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The All-Ages Comics Revolution is Coming

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In 2011, I was at a cartoonists meeting where the subject of all-ages comics was brought up.

A well-meaning creator with many years in the industry under his belt said, “Well you’ll never see a lot of all-ages titles again until comics are back on news stands.”

I said, “What’s a news stand?”

Of course, as an X-er I’m old enough to vaguely remember what a news stand is. In theory. But I also haven’t purchased anything from one since 1988. I’m starting to forget what the advantage of having them there was in the first place.

I’ve been working in the all-ages market for three years and some of the titles I’ve worked on have been dropping off in sales. But some of them have boomed. I’m currently working on comics for two app games I was thrilled to be on, not because their characters are household names, but because app game comics are selling ridiculously well and I want to be a part of it. I did a few signings at the Ape Entertainment booth last year, and there were certainly some little fans of my Strawberry Shortcake series passing by, the fans that couldn’t contain their glee were the ones in line to see the creators behind Pocket Gods. Pocket Gods had sold over 600K copies of digital comics by June 2012, yet every time I tell that story, it seems to be news to my fellow creators. And what was the average age of the joyful Pocket God fan dying to read the next online issue available for purchase right next to their favorite game? 12.

My daughter is 2 years old. One of the new words she learned this week is “Kin-dle,” as in, “I want my Kin-dle!” Roughly translated, that means “Give me the family Kindle right now so I can watch ‘Blues Clues’ or I will cry like you’re slapping me from here to China.” She knows how to navigate to my Amazon Prime account and bring up streaming episodes of her favorite show with no instructions from me whatsoever. In fact, no one knows how she figured this out. What’s even more amazing is that she also knows how to open Comixology, navigate to ‘My Comics,’ and open up issues of My Little Pony. And of course, swipe her way through the pages.

The current ratio in kids’ publishing of print to digital is 10% digital to 90% print and somehow this is viewed as a positive. I argue that figure will rapidly go from inaccurate to irrelevant as today’s 2-year-olds become tomorrow’s kids with a credit card. Publishers that not only digitize but have content available for this emerging market will profit from it. No doubt IDW’s announcement that they will be publishing Cartoon Network comics comes from the success of My Little Pony, but it’s a hopeful addition to a rising trend. There is a wave of readers coming who will be looking for all-ages material, and a handful of publishers with the foresight to anticipate that wave will be ready.

2 Comments
  1. Hey Georgia! You hit on something I was actually worried about once we started Tweeting out that presentation over the weekend; namely that the slide on digital would be misinterpreted. This particular presentation was only about selling print books in comics stores, delivered to a group of comics retailers, so that’s the context. Our showing off those e-reading stats isn’t so much an endorsement of them as much as an observation, pointing out a fact that brick-and-mortar stores should be capitalizing on for as long as it lasts. You’re right that the 10/90 split may not last long.

    Our digital strategy is pretty broad (although it’s admittedly nascent — we won’t be making our first real digital announcement for another month or so). Unlike what we see in a lot of our competitors, our digital strategy boils down to: “Be on as many platforms as possible as quickly as we can.” We’re always brainstorming with comiXology on how to bring more kids to the app (I’m glad your daughter is already there!), and we see the 10/90 as a challenge/opportunity, not a relief.

  2. I think it’s going to be a short summer for retailers, I hope they take your advice while rethinking where this is going. From my perspective, I have less invested in the success of comic stores as long as they continue to buy all-ages series in such small batches. The direct market is nervous about all-ages content, has been for a long time, and kids comics publishers suffer in frustration as print issues sell out while retailers refuse to up the order. Meanwhile, Pocket Gods is a disaster in print and a runaway success in digital. If I was in retail I would thinking very carefully about the future – It’s good to hear about your partnership with Comixology, I am a devoted user and the future there looks very bright.

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