to release it as a 4 issue mini series instead of a straight-to-graphic novel. It's not like Image hasn't released books like this in the past. With the book store market poised on filling their shelves with more childrens graphic novels, this seems like a missed opportunity to me. Does this mean another kids comic will not reach its intended audience because only a small groups of fans will pick up the book in singles from the Direct Market? And in turn, will the possibilty of poor sales in the singles cause doubt as to the graphic novel selling? I hope not...this is the direction we don't want to go. And on first glance, LIONS, TIGERS AND BEARS looks like a fun book that deserves a chance.

The first issue ships in January, expect a full review then.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Read Like a Kid - Runaways

Back from the non-stop turkey weekend and what better thing to do on a Monday night all high on Tryptofan than to read a nice digest sized comic book. So I read the 2nd volume of Brian K Vaughn's RUNAWAYS from Marvel and quite enjoyed it. Born out of the failed Tsunami line (Quesada/Jemas' attempt to wrestle away manga's stronghold in the bookstore market), RUNAWAYS was the diamond-in-the-rough -- loved by a small group of devoted fans, critically acclaimed by comics websites but saddled with low sales and no push in the bookstore market as it was first intended to be.

RUNAWAYS is about a group of teens who must leave their homes after they are framed for murder by their parents after discovering their dark secret -- they are actually super villains. Also, the kids realize they have powers and abilities of their own. This is an incredibly strong premise that would really challenge a young reader -- it's the ultimate betrayal when a parent, viewed as a teacher, a caregiver, is now seen as a threat.

The book is firmly placed in the Marvel Universe with references to Captain America and the X-Men but the book could definitely work without these with some slight editorial tweaking. It's a shame that Runaways really lost its chance to find its audience, losing important momentum floundering between Marvel's unsuccessful Tsunami line and the spotty Marvel Age line.

Now with Tokyopop venturing into the realm of original American style manga, I'm curious how this book would do if published by them. The link to the Marvel Universe isn't what carries this book, Vaughn has proved that by creating one of Marvel's wholly original books in years that's engaging, moves beyond the typical superhero themes but maintains a quality that I think kids, 8 to 12 would really enjoy.

Friday, October 08, 2004

SPX - Writing for Young Readers Panel

A few more SPX remnants trickling in...

One of the few panels I attended this year was the Writing for Young Readers panel with Jeff Smith (Bone), Andy Runton (Owly) and John Gallagher (Buzzboy). When asked whether or not the panelists had the intent to specifically create kids comics, the three responded that they were creating the stories that they would've liked to have read when they were young. In fact, Smith commented that kids never even occured to him as an audience but he knew that if Bone was ghettoized as a kids book, especially in a time when there were very few trade paperbacks and when the hottest material out there was darker fantasy type stuff like early Vertigo books, that it would die a very quick death. In the early 90's comics for kids had no place in the Direct Market so creators didn't even consider creating material solely for kids. Of course this is a still an ongoing issue even in the market today.

Definitely one of the challenges in publishing kids comics will be overcoming this desperation to be viewed as a mature medium while at the same time being able to break out of that same desperation to create content-appropriate comics for kids. Of course, this doesn't mean dumbing down stories, which was another concern that came up in the discussion.

I ended up asking the panel whether they thought that outside influences were key in creating good kids comics, especially in a medium that so often refers back on itself. Gallagher said he prevents this by letting his wife read his scripts and pointing out any references or in-jokes that she doesn't get.

Gallagher brought up another interesting point concerning children's perception of value. He recounted a story about a kid who was questioning the price to page count ratio and how he can spend less money on a prose novel and get more story as opposed to a graphic novel which has less pages, less words but costs more. Here's another challenge -- changing the mass market's preconceived notions that art plus story has less value than just straight-up prose. Kids books stick to very similar formats across the board along with uniform pricing and the pricing of kids graphic novels needs to try and somewhat reflect this uniformity as well.

Surprisingly positive was the enthusiasm in the audience. About 70% of people in the room were interested in creating their own comics for young readers. But also there was a sense of discouragement with anecdotes told about artists being advised to draw in a more realistic style or coerced to move away from kid friendly material.

Jeff Smith pretty much ended the panel with this quote: "Kids stories should traumatize you." At first, I thought this was insane but quickly ran through the catalogue of some of the greatest kids books ever -- Charlotte's Web, Bridge to Terabithia, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory -- all very disturbing at times with images and feelings that have an impact on any child who reads them. Smith is definitely right -- it's these kinds of stories that stay with you forever and it's these kind of stories that need to be created in comics to fill that kids comics core list that Chabon refered to in his Eisner speech.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Yup, Ricky Gervais wrote a kids book

Fans of The Office take note - Ricky Gervais has written a kids book. Well, sort of. I'm not entirely sure if it's really a kids book or just a weird esoteric book that will end up at places like Urban Outfitters and boutique stores that carry Paul Frank merchandise. Flanimals is a spotter's guide book of strange, random made-up creatures from Gervais' head, which seems like a pretty scary place after reading the book.

