EDUCATION: Kids and Comics

This article is in response to “The Cultural Cost of Comics Failure.”

I don’t think the blame for kids not being as in to comics as we would hope lies entirely with their attention spans and the other entertainment industries that distract them. It’s a lot to do with the parents too. We lament that there are no kids reading comics anymore and that your average comic reader is in his thirties, but how many thirty-year-olds with kids have the disposable income for comics? I fit squarely into that demo and, to be honest, only have room in the budget for one book a week thanks to the rising cost of comics (holding the line at $2.99 my ass). Thankfully I have enough books from when I was younger and the various ones they distribute on free comic book days to get my son started.

The flip side of this is also true; for the kids that have an interest, the parental support just isn’t there. I was sitting in my car perusing my latest purchase after coming out of my local comic book shop the other day. A dad with two boys in the five-seven age range, the perfect time to comprehend the books and start developing your own reading skills and preferences, walked by in front of my car. The boys made a beeline to the bright colors and familiar imagery in the store window, but the dad just kept on walking, impatiently calling for his kids to follow. Now I don’t know his situation; I don’t know whether he was the kind of guy that thinks these books are worthless or inappropriate. I don’t know if he could afford it, or whether he just had someplace to be, but it broke my heart to literally see kids climbing over each other to get a look in the door only to have it slammed shut by the only person in their world that could actually support an interest in comics.

Benjamin Franklin had it right with his proposal of all things in moderation. There can be room in your kids life for video games and comics, television/movies inside and getting a healthy dose of running around outside. My dad bought me my first comic, and I probably would never have gotten into them without that introduction. It wasn’t the best or deepest Batman story for sure, but it was a great intro into comics with solid writing from Chuck Dixon, and to this day the characters in that book remain some of my favorite (Detective Comics 649 Batman, Robin, and Stephanie Brown as the Spoiler). Even then I knew that there were more to comics than mindless action; this book had issues of personal morality vs. praternal allegiance, it reinforced that girls could kick just as much butt as their boy-wonder counterparts, and even showcased some rather cinematic sequences that given the imagination of a nine year old could rival anything Michael Bay could throw together in an editing suite. Like almost all issues involving kids, the responsibility ultimately has to come back to the parents, and I for one can’t wait to read my son his first issue of Super Dinosaur, or My Little Pony, or Darkwing Duck, or whatever he picks off the rack the day he’s ready for his first book.