Elephantine

When people talk about comics, they can mean a lot of different things. They can be referring to super-heroes or manga or Art Spiegelman or Doonesbury or webcomics or any of a seemingly limitless list of niches or combinations of niches. Heck, talking about manga alone doesn’t guarantee any common frame of reference. They could be talking about any one or more of a number of patches within the landscape of that term.

So when I read that muchdiscussed item from the Mercury-News, I just assumed that it was missing some key modifiers. Insert “super-hero” before “comics” or “published by Marvel and DC” after, and it holds up a lot better.

Of course, mentally inserting those modifiers doesn’t guarantee you’ll buy the article’s central argument – that the audience for super-hero comics is graying and that the comics themselves are actively unfriendly to younger readers. The American Library Association didn’t have any trouble finding items from Marvel and DC’s catalogs to recommend to younger readers, and none of their recommendations bore the “Marvel Adventures” or “Johnny DC” stamp. Whether that suggests kids read up or that Marvel and DC’s comics themselves aren’t all that mature in spite of the trappings of some of their content is another debate entirely.

Whenever one of these discussions comes up, I’m always reminded of this parable, but especially so in this case because of J.K. Parkin at Blog@Newsarama. (Again, argument could ensue over the comparison. Who wants to be the snake-like tail or the leathery hide when you could be the big, floppy ears or the oh-so-useful trunk or the big, stompy feet?) It’s bound to rankle when someone purports to be talking about comics in general while maintaining a death grip on only one of its body parts, whether it’s this article’s conflations or a publisher blithely suggesting that no one has effectively targeted the young female demographic or what have you.

It doesn’t mean the average reader has to interest themselves in the whole elephant. But placing the parts in context is always nice, even if you aren’t trying to say anything about the whole.

(Edited to correct a misattribution in one of the links.)

4 Responses to Elephantine

  1. Robin B. says:

    I agree that there are very few comics expressly for kids nowadays, but kids comics are coming, believe me. The kids themselves are demanding them, as are librarians and parents and teachers.

    I was one of the “lost” generation of comics readers. I never saw a comic book until I was an adult. I certainly never thought to read one before then. I had read Garfield books and the Sunday funnies, but an actual comic book? Nope. I still found them as an adult, but there was definitely a gap.

    All that means to me is that while previous generations found comics in their local groceries, corner stores, and newstands, my generation found them nowhere because the audience was adult even then (i.e., in 1980s) and they have moved almost exclusively into the comics stores. Today, kids and everyone else are finding comics where? In libraries and bookstores. That’s where I see more and more kids entering into the fold, and not just because I work in one. We just skipped a few generations, but I think we’ll be just fine getting kids to read comics.

  2. […] David Welsh would like to remind you that not all kinds of comics are suffering from an aging fanbase and a lack of new readers… […]

  3. David,

    While I love being linked to, it wasn’t me who wrote that post. It was John Parkin.

  4. davidpwelsh says:

    Ack! Sorry about that, Chris, and J.K. I fixed it.

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