So last week Robert Kirkman made a statement that got some folks kind of riled up. Kevin already quoted the relevant bits, so I’ll just try to paraphrase it the way I understand it. Everyone remembers Kirkman’s controversial plea from a couple of years ago when he asked “top creators” to give up doing corporate-owned comics and concentrate on their own stuff, claiming that’s what it’ll take to save the comics industry.
At the time, I could sort of see what he was getting at, but disagreed with how he was getting there. If I understood him correctly, what he meant by “top creators” was older writers who are producing overly complex, dark stories that kids can’t connect to. The implication was that these top creators needed to move on to their own material and make room at Marvel and DC for new blood that – Kirkman assumes – will be better able to write the kinds of corporate-owned stories that kids want.
The problem with this was that he was dismissing the efforts that Marvel and DC were already making in that direction. He briefly mentioned Marvel Adventures – a much bigger endeavor in 2008 than it is in 2010, as was Johnny DC – and immediately blew it off it as an imprint that “talks down to kids” and said that “that’s not what kids want.” As a grown-up who loves Marvel and DC’s kids comics and the parent of a kid who loves them just as much, I beg to differ. And from all the stories I’ve heard from other comics-loving families, my son and I aren’t alone. I question if Kirkman had ever read a Marvel Adventures comic when he made that statement.
Guys like Jeff Parker, Paul Tobin, and Fred Van Lente were killing on those series two years ago and – no coincidence – they’re still killing on the “regular” series they’re currently writing for Marvel. The issue isn’t the age of the writers or whether they’re a “top creator;” it’s the kind of stories they’re telling. There’s a lot more causing the failure of Marvel Adventures and Johnny DC to thrive in the Direct Market than just “kids don’t like them.” In fact, since I know that kids do like them, I’m pretty sure we can eliminate that as a cause altogether. Far more relevant to the discussion is whether or not parents are willing to buy them for their kids, and there are all sorts of pieces we need to look at in preparation for that discussion. My point is that it’s going to take a lot more than new blood at Marvel and DC to fix what’s wrong with their comics. Which brings us to Kirkman’s comments this week.
After the break: Image vs. Marvel over who gets to keep the kids grown-ups.