Puddloflaj
(Blobbulous Boinglubber)
Cowardly wobbler that spends its days avoiding the Grundit. The Puddloflaj looks like a fat useless blob. It actually doesn't have an ounce of fat on it -- it's water retention. In fact it's nearly 100% water, sort of like filling a balloon from a tap. Baby Puddloflaj can be used as water bombs.


See? Told you. The book takes on a real surreal quality if you imagine Gervais' character David Brent of The Office reading it.

Bone in color

Newsarama has an interview with the delightful Steve Hamacker, colorist on the new Bone graphic novels from Scholastic.

"The trap with any special effects or in this case colorizing a well known comic book is that you have to overdo it. I like to think that the art is 98% done, and the color is enhancing it for the sake of the story. I want people to read the colorized version and not necessarily notice that its color. Jeff and I are always more concerned with the story than the technical aspect of the coloring. I like doing it that way."

It's easy to be a skeptic for a book like Bone that's all about Jeff's fantastic line work. But, judging from the audience's reactions at both San Diego and SPX, old fans are in for a treat and a new generation of readers will fall in love with this series.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

SPX - A round of thanks

- Thanks to Jose Villarubia for being a mentor without even knowing you're doing it. That's the point dahling.

- Thanks to Heidi Macdonald for wearing that fabulous silver jacket and for more future traffic directed to my blog. Hint, hint.

- Thanks to Danielle Corsetto for enjoying my accent so much and giving me good hugs.

- Thanks to Kevin Melrose for saying you liked my voice and urging me to blog more. I intend to.

- Thanks to Tim Fish for sufficiently embarassing me with one simple sketch. "Let's" indeed.

- Thanks to Bryan O'Malley and Hope Larson for being the cutest couple in comics. You guys will be huge.

- Thanks to Craig McKenny for putting up with two drunk fools - Chris and myself.

- Thanks to Jeffery Brown and Sam Hiti for always having something good for me to read at every convention I attend.

- Thanks to Andy Runton and Jef Czekaj for your energy, enthusiasm and talent.

- Thanks to Jeff and Vijaya Smith for being simply good people and for furthering my dreams.

- Thanks to Jason for putting up with our sugar-driven insanity for a 10 hour car ride.

- Thanks to Chris Butcher for being such a great friend and knowing how to coerce me into a 10 hour road trip.

- And lastly, thanks to Kyle Cummings for being one of the most inspiring, fun, amazing guys I've met in a long time.

Kid-links

There's usually never enough kid-related news to actually have one post devoted to morning link blogging, but today is a different day. Huzzah!

- Raina Telgemeier, the creator of the upcoming series of Baby-Sitter's Club graphic novels for Scholastic has a report on SPX at the Pulse.

- Newsarama has an interview with Jef Czekaj, creator of Grampa and Julie: Shark Hunters, an all-ages full-colour graphic novel from Top Shelf. I wrote a review of this great book just before leaving for SPX.

- Also at Newsarama is the announcement that Penguin Books and Byron Preiss will launch a line of adapted classics in graphic novel form next summer. Titles will include Macbeth in a manga style by Tony Leonard Tamai, Black Beauty by comics legend June Brigman and more. Classics are often used to beef up an existing line and sell, slow, but steady, which makes this a "safe-start" on Penguin's part in entering the graphic novel market. The design of these will be the clincher since there are so many adapted classics on the shelves, these had better pop to grab a young reader's or parent's attention.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

SPX - The sentimental recap

Wow. What an amazing time. For every person in the past few years who has urged me to go to SPX, I thank you. Never have I been surrounded by such an amazing group of people just oozing with talent. I'm not sure if it has been like this every year but the level of quality and diversity was just so great. SPX is everything that San Diego is not -- social in a genuine, non-pissing contest sort of way and truly community based. No loud booming booths, no costumes, no bullshit. If one comes away from San Diego thinking "I hate comics," SPX will make you think "I really love comics." There is not one person who needs this kind of message every so often, everyone from the guy who makes fun mini-comics for himself to the bigshot editor at one of the major companies to the casual fan. It's important to be reminded that, fan or pro, this is what we love.

Of course for me, it was equally great to see the enthusiasm for and the amount of kid-related material at the show. Talking with newcomers like Jef Czekaj and Andy Runton and of course, Jeff Smith give me hope that comics are moving in the right direction in bringing in a new generation of fans that will love comics as much as we all do.

I'm going to stop there before I really get going -- but all in all, this show was truly an inspiring and amazing experience and I will be making this a definite yearly event. More to come...including my thoughts and recap of the panel on Writing Comics for Young Readers, my personal haul and a few amusing anecdotes